After a fortnight hiatus, I’m back with another Saturday Night Bike Blog … as always, this is a cycling open thread as well as a place to talk about whatever issue leaps into my head as I recover from a hard week of cycle commuting.
And a hard week of cycle commuting it was … I was called each day this week, and on Thursday evening I hit a pothole and bent my rear wheel and one of the stays for the rear wheel, so I struggled getting to work on the old 3-Speed Schwinn … with the bottom gear not working until I fixed it up before heading home, and having to stop and adjust the rear tire which worked its way off true (and I had a frission of fear that it was my second bent wheel in as many trips).
So the topic today, obviously, is the legalities of cycling. In response to ???, once I have everything fixed up, maybe I’ll talk about equipment, but I don’t want to jinx nothing.
Where can you ride legally, and on roads that you can ride on legally, how do you ride legally? This is a state by state issue, but, fortunately, there are online resources to work out the situation in your state. A major compendium is made available courtesy of MassBike: The Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, with their State Bike Laws link page. However, be aware that the list of links was put together some time ago, and some State Department’s of Transportation, etc., have reorganized their sites since then, leaving a number of bad links.
http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=online-propecia-consultation Riding Safely
Riding within your rights is one thing … riding safely is another. So, first I want to stress that safe cycling requires more than source site just abiding by the traffic laws of your state. http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=acquisto-cialis-generico-pagamento-alla-consegna However, obeying the traffic laws of your state is a part of riding safely. Indeed, in Ken Kifer’s How to Ride in Traffic page, it is the first in the list of five points:
- 1. Obey the traffic laws.
- 2. Keep alert at all times.
- 3. Be visible day and night.
- 4. Take the least traveled way.
- 5. Keep the bike in good repair.
While I have put in a thousand miles this year on cycle commuting, I am confident that Ken Kifer has lapped me several times over as a cyclist riding in traffic, so I am going to defer to him on these five points … click through and read his Riding Safely in Traffic page, and then come back here.
No, wait, I really mean it. At least half of you did not … oh, well, I guess its your skull. One last chance to click through? OK, a few more of you did … don’t say I didn’t try.
Your Bike Is A Vehicle
For most of this, I am going to stick to the Ohio Traffic Code, because those are the laws that I have to go by. However, while motor vehicle laws are close to uniform from one state to another, laws faced by cyclists can vary widely from state to state … and even, in some states, from one municipality to another within a state.
The very first thing for a cyclist to wrap their head around is that they are on a vehicle. Normally not a motor vehicle, true, but its a vehicle. Its not a skateboard, its not a pair of roller skates, its not a toy, its a vehicle:
Ohio Revised Code Section 4511
Vehicle: Every device used for the purpose of transportation on a highway. Exceptions are motorized wheelchairs, devices powered by overhead electric trolley wires, or which moves exclusively on stationary rails or tracks, and devices other than bicycles moved by human power.
Bicycle: Every device (other than a tricycle designed solely for use as a play vehicle by a child) propelled solely by human power and having either two tandem wheels, or one wheel in the front and two wheels in the rear, any of which measures more than 14 inches in diameter.
So untangling the double negative, that is “not excepting” bicycles. IOW, a bicycle is, in Ohio State Law, the human powered device that is a vehicle when used for the purpose of transportation on a highway.
That means that every law that applies in general to vehicles applies to a bike on the road in the State of Ohio … from the basics like stop signs, riding in the lane with traffic, observing the rules of passing, to things like reckless operation and operating under the influence of alcohol.
In Ohio, there is precisely one exception to the right to use highways:
4511.051 Prohibitions on Use of Freeways – No person shall operate a bicycle within the boundary lines of a freeway except where there exists a facility that is separate from the roadway and shoulders designed and appropriately marked for bicycle use.
… with Freeways defined as:
Freeway: A divided multilane highway with underpasses or overpasses at all crossroads.
The most critical specific law applying to cyclists is the “ride to the right law”:
4511.55 Riding Bicycles – Every person operating a bicycle on a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles, and exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction. Persons riding bicycles on a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast in a single lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for that purpose.
This is an important law, and probably the one most often misunderstood. First, it does not require curb-hugging … as far right to the ride side of the roadway as practicable never means putting the right end of your handlebar outside the roadway proper.
Even more critically, as far right as practicable means, in practice, as far right as safely practicable. If safe operation requires cycling further left than the exact right hand of the road, that is the road placement required by the law. Important scenarios to keep in mind are:
- one, where there are potholes or other obstructions that should be avoided for safe operation;
- two, when there are cars parallel parked to the side of the road, where safety requires cycling outside the sweep of a suddenly opened car door; and,
- three, where merging left is required to enter a left turn lane.
Riding Cyclists Off The Road
One area where Ohio State Law is good is in terms of cities and villages passing rules forbidding the use of bikes on the road. It is not uncommon for a reasonably good set of state laws to be over-ridden by restrictive local ordnances that discriminate against cyclists.
This is one of the parts of the relevant code in Ohio that has been recently reformed, AFAIU, and it is now straightforward:
§ 4511.07. Local traffic regulations.
(A) Sections 4511.01 to 4511.78, 4511.99, and 4513.01 to 4513.37 of the Revised Code do not prevent local authorities from carrying out the following activities with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power:
(8) Regulating the operation of bicycles: provided that no such regulation shall be fundamentally inconsistent with the uniform rules of the road prescribed by this chapter and that no such regulation shall prohibit the use of bicycles on any public street or highway except as provided in section 4511.051 of the Revised Code;
(9) Requiring the registration and licensing of bicycles, including the requirement of a registration fee for residents of the local authority;
(B) No ordinance or regulation enacted under division (A)(4), (5), (6), (7), (8), or (10) of this section shall be effective until signs giving notice of the local traffic regulations are posted upon or at the entrance to the highway or part of the highway affected, as may be most appropriate.
4511.07 A(8) means that villages and cities can permit bikes on their sidewalks, but they cannot restrict bikes to their sidewalks. That is important, since operating a bike on the sidewalk substantially increases the risk of a car-cycle accident.
And while a city or village can require bicycle licensing or registration, 4511.07 B requires that restrictive registration and licensing be posted at the highways entering the city or village, so these requirements cannot be used to trap cyclists who have not read the local ordnances. Add that with the restriction of registration fees to residents, and the costs of signage and free registration for cyclists passing through reduces the temptation to try to prevent cyclists from riding through a city or village.
What About Motorists?
Above and beyond the awareness that a bicycle is actually a vehicle and actually has the right to be on the road, there is an area of the Ohio Revised Code that modifies the rules applying to passing:
§4511.31. Hazardous zones
(A) The department of transportation may determine those portions of any state highway where overtaking and passing other traffic or driving to the left of the center or center line of the roadway would be especially hazardous and may, by appropriate signs or markings on the highway, indicate the beginning and end of such zones. …
(B) Division (A) of this section does not apply when all of the following apply:
(1) The slower vehicle is proceeding at less than half the speed of the speed limit applicable to that location.
(2) The faster vehicle is capable of overtaking and passing the slower vehicle without exceeding the speed limit.
(3) There is sufficient clear sight distance to the left of the center or center line of the roadway to meet the overtaking and passing provisions of section 4511.29 of the Revised Code, considering the speed of the slower vehicle.
So, basically, if it really is safe to pass a vehicle moving less than half the speed limit, its OK, even if there are double solid lines saying its a no-passing zone.
What’s the Law Where You Live?
I don’t really have the time to work through all fifty states on even these points … not without turning this into “Monday evening, didn’t bother going in to work Bike Blogging”. So I would appreciate it if you’d check out the links to your state in the State Bike Laws link list, and if its gone obsolete we can see if we can hunt down the bike laws in your state.
For those who hit this before night falls, yeah, I know that its not Saturday Night yet, but a good thing about DD is the ability to put a diary up late Saturday Afternoon and have it still be around when Saturday Night rolls around. And I like the Saturday Night version of the name better … so there.
And now, the floor is open.