Bicyclists riding on a road

Several state laws apply to both pedestrians and cyclists. There are also state and federal policies and guidelines that describe how bicycle and pedestrian improvements are to be developed.


Revisions to Bicycle Safety Ordinances

Signed into law on July 11, 2016, House Bill 959 (Session Law 2016-90) includes changes to portions of North Carolina's bicycle safety law:

  • §5.5.(a) General Statute 20-150(e) (effective Oct. 1, 2016) allows a passing vehicle to pass a bicyclist in a no passing zone if the bicyclist is moving in the same direction, going straight and not turning left or signaling a left turn. When passing a bicyclist in a no passing zone, the operator of the passing vehicle either allows four feet of clearance to the left of the slower moving vehicle or move entirely into the left lane.
  • §5.5.(c) General Statute 20-154 (effective Oct. 1, 2016) provides new information on the penalty to a driver who either causes a bicyclist to leave the travel lane to avoid a collision or causes a crash or any severe injury while passing too closely to a bicyclist. A driver who causes a cyclist to change travel lanes or leave that portion of a travel lanes will be fined $200. If the motorist causes a cyclist to crash causing property damage or personal injury there will be a fine of $500 and if there is more than $5,000 in property damage or serious injury, the driver will be fined $750.
  • §5.5.(c) General Statute 20-154 (effective Oct. 1, 2016) also allows a bicyclist signaling to make a right turn to pointing to the right with the right hand, as an alternative to raising the left hand.
  • §5.1.(a) General Statute 20-129(e) (effective Dec. 1, 2016) requires a bicycle to have a red rear light or the operator wear a bright and visible vest when riding a bicycle at night. Both the light and vest must be visible from 300 feet behind the bicycle.

House Bill 232 – Bicycle Safety Laws Study

Approved in June 2015, House Bill 232 required NCDOT to study North Carolina bicycle and traffic laws and make recommendations on how the laws could better ensure the safety of bicyclists and motorists. H 232 also required NCDOT to form and meet with a working group representing various industries and interests. NCDOT released its final report containing recommendations to the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee on January 8, 2016. The final report and a technical appendix, including additional information from working group meetings and public comments received, are available below.

Approval authority for special events, as it pertains to traffic engineering policies, practices and legal authority, may be found here.

Bicycle & Bikeway Act

With the passage of the Bicycle and Bikeway Act of 1974, North Carolina established the first state bicycle program in the country, which quickly became a national model. The legislation granted authority for the North Carolina Bicycle Program (now the Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation) to undertake comprehensive bicycle planning and programming.

North Carolina Bicycle and Pedestrian Laws

The following chapters and sections are most applicable to bicycling and walking in North Carolina, but do not include relevant local government ordinances:

To research other state laws, please consult the North Carolina General Statutes


Guidelines for Inclusion of Greenway Accommodations Underneath a Bridge as Part of an NCDOT Project

In 2015, NCDOT approved guidelines for the accommodation of future greenways under bridges. The guidelines include a decision-making approach and cost-sharing recommendations.

Complete Streets

In 2012, NCDOT adopted guidelines following the approval of the Complete Streets policy in 2009. The guidelines require planners and designers to include other modes of transportation, including bicycle and pedestrian, in all transportation projects in municipal areas under certain circumstances.

Bicycle Policy

In 1978, the North Carolina Board of Transportation adopted the nation's most comprehensive set of bicycle policies in response to the enabling legislation of 1974. Legislation in 1974 enabled the North Carolina Board of Transportation to adopt the nation’s most comprehensive set of bicycle policies in 1978. The policy was updated in 1991, and details guidelines for the planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of bicycle facilities and accommodations.

Pedestrian Policy Guidelines

The first policies regarding sidewalks in North Carolina were developed in 1993. The policies allow NCDOT to work with local governments to add sidewalks in coordination with highway improvement projects. State funds are available on a sliding scale to match funds provided by the local government, which will be responsible for maintaining the sidewalk.

Administrative Action to Include Local Adopted Greenway Plans in the NCDOT Highway Planning Process and Guidelines

In 1994, the NCDOT adopted administrative guidelines to consider greenways and greenway crossings during the highway planning process. This policy was incorporated so that critical corridors, which have been adopted by localities for future greenways, will not be severed by highway construction.

Bridge Policy

NCDOT’s Bridge Policy establishes design elements for new and reconstructed bridges on the state road system. It includes requirements for sidewalks and bicycle facilities on bridges, including minimum handrail heights and sidewalk widths.

Traffic Engineering

More information about NCDOT policies and federal design guidelines for specific pedestrian and bicycle safety accommodations are located on Connect NCDOT.

FWHA Bicycle and Pedestrian Program

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) also provides guidelines for accommodation of bicycle and pedestrian improvements in transportation projects.