Bike Lanes and RI Law



Bike Lanes and RI Law

Now that we have a shiny new bike trail in Providence, I thought it prudent that we take a few minutes and review what the RI General Laws Title 31 Motor & Other Vehicles section has to say specifically about bike lanes.  This way, we can all be aware of our rights while pedaling through this area.  Below I’ve paraphrased each section, click on the link to read the actual law:

  • A bicycle lane is a portion of road designated for the exclusive use of bicycles.  The operation and parking of motor vehicles is prohibited within the lane.  Motorists may cross a bicycle lane when making a turn, entering or leaving the roadway or a parking lane, or when required in the course of official duty.
  • Motorists about to cross a bicycle lane must yield the right-of-way to any person operating a bicycle or motorized wheelchair upon the bicycle lane.
  • Persons operating a motorized wheelchair are permitted to use the bicycle lane for travel.
  • No person shall stop, stand, or park a vehicle in a bicycle lane, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer.
  • Motorists can not open a vehicle door unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicycles on sidewalks, shoulders, or bicycle lanes.
  • Except as provided in § 31-15-17, no person shall operate any motor vehicle on a bicycle lane.  In particular:
    • Any person who operates a motor vehicle upon any bicycle lane, trail or path shall be punishable by a fine of one hundred dollars ($100).
    • The division of motor vehicles, upon receiving a record of the conviction of any person upon a charge of operating a motor vehicle on a bicycle lane, trail or path, shall suspend the person’s operator’s license for a period of six (6) months.
    • Emergency vehicle and employees of federal, state, and local government shall be exempt from the provisions when acting in the scope of their official duties.


  • haideej
    Jul 17, 2008 at 8:18 am

    sorry you feel that way mmitchell. have you never been to a bike-friendly city? where bike lanes are numerous and cars and bikes have learned to respect each other? the city of providence has followed the federal regulations for bike lane design and it is the same set-up (L-R, traffic lane, bike lane, parking) as in the #1 city in the country for biking, portland, OR. there will be an adjustment period and people should be extra aware, as opposed to feeling invincible, now that there is a lane, but we will all adjust. this is the beginning of a bike-friendly providence, and i couldnt be happier.

    you are entitled to your opinion, but it would behoove this blog and the debate if you did some research as to the benefits and safety attributes of striped bike lanes (and you can look up the federal AASHTO standards too before you berate the city planners for bad design) before you continue to espouse your negative and incorrect views on the subject.

    my hat is off to the planners for finally getting this done (and there are more planned for the near future) and am excited to see the striping and shared lane markings of more providence streets in the years to come.

  • mmitchell
    Jul 17, 2008 at 9:00 am

    The new bike lane on Blackstone Boulevard is personal injury, if not death, waiting to happen. The “planners” obviously do not understand the lowest common denominator mentality of the motoring public and novice cyclists. They will learn though once the accidents begin to happen and the personal injury lawyers begin attacking the design.

    If a bike lane was necessary, which is questionable given that cyclists have a legal right to cycle on the Boulevard with or without a designated lane so long as they observe the traffic laws, then the bike lane should have been placed to the right adjacent to the curb with jersey barriers to segregate autos and bikes.

  • Jul 18, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    And you guys think I'm "negative", or pessimistic, or whatever….. 😉 Anyways from the few hours I put in this week I'm pretty sure it's going to work out OK, save the few people still passing in the parking lane and using it to pass other traffic. It would be helpful if the parking lane was clearly marked as such. The drivers I interacted with who were passing me and/or driving along side me were simply confused. Had the parking lane been a bit narrower (as it is it's way large – even accounting for the car door zone) it might have nipped some of the confused driving as well.