Dangerous and Discriminatory Bicycle Laws

Actual laws from communities in Ohio

"Wherever a designated path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a street, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the street."

"Any person operating a bicycle shall ride upon the sidewalk rather than the roadway when sidewalks are available and not congested with pedestrian traffic."

"Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable..."

"No person shall ride a bicycle across or through an intersection when crossing a through street. Such intersections are to be crossed by walking the bicycle across or through the intersection."

How many motorists would tolerate being required to push their cars through intersections?

"A person operating a bicycle shall yield the right of way to vehicular traffic on a roadway."

This is absurd. Bicycle drivers should yield when the situation demands it but not when it is the motorist's duty to yield. Also, bicycles are vehicles in Ohio law. Bicycle traffic is vehicular traffic.

In 1999, a cyclist was cited for "impeding traffic". The prosecutor claims that cyclists must ride at the speed limit (45 mph) or stay off the road.

These laws require expert cyclists to imitate beginners. It would be wiser and safer to work the other way around. Imagine if the people who write the motor vehicle laws were non-drivers. Now imagine that the police who enforce those laws do not know how to drive. Next, imagine that road engineers who build the roads are ignorant of how cars are driven. Does this sound scary and insane? Unfortunately, it is exactly the situation that faces those who drive bicycles.

Misinformed governments make bad laws.

Rules for Safe Cycling

1. Follow the rules of the road

* Ride on the right side of the road

* Stay off sidewalks

* Don’t be an "outlaw" at traffic lights & stop signs

2. Be visible

* Wear conspicuous clothes and use lights at night

* Ride where other drivers are looking for traffic

3. Be predictable

* Ride a "clean" line

* Signal lane changes any yield if required

4. Learn proper technique

* Join a good club or get tips from a mentor

* Read Effective Cycling or Street Smarts.

* Watch experienced riders

5. Keep your bike in safe condition (especially the brakes)

6. Have proper safety equipment (lights, helmet, gloves, first aid kit)

7. Teach others once you learn proper technique

* Act as a mentor

* Set a good example

* Educate your local government officials

Direct any questions about this brochure to Fred_Oswald@compuserve.com


Guide for Bicycle Transportation

Cycling to work, and for errands is enjoyable, practical, healthful and safe if you do it properly. This guide tells about the best techniques to help you avoid common mistakes.

Cycling is community friendly and good for the environment. Governments have the duty to help cyclists. However, through ignorance governments often pass laws that discriminate against cyclists and mandate dangerous practices. This guide points out the problems.

Cyclists must teach local government officials the proper methods for "Vehicular Cycling". Traffic engineers, as a matter of professional competence, must know Vehicular Cycling (or employ qualified consultants) since their work impacts cyclists.

Join the Ohio Bicycle Federation to make cycling better. See www.ohiobike.org or write to

OBF, P.O. Box 752131, Dayton, OH 45475-2131.

Ohio Traffic Laws for Bicycles

A bicycle is defined (section 4501.01) as a vehicle. This means that cyclists have "All of the rights and all the responsibilities." (section 4511.52). Bicycles must be operated on the right side of the road.

4511.40 Hand and arm signals

(B) As an alternative to division (A)(2) of this section, a person operating a bicycle may give a right turn signal by extending the right hand and arm horizontally to the right side of the bicycle.

4511.53 Rules for bicycles, ...

A person operating a bicycle or motorcycle shall not ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto, nor carry any other person upon such bicycle...

No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle or article that prevents the driver from keeping at least one hand on the handle bars.

No bicycle or motorcycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it was designed and equipped...

4511.54 Prohibition against attaching bicycles and sleds to vehicles

No person riding upon any bicycle, ... shall attach the same or himself to any ... vehicle upon a roadway.

4511.55 Place and manner of operating bicycles; riding bicycles...

(A) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to right side of the roadway as practicable obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles and exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.

(B) Persons riding bicycles or motorcycles upon a roadway shall ride not more than two abreast in a single lane....

Problem: Section A above encourages the dangerous practice of riding too close to the edge of the road. The purpose is to prevent slow traffic blocking faster traffic. Experienced riders will let cars pass when they can but will "take the lane" when they must, especially at intersections.

4511.56 Equipment of bicycles

(A) Every bicycle when in use at the times specified in section 4513.03 of the Revised Code shall be equipped with the following:

(1) A lamp on the front that shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front;

(2) A red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the director of public safety that shall be visible from all distances from one hundred feet to six hundred feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle.

(3) A lamp emitting red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear shall be used in addition to the red reflector;

(B) ... equipped with a bell or other device giving a signal audible... 100 feet...

(C) Every bicycle shall be equipped with an adequate brake when used on a street or a highway.

Advanced Cycling Methods

The best methods for cycling in traffic are taught in the Effective Cycling program. There is a book, a video and a course all with the name Effective Cycling. You may find the video or the book at your library (ask) or buy your own copy. The League of American Bicyclists sponsors "EC" courses.

Effective Cycling teaches "Five Rules for Traffic Cycling". These are excerpted from the book Effective Cycling by John Forester, published by the M.I.T. Press. Copyright John Forester.

1.Drive on the right side of the road, never on the left and never on the sidewalk.

2.When you reach a more important or larger road than the one you are on, yield to crossing traffic. Here, yielding means looking to each side and waiting until no traffic is coming.

3.When you intend to change lanes or to move laterally on the roadway, yield to traffic in the new lane or line of travel. Here, yielding means looking forward and backward until you see that no traffic is coming.

4.When approaching an intersection, position yourself with respect to your destination direction -- on the right near the curb if you want to turn right, on the left near the centerline if you want to turn left, and between those positions if you want to go straight.

5.Between intersections position yourself according to your speed relative to other traffic; slower traffic is nearer the curb and faster traffic is near the centerline.

Bike Safety Superstition

Most non-cyclists and beginners believe that the greatest danger of riding on the road is being struck down from behind by cars. However, accident studies show that the greatest danger is actually from turning and crossing traffic at intersections. Being run down from the rear is mostly a superstition. Why is this belief so widespread?

Imagine driving a car on a 2-lane country road. If the weather is fair and the road good, you may drive 55, 60, maybe 70 mph. Cars passing from the other direction will be going similar speeds. This means you have a speed difference of over 100 mph compared to vehicles passing an arms length away.

Who is driving that approaching car? Is the driver drunk or on drugs? Perhaps sleepy or reaching for a dropped French fry? If the driver does something stupid, it can cause a disastrous head-on collision.

But you probably do not even blink when you pass. What protects you from a mistake by the "other driver"? Why are you not terrified by the danger?

We suggest two reasons. (1) You know such collusions are very rare. (2) You are used to the hazard. More important than what the other driver might do is what you do. Another driver's mistake may miss you. Your mistake will not. Wakeup! Watch the road! Leave that French fry on the floor!

The situation is very similar for a cyclist. There is always the possibility of being hit from behind. It is natural to think about the risk. But experienced cyclists know the risk is extremely small and they are used to it.

Novice cyclists make dangerous mistakes because of fear and superstition. They prefer to ride on separate bikepaths despite accident statistics that show bikepaths increase the crash rate by 2 times. Most ride on sidewalks (increases risk 1.8 times). Some ride on the wrong side of the (3.6 times the risk). If they do ride on the correct side of the road, they often ride too close to the curb, which encourages motorists to pass where there is insufficient room.