Iowa Bicycle Laws

Iowa is governed by a series of laws pertaining to vehicles and bicyclists.  Some of the laws are specific to bicyclists and other laws govern traffic rules of the road.   This page contains select laws that have an impact on cyclists.  Local community ordinances may have further restrictions on bicycle operations and registration.  For a full view of Iowa laws, visit https://www.legis.iowa.gov/IowaLaw/statutoryLaw.aspx

This page includes legal definitions, rights, duties, safe passing laws, vulnerable user penalties, light requirements, traffic operation laws, texting laws, and more.

DEFINITIONS, RIGHTS AND DUTIES

Bicyclists have the same rights and duties as the operators of vehicles, except provisions that have no application.  A bicyclist should ride upon a permanent seat and not carry more persons for which the bicycle is equipped.  Bicycles are not defined as vehicles because they are human powered.  Bicycles are defined as having two wheels, a seat or saddle, and propelled by human power.  Electric bicycles are permitted under 750 watts (1 HP) and must have pedals.

321.234 BICYCLES, ANIMALS, OR ANIMAL-DRAWN VEHICLES.
2. A person, including a peace officer, riding a bicycle on the highway is subject to the provisions of this chapter and has all the rights and duties under this chapter applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application or those provisions for which specific exceptions have been set forth regarding police bicycles.
3. A person propelling a bicycle on the highway shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle.
4. A person shall not use a bicycle on the highway to carry more persons at one time than the number of persons for which the bicycle is designed and equipped.
5. This section does not apply to the use of a bicycle in a parade authorized by proper permit from local authorities.

321.1(40)(c) Definitions – Bicycle
c. “Bicycle” means either of the following:
(1) A device having two wheels and having at least one saddle or seat for the use of a rider which is propelled by human power.
(2) A device having two or three wheels with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than seven hundred fifty watts (one horsepower), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden, is less than twenty miles per hour.

321.1 Definitions of words and phrases.(90)(a) Vehicle
Vehicle does not include: a. Any device moved by human power.

321.281 Actions against bicyclists.
1. A person operating a motor vehicle shall not steer the motor vehicle unreasonably close to or toward a person riding a bicycle on a highway, including the roadway or the shoulder adjacent to the roadway.
2. A person shall not knowingly project any object or substance at or against a person riding a bicycle on a highway.
3. A person who violates this section commits a simple misdemeanor punishable as a scheduled violation under section 805.8A, subsection 14, paragraph “k”.

SAFE PASSING

The same rules for passing a vehicle apply to passing a bicycle.  Drivers shall not drive on the right side of roadway until safely clear – in short, change lanes to pass a bicycle if there is no oncoming traffic.

321.299 Overtaking a vehicle.
The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:

The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle and shall not increase the speed of the overtaken vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

321.281 Actions against bicyclists.
1. A person operating a motor vehicle shall not steer the motor vehicle unreasonably close to or toward a person riding a bicycle on a highway, including the roadway or the shoulder adjacent to the roadway.
2. A person shall not knowingly project any object or substance at or against a person riding a bicycle on a highway.
3. A person who violates this section commits a simple misdemeanor punishable as a scheduled violation under section 805.8A, subsection 14, paragraph “k”.

321.302 Overtaking and passing.
1. Unless otherwise prohibited by law, the driver of a vehicle on a roadway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of traffic moving in the same direction as the vehicle being passed may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle which is making or about to make a left turn when such movement can be made in safety.

2. Unless otherwise prohibited by law, the driver of a vehicle may overtake and, allowing sufficient clearance, pass another vehicle proceeding in the same direction either upon the left or upon the right on a roadway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for four or more lines of moving traffic when such movement can be made in safety.

3. The driver of a vehicle shall not drive off the pavement or upon the shoulder of the roadway or upon the apron or roadway of an intersecting roadway in overtaking or passing on the right or the left.

4. A person convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of a simple misdemeanor punishable as a scheduled violation under section 805.8A, subsection 6, paragraph “d”.

321.303 Limitations on overtaking on the left.
A vehicle shall not be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless the left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the safe operation of a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or a vehicle overtaken. The overtaking vehicle shall return to the right-hand side of the roadway before coming within three hundred feet of a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction when traveling on a roadway having a legal speed limit in excess of thirty miles per hour, and the overtaking vehicle shall return to the right-hand side of the roadway before coming within one hundred feet of a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction when traveling on a roadway having a legal speed limit of thirty miles per hour or less.

321.304 Prohibited passing.
No vehicle shall, in overtaking and passing another vehicle or at any other time, be driven to the left side of the roadway under the following conditions:

1. When approaching the crest of a grade or upon a curve in the highway where the driver’s view along the highway is obstructed for a distance of approximately seven hundred feet.

2. When approaching within one hundred feet of any narrow bridge, viaduct, or tunnel, when so signposted, or when approaching within one hundred feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing.

3. Where official signs are in place directing that traffic keep to the right or a distinctive center line or off-center line is marked, which distinctive line also so directs traffic as declared in the sign manual adopted by the department of transportation.

321.307 Following too closely.
The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.

LIGHTS, SIRENS OR WHISTLES

A headlight and taillight or red reflector is required from sunset to sunrise or when conditions reduce visibility.  Lights must be visible from 300′ away.  Sirens or whistles are not permitted.

321.397 LAMPS ON BICYCLES.
Every bicycle shall be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light, at the times specified in section 321.384, visible from a distance of at least three hundred feet to the front and with a lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light visible from a distance of three hundred feet to the rear; except that a red reflector may be used in lieu of a rear light. A peace officer riding a police bicycle is not required to use either front or rear lamps if duty so requires.

321.384 WHEN LIGHTED LAMPS REQUIRED.
1. Every motor vehicle upon a highway within the state, at any time from sunset to sunrise, and at such other times when conditions such as fog, snow, sleet, or rain provide insufficient lighting to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of five hundred feet ahead, shall display lighted headlamps as provided in section 321.415, subject to exceptions with respect to parked vehicles as hereinafter stated.

321.434 BICYCLE SIRENS OR WHISTLES.
A bicycle shall not be equipped with and a person shall not use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle. This section shall not apply to bicycles ridden by peace officers in the line of duty.

 

HAND SIGNALS

The Iowa Code has not been updated and requires hand signals to be from the left side of the vehicle or left arm in the case of bicyclists.

321.318 Method of giving hand and arm signals.
All signals herein required which may be given by hand and arm shall when so given be given from the left side of the vehicle and the following manner and interpretation thereof is suggested:

1. Left turn – Hand and arm extended horizontally.
2. Right turn – Hand and arm extended upward.
3. Stop or decrease of speed – Hand and arm extended downward.

STOP SIGNS/LIGHTS, YIELD SIGNS, AND ROTARY TRAFFIC ISLANDS

Yes, bicyclists must stop at intersections with stop signs and yield at intersections with yield signs.   Rotary islands should be operated by going to the right.

321.322 Vehicles entering stop or yield intersection.
1. The driver of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop at the first opportunity at either the clearly marked stop line or before entering the crosswalk or before entering the intersection or at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection. Before proceeding, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle on the intersecting roadway which has entered the intersection or which is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the driver is moving across or within the intersection.

2. The driver of a vehicle approaching a yield sign shall slow to a speed reasonable for the existing conditions and, if required for safety, shall stop at the first opportunity at either the clearly marked stop line or before entering the crosswalk or before entering the intersection or at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway. After slowing or stopping, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle on the intersecting roadway which has entered the intersection or which is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the driver is moving across or within the intersection.

321.257 Official traffic-control signal.

1. For the purposes of this section“stop at the official traffic-control signal” means stopping at the first opportunity at either the clearly marked stop line or before entering the crosswalk or before entering the intersection.

2. Official traffic-control signals consisting of colored lights or colored lighted arrows shall regulate vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the following manner:

a. A “steady circular red” light means vehicular traffic shall stop . Vehicular traffic shall remain standing until a signal to proceed is shown or vehicular traffic, unless prohibited by a sign, may cautiously enter the intersection to make a right turn from the right lane of traffic or a left turn from a one-way street to a one-way street from the left lane of traffic on a one-way street onto the leftmost lane of traffic on a one-way street. Turns made under this paragraph shall be made in a manner that does not interfere with other vehicular or pedestrian traffic lawfully using the intersection. Pedestrian traffic facing a steady circular red light shall not enter the roadway unless the pedestrian can safely cross the roadway without interfering with any vehicular traffic.

b. A “steady circular yellow” or “steady yellow arrow” light means vehicular traffic is warned that the related green movement is being terminated and vehicular traffic shall no longer proceed into the intersection and shall stop . If the stop cannot be made in safety, a vehicle may be driven cautiously through the intersection. Pedestrian traffic is warned that there is insufficient time to cross the intersection and any pedestrian starting to cross the roadway shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles.

c. A “steady circular green” light means vehicular traffic may proceed straight, turn right or turn left through the intersection unless otherwise specifically prohibited. Vehicular traffic shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicular and pedestrian traffic lawfully within the intersection.

d. A “steady green arrow” light shown alone or with another official traffic-control signal means vehicular traffic may cautiously enter the intersection and proceed in the direction indicated by the arrow. Vehicular traffic shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and pedestrians lawfully within the intersection.

e. A “flashing circular red” light means vehicular traffic shall stop and after stopping may proceed cautiously through the intersection yielding to all vehicles not required to stop or yield which are within the intersection or approaching so closely as to constitute a hazard, but then may proceed.

f. A “flashing yellow” light means vehicular traffic shall proceed through the intersection or past such signal with caution.

321.305 One-way roadways and rotary traffic islands.
1. Upon a roadway designated and sign posted for one-way traffic a vehicle shall be driven only in the direction designated.
2. A vehicle passing around a rotary traffic island shall be driven only to the right of such island.

 

 

RIDE ON THE RIGHT

Bicyclists should ride on the right side of the roadway.  The law requires you ride as close as practicable to the right.  This does not meet as close as possible.  Safety may dictate you right further away from the curb to be visible, avoid debris, or prevent motorists from passing too closely.   You may ride nearer to the center or left side of the lane when turning left, overtaking a vehicle, to avoid obstructions or hazards, or on one-way roads.

321.297 Driving on right-hand side of roadway – exceptions.
1. A vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway upon all roadways of sufficient width, except as follows:

a. When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement.
b. When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the roadway, provided, any person so doing shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the roadway within such distance as to constitute an immediate hazard.
c. Upon a roadway divided into three marked lanes for traffic under the rules applicable thereon.
d. Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic.

2. Any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic upon all roadways, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, an alley, private road or driveway.

 

MINIMUM SPEED

From time to time, persons point out the minimum speed regulation as one of the laws that should prevent bicyclists from being on the road.  Language in this law does not apply to bicyclists because it is specific to motor vehicles.   Secondly, the minimum speed regulation refers to traffic, which is not solely defined as motor vehicle traffic, but other conveyances including bicyclists.

321.294 Minimum speed regulation.
A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law. Peace officers are hereby authorized to enforce this provision by directions to drivers, and in the event of apparent willful disobedience to this provision and refusal to comply with direction of an officer in accordance herewith the continued slow operation by a driver shall be a simple misdemeanor punishable as a scheduled violation under section 805.8A, subsection 8.

321.1 Definitions – Traffic
84. “Traffic” means pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars, and other conveyances either singly or together while using any highway for purposes of travel.

VULNERABLE USER LAW

Iowa does have additional penalties that may be applied in the event of injury of death of a bicyclist.  The law is not specific to bicyclists or pedestrians, but does include references to traffic violations that would most effect bicyclists and motorists.  Penalties include license revocation and fines.

321.482A VIOLATIONS RESULTING IN INJURY OR DEATH – ADDITIONAL PENALTIES.
Notwithstanding section 321.482, a person who is convicted of operating a motor vehicle in violation of section 321.178, subsection 2, paragraph “a”, subparagraph (2), section 321.180B, subsection 6, section 321.194, subsection 1, paragraph “c”, section 321.256, section 321.257, section 321.275, subsection 4, section 321.276, 321.297, 321.298, 321.299, 321.302, 321.303, 321.304, 321.305, 321.306, 321.307, 321.308, section 321.309, subsection 2, or section 321.311, 321.319, 321.320, 321.321, 321.322, 321.323, 321.324, 321.324A, 321.327, 321.329, 321.333, or 321.372, subsection 3, causing serious injury to or the death of another person may be subject to the following penalties in addition to the penalty provided for a scheduled violation in section 805.8A or any other penalty provided by law:

1. For a violation causing serious injury, a fine of five hundred dollars or suspension of the violator’s driver’s license or operating privileges for not more than ninety days, or both. For purposes of this subsection, “serious injury” means the same as defined in section 702.18.
2. For a violation causing death, a fine of one thousand dollars or suspension of the violator’s driver’s license or operating privileges for not more than one hundred eighty days, or both.

Moving violations listed in 321.482A:
321.178(2)(a)(2) Restricted license (electronic communications or entertainment)
321.180B(6) 321.180B Graduated driver’s licenses for persons aged fourteen through seventeen. (electronic communications)
321.194(1)(c) Special minors’ licenses (electronic communications)
321.256 Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
321.257 Official Traffic Control Signal
321.275 (4) Use of traffic lanes two abreast
321.276 Use of electronic communication device while driving — text-messaging.
321.297 Driving on right-hand side of roadway – exceptions.
321.298 Meeting and turning to right.
321.299 Overtaking a vehicle
321.302 Overtaking and passing
321.303 Limitations on overtaking on the left
321.304 Prohibited passing
321.305 One-way roadways and rotary traffic islands
321.306 Roadways laned for traffic
321.307 Following too closely
321.308 Motor trucks and towed vehicles – distance requirements
321.309 Towing – convoys (subsection 2 – maintain 500′ between towed vehicles)
321.311 Turning at intersections
321.319 Entering intersections from different highways
321.320 Left turns – yielding
321.321 Entering through highways
321.322 Vehicles entering stop or yield intersection
321.323 Moving vehicle backward on highway
321.323A Approaching certain stationary vehicles
321.324 Operation on approach of emergency vehicles
321.324A Funeral processions
321.327 Pedestrians’ right-of-way
321.329 Duty of driver – pedestrians crossing or working on highways.
321.333 Duty of drivers (approaching visually impaired persons)

 

TEXTING LAWS

321.276 Use of electronic communication device while driving — text-messaging.
1. For purposes of this section:

a. “Engage in a call” means talking or listening on a mobile telephone or other portable electronic communication device.

b. “Hand-held electronic communication device” means a mobile telephone or other portable electronic communication device capable of being used to write, send, or read a text message. “Hand-held electronic communication device” does not include a voice-operated or hands-free device which allows the user to write, send, or read a text message without the use of either hand except to activate or deactivate a feature or function. “Hand-held electronic communication device” does not include a wireless communication device used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system. “Hand-held electronic communication device” includes a device which is temporarily mounted inside the motor vehicle, unless the device is a voice-operated or hands-free device.

c. “Text message” includes a text-based message, an instant message, and electronic mail.

d. The terms “write”, “send”, and “read”, with respect to a text message, mean the manual entry, transmission, and retrieval of a text message, respectively, to communicate with any other person or device.

2. A person shall not use a hand-held electronic communication device to write, send, or read a text message while driving a motor vehicle unless the motor vehicle is at a complete stop off the traveled portion of the roadway.

a. A person does not violate this section by using a global positioning system or navigation system or when, for the purpose of engaging in a call, the person selects or enters a telephone number or name in a hand-held mobile telephone or activates, deactivates, or initiates a function of a hand-held mobile telephone.

b. The provisions of this subsection relating to reading a text message do not apply to the following persons:

(1) A member of a public safety agency, as defined in section 34.1, performing official duties.

(2) A health care professional in the course of an emergency situation.

(3) A person receiving safety-related information including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts.

3. Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize a peace officer to confiscate a portable electronic communication device from the driver or occupant of a motor vehicle.

4. a. A person convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of a simple misdemeanor punishable as a scheduled violation under section 805.8A, subsection 14, paragraph “l”.

b. A violation of this section shall not be considered a moving violation for purposes of this chapter or rules adopted pursuant to this chapter.

5. a. A peace officer shall not stop or detain a person solely for a suspected violation of this section. This section is enforceable by a peace officer only as a secondary action when the driver of a motor vehicle has been stopped or detained for a suspected violation of another provision of this chapter, a local ordinance equivalent to a provision of this chapter, or other law.

b. For the period beginning July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, peace officers shall issue only warning citations for violations of this section. The department, in cooperation with the department of public safety, shall establish educational programs to foster compliance with the requirements of this section.

 

DRIVER EDUCATION

Iowa law requires classroom instruction to include sharing the road with bicycles.

321.178 Driver education
1. Classroom instruction shall include all of the following:
(4) Instruction providing an awareness about sharing the road with bicycles and motorcycles. The instruction course shall be first approved by the state department of transportation. Instructional materials creating an awareness about sharing the road with bicycles and motorcycles shall also be distributed during the course of instruction.

 

POLICE BICYCLES

321.231 Authorized emergency vehicles and police bicycles .
(3) A police bicycle may proceed past a stop sign

 

LOCAL REGULATION OF BICYCLES

Local governments may regulate the operation of bicycles but may not conflict with 321.234 which gives bicyclists the same rights and duties as the operators of vehicles.

321.236 POWERS OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES.
Local authorities shall have no power to enact, enforce, or maintain any ordinance, rule or regulation in any way in conflict with, contrary to or inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter, and no such ordinance, rule or regulation of said local authorities heretofore or hereafter enacted shall have any force or effect, however the provisions of this chapter shall not be deemed to prevent local authorities with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power from:
10. Regulating the operation of bicycles and requiring the registration and licensing of the same, including the requirement of a registration fee. However, the regulations shall not conflict with the provisions of section 321.234.

 

OTHER OPERATIONS

321.358 STOPPING, STANDING OR PARKING.
No person shall stop, stand, or park a vehicle, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control device, in any of the following places:
1. On a sidewalk, except a bicycle may stop, stand, or park on a sidewalk if not prohibited by a local jurisdiction.

321.341 Obedience to signal indicating approach of railroad train or railroad track equipment.
1. When a person driving a vehicle approaches a railroad grade crossing and warning is given by automatic signal , crossing gates, a flag person, or otherwise of the immediate approach of a railroad train or railroad track equipment, the driver of the vehicle shall stop within fifty feet but not less than fifteen feet from the nearest rail and shall not proceed until the driver can do so safely.

2. The driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain standing and not traverse such a grade crossing when a crossing gate is lowered or when a human flagman gives or continues to give a signal of the approach or passage of a railroad train or railroad track equipment.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply