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Idaho Bicycle Laws

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Idaho is a bicycle-friendly state with several rough trails to explore, especially for the adventurous. However, those who want to take their bicycles off non-motorized roads could find it quite tricky in the Gem State. 

That is because this state is home to the famous Idaho Stop Law, which, for years, has been the source of confusion among cyclists and drivers. Such confusion may be because the law makes it so that cyclists follow different rules from motorists. Even now, many are still at odds with whether this legislation is beneficial. Still, it is in the cyclists’ best interests to understand the terms of this and other Idaho bicycle laws, which shall be tackled in this article.  

In the event of an accident, cyclists are much more vulnerable than motorists due to how exposed their bodies are in comparison. In 2020, pedalcyclists made up 1.4% of Idaho's total fatalities involving motor vehicles. Thus, awareness of relevant laws and regulations would be helpful should they get involved in a traffic crash. 

Bicycle vs. E-Bicycle Definitions in Idaho

Idaho clearly defines a bicycle as a vehicle driven only by human power, specifically without the assistance of motors or other non-human forces or efforts. As the law is specific in that bicycles are only human-powered vehicles, Idaho bike laws do not automatically apply to e-bicycles or electric-assisted bicycles, which the state’s legislation defines as vehicles with pedals and a 750-watt (or less) electric motor. 

Cyclists must note the difference in terms because some cities allow trails only for bicycles, not e-bikes. For instance, non-motorized paths in forests are not open to e-bikes as they are considered motor vehicles by the USDA Forest Service. Should cyclists bring their e-bike onto a non-motorized forest trail and be involved in an accident, their case could be disadvantaged as they are not legally allowed in that area. 

Bicycle Registration Not Required in Idaho

A title, registration, driver’s license, motorcycle endorsement, and insurance coverage are not required for bicycles and bicyclists in Idaho. Cyclists are only required to follow applicable laws and regulations. 

Even so, some local governments encourage registration. For instance, Boise’s Police Department partnered with Bike Index so cyclists could register their vehicles. Registration makes it easier to recover bicycles should they be lost or stolen, as every registered bicycle has a unique serial number. 

Students traveling with bikes should also consult their university’s policies, as some academic institutions require or encourage the registration of bicycles on campus. They may also require specific equipment like bike locks. 

As for e-bikes, registration and other guidelines depend on whether the vehicle is class 1, 2, or 3:

E-Bike Class

Definition

Is Registration Needed?

Other Guidelines

Class 1

E-bikes with motors that assist only while pedaling and can reach up to 20 mph only

No

Can only be operated where bikes are allowed

Class 2

E-bikes with motors that can propel the vehicle – even without pedaling – and can reach up to 20 mph only

OHV registration needed if used off-highway

Class 3

E-bikes with motors that assist only while pedaling and can reach up to 28 mph only

No

Regardless of class, however, all categories are not required to have titles, driver’s licenses, motorcycle endorsements, or insurance to operate within Idaho. 

Bicycle Protective Equipment Guidelines

Safety equipment is essential for cyclists as they are exposed during accidents, unlike car drivers. Despite such importance, Idaho law does not explicitly require some types of gear, such as helmets, for riders above a certain age. 

Bike Helmets

There is legislation about helmets that says only those aged 18 or below are required to wear them, but it is specific only to motorcycles, motorbikes, ATVs, and utility vehicle riders. Despite ambiguous guidelines, it is highly recommended to err on the side of caution–cyclists should wear standard helmets to protect them against head and brain injuries regardless of age. 

Lights and Reflectors

Moreover, cyclists must have a visible lighted lamp or illuminating device and reflector from sunset to sunrise, and any time there are poor light conditions on the road. These devices aid in the visibility of cyclists at night to avoid incidents that may be caused by motorists not seeing the bicycle amidst the darkness.

Other Devices

Although not a protective device per se, securing bicycles with locks is recommended to help prevent them from getting stolen. Several types and brands of locks are available on the market, although the City of Boise government recommends U-locks to its residents. 

A bell is also recommended to emit audible signals to pedestrians or other cyclists. However, if the biker has none, other noise-emitting equipment (not a siren or whistle) or the human voice are sufficient alternatives. 

General Bicycle Laws in Idaho

Idaho implements various laws to help cyclists avoid getting involved in accidents. Awareness will be beneficial if attempting to reach a settlement after a crash. Some of the state’s general regulations surrounding bicycle use are as follows:

  • Cyclists must respect pedestrians when riding on sidewalks by yielding the right-of-way and signaling before passing or overtaking them. 

  • Bicycle skitching, or cyclists grabbing onto cars or trucks to propel themselves faster, is prohibited. A fair distance between cars and bikes should also be maintained on the road.  

  • Only up to two bicycles can ride side-by-side in one lane on highways. 

  • The number of permanent seats limits the number of bike riders – If the bike only has one permanent seat, there should be only one rider. 

  • Bicycle racing is not allowed. That is unless the local government has approved a racing event and there is adequate traffic control to ensure the safety of road users.

  • Cyclists can carry packages. However, they should have at least one hand controlling the bike while carrying their items. 

Cities and counties may also have unique bicycle laws. Thus, it is best to check and abide by the ones in your area. 

Idaho Stop Law

The Idaho Stop Law is one of the most famous pieces of bicycle-related legislation, well-known for being the first of its kind to be adopted in the United States. This stop-as-yield law was first passed in 1982 and allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and red traffic lights as stop signs. 

This allows cyclists to slow down or stop if they encounter a stop sign or red traffic light. If there is incoming traffic, they will have to yield to it. However, if there is none and the biker deems it safe, he can signal, turn, and proceed even if the traffic light is still red. 

Being able to turn or proceed while at a red light helps cyclists, as it gives them more time to avoid cars, thereby decreasing the chances of collisions or accidents. Moreover, bikes move slower than cars; thus, they benefit from the extra time to move away from other vehicles. 

Other states – like Delaware, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – have adopted similar legislation. However, there are differences. For instance, some states allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs but not red traffic lights. Hence, if Idaho cyclists plan to ride in other states, they should first look into the state’s specific stop laws. 

Is Idaho a No-Fault State for Bike Accidents?

Idaho is not a no-fault state when dealing with vehicular accidents, including those that involve bicycles. Thus, the parties at fault or those who caused the accident are responsible for the damages, which their insurance shall pay. 

However, Idaho also follows a modified comparative negligence or responsibility system. It allows the deduction of expenses proportionate to the plaintiff’s responsibility, as proven by the defendant. 

For example, if the defendant can prove that the plaintiff is 30% responsible for the accident, they will only have to pay 70% of the expenses demanded by the plaintiff. 

How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Idaho?

One can sue for different types of bicycle accident-related damages in Idaho. These include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic damages refer to calculable expenses, like medical bills. While non-economic and punitive damages compensate for intangible concepts like pain and negligence. 

Idaho law limits the amount one can sue for non-economic and punitive damages. The cap is $250,000 for both types. Meanwhile, no legislation determines or specifies a maximum limit for economic damages. Instead, the total economic damage amount is based on the evidence the plaintiff can gather, like hospital receipts. 

What Is Idaho’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?

The statute of limitations in Idaho for personal injury cases (which includes bicycle accidents) is two years after the accident. Meanwhile, those suing for property damage caused by the accident can do so up to three years later. 

Filing cases within the statute of limitations is crucial for any lawsuit. Otherwise, initiating a lawsuit past the deadline could lead to it getting thrown out. There are a few exemptions from the statute of limitations. 

One exemption is when the victim is a minor — in that case, the statute of limitations begins once they turn 18. To determine whether your case is valid for exemption, it is best to seek legal consultation. 

Legal Resources for Idaho Bicycle Accident Victims

Idaho Law Foundation

The Idaho Law Foundation provides several legal resources and services. One of which is the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program. It connects locals who have legal inquiries and concerns to lawyers who want to serve the community. The program also compiled a list of other agencies or institutions offering legal services in Idaho in case residents need a more immediate response. 

Idaho State Bar Lawyer Referral Service

Those in need of a lawyer may utilize this lawyer referral service. Typically, there is a fee worth $35, but as personal injury cases have their referral fees waived, bicycle accident plaintiffs are unlikely to pay anything for the first consultation. However, further costs will be negotiated once clients choose an attorney to represent them.

iCourt Project Information Site

The iCourt Site allows Idahoans to search records, make payments, file legal documents, and find court-related information online. Users only have to select their county and choose whether they want to file documents, pay, or get their court’s contact information. It should be noted that there is a 3.5% credit card transaction fee when making payments through this site. 

Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc.

The Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that aids seniors and low-income residents with civil legal issues. Bicycle accidents are often filed under civil — rather than criminal legal — cases. Thus, bike accident victims who fit the previously-mentioned demographic may seek assistance from this institution. 

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