Category
Education-BikesMayUseFullLane
Recently in New Orleans, we’ve heard of several people on bikes who have been pulled over, and, in some cases, cited by the NOPD. Legally, people riding bikes generally have the same rights and responsibilities as people driving, and it’s always good to remember we can get ticketed while riding. Unfortunately, in some of these cases, the citations were issued for laws that are not in fact on the books for people biking, or were improperly applied.
 
Education-Citation
 
An example of a recent traffic citation sent to us totaling $762.50
 
Bike Easy reached out to try to discourage these kinds of citations, and we’ve learned that the NOPD recently got a grant to improve bicycle safety. Primarily, the approach is through education and outreach, and we have heard of a number of positive interactions. However, as we’ve seen, enforcement is an option, and it isn’t always being implemented justly and/or the police officers don’t always know the law.
 
We’ve also heard some distressing stories of dangerous methods being used to pull over people biking, and officers sharing incorrect laws and warnings. So, to best advocate for ourselves and protect the rights of people biking, it’s very important that you know the laws and know how to handle an encounter with a police officer.

 

An overview of some important bike laws for people riding bikes (and people driving around them) in New Orleans:
 
  • When riding your bike, you have all the same RIGHTS and DUTIES as any other vehicle.
  • This means that legally, you are required to stop at all stop signs and red lights.
  • Always, always ride in the direction of traffic.
  • You have the right to take the lane (and it’s often the safest thing to do).
  • Cars and other vehicles are required to give at least THREE FEET when passing (You should also ride at least this far away from cars, when driving or parked).
  • You are not required to wear a helmet in New Orleans over the age of 12.
  • It is illegal to ride on the sidewalk if you are 15 or older.
  • Bicycle registration is NOT required in New Orleans.
  • Cars cannot drive in or park in bike lanes.
  • It is the responsibility of the person opening a car door to look to make sure it is safe to do so.
  • It is ILLEGAL to harass a person biking.

Of course, we know that many of us are riding in the way that feels safest for us, and there are many more factors than traffic laws to consider when navigating any situation by bike. However, during an encounter with an officer is NOT the time to argue over bad laws. Below, you’ll find tips for what to do during and after being pulled over while biking.

 

Education-Bike Law Card

Find these handy cards from Bike Law Louisiana at bike shops around New Orleans and keep one with you while riding.

 
What to do if you’re pulled over while biking?
 
  • Stay calm and respectful. NOPD’s current approach to bicycle safety is primarily about education and warnings. While it can be very frustrating and scary to be stopped by police, responding with anger or aggression will typically only escalate the situation, and you’ll find yourself with as many fines as the officer can think to cite you for.
  • Don’t admit guilt. When you’re talking to the officer, they may ask if you know why they stopped you or pepper you with questions. If it was a surprise in the beginning, most likely the honest answer is that you don’t. Even if you have an idea or know you may have been doing something wrong, don’t point it out and admit it. Simply and respectfully ask the officer to explain the problem.
  • Document the conversation. An audio recording or video could help your legal defense. If you don’t capture that, take a moment to write down everything you remember as soon as the encounter is over. Do your best to capture the officer’s name, the date and time, the location, any details of your conversation, and how you were pulled over.  
  • Ask for a supervisor, if needed. At any time, you can ask for an NOPD supervisor to come to the location, either via the officer on site or by calling 504-821-2222. This is especially important if you were dangerously stopped or are being improperly cited or warned.
  • Contact Bike Law Louisiana after the encounter for further legal support.
  • Report your experience to the Office of the Independent Police Monitor after the encounter. The OIPM takes feedback on both positive and negative interactions. You have the option of reporting anonymously, giving them your info to follow up but request it not be shared with NOPD, or share with full transparency. By reporting, you help fix institutional problems and promote positive behaviors.
  • Report your experience to Bike Easy after the encounter. We are currently soliciting any detailed stories about these encounters so we can share them with NOPD as we work to ensure bicycle safety resources are effectively prioritized and targeted.

However you transport yourself through the streets, remember we’re all people just trying to get somewhere, so be kind!

For more information on your rights and duties while biking, check out our page on Louisiana Bike Laws.