Oklahoma has multiple state parks that contain natural features like lakes and rivers. It is likewise home to a significant portion of the historic U.S. Route 66. The road, which runs from Beckham County to Ottawa County in Oklahoma, is also designated as part of the U.S. Bicycle Route 66.
The state’s largest cities maintain bicycle networks as well. Oklahoma City—the state capital—has over 80 miles of multi-use trails. Meanwhile, Tulsa has built more than 66 miles of bicycle infrastructure since 2015.
Although Oklahoma has multiple bike paths, only 0.25% of state residents commute through cycling. According to a report by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB), bicyclist deaths in the state increased by 79% between the 5-year periods of 2012 to 2016 and 2017 to 2021. It also notes Oklahoma in another report as one of the eight states without a statewide bike plan. Through these and other factors like limited bike infrastructure funding, LAB ranks the state 47th among the nation’s bicycle-friendly states.
Having a clear understanding of your legal rights is crucial in bicycle riding across the state. This article covers various areas of state law, including the statute of limitations and damage caps for accidents involving bikes. You can also find legal resources that will help you recover compensation for your bicycle accident injuries.
Oklahoma Helmet Laws
State law has no provisions that mandate cyclists to wear helmets. Its lack of statewide bicycle helmet law is similar to its neighbors, Texas and Kansas.
However, various Oklahoma municipalities have ordinances requiring cyclists to use protective headgear. Some include Oklahoma City, which has a helmet rule for bicycle users of all ages. The law applies especially in the city’s downtown areas like Bricktown. Norman, meanwhile, prohibits unhelmeted riders under 18.
Although Oklahoma does not have a mandatory helmet law, bicycle advocacy groups in the state strongly recommend helmet use. One of these groups, BikeOklahoma, encourages cyclists to wear helmets for legal purposes. Protective headgear helps riders minimize, if not eliminate, the risk of head trauma.
To prevent further serious injuries, some cities like Norman recommend purchasing helmets approved by various organizations. These include the American National Standards Institute and the Snell Memorial Foundation. Those caught without the appropriate headgear could face fines between $35 to $200.
Sharing Roads and Sidewalks in Oklahoma
Oklahoma law states that cyclists have the same duties and rights as motorists. One of these duties is riding on the right side of the road. Bicycle users can deviate from this practice in various situations, such as when passing another vehicle traveling in a similar direction and preparing for left turns at intersections, driveways, and private roads. Sometimes, cyclists need to avoid dangerous road conditions. In such cases, they may use the left side of the road to pass surface hazards, animals, and parked vehicles safely.
Riders also must travel up to two at a time. When traveling two abreast, cyclists should ensure that they do not impede other motorists. Two riders must remain on a single lane on roadways with multiple lanes.
There are other regulations Oklahomans should know. Bicyclists who are hard of hearing should install red flags to signal their condition to other passing motorists. Motorists aiming to pass cyclists must give at least three feet of distance before overtaking. This three-foot rule differs from that of neighboring Texas and New Mexico states, which do not have passing regulations.
What about sidewalks? Although there is no statewide law that disallows bicyclists from sidewalks, some municipalities maintain their restrictions. For instance, Oklahoma City bans cyclists on sidewalks in the municipality’s business districts. Conversely, Tulsa does not allow bicycle users on the sidewalks in the Inner Dispersal Loop and those adjacent to South Peoria Avenue. Norman, on the other hand, allows police officers on bicycles to use sidewalks.
To prevent crashes, cyclists must share the road safely with other motorists. Knowing how to travel among car drivers and pedestrians is essential, mainly since almost a quarter of bicycle crashes in Oklahoma last 2021 occurred around the rush hours between 3 to 5 p.m.
Oklahoma’s “Idaho Stop” Laws
It might seem unclear at first, but the law pertains to a simple concept. The Idaho Stop, named after the state that first implemented it, refers to the practice of allowing bicyclists to interpret a stop sign as a yield sign. Rather than completely stopping, cyclists in Oklahoma can yield the right-of-way to oncoming pedestrians or vehicles.
The state also permits riders to treat red lights as stop signs. Furthermore, it requires cyclists to come to a complete stop before entering intersections. They must provide the right-of-way to approaching traffic before proceeding with caution into an intersection.
House Bill 1770, passed in 2021, seeks to emulate the decrease in injuries among cyclists in states like Idaho. Oklahoma Sen. Darrell Weaver notes that Delaware, another state that applied similar laws, saw a 23% decrease in bicycle crashes in stop sign intersections three and a half years after Delaware lawmakers passed the legislation.
Bicycle Equipment Requirements in Oklahoma
Oklahoma adopts the standards and specifications set by the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding bicycle equipment. One of these components is headlamps. In the Sooner State, cyclists should have bicycles with lamps that emit white light. The light must be visible from a minimum distance of 1,000 feet. Riders must use their headlamps during nighttime hours, defined by state law as 30 minutes before sunrise and sunset. Lamps are also mandatory in poor weather conditions or low light levels.
Meanwhile, municipalities in Oklahoma enforce different headlamp requirements. The state’s four largest cities—Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, and Broken Arrow—make it mandatory for cyclists to use lamps seen from at least 500 feet.
Another essential bicycle component is the red rear reflector. Under state law, this should be visible from 600 feet by vehicles using their lower beams. Similar to headlamps, reflectors seen from up to 300 feet are required by municipalities like Tulsa. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City requires that reflectors be detectable from at least 50 feet.
Cycling at night with the proper equipment helps riders avoid accidents. In 2021, Oklahoma saw 60 bicycle crashes that happened between the hours of 6 to 9 pm. This number represents 20% of total accidents during the year.
Oklahoma E-Bike Laws
Oklahoma regulates electric bicycles, or e-bikes, the same way as traditional bicycles. Under state law, e-bikes are classified into three groups:
Class 1. Motor-equipped bicycles that assist riders when they are pedaling are part of this class. The motor ceases to help riders once they reach 20 mph.
Class 2. Bicycles that come with a throttle-actuated motor, which disengages after the riders achieve 20 mph.
Class 3. Motor-equipped bicycles that help riders with their pedaling. The motor stops after 28 mph.
Cities in the state have specific regulations about the use of e-bikes within their jurisdictions. For example, the city of Broken Arrow does not allow children under 16 to use electric bicycles with a passenger. Those over 16 may ride with someone if the bike has a double seating device and its wheel has a diameter of at least 12 inches.
Another example is Oklahoma City, where e-bike users cannot ride at a speed higher than the posted limit. The city also prohibits individuals under 16 from traveling using class 3 e-bikes.
Is Oklahoma a No-Fault State for Bike Accidents?
No. Unlike its neighboring state, Kansas—where bicycle crash victims have to file claims with their insurer for accident-related medical treatments—Oklahoma cyclists can obtain damages directly from responsible parties.
Sometimes, despite the state’s at-fault system, riders may opt to recover compensation for their accident-related injuries from their insurer. For instance, a bicyclist injured by an uninsured driver can cover medical expenses as long as the policy includes coverage for such costs. Another scenario in which cyclists could turn to their insurance company is in cases involving theft.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma does not have caps on economic damages. However, the Sooner State maintains a cap on non-economic damages. Bicycle accident victims may receive a maximum of $350,000 for their pain and suffering from responsible parties. In rare cases, courts can remove the cap on non-economic damages if they believe the defendant acted recklessly, negligently, or fraudulently.
Unlike other states, Oklahoma caps the punitive damages a plaintiff might receive based on categories. These are:
Category I. $100,000 in cases involving defendants who are guilty of committing acts of reckless disregard. The amount also applies when an insurance company does not act in good faith.
Category II. $500,000 in instances where defendants are responsible for acting with malice against plaintiffs.
Category III. No caps in situations involving defendants that, through “evidence beyond a reasonable doubt,” perpetrated malicious acts against plaintiffs.
What Is Oklahoma’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
Bicycle crash victims have two years from the accident date to file a claim under Oklahoma’s court system. The same two-year window applies in cases involving wrongful death. In such cases, the surviving family members can start the legal process from the date of the victim’s death.
In some cases, plaintiffs have different timelines to press legal action against defendants. For instance, under the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act, lawsuits filed against negligent municipal or state employees should be done within a year from the date of loss. This one-year window may be extended to 90 days in cases where the plaintiff is incapacitated.
Legal Resources for Oklahoma Bicycle Accident Victims
The agency performs three essential services for Oklahomans—maintaining roadways, responding to snowy weather, and managing construction projects. It also runs a website containing resources like the official state bike map to help cyclists plan their rides. Individuals with concerns about downed trees, potholes, and damaged signs may contact the agency through its number at 405-522-8000.
DPS has been enforcing state laws and promoting motorist safety since 1937. It oversees multiple divisions, which include the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. The agency also distributes collision reports to various parties, including accident victims, police officers, insurance companies, and ODOT. Individuals can claim theirs through the mail, with instructions on how to do so at the agency’s website.
Through its 18 offices across the state, the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma serves the needs of low-income individuals and families. The organization handles cases involving consumer law and helps victims of fraud. It has represented American Indians in settling their legal matters. It also runs OKLaw.org, a website for Oklahomans looking to understand the process of appealing court decisions.
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