I try to ride a bicycle instead of driving whenever it's practical, but I like to follow the law precisely, especially given that Alabama uses pure "contributory negligence" to resolve court cases over injuries (this means that if a cyclist was hit by a car and the cyclist was found to be even 1% at fault, they could not recover damages). This page covers my notes on authority to operate a bicycle in Alabama and what our rights and responsibilities are on the road.
I am not a lawyer, this is just my read on the law. You should contact a lawyer if you have any doubts about interpreting the Code or need specific legal advice.
Alabama Code sections
- General authority to operate on the road, general grant of rights and responsibilities of motor vehicle operators to bicyclists. AL Code § 32-5A-260 (2022)
Requirement to ride on the right side of the roadway, authority to operate in a paved shoulder, authority to use right-side signaling. AL Code § 32-5A-263 (2022)
- Section (a) requires that we ride as close to the right side of the roadway as "practicable." What is "practicable" is at our discretion, though: it's fine to ride far left enough so that you won't get doored by a car, and it's fine to ride in the center of the lane if there's no paved shoulder and no room for cars to safely pass you.
- Section (c) requires us to use a "usable path for bicycles adjacent to the roadway" if it's provided. I interpret this to include paved shoulders, if they are wide enough to act as a space for bicycles and don't have e.g. rumble strips covering the entire shoulder. Since we are required to use such a path, it follows that we are allowed to use such a path.
- Section (d) allows us to use our right arm to signal a right-hand turn.
- Requirement to use a light at night. AL Code § 32-5A-265 (2022)
- Authority to operate electric bicycles, waiver of requirement for licensing/registration/insurance. AL Code § 32-5A-267 (2022)
Prohibited from riding on sidewalks generally. Huntsville Municipal Code § 25-425 (2022-11-18)
- This ordinance allows us to ride on sidewalks when they are part of a signed bikeway, but it's not clear to me what kind of signage allows cyclists to ride on the sidewalk.