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Rules of The Road &
Granite State 

While you’re riding around Portsmouth, New Castle or Rye there are a lot of things to pay attention to. The crisp air, the beautiful sights, the rich history and architecture…it’s enough that your mind might drift from the fact that you’re not alone on the road. There are road markings, traffic signals, curbs, and other cars and cyclists that you have to watch out for! And since cyclists have the same rights to the road as motor vehicles, we also must abide by the same laws, rules, and courtesies.


So, a good guideline for riding in the city is: if you wouldn’t do it in a car, don’t do it on a bike. Following the same guidelines as cars and other vehicles makes you predictable and secures your place on the road. Acknowledging and respecting other vehicles also shows that you, too, belong on the road.


If you’re unfamiliar with our local traffic laws, NHDOT has the full driver’s manual available online. Why don’t cyclists have a separate manual? Simple. It’s called Same Road, Same Rules. Our local bike advocacy organization, NHBike, has done a lot of work in conjunction with the New Hampshire government to make cyclists and drivers legally equal on the road. And with rights comes responsibility!


Need more? Here are some resources for safe cycling in the city:

  • NHBike’s bike skills guide

  • The League of American Bicyclists’ five step program

  • For the legally inclined, New Hampshires’ General Laws are available online

  • You may also want to attend one of NHBike’s cycling classes. We’ve hosted these informational seminars in the past and highly recommend them for all levels of cyclists, beginner to expert.

PortCity Bike Tours bicycle rules at a glance

  • Bicyclists have the same rights and duties as drivers of motor vehicles, according to New Hampshire law.

  • Before entering the roadway, yield the right of way to approaching traffic. A bicyclist traveling at less than normal traffic speed shall remain on the right side as far as possible except when unsafe to do so.

  • Stop and yield to cross traffic at a stop sign.

  • Don't cross the stop line when the traffic signal is red.

  • Stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk without traffic signals, and don't pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk.  In preparing to turn left, do so from the farthest left lane available.

  • Don't ride on sidewalks.

  • Don't ride the wrong way on a one-way street.

  • Any bicyclist shall stop upon demand of a peace officer and permit his bicycle to be inspected. A bicyclist must wear at least one item of reflective apparel such as a reflective vest, jacket, or helmet from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise. When bicycling after dark, you also must use a white front headlight and a red rear light or rear reflector visible for 300 feet. Ride on the right side of the road, with the flow of traffic.

  • People riding bicycles two or more abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on lane roadway, shall ride within a single lane.. No bicycle shall be used to carry more people at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped.. No bicyclist shall hitch onto a car or other vehicle moving upon a way.

  • No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle or article that prevents the rider from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars.. No bicycle shall be operated unless the steering, brakes, tires and other required equipment are all in safe condition.  Riders of any age must wear a helmet when operating a bicycle on a public way.

  • Participants are liable for all damages that the PortCity Bike Tours may incur due to the failure to comply with the above mentioned obligations

For vehicles: Make room for bicyclists

  • A motorist may overtake a bicycle only if it is safe to do so.

  • Change lanes to pass if you can't pass safely in the same lane.

  • Leave plenty of room and pass at a safe speed.

  • Do not cross the center line if you can't see the road a sufficient distance to know that there are no oncoming vehicles.

  • You are responsible for using due care to avoid colliding with a bicyclist.

  • Don't take unnecessary risks for the sake of convenience.

  • When passing a bicycle, leave a reasonable and prudent distance.

  • That should be at least 3 feet when the vehicle is traveling at 30 miles per hour or less and one extra foot for every 10 mph over 30.

  • If you think a bicyclist is farther out from the curb than necessary, look closely.

  • Bicyclists need to ride at least a door's width away from parked cars to avoid being hit by a suddenly opening door.

  • Bicyclists also need to allow room to avoid potholes and debris and to pass double-parked cars.

  • Bicyclists may occupy any part of a traffic lane when their safety warrants it. If the lane is too narrow to share, it is safer for the bicyclist to communicate that information by riding in the center of the lane.

Source: Office of the Governor, NH Department of Transportation, NH Department of Safety and NH Highway Safety Agency

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