Bicyclists are a common sight on city streets and are seen occasionally on state highways as well. In some locations, streets include a separate dedicated bicycle lane and, where they do not, bicycles can be operated on public roads.
Many people wonder “what rights do bicyclists have on public roads” as well as wondering “what obligations do bicyclists have when riding on public roads”?
Bicycles are defined in Section 307.180, RSMo., along with motorized bicycles, as follows:
- The word "bicycle" shall mean every vehicle propelled solely by human power upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels, or two parallel wheels and one or two forward or rear wheels, all of which are more than fourteen inches in diameter, except scooters and similar devices; [emphasis added]
- The term "motorized bicycle" shall mean any two- or three-wheeled device having an automatic transmission and a motor with a cylinder capacity of not more than fifty cubic centimeters, which produces less than three gross brake horsepower, and is capable of propelling the device at a maximum speed of not more than thirty miles per hour on level ground, but excluding an electric bicycle, as defined in section 301.010. A motorized bicycle shall be considered a motor vehicle for purposes of any homeowners' or renters' insurance policy.
Electric bicycles are self-propelled as well, but use a battery and electric motor, and are not included in the definition of a “motorized bicycle”. Electric bicycles are defined in Section 301.010(15), RSMo. as:
(15) "Electric bicycle", a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals, a saddle or seat for the rider, and an electric motor of less than 750 watts that meets the requirements of one of the following three classes:
(a) "Class 1 electric bicycle", an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of twenty miles per hour;
(b) "Class 2 electric bicycle", an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of twenty miles per hour; or
(c) "Class 3 electric bicycle", an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of twenty-eight miles per hour;
Bicycles are required to be equipped with specified equipment that meets
statutory specifications under Section 307.183, RSMo.:
Every bicycle and motorized bicycle shall be equipped with a brake or brakes which will enable its driver to stop the bicycle or motorized bicycle within twenty-five feet from a speed of ten miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement.
while Section 307.185, RSMo. requires lights and reflectors:
Every bicycle and motorized bicycle when in use on a street or highway during the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise shall be equipped with the following:
(1) A front-facing lamp on the front or carried by the rider which shall emit a white light visible at night under normal atmospheric conditions on a straight, level, unlighted roadway at five hundred feet;
(2) A rear-facing red reflector, at least two square inches in reflective surface area, or a rear-facing red lamp, on the rear which shall be visible at night under normal atmospheric conditions on a straight, level, unlighted roadway when viewed by a vehicle driver under the lower beams of vehicle headlights at six hundred feet;
(3) Reflective material and/or lights on any part of the bicyclist's pedals, crank arms, shoes or lower leg, visible from the front and the rear at night under normal atmospheric conditions on a straight, level, unlighted roadway when viewed by a vehicle driver under the lawful lower beams of vehicle headlights at two hundred feet; and
(4) Reflective material and/or lights visible on each side of the bicycle or bicyclist and visible at night under normal atmospheric conditions on a straight, level, unlighted roadway when viewed by a vehicle driver under the lawful lower beams of vehicle headlights at three hundred feet. The provisions of this subdivision shall not apply to motorized bicycles which comply with National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration regulations relating to reflectors on motorized bicycles.
When operating a bicycle on a public road, Section 307.188, RSMo., grants bicyclists all rights of other motorists, but also requires that bicyclists meet all duties of other motorists. The only exceptions are in the special regulations found in Chapter 307, RSMo. Section 307.188, RSMo. reads:
Every person riding a bicycle, electric bicycle, or motorized bicycle upon a street or highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle as provided by chapter 304, except as to special regulations in sections 307.180 to 307.193 and except as to those provisions of chapter 304 which by their nature can have no application. [emphasis added]
While operation of a bicycle on a public road may not require an operator’s license, operation of a motorized bicycle does require a license, and a motorized bicycle may not be operated on an interstate highway. Section 307.195, RSMo. states:
1. No person shall operate a motorized bicycle on any highway or street in this state unless the person has a valid license to operate a motor vehicle.
2. No motorized bicycle may be operated on any public thoroughfare located within this state which has been designated as part of the federal interstate highway system.
Additional equipment requirements for motorized bicycles are found in Section 307.196, RSMo.:
No person shall operate a motorized bicycle on any street or highway in this state unless it is equipped in accordance with the minimum requirements for construction and equipment of MOPEDS, Regulation VESC-17, approved July, 1977, as promulgated by the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission, this state being a party thereto as provided in section 307.250, and the regulation is hereby approved as provided in section 307.260, and the regulation shall be published in the code of state regulations.
Recently, the Missouri legislature added regulations for electric bicycles (not motorized bicycles) in Section 307.194, RSMo.:
- Except as otherwise provided in this section, every person riding an electric bicycle shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the operator of a bicycle. An electric bicycle shall be considered a vehicle to the same extent as a bicycle.
- An electric bicycle or a person operating an electric bicycle is not subject to provisions of law that are applicable to motor vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, off-road vehicles, off-highway vehicles, motor vehicle rentals, motor vehicle dealers or franchises, or motorcycle dealers or franchises, including vehicle registration, certificates of title, drivers' licenses, and financial responsibility.
- Beginning August 28, 2021, manufacturers and distributors of electric bicycles shall apply a permanent label to each electric bicycle. The label, which shall be affixed to the electric bicycle in a prominent location, shall contain the classification number, top assisted speed, and motor wattage of the electric bicycle. The text on the label shall be Arial font and in at least nine-point type.
- No person shall tamper with or modify an electric bicycle so as to change the motor-powered speed capability or engagement of an electric bicycle unless he or she replaces the label required under subsection 3 of this section with a new label indicating the new classification.
- An electric bicycle shall comply with the equipment and manufacturing requirements for bicycles adopted by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, 16 CFR 1512.
- An electric bicycle shall operate in a manner so that the electric motor is disengaged or ceases to function when the rider stops pedaling or when the brakes are applied.
- An electric bicycle may be ridden where bicycles are permitted to travel, subject to the following provisions:
- An electric bicycle may be ridden on bicycle or multi-use paths where bicycles are permitted;
- Following notice and a public hearing, a municipality, local authority, or state agency having jurisdiction over a bicycle or multi-use path may prohibit the operation of a class 1 electric bicycle or class 2 electric bicycle on that path if it finds that such a restriction is needed for safety reasons or compliance with other laws or legal obligations;
- A municipality, local authority, or state agency having jurisdiction over a bicycle or multi-use path may prohibit the operation of a class 3 electric bicycle on that path; and
- he provisions of this subsection shall not apply to a trail that is specifically designated as nonmotorized and that has a natural surface tread that is made by clearing and grading the native soil with no added surfacing materials. A local authority or agency of the state having jurisdiction over a trail described in this subsection may regulate the use of an electric bicycle on that trail.
- The use of class 3 electric bicycles shall be subject to the following provisions:
- No person under sixteen years of age shall operate a class 3 electric bicycle. A person under sixteen years of age may ride as a passenger on a class 3 electric bicycle that is designed to accommodate passengers; and
- All class 3 electric bicycles shall be equipped with a speedometer that is capable of displaying the speed an electric bicycle is traveling in miles per hour.
All vehicle operators are required by Section 304.012, RSMo. to exercise the highest degree of care at all times, and that requirement applies equally to bicyclists when riding on public streets:
Every person operating a motor vehicle on the roads and highways of this state shall drive the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person and shall exercise the highest degree of care.
One of the most frequently asked questions by motor vehicle operators addresses perhaps the most difficult duty for bicyclists to meet when riding on a public road. Can a bicyclist impede the normal flow of traffic? The answer is a clear “No”. Missouri public policy is that, with few exceptions, there is a complete prohibition against anyone driving any vehicle (recall that a bicycle is a vehicle) at such a slow speed so as to impede or block the normal flow of traffic. Section 304.011, RSMo. requires:
- No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law. Peace officers may enforce the provisions of this section by directions to drivers, and in the event of apparent willful disobedience to this provision and refusal to comply with direction of an officer in accordance herewith, the continued slow operation by a driver is a misdemeanor.
- No vehicle shall be operated at a speed of less than forty miles per hour on any highway which is part of the interstate system of highways, unless:
- A slower speed is required for the safe operation of the vehicle because of weather or other special conditions; or
- Agricultural implements, self-propelled hay-hauling equipment, implements of husbandry and vehicles transporting such vehicles or equipment may be operated occasionally on interstate highways for short distances at a speed of less than forty miles per hour if such vehicle or equipment is operated pursuant to a special permit issued by the chief engineer of the state department of transportation pursuant to section 304.200 and the regulations established pursuant to such section. [emphasis added]
The prohibition against operating a vehicle so slowly as to block or impede the normal flow of traffic applies to any vehicle, including bicycles, farm equipment, construction equipment, etc.. Bicyclists operating a bicycle on a public road with uphill grades will likely find that meeting the speed requirement is a very real challenge.
Under Section 307.191, RSMo., anyone operating a bicycle may ride on the road near the right side of the lane (as permitted in Section 307.190, RSMo.) or may ride on the shoulder of the road. In either case, the bicyclist is required to ride in the same direction as traffic. Section 307.191, RSMo. states:
- A person operating a bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a street or highway may operate as described in section 307.190 or may operate on the shoulder adjacent to the roadway.
- A bicycle operated on a roadway, or on the shoulder adjacent to a roadway, shall be operated in the same direction as vehicles are required to be driven upon the roadway.
- For purposes of this section and section 307.190, "roadway" is defined as and means that portion of a street or highway ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder.
While Section 307.190, RSMo. states, in relevant part:
Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a street or highway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safe, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle, or when on a one-way street.
So, while Section 307.190, RSMo. requires operation of a bicycle near the right side of the lane, an exception is made when the bicyclist is making a left-hand turn. When making a left-hand turn, all motorists are required by Section 304.019, RSMo. to move to the center of the lane:
(3) An operator or driver intending to turn the operator's vehicle to the left shall . . . . . shall slow down and approach the intersecting highway so that the left side of the vehicle shall be as near as practicable to the center line of the highway along which the operator is proceeding before turning.
Section 307.192, RSMo. further requires the bicyclist to signal the turn in the manner described in Section 304.019, RSMo.:
The operator of a bicycle shall signal as required in section 304.019, except that a signal by the hand and arm need not be given continuously if the hand is needed in the control or operation of or to control or operate the bicycle. An operator of a bicycle intending to turn the bicycle to the right shall signal as indicated in section 304.019 or by extending such operator's right arm in a horizontal position so that the same may be seen in front of and in the rear of the bicycle.
The manner of signaling required by Section 304.019, RSMo. is:
(2) An operator or driver intending to turn the operator's vehicle to the right shall extend such operator's arm at an angle above horizontal so that the same may be seen in front of and in the rear of the vehicle, and shall slow down and approach the intersecting highway as near as practicable to the right side of the highway along which such operator is proceeding before turning;
(3) An operator or driver intending to turn the operator's vehicle to the left shall extend such operator's arm in a horizontal position so that the same may be seen in the rear of the vehicle, and shall slow down and approach the intersecting highway so that the left side of the vehicle shall be as near as practicable to the center line of the highway along which the operator is proceeding before turning;
All operators on the road are required by Section 304.017, RSMo. to follow preceding traffic at a safe and prudent distance:
The driver of a vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonably safe and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon and the condition of the roadway.
Additionally Section 304.678, RSMo. requires a motorist approaching a bicyclist to maintain a safe distance behind the bicyclist and, when passing a bicyclist, to maintain clearance until the pass is completed:
1. The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, as defined in section 300.010, shall leave a safe distance, when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.
This requirement is mirrored in the Model Traffic Ordinance in Section 300.411, RSMo.:
The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, as defined in section 300.010, shall leave a safe distance when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.
Aside from bicycle lanes, use of bicycles on sidewalks is somewhat limited. Section 300.347, RSMo., of the Model Traffic Ordinance sets limits as follows:
- No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district.
- Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.
- No person shall ride a motorized bicycle upon a sidewalk.
Section 300.330, RSMo., of the Model Traffic Ordinance, seems to encourage the use of a bicycle lane, stating as:
The driver of a motor vehicle shall not drive within any sidewalk area except as a permanent or temporary driveway. A designated bicycle lane shall not be obstructed by a parked or standing motor vehicle or other stationary object. A motor vehicle may be driven in a designated bicycle lane only for the purpose of a lawful maneuver to cross the lane or to provide for safe travel. In making an otherwise lawful maneuver that requires traveling in or crossing a designated bicycle lane, the driver of a motor vehicle shall yield to any bicycle in the lane. As used in this section, the term "designated bicycle lane" shall mean a portion of the roadway or highway that has been designated by the governing body having jurisdiction over such roadway or highway by striping with signing or striping with pavement markings for the preferential or exclusive use of bicycles.
Essentially, the statute encourages segregation of bicycle traffic from other vehicular traffic, logically most likely for safety reasons.
Motorists must take care to keep a careful lookout for bicyclists on public roads. At the same time, bicyclists must act defensively because, while bicycles can share public roads with cars and trucks, bicyclists simply do not have the same level of physical protection as does the operator of a motor vehicle.
who sits in the passenger compartment of the vehicle.
DID YOU KNOW ? is presented by Williams, Robinson, Rigler & Buschjost, PC as a public information service only. None of the information contained herein is intended to be taken as legal advice. Each matter depends on unique facts which attorneys must consider in forming an opinion, and may depend on laws unique to a particular jurisdiction. No two cases are the same. If you want to know more about this subject, contact Williams, Robinson, Rigler & Buschjost, PC, or the attorney of your choice, and seek a formal opinion about your particular case.
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