Carrying something big by bike? Here’s how to keep your load legal.
By Bob Mionske
The bicycle is considered a working vehicle in some parts of the world, its capacity for hauling limited only by the imagination and muscles of the rider. That concept is beginning to take hold in the United States as well. Need to pick up a case of beer? Or a kayak? Moving your belongings to another household? Whether by cargo bicycle or by trailer, cyclists are transporting all these things and more. If you’re thinking about joining their ranks, this advice will keep you safe—and safely within the law.
See and Be Seen
While there’s no limit to the amount you can legally carry by bicycle, the Uniform Vehicle Code (or UVC, which serves as a model for state vehicle codes) says you must have an unobstructed view to the front, sides, and rear. If your load extends beyond the rear of your bike trailer by more than a certain length, you may be required to attach a red or orange fluorescent flag to the end of the load to boost visibility. Check your state law for specifics.
Don’t kid Around
If you’re carrying children, the law requires that the cargo bike or bike trailer be designed for that purpose.
Secure Your Load
Most states require you to take precautions to prevent cargo from falling off the bike. Hauling a couch? Tie it down tightly. Taking leaves to the compost center? Cover them with a tarp. In some states, failure to properly secure a load on a vehicle can result in steep penalties, including jail time. And if something falls off your bike because of your negligence and causes an accident, you might be financially liable. If the accident results in serious injury, you may even be subject to criminal charges. The bottom line: It’s a lot less trouble to secure the load than it is to pay the price if something goes wrong.
Stay In Control
No matter how skilled you are at riding with no hands, the UVC requires you to keep at least one hand on the bar at all times.
Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.