Rules of the road

Bill of Grand Haven asked, "What are the rules for bicyclists on the road? I see a lot of them riding in the left lane, facing traffic. As I understand it, if you're on wheels, you go with traffic. And can they ride two abreast?"
Mark Brooky
Apr 22, 2013

 

ANSWER:

Lt. Steve Kempker of the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department said rules of the road for bicycles are the same as for motor vehicles. 

"They should not ride left lane facing traffic," he explained. "Bike riders can legally ride two abreast.  Depending on the roadway, it may be common sense and safer to ride single file, especially on narrow roads."

Kempker also supplied the portions of the Michigan Vehicle Code pertaining to Bill's questions:

What is the definition of a bicycle?

MVC 257.4 defines “bicycle” as:

“... a device propelled by human power upon which a person may ride, having either 2 or 3 wheels in a tandem or tricycle arrangement, all of which are over 14 inches in diameter.”

Where do Michigan laws apply to bicyclists?

Section 257.656(3) of the MVC states:

“The regulations applicable to bicycles under sections 656 to 662 shall apply when a bicycle is operated upon a highway or upon a path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, subject to those exceptions stated in sections 656 to 662.”

Is a bicycle considered a vehicle in Michigan?

No. MCL 257.79 defines a “vehicle” as “every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices exclusively moved by human power...”

Does a bicyclist have to obey the same traffic laws as a motorist?

Yes. Section 257.657 of the MVC states:

“Each person riding a bicycle...upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except as to spe­cial regulations in this article and except as to the provisions of this chapter which by their nature do not have application.” This includes obeying stop signs and stop lights.

Does a bicyclist have to signal their turns?

Yes. Section 257.648 of the MVC states:

(1) “The driver of a... bicycle upon a highway, before stopping or turning from a direct line, shall first see that the stopping or turning can be made in safety and shall give a signal as required in this section.”

(3) “When a signal is given by means of the hand and arm, the driver shall indicate his or her intention to stop or turn by extending his hand and arm from and beyond the left side of the vehicle and signal as follows:(a) Left turn...hand and arm extended horizontally.

(b) Right turn...hand and arm extended upward.

(c) Stop or decrease speed...hand and armextended downward.”

Does a bicyclist have to ride with the direction of traffic?

Yes. Section 257.634 (1) of the MVC states:

“Upon each roadway of sufficient width, the driver of a vehicle shall drive the vehicle upon the right half of the roadway...”

Since a bicyclist has all the rights and is subject to all the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle according to Section 257.657 then they must ride in the right half of the roadway.

Where in the right half of the roadway must a bicyclists ride?

Section 257.660a of the MVC states:

“A person operating a bicycle upon a highway or street at less than the existing speed of traffic shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except as follows:

(a) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

(b) When preparing to turn left.

(c) When conditions make the right-hand edge of the roadway unsafe or reasonably unusable by bicycles, including, but not limited to, surface hazards, an uneven roadway surface, drain openings, debris, parked or moving vehicles or bicycles, pedestrians, animals, or other obstacles, or if the lane is too narrow to permit a vehicle to safely overtake and pass a bicycle.

(d) When operating a bicycle in a lane in which the traffic is turning right but the individual intends to go straight through the intersection.

(e) When operating a bicycle upon a 1-way highway or street that has 2 or more marked traffic lanes, in which case the individual may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.”

Can a bicyclist be given a ticket for impeding traffic if they are traveling on a roadway and obeying all rules of the road?

No. Bicyclists are considered traffic based on MCL 257.69 and have the same rights and responsibilities applicable to the driver of a vehicle according to MVC Section 257.657. The spirit of the impeding traffic statute, MVC Section 257.676b, is intended to refer to stationary objects such as a vehicle parked across the road­way with the intention of obstructing traffic. Some bicyclists have been warned or even cited with violating MVC Section 257.676b. More than one Michigan judge, however, has ruled that the statute does not apply to bicyclists lawfully traveling on a public roadway.

MCL 257.69 states: ... “traffic means pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, ve­hicles, street cars and other conveyances either singly or together while using any highway for purposes of travel.”24

May bicyclists ride two abreast?

Although riding single-file is often safest, bicyclists are allowed to ride two-abreast on roads; MVC Section 257.660b states:

“Two or more individuals operating bicycles upon a highway or street shall not ride more than 2 abreast except upon a path or portion of the highway or street set aside for the use of bicycles.”

Is it legal to ride between lanes?

No. The MVC does not allow “passing between lanes of traffic.” Bicyclists may only pass on the right if there is a dedicated bicycle facility.

Must a bicyclist ride on the sidewalk? Is it legal? What about crosswalks?

The MVC does not require bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk and we do not recommend it because of safety hazards to the bicyclist and other sidewalk users. However, Section 257.660c of the MVC states:

(1) “An individual operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and shall give an audible signal before overtak­ing and passing a pedestrian.

(2) An individual shall not operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk if that operation is prohibited by an official traffic control device.

(3) An individual lawfully operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk has all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to a pedestrian using that sidewalk or crosswalk.”

Must a bicyclist ride in a bike lane or a side path?

No. The MVC does not require bicyclists to use bike lanes, even if present. In 2006 Section 257.660 (3) of the MVC was amended, removing “bicyclists” from being required to use side paths.

Is it legal to ride on a limited-access highway (expressway)?

No. Section 257.679a(1) of the MVC states:

“... nor shall a...bicycle, except as provided in this section...be permitted on a limited access highway in this state. Bicycles shall be permitted on paths constructed sepa­rately from the roadway and designated for the exclusive use of bicycles.”

Does a bicyclist have to wear a helmet?

Although the MVC does not require bicyclists to wear helmets, LMB strongly recommend wearing one, because it can prevent 85% of brain injuries.25

Does a bicyclist have to use lights.

Yes. MVC Section 257.662 states:

(1) “A bicycle...being operated on a roadway between 1⁄2 hour after sunset and 1⁄2 hour before sunrise shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.”

LMB strongly recommends using a rear red light when bicycling in the dark. A bicyclist may only use a “white” light on the front. A “blue” light is reserved for emergency services and may not be used. A “white” light may not be used on the rear of a bicycle. Red is the preferred color for the rear.

MVC Section 257.662 (4) and (5) also makes it illegal to sell a bicycle or bike pedal without pedal reflectors, or a bike without “either tires which have reflective sidewalls or with wide-angle prismatic spoke reflectors.”

Does the law require brakes on bicycles?

Yes. MVC Section 257.662(2) states:

“A bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.”

Is it legal to park on the street? Where can bicyclists park on a sidewalk?

MVC Section 257.660d states:

(1) “An individual may park a bicycle on a sidewalk except as prohibited by an official traffic control device.

(2) An individual shall not park a bicycle on a sidewalk in such a manner that the bicycle impedes the lawful movement of pedestrians or other traffic.

(3) An individual may park a bicycle on a highway or street at any location where parking is allowed for motor vehicles, may park at any angle to the curb or the edge of the highway, and may park abreast of another bicycle.

(4) An individual shall not park a bicycle on a highway or street in such a manner as to obstruct the movement of a legally parked motor vehicle.

(5) Except as otherwise provided in this section, an individual parking a bicycle on a high­way or street shall do so in compliance with this act and any local ordinance.”

Is it legal to use a cell phone while riding a bike?

Only if the cell phone is in hands free mode. MVC Section 257.661 states:

“A person operating a bicycle...shall not carry any package, bundle, or article that prevents the driver from keeping both hands upon the handlebars of the vehicle.”26

How about texting while cycling?

All Michigan drivers are prohibited from texting while driving under MVC Section 257.602.b. Since bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers (MVC Section 257.657), it is therefore also illegal for a bicyclist to text while cycling on Michigan roadways.

Is there a three foot passing law in Michigan?

No, but drivers are required to pass at a safe distance!

MVC Section 257.636 states:

“Overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in same direction; limitations, excep­tions, and special rules; violation as civil infraction.

(1) The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction(a) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance to the left of that vehicle, and when safely clear of the overtaken vehicle shall take up a position as near the right-hand edge of the main travelled portion of the highway as is practicable.

(2) A person who violates this section is responsible for a civil infraction.”

What other rules must a motorist follow when overtaking or following a bicyclists?

MVC Section 257.627 states:

(1) “A person operating a vehicle on a highway shall operate that vehicle at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition then existing. A person shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than that which will permit a stop within the assured, clear distance ahead.”

Motorists must have their vehicle under control when following bicyclist to be able to react safely if the bicyclist has to make an emergency maneuver.

Can you be charged with a DUI while riding your bicycle?

No. Although it would be dangerous to ride a bicycle while intoxicated, a bicycle is not a motor vehicle according to the MVC. DUI applies only to motor vehicles. Other laws may apply however, such as Public Intoxication or Reck­less Endangerment.

What are the penalties for a bicyclist violating the MVC?

MVC Section 257.656 states:

(1) “A person who violates any of sections 656 to 661a is responsible for a civil infraction.

(2) The parent of a child or the guardian of a ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit the child or ward to violate this chapter.”

If a bicyclist is cited for violating traffic law, does it go on their driving record?

No. The violations are civil infractions, but do not go on a person’s driving record. There are no points associated with a bicycle violation.

Is it legal to carry another person on your bicycle? What about a child in a child seat?

No, unless the seat is designed to be attached. This would allow for the legal use of a child seat since it is designed to be attached to the bicycle.

MVC Section 257.658 states:

(1) “A person propelling a bicycle ... shall not ride other than upon and astride a perma­nent and regular seat attached ...

(2) A bicycle ... shall not be used to carry more persons at 1 time than the number for which it is designed and equipped.”

Is it legal to grab onto another vehicle to “hitch a ride”?

No. MVC Section 257.659 states

“A person riding upon a bicycle ... shall not attach the same or himself to a streetcar or vehicle upon a roadway.”

What is the definition of a roadway?

MCL 257.55 states:

“Roadway means that portion of a highway improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.” Therefore the gutter is not considered part of the roadway.

Is there any law against motorists opening their doors into bicyclists?

Administrative Rule R28.1498 Rule 498 (1) states:

“A person shall not open a door of a vehicle in a manner that interferes with or im­pedes the flow of traffic.”

A bicycle would be included under this protection, since it is legally traffic according to MCL 257.69; “... traffic means pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, street cars and other conveyances either singly or together using any highway for purposes of travel.”

Comments

Vladtheimp

According to the bicycle lobby, the only rules you need to know are: bicycles always have the right of way over pedestrians and automobiles; rules that may negatively impact bicyclists cannot be enforced; and never-ever-ever should a bicyclist with an expensive bike and a cool, overpriced, multi-colored jersey with matching cycling shorts ever have to use the "Bike Path" that was built for them or fail to impede auto traffic while joking and riding two or three abreast.

Sandypants

Stereotype much Vladie? Hop on a bike and free your soul! Happy Earth day.

Stargate

Sandy, the majority of automobile drivers know Vladtheimp's stereotype is an accurate depiction other than the fact that he forgot descriptive adjectives like rude, dangerous, uncourteous, obstructive and inconsiderate.

Sandypants

Y'all sound like a bunch of grumpy ol' men.

Wingmaster

And you need to go change your pants after your afternoon nap.

Lanivan

Oh yeah - wingman strikes and scores again.....

Wingmaster

This is our fun poking at each other, don't you have a homework assignment to turn into Vlad. If not I see something shiny over there....run along!

Lanivan

My biker friends tell me they ride the roads instead of the bike paths for safety reasons. It seems they are fearful that a random car might back out of the driveway at 5 mph at the precise moment they are crossing, and are then an easy target. So they bike on the street, where they are easy targets by the myriad trucks and cars zooming past them withing a few feet, going 30-50+ mph.

I do worry about them.

Wingmaster

Apparently Vlad we should drive our SUV's and trucks down bike paths so our spandex brethren will feel safer on roads.

This one just kills me.... "Bike riders can legally ride two abreast. Depending on the roadway, it may be common sense and safer to ride single file, especially on narrow roads." Ya think! WTF, I ride a motorcycle at speed with the rest of the traffic and I won't ride two abreast on a two lane road because IT'S NOT SAFE! Wow, and people think I'm arrogant on here, Jeez!

Stargate

Sandy, the majority of automobile drivers know Vladtheimp's stereotype is an accurate depiction other than the fact that he forgot descriptive adjectives like rude, dangerous, uncourteous, obstructive and inconsiderate.

Sandypants

Don't jude me 'till you've riddin' a mile in my toeclips. I'm smiling while saving fuel $$$ :) Try it . . . you might like it!

christopher

So often I see bikers in our area just blow through stop signs. I also see them hold up traffic. It is interesting that most families on bikes are fairly courteous ... but people in the fancy suites seem to intentionally move in to the road way and hold up traffic. Then when you try to pass they give a nasty look. It is so sad because I love riding but it seems like there is a group of the "fancy" bikers that make us all look bad.

Creed Bratton

I find this funny: Technically it is illegal for a person to use their cellphone to call/text while riding a bike.Unless it is a hands free device.

Boycotter

Were all gonna be riding bikes someday unless your a millionaire the way things are going . . .

Creedance

I got a good laugh out of the timing of this. Today I was at a four way stop on Sheldon and Robbins Road and one A Hole on his bike in his cute little spandex with a super sweet mirror on his helmet literally blew past my car that was stopped at the four way and stuck his hand out like a traffic cop to stop all traffic while he blew through the stop sign. It was all I could do to not open my door in front of him. This has not been the first time that this has happened.

Wingmaster

Why do they have to be so arrogant? Maybe it comes from that little seat shoved up their posterior as they ride.

I'm sure its a minority of the riders but they are doing a huge disservice to the good people that ride.

GH55

And the guy steering the huge behemoth with his wrist draped casually over the wheel, barely keeping it between the lines, talking on the phone, paying little if any attention to the real act of driving, is not showing true arrogance to the rest of society?
The bikers are just trying to get down the road like the rest of us.
Those that use our roads and don't pay attention to what they are really doing, driving, not talking on the phone, eating, smoking, and any other activity that takes away your attention, are the ones showing the arrogance.
"Driving is like life, best grasped firmly with both hands and done well!"
Driving has become an activity that we merely tolerate as how we get from one place to another. Don't let it slow your business, your social life or your dinner! That's probably the biggest issue here! When you are not paying attention and you come close to an "accident", like running down a biker, your typical defensive reaction, in this society that does not accept responsibility for its actions, is to blame those around you. The biker got in my way! The biker threatened me riding on his 18 pound bike and wearing his lycra suit while I was encased in my 6000 pound behemoth with the ginormous V8 and my gun in the glove box.
In any altercation between these two factions, who is going to be on the losing end? Its not the driver!
I think some people need to chill out, slow down and pay attention just a bit more.
Thank you!

truthhurts

Should have opened your door!!! Can’t blame you for anything, if he was following the rules he wouldn’t get hurt. If they want to ride on the road, they need to follow the rules of the road. Need to start harassing the cops and call them every time you see this happen, maybe even follow the biker until the cops come. What really ticks me off is the older husband and wife recreational riders casually riding down the side of the road...how dumb!!

Sandypants

Harassing the cops about cyclists? Reality check GH. Other Midwestern cities should have such horrible problems. No offense, but your comment is dumb.

GH55

Administrative Rule R28.1498 Rule 498 (1) states:

“A person shall not open a door of a vehicle in a manner that interferes with or im­pedes the flow of traffic.”

truthhurts

law abiding traffic.

Wingmaster

Are they insured when they take your door off? Seriously, if they are going to ride on the roads what about license fees too? Taxpayers put in bike paths they don't want to use so I don't think its too much to ask for them to give back a little.

Vladtheimp

Kind of like pay their fair share?

GH55

I would imagine the vast majority of bike riders, also own a car, so this would be a moot point.

truthhurts

umm...i own a car and a motorcycle and pay for both, why should it be different for bikes?

Sandypants

Dooring a cyclist will get you a nice ticket from the GHPD. I carry my cell phone while riding just in case some dim wit doors me. Nice.

GH55

A GoPro pointed toward the rear on loop mode works really well to document the drivers using their horns as weapons too!

truthhurts

horns as weapons...hahaha.

GH55

"I see a lot of them riding in the left lane, facing traffic.", "impede auto traffic while joking and riding two or three abreast", seriously?
Bicycles are part of, by law as defined in the article references above, what is traffic. Therefore, they don't "hold up" traffic, they are part of traffic!
There are no "bike paths" in this area! They are multi-use paths that put the bicyclist at the absolute bottom of the right of way list. In fact according to GHT ordinances, if you are hit, riding on the path, by a car pulling into their driveway across the path, you are at fault.
Ride the "paths", then you will know why they are sidewalks and not "bike paths"! They were sold as "bike paths" to get the tax dollars to build them, they were not built as "bike paths"! If you had to yield right of way to every other user, stop at all cross streets, and endure the bad maintenance, when there was essentially a super highway running right next to this "path", would you ride on it?
We all need to chill out! There is no group out there that is without fault in their use of public spaces. Do you use your turn signals, come to a complete stop, yield to pedestrians at cross walks, stop at the sign and then pull up to see if you can go, pay attention to traffic light cycles so you don't either have to slam on the brakes or go blowing through red lights, adhere to the speed limit, or pass only when it is safe? No, none of us are perfect, drivers and bike riders.
The stereotyping that is going on is ridiculous. One person does not make the whole demographic bad, in either direction. I try to stop at the stop signs, and then try to figure out why the car is waving me through. One person encourages me to run the stop sign, the next will rage on me for merely being legally on the road and not infringing on their travel at all!
Again, I say seriously, how much of a delay is it to slow a bit and pas a biker safely and courteously? Five seconds, ten seconds? Would you rather be in a line up driving up Lake Shore behind a car doing 40mph because you can't pass? Who is holding up "traffic" then. That is a scenario that happens way more than all the bike issues. The times there are rides where there are a significant number of bikers together is quite seldom and usually on the same roads and same times.
We all need to chill and think of others out there, everyone, not just one group or another. Its not a race!
There are alternatives to the God Almighty Car, and as gas gets more expensive that alternative will probably get more popular!
Ride On!

truthhurts

"One person does not make the whole demographic bad, in either direction."...tell obama that!! Seriously though, i agree with you almost 100%. It is the few that don't obey the rules that puts the rest in a bad light, but that is the new America unfortunately.

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