Monday, February 9, 2009

Biking Laws You Need to Know


Ohio Revised Code effective Sep 2006.

§ 4501.01. Definitions.
A bicycle is defined as a vehicle and thus is governed by a uniform set of rules common to all vehicles and a small set of specific rules for bicycles. (There are other specific rules for other vehicle types, such as trucks or busses.) The annotated list here summarizes the most important parts of the traffic rules and equipment rules that govern bicycle driving. People who try to make up their own rules have an accident rate five times higher than knowledgeable cyclists who follow the rules of the road.

§ 4511.07. Local traffic regulations.
The most important of the reforms passed in 2006 will require that any local regulations be consistent with the uniform rules of the road. In addition, signs are required of such local regulations. Unfortunately, there are still many ordinances inconsistent with uniform laws. Some of these bad ordinances mandate unsafe practices.

§ 4511.25. Lanes of travel upon roadways.
Some people think it is safer to ride on the left to "see traffic coming." This is illegal and wrong! Pedestrians walk facing traffic so they can sidestep off the road if necessary. But you cannot sidestep a bike. Riding on the left is both illegal and dangerous. Crash statistics show that wrong way riding has about 3½ times the risk as riding on the right.

§ 4511.27. Rules governing overtaking and passing of vehicles.
Since cyclists usually ride near the right side of the road, beginners are tempted to pass slow or stopped traffic on the right, especially in a "bicycle lane" with a painted line. Passing on the right is often dangerous and, in many cases, illegal.

§ 4511.36. Rules for turns at intersections.
The rules for turns are exactly the same for bicycles as for other vehicles – merge to the appropriate position (right for right turns, left for left turns), yield to any traffic that has the right of way and then turn. A cyclist also has the option to make turns as a pedestrian by dismounting and walking the bicycle through the intersection.

Getting into position for a left turn may involve merging across lanes of traffic. If traffic is heavy, you should start doing this early to take advantage of gaps in traffic. Otherwise, there may not be a gap when you need it. Beginners, who have not yet developed the skill to merge in traffic, may make pedestrian-style turns instead.

§ 4511.39. Turn and stop signals.
Never turn or change lanes without first yielding to any traffic that has the right of way, and give a signal if possible. However, skip the signal if your hand is needed for control or brakes.

§ 4511.40. Hand and arm signals.
Right arm straight out for right turns; left arm straight out for left turns.

§ 4511.55. Riding bicycles; motorcycles abreast.
It is not practicable (practice-able) to ride on the far right when passing or turning left; or when avoiding objects, parked cars, moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface or other hazards; or when the travel lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to pass safely side by side within the lane.

Many motorists are reluctant to cross a lane line when passing a bicycle. A cyclist who "hugs the curb" unintentionally invites motorists to pass with unsafe clearance. Riding near the middle of a narrow lane sends the message that passing traffic must use the next lane.

The real purpose of this law is to prevent unnecessary delay to faster traffic. Since the law cannot require unsafe operation, the phrase as close as practicable is highly flexible, varying widely according to conditions. Positions well away from the edge of the road can be in compliance.

Section 4511.55(B) allows riding two abreast. However, cyclists should avoid unnecessary delay to other traffic. Please be courteous and "single up" when other drivers wish to pass if such passing is safe and reasonable. There is no violation if any of the following apply: (1) If there is no traffic being delayed; (2) If the cyclists are traveling as fast as other traffic; (3) If traffic can reasonably pass by using another lane; (4) If the lane is too narrow or it is otherwise unsafe for passing.

§ 4511.56. Signal devices on bicycle.
You are required to have a red light in the rear of your bicyle and a white light in the front when riding at night. An unseen cyclist is in great danger. About 30 percent of serious cycling causalities occur at night although only about four percent of cycling is done then. The reflectors that come with new bikes are grossly inadequate for nighttime visibility. Always use both a headlight and taillight when you ride in the dark.

§ 4511.711. Driving upon sidewalk area.
Riding bikes on the sidewalk in uptown Athens is illegal. Although this section allows riding on sidewalks, don’t do it. Accident studies show that even low-speed sidewalk riding has about double the accident rate as riding on the road. The danger increases with speed. If you ride on the sidewalk, every intersection and even every driveway is a potential collision site. Motorists crossing your path do not look for conflicting traffic on the sidewalk, especially if you are coming from the "wrong way".

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