What has the city council in your town been up to? Maybe you don't want to know.
State and municipal traffic laws are essentially arbitrary creations at the mercy of wacky local legislators, but they tend to be based on a generic template called the Uniform Vehicle Code. As such there is a great deal of consistency in traffic laws from state to state or city to city. Boring. Thankfully, as variety is the garlic powder of life, every state or city code has a few zingers that set it apart from the laws elsewhere. I've been gathering links (and some pdf's) to municipal and state codes around the country for the RESEARCH PAGE and was reminded of some interesting ordinances, some perhaps that should not be un-buried.
First of all, in all three of the links to state laws I happened to add tonight, those of Florida, Illinois and Ohio, cyclists are granted permission to ride on the left side of one-ways. Thought you might like to know that. Clearly this provision is fairly common-place.
One law that is not common in the US -- yet -- is a mandatory helmet law for adults. But if you look through the Dallas traffic code you'll find one, just lyin' there like it's no big deal.
Sec. 9-8. A person commits an offense if he operates or rides upon a bicycle ... without wearing a helmet.
Almost sounds like a typo there. Like they accidentally left out the phrase 'under 16 years of age' and nobody noticed. Anyway. This law makes Dallas one of very few locales in the country requiring helmets for any adult on any bike ride. The others that I know of are King County, Washington and the city of Vancouver, Washington. I'm sure there are a few other places sprinkled about. Many American cyclists still don't realize that their maple-scented neighbors to the North are largely compelled by law to wear helmets.
Philadelphia has some interesting things related to bikes in their code. Philly's one of the few cities that outlaws cycling-while-rocking:
12-812. No person shall operate a bicycle on a street or highway while wearing headphones connected to an audio device.
Philadelphia's code specifies that conviction on bike-related violations should result in a fine of three dollars. Three dollars! Tell me where in life you can get away that cheaply. Interestingly, however, the code also states that sidewalk violators should pay a fine of ten dollars, and the dreaded headphone violations, of all things, trigger fines of $50-100. Imagine a drunken careening reckless bicyclist getting pulled over after running a string of red lights. Fine: three dollars. Meanwhile a law-abiding commuter listening to the podcast of the PBS Newshour gets slapped with a c-note. Holy mackerel, pass the cheesesteak.
In sharp contrast to Philadelphia, Chicago extracts fines of $250 for riders caught on the sidewalk downtown.
San Francisco, like many large cities, has sections of the code attempting to apply some degree of municipal regulation to the messenger business. Licenses, logs, numbers, ear tags, etc. Notable about SF's version is the date of enactment: 1981.
Phoenix still has an archaic law on their books requiring any bicyclist to obtain a license plate from the Department of Licenses, which may or may not still exist. The ordinance was enacted in 1962.
Impressively, the Boston traffic code doesn't mention bicycles at all, except to define them as vehicles subject to vehicular laws.
Riders in Florida, as if they didn't have it bad enough already, must have brakes on their bikes that enable them to stop within 25 feet from a speed of 10 mph. In all seriousness, anybody should be able to achieve that using only one's bare feet: Reverse Flintstone.
Such a move would probably get you in hot water in Hot-lanta, as it is illegal there to ride your bicycle in a way deemed as 'fancy.' No fancy riding in Atlanta, now. You just quit that fancy riding.
Sec. 150-211. Acrobatic or Fancy Riding. No rider of any bicycle shall remove both hands from the handlebars or feet from the pedal or practice any acrobatic or fancy riding on any street....
If I lived in Atlanta, I'd move. I gots to ride fancy.