Can You Ride A Bike On The Highway?

Riding a bike on the road is a liberating experience but can be potentially hazardous if you’re not well-prepared. Before hitting the road, it is vital to familiarize yourself with the route, especially on roadways with lots of speeding traffic. A vitally-important question to consider is whether you can ride on the highway.

Riding a bike on the highway is allowed in some states. However, in the majority of states, bike riding on highways is prohibited or heavily restricted. The highways where bike riding is permitted are usually in rural and sparsely populated areas or have designated cycling lanes. 

To ride safely and legally on the road requires technical biking skills, diligent awareness of one’s surroundings, and a clear understanding of the roadways along the route. If you’re pondering the possibility of an extended bike trip,  knowing if you can (or should) ride on a particular highway is essential. Let’s have a closer look!

You Can Ride A Bike On Some But Not All Highways

The road can be a fine place for cyclists. However, pedaling a bike on the road can also be legally problematic, not to mention harrowing and dangerous if you find yourself on the wrong roadway at an inopportune moment. This word of caution is particularly relevant if you’re thinking about riding on the highway.

Before embarking on a cycle trip along the highway, the first point to consider is whether you can or cannot ride your bike there.

The answer to this question depends on the location of the highway. In most states, riding a bike on the highway is illegal or limited by strict rules. However, it is legally permissible to ride bikes on these high-speed roadways in a few states.

It is always advisable to check the state-specific regulations governing non-motorized access on local and interstate highways so you can avoid breaking the law. 

In addition to legal considerations, there is also a safety aspect to consider. Highways are potentially lethal cycling environments where one needs sufficient expertise, reliable and properly-functioning bikes, and calm demeanor to ride safely.

Which States Allow Bike Riding On Highways?

The road rules for bicycles vary from state to state. In some states, bike riding on the highway is allowed (with minimal restrictions). However,  cycling on these expansive and fast-moving roadways is broadly prohibited in most states.

The highways where bike riding is allowed are generally in rural parts of sparsely-populated states. However, riding bikes on these roadways is prohibited or severely circumscribed in states with high population densities and areas with high volumes of motorized, non-motorized, and pedestrian traffic.

Depending on the specific state road regulations, bike riding on highways is either:

  • prohibited,
  • prohibited with exceptions,
  • allowed (including on all interstate highways),
  • allowed with a permit,
  • allowed if no suitable alternative is available,
  • allowed but officially discouraged.

Here are the states where you are allowed to ride a bike on all the interstate highways within its borders:

  • Idaho,
  • Montana,
  • North Dakota,
  • South Dakota,
  • Washington,
  • Wyoming.

Several states allow bike riding on highways but subject riders to varying restrictions:

  • Alaska,
  • Arizona,
  • California,
  • Colorado,
  • Nevada,
  • New Jersey,
  • New Mexico,
  • Oklahoma,
  • Oregon,
  • Pennsylvania,
  • Utah.

Bike riding on highways is legally permissible in these states. However, riders must comply with restrictions such as applying for permits, being obliged to seek alternative routes if possible, or riding exclusively in designated bike lanes.

Riding Bikes Safely On The Highway

Now we’ve identified the states with highways you can cycle on legally, let’s consider how you can ride a bike safely on these tarmac transit networks.

Highways And Their Hazards For Bike Riders

Highways designs maximize the efficiency of long-distance road journeys by facilitating a fast, uninterrupted, and high-volume traffic flow.

These economically-significant roadways have smooth tarred surfaces, wide lanes, flat (or minimal) gradient, and long-distance sight lines. These design features facilitate high-speed vehicular movement and reduce traveling times while minimizing potential safety risks.

Interstate highways are often the busiest and most risky to ride. These cross-country highways carry massive numbers of motor cars, trucks, and motorbikes, as these roadways are the main arteries connecting the national road system.

Most sections of the interstate highways are technically freeways because they have:

  • allowance for high-speed motorized travel,
  • controlled access (via on-ramps and off-ramps),
  • medians or islands separate opposing flows of traffic,
  • no traffic lights,
  • bridges and underpasses for traffic cross-flows.

Given the traffic volumes on the nation’s highways, the weight of individual vehicles, and the speeds they move, riding a bike on these roadways can have fatal consequences. The primary dangers are being struck by speeding vehicles or hit by flying stones and other debris on the road.

The on-ramps and off-ramps are particularly hazardous for bike riders because cars sometimes make erratic and unpredictable movements when joining or leaving the flow of traffic.

Advantages Of Highways For Bike Riding

Despite the potential hazards, it is generally safer to ride a bike on the highway compared with riding on city and suburban streets.

On the highway, bike riders don’t have to navigate busy confined urban transit spaces filled with cars, trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, and bicycles moving in different directions and at varying speeds. A significant benefit of highway bike riding is that, unlike urban roads, you don’t have to contend with vehicles making left turns.

Another advantage to riding your bike on the highway is that you can travel long distances across the country faster and with less effort than riding on suburban and city roadways.

Highways provide direct routes between disparate destinations. In contrast, city streets and country backroads are circuitous, while urban roads are often interrupted by traffic lights, stop signs, and pedestrian crossings.

Riding on the highway is also usually quicker and easier than alternative routes. These roadways have smooth tarred surfaces with minimal or flat gradients. In addition, highway shoulders are broad, providing ample space to develop a consistent rhythm in your pedaling. 

Tips For Safe And Enjoyable Bike Riding On The Highway

You can ride a bike safely and pleasurably on the highway if you are diligent in your preparations and vigilant while on the road. Here are some essential tips to help you maximize your enjoyment and minimize your risks when cycling on the highway.

Bike Riding Skills Required

A high level of bike riding skills is vital for staying safe on the highway. To navigate these roadways and their potential hazards requires competence, control, and confidence on your bike. Riders must be capable of making effective and lighting-quick changes in speed and direction while maintaining their balance on their bikes.

Due to the skill required, cycling on highways is not suitable for young or inexperienced riders.

Pay Attention To Signage

Even if cycling is allowed on a particular highway, be attentive to the signage you pass along the way! 

Signs will indicate if you’re approaching a stretch of highway where bike riding is not permitted. Paying attention to highway signage is also critical because you need to know if specific on-ramps and off-ramps are for cyclists.

The signs you see along the route also help keep you accurately oriented. Heeding these signs saves you from having to stop, unpack a map, and shift your concentration from the speeding vehicles to the cognitive challenge of re-orienting yourself.

Maintain Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is critically-important for safe and satisfying bike riding on highways.

It is easy to become somewhat complacent while riding long distances on a highway. However, it is vital to resist this tendency and maintain a relaxed but alert awareness of your surroundings.

When cycling on the highway, you must remain aware of vehicles moving around you. You also need to be cognizant of physical obstacles or debris on the highway shoulder and animals and people trying to cross the highway.

Situational awareness involves the combined application of our visual and auditory senses. When bike riding on the highway, it is necessary to use your eyes and ears so you can anticipate potential dangers and take appropriate steps to avert those hazards. 

When bike riding on the highway, it is not advisable to listen to loud music on headphones or communicate on cell phones, as this significantly reduces our awareness of the environment.

Wear A Helmet

It is advisable to wear a helmet at all times when riding on the highway.

Riders are wise to don protective headgear when cycling along these high-speed roadways. There is no legal requirement to wear a helmet when riding on the highway (somewhat surprisingly). Nevertheless, this common-sense precaution is worthwhile because it enhances bike riders’ safety.

Don’t Ride At Night

It is better to avoid riding bikes on the highway at night. While it is legally permissible to ride bikes on this kind of roadway after sunset, this is not advisable because of the increased safety hazards.

The poor visibility at night makes it difficult for drivers and cyclists to see each other (or nocturnal animals that might be crossing the roadway). Bike reflectors and reflective clothing make cyclists considerably more visible to highway drivers at night but do not guarantee riders’ safety.

It is also preferable not to ride on the highway at night because of the increased probability of encountering tired (or intoxicated) drivers. During the night, cyclists are also more likely to be tired and less competent and alert on their bikes.

These factors have a combined effect of compromising the situational awareness of drivers and bike riders when they are traveling on the highway during the nighttime. Cyclists and vehicle drivers with limited visibility and reduced mental alertness are less capable of anticipating hazards and reacting before accidents occur.  

Ensure Your Bike Is Functioning Properly

Another crucial recommendation for maximizing your safety on the highway is ensuring your bike is in optimal working order.

Before departing on your ride, it is essential to check that the bike frame, wheels, tires, gears, and brakes are functioning effectively. If necessary, fill the air in the tires, adjust the tension in the brakes, and apply oil to the gear cogs.  

These preparatory steps are critical because you must confirm that the bike will perform reliably on the highway. Stopping to fix a bike on the roadway shoulder is not pleasant, so it is worth taking the time to make sure your bike is working properly.

Smart cyclists also take the precautionary measure of carrying a bike repair kit. Having the tools and materials to perform basic bike repairs may be invaluable if your bike has a malfunction on a highway because the nearest bike shop might be excessively far away.

Which Highways Are Good For Bike Riding?

There are countless stunning and bike-friendly roadways to explore. To give you some ideas about where you might want to travel on your favorite pedal-powered steed, here are three of the best highways for bike riding.

  • Route 66,
  • Needles Highway,
  • State Route 1.

The iconic Route 66 is not only legendary in popular culture but is also an ideal highway for cycling. Route 66 traverses 47 states and has a more extensive bike riding network (with a total length of 44 673 miles) than any other highway system in the world.

Needles South Dakota Highway 87 is another magnificent roadway for bike riding. Though this highway is a mere 37 miles long, it passes through beautiful natural areas such as Black Hills National Forest and Wind Cave National Park. Needles highway also has tunnels carved into towering granite spires (which gave the roadway its name).

State Route 1 in California matches Route 66 as one of the most renowned highways ever constructed. This famed highway stretches 656 miles along the Pacific coast. State Route 1 is an exceptional roadway for cyclists, taking riders past idyllic cliff-lined beaches and old-growth redwood forests.


You can ride a bike on the highway in some parts of the country. In certain rural states where the population density is low, bike riding is generally allowed on all interstate highways. However, biking riding is either restricted or prohibited in most states.

Beyond the question of whether you can legally ride a bike on the highway legally, it is also vital to consider whether you can (or should) cycle on these roadways safely. Indeed, it is reasonably easy to cycle safely on highways if you have adequate riding skills, prepare diligently, and maintain focused awareness of your surroundings.












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