on January 16, 2012
by Brandon R. Cogswell

Share The Road - Cyclists Are Allowed To Ride There, You Know

The sport of cycling is growing by leaps and bounds. As a cyclist, I go out on Ohio roadways for miles and miles and I know many other people who do the same.  Normally, cyclists look for the road less travelled. They generally want to avoid traffic because there is a small population of drivers out there who seem intent on running cyclists off the road.  Suffice it to say there is a lot of tension between cyclists and drivers.

For example, I read this post about a group of seven cyclists riding legally in Columbus. Despite that, the group was taken out by a driver going, according to the post, around 35 m.p.h. Of the seven cyclists, two spent the night at the hospital. Thankfully, everyone is ok with the worst injury being a broken collarbone.  Maybe some nightmares, also.  The bikes aren’t doing so well either.

In dramatic fashion the car sped off, squealing tires and all, only to be apprehended later. The driver was heavily intoxicated.  It goes without saying that driving while intoxicated is a bad idea. As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen a lot of drunk drivers and heard a lot of excuses. The majority of drivers out there aren’t blood alcohol level challenged. But even stone sober drivers regularly bring their cars close enough to cyclists that they risk taking the rider out.  This is a potential occurrence I would like to avoid for everyone’s sake.

Many drivers simply don’t know the law when it comes to a cyclist on the road are.  And since that is the case, here is the law as it stands in Ohio in four easy to remember pieces:

  1. You are a part of traffic.  You must ride as near to the right side as is practical and safe but you have every right to be IN traffic as if you were driving.
  2. You must obey all traffic rules applicable to vehicles.  With power comes responsibility. Since you can be in traffic you have to follow the same rules of the road as car drivers do. That means stopping at intersections and traffic lights, signaling when you turn if it’s safe and, in some cases, obeying the speed limit. You can get a ticket on a bike for speeding or violating any other traffic law but you will not get any points on your license.
  3. You CAN ride two abreast on a road or a lane.  The law actually says that bicyclists cannot ride more than two abreast on a road or in a single lane unless they are on a path or road made for bikes. An Ohio Court addressed this issue in State v. Patrick. The Judge in that case wrote a great opinion holding that there is no statutory requirement for bicyclists go to single file in order to let traffic pass. My opinion is that a courteous cyclist, and most of the cyclists I know, will use common sense and be respectful. If it’s easy and safe to shift single file, then the courteous cyclist will shift single file.
  4. You don’t have to ride at the edge of a road if it’s unsafe.  If you have to avoid objects, parked cars or hazards, or it’s just not practical to ride at the very edge of the road, then you can ride deeper in the lane. And I’ll go as far to say that you should ride deeper in the lane for your own safety and others. Being deeper in the lane of travel makes you more visible which makes you safer.

And that’s it. Four easy to remember laws for bicyclists to follow and for drivers to understand. Next time you are driving and see a cyclist on the road, take some time, slow down, wait till it’s safe, and pass him or her like you would pass a slower moving vehicle. There is no need for the tension between the cyclist and the driver. Stay safe.

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