In N.C. a bicycle is legally considered a vehicle. Bicyclists have the same rights as motorists to be on streets and roads, with the exception of limited access freeways and interstate highways. Bicyclists also have the same responsibilities, regardless of the purpose of your trip, unless you happen to be bicycling for competition. This section includes information on and for the four basic types of bicyclist – the commuter, the tourist, the mountain biker, and the recreational greenway trail rider.
Many North Carolinians as well as bicyclists from all over the world enjoy seeing the state from the vantage point of a bicycle saddle as they pedal on back roads across the state. Touring is a form of bicycling in which riders usually travel long distances (by bike!) carrying whatever gear they need with them. It’s a great way to put all your senses in touch with the sights and smells of this beautiful state. Bicycle tourists really get to explore an area and connect with people and places along the way. Whatever your cycling ability, there are many wonderful places to travel by bicycle in North Carolina.
For recommendations on routes, you can order maps of North Carolina's Bicycling Highways, regional and local maps, and urban area maps. These maps include information about points of interest, recreation areas, and, in some cases, camping information. To further assist your travel plans, you can order or download North Carolina state highway map or a state ferry schedule from the main NC Department of Transportation website.
Check out the NCDOT Traveler Information Management System to get real-time information on events that cause severe and unusual congestion on major roadways in North Carolina, weather and other traveler information.
For more information on camping, motel accommodations, bed and breakfast facilities, and other state and local tourist information, you can contact the NC Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development at www.visitnc.com or (919) 733-4171 or 1-800-VISIT NC (800-847-4862). There are several popular tours, destinations and events just waiting for you to explore.
Although cyclists all over the world use bicycles to get to work every day, Americans have grown more and more accustomed to their automobiles. That’s why Bike to Work Day (3rd Friday in May) was created and then expanded to Bike to Work Week (3rd week in May) to call attention to bicycle commuting as a viable transportation alternative. These events take place in May each year, which has been designated as National Bike Month by the League of American Bicyclists since 1956.
More and more cyclists are discovering the benefits of commuting by bicycle. If you’d like to know more about the ins and outs of biking to work, the League of American Bicyclists has tips on how to commute, wearing proper clothing, parking and securing your bike, and more.
Mountain biking is an increasingly popular pastime in North Carolina as more cyclists catch the enthusiasm of testing their skills among the many types of trails this state offers. From fire roads in national forests to newer single-track trails in county parks, North Carolina offers a variety of terrain and difficulty for all skill levels. Mountain bikers may find the following links useful:
You may also be able to find information on places for off-road riding at your local bike club or bike shop.
Taking advantage of nearby greenways is another form of off-road cycling that is enjoyed by both recreational cyclists as well as commuters. It can be a great way to avoid traffic issues and get in touch with your natural surroundings. A typical shared-use path, sometimes called a greenway, is a paved trail that is completely separated from the roadway and may be used by bicyclists and pedestrians, and even horseback riders in certain areas. Shared-use paths are typically built out as a network through public open spaces connecting parks and other recreational areas throughout a community. Some paths even connect segments of on-road bike routes. New trails and shared-use paths are being built in local areas around the state, so you’ll also want to check local sources to find out about these places to ride. In some cities and counties, the parks/recreation department will have information about the shared-use paths in their area.
Because these paths are typically under the care and responsibility of local towns and cities, each may have its own rules to follow to use the greenway safely. Typical rules include obeying any posted signs, wearing a bike helmet for those under 16, and obeying speed limits, if any.
You may also be able to find information on places for off-road riding through your local local bike club or bike shop.
Shared-Use Path Etiquette & Safety
Below is a list of the general rules of etiquette and other safety tips to consider when using a greenway or other shared-use path. The golden rule is to share the facility with other possible users, including cyclists, walkers, joggers, parents with strollers, people with dogs, skateboarders, roller skaters, and even horseback riders.
- Share the Trail: Shared-use paths are exactly that – paths intended for multiple users. This could lead to potential conflicts among the users, especially on popular trails or in congested areas. Regardless of whether you are bicycling, walking, jogging, or skating, if you follow the same set of rules as everyone else your trip will be safer and more enjoyable.
- Be Courteous: All trail users should respect other users on the facility regardless of their mode, speed or level of skill.
- Keep Right: Stay as near to the right side of the trail as is safe, except when passing another user.
- Be Predictable: Travel in a consistent and predictable manner. Always look behind before changing position on the trail. Bicyclists, skaters and skateboarders should approach pedestrians with caution and slow down when there is limited vision.
- Don’t Block the Trail: When in a group, use no more than half the trail, so as not to block the flow of other users.
- Yield to slower traffic: Bicyclists, skaters and skateboarders must always yield right of way to pedestrians.
- Yield When Entering and Crossing Trails: When entering or crossing a trail at uncontrolled points, yield to traffic on the trail.
- Give Audible Signal When Passing: Give a clear warning signal before passing. Signal may be produced by voice, bell, or horn. A typical bicyclist may yell, “On your left” before passing.
- Pass On the Left: Pass others going in your direction on their left. Look ahead and back to make sure the lane is clear before you pull out. Pass with ample separation. Do not move back to the right until safely past.
- Don’t Speed: Bicyclists will typically be the fastest traffic on a trail. If your speed endangers other trail users, check for alternative routes or consider riding on the road - Selecting the appropriate location for your ride is safer and more enjoyable for all concerned.
- Be Safe: Because off-road paths may be somewhat secluded, it’s good to consider traveling with a companion and only using them in daylight hours.
- Wear a Helmet: By law, children under 16 must wear a bike helmet when on any public road or path, including greenways. It’s also smart for adults to wear them, too.