Can You Ride a Bike on the Interstates?

Just imagine… 

It’s Monday morning, and the commute is already busy. Your ride home takes you past a few casually dressed cyclists pedaling their way down the interstate. You wonder if it’s safe for them to be there but then remember that they’re on bikes, not in cars. And yet, cycling on an interstate could seem like a dangerous idea when you think about it!

Look:

The power of the interstate is undeniable. A drive across America was once a grueling, time-consuming affair that forced travelers to take long detours through small towns and back roads as they dodged potholes and ill-maintained pavement patches for miles at a stretch. These days everyone is hopping onto the interstates to make it to their destinations in less time. So it is no surprise that cyclists want in on the convenience of traveling the interstate.

But then that begs the question…

Is it illegal to ride a bike on the interstate?

For many states, it is illegal for cyclists to ride a bike on interstate unless signage indicates that it is legal. Bicycles are also strictly prohibited from riding in travel lanes. In cases where it is legal (through signage indication), you will be allowed to ride on the shoulder of the freeway. There will also be signs that tell you where you must exit. Road signs were put into place for safety reasons.

Here’s a list of some states That Allow Bikes to Ride on the interstate:

  1. Wyoming
  2. Washington
  3. Texas
  4. Oregon
  5. Nevada
  6. Montana
  7. Idaho
  8. Alaska
  9. Arizona
  10. Oklahoma (Partial use With Signage Indication)
  11. Florida (Partial use With Signage Indication)
  12. Colorado (Partial use With Signage Indication)
  13. California (Partial use With Signage Indication)
  14. North Carolina (Partial use With Signage Indication)

Why do some states allow cycling on the interstate?

Some states may make riding on the interstate legal because it may be safer for cyclists for some distance of the roadway. In these states, there are fewer people and less traffic. That means it is easier to bike on the interstate because there are likely no better ways for bicyclists to get to their destination. Furthermore, they will have a designated bike lane in most cases. 

On the other hand, more populated areas with more traffic can be dangerous to bicycle riders, and in these cases, the state will normally prohibit bikes from using the interstate. And in the states like Florida or California, where you are permitted on the interstate, there will be signage points indicating that bikes must exit.

Benefits of Riding on the Freeway

  • The shoulder lane on the freeway is wide and allows multiple cyclists to ride side by side.
  • You won’t encounter drivers that suddenly turn in your riding direction.
  • It allows you to get to your destination much faster.
  • There are fewer obstacles.
  • Interstate riding allows you to reach some places that might only be accessible by riding on them.

Disadvantages to Riding on the Freeway

  • It is a little riskier since the cars are moving much faster.
  • You are exposed to high vehicle emissions (bad for people with asthma).
  • You could suddenly get hit by a car.
  • Freeways are noisier than urban routes.

Tips for Riding a Bike on the Interstate

I’ve ridden on my fair share of interstates, and while I’ve enjoyed the convenience afforded by riding them. There were equally as many disadvantages that I’ve decided to share a few tips to help you navigate your ride on the freeway.

Look out for Exit Signs

Freeways are extremely long stretches with exits far between each other. If you accidentally miss your exit without noticing and travel too far along the interstate, you’ll end up riding longer than needed. I’m also not sure if it is allowed to ride in against the flow of traffic.

In most cases, bike laws require you to ride along with traffic flow except when on a crosswalk or sidewalk. Whether this applies to a freeway, I can’t say for certain. So to avoid any issues, make sure you exit exactly where and when you need to.

Ride with Haste

Interstates are always busy and tend to have large trailers flying by at 75 MPH. As such, the environment will never be suitable for a leisurely ride. So, whenever you ride on the interstate, try to make it as brief as it needs to be by riding faster. With environmental pollution levels higher than urban centers on the interstate, it’s not the best place to bike.

So try to get on and off as quickly as possible.

Make Yourself Visible

If you are riding in the night, make sure your body and bike are as visible as can be by using bike helmets with lights, reflectors, bike wheel lights, and brighter clothing. When it is dark, it is hard for people to see cyclists. That means that accidents happen more because the cyclist cannot be seen.

On the freeway, it’s even more dangerous since the vehicles are going much faster than in urban areas. You don’t want to be the unlucky rider who gets run over by a driver who needs to pull off the interstate and onto the shoulder lane.

Final Thoughts

The interstate is an amazing, free-flowing roadway that offers a variety of benefits for cyclists. On freeways, you can go faster, and there is a lot of room. You do not need to worry about cars turning left as you would on other roads. However, you still have to keep in mind that interstate riding isn’t legal in many states, so make sure it’s allowed where you live before riding on them!

You will be able to tell if you can ride on the interstate by looking out for signs or checking your local laws.

I hope this information and the tips help keep you safe when riding on the highway – happy riding!