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Changes In Indiana Law Effecting Bicycle Safety and E-Bike Operation

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.

Today we’ll look at the topic of bicycle safety and regulation, briefly summarizing recent changes in Indiana law that the General Assembly took up during this 2019 session.

How many times have you encountered a bicyclist traveling in your lane of travel along the right side of the road? The bicyclist is not taking up the whole lane, but they are traveling pretty slowly in comparison to your vehicle and you want to try to get around them. However, with a steady stream of traffic in the other lanes around you, you have no safe way to go around the bicycle, and so you are stuck behind it, creeping along slowly.

As you look for traffic in the lanes around you to clear so that you can pass the bicyclist, you realize the coast is now clear and so you make your way around the bicyclist, careful to leave a few feet between you and them. But just how many feet of clearance should you leave between your vehicle and the bicyclist in order to safely pass them?

The answer is at least 3 feet, according to the Indiana state legislature.

Among the several new laws recently implemented in Indiana is the new law for motorists to give at least 3 feet of clearance between their vehicle and a bicyclist when overtaking a bicycle that’s proceeding in the same direction of travel.

Likewise, a motorist should only return to their original lane when it is evident that the bicyclist has safely been passed.

In addition to enacting the new “Give 3 Feet” law, governing the practice of safely overtaking a bicycle on the road in Indiana, the state has also acknowledged the increased use of electric bicycles by passing new classification laws and requirements regarding the use of electric bicycles.

So what is an electric bike?

An electric bike, also known as an e-bike, is a bicycle that has an electric motor to assist the operator in reaching top speeds of 20 to 28 mph. The motor shuts off when the cyclist either stops pedaling or applies the brakes. Electric bicycles have risen in popularity in recent years, particularly among those who use bicycles in their daily commute.

In Indiana, users of e-bikes have the same legal duties, rights, and privileges as bicycle operators.

The state categorizes electric bicycles into three classes. Class 1 e-bikes are those with motors that provide assistance only when the cyclist is pedaling and only functions until the e-bike reaches the top speed of 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes are those with motors that can be used exclusively to propel the bicycle forward, without any pedaling from the cyclist. These have a top speed of 20 mph, at which point the motor will stop.  Class 3 e-bikes are just like Class 1 e-bikes, except their top speed is 28 mph.

Generally speaking, electric bicycles can be ridden anywhere ordinary bicycles can be. However, those electric bicycles that can reach top speeds of 28 mph are not necessarily permitted on bike paths or sidewalks— but local ordinances and signs on particular paths can note if they are allowed. Some other special rules for the e-bikes that can go up to 28 mph include prohibiting those under the age of 15 from operating them.

For more detailed information on the new e-bike and bicyclist laws in Indiana, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s webpage at http://www.iga.in.gov

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at www.DavidHolubLaw.com  – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.