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Legal Cycling In The USA Pt II… Stay On The Right Side Of The Road


October 2012

I’ve been doing a little investigating into Ohio’s laws to make sure that I hadn’t improperly stated anything in my previous post concerning a Bicycling article – the way they wrote the article follows the letter of the law.  The Sheriff’s Deputy was, indeed, mistaken.

That notwithstanding, I found it interesting that in Ohio, signalling with your right arm outstretched for a right turn is perfectly legal, and obviously preferrable (4511.40)…  The same cannot be said for Michigan which still sticks to the antiquated left hand, right turn method, though I ignore it and have done so in the presence of police officers quite often – I use the right arm out pointing to the direction I’ll be turning…

In addition, the Ohio Bicycle Federation did a fabulous job in commenting on Ohio’s laws to clarify a few things.  One of them made me think back on a trip to the gas station the other day.  I was cruising down the road in my truck – a narrow main road, two lanes and hardly any shoulder with a 55 mph speed limit, and what do I see but two late teenagers (17-18) riding their bikes right at me on the side of the road.  I can’t remember ever seeing anyone quite that brazen, normally they’re at least smart enough to ride on the gravel shoulder on the wrong side of the road – not these two.  After passing them I whipped around (safely of course) and caught up to them, they were still on the wrong side of the road…  I’ve decided to stop holding my tongue when it comes to wrong way riders and let the two know that they were risking their lives by riding on the left.  I then turned into a sub division and went about my way…  Normally, I’ll only say something when I’m on my bike and have to dodge a wrong way cyclist, but no more.  This is from the Ohio Bicycle Federation:

Section 4511.25(A) is a general rule that applies to all vehicles, including
bicycles.  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.

In addition, and Michigan Law mirrors that of Ohio in this regard, the law allows for riding on the sidewalk.  I cannot, for the life of me figure out why it is so hard to make riding on a sidewalk illegal.  This is from the Ohio Bicycle Federation:

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”.

Lastly, this little utterly important snippet:

An unseen cyclist is in great danger.  According to the Ohio Dept. of Public
Safety data for 2007, about 62 percent of fatal bicycle crashes in Ohio occur
during non-daylight hours (even though few cyclists ride then).   The reflectors
that come with new bikes are grossly inadequate for nighttime visibility.
Always use both a headlight and tail light when you ride in the dark.
[Emphasis is mine]

There is a common saying among we firearm toting Americans – if trouble comes knocking on your door, light it up like a Christmas tree.  The same should be said for riding at night – I use a flashing tail light whenever I ride alone during daylight hours, I can’t imagine ever wanting to ride at night if a motorist couldn’t see me from at least 1,000 yards away.


  1. I am always shocked when I see people riding around at night with no lights at all! Especially in Michigan, which is not very well lit! Thanks for posting!

  2. IowaTriBob says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Even being a new cyclist this year its fairly well known on which side of the road to ride on and to be on the cautious side, especially at night… What I hate even more is those who switch from sidewalk to street to sidewalk and come screaming down the driveways at you!

  3. elisariva says:

    Yeah for my home state! I haven’t used my left arm to signal a right turn in over 20 years. I wonder how many motorists even know what that means??

  4. I’m not quite sure what to do when I’m riding on my bike (with traffic) and see another cyclist approaching in the same bike lane or shoulder but going against traffic? Should I stay to the right, stay to the left, or just punch him in the face as we pass?

    • bgddyjim says:

      If it’s a him, punch him in the mug. If it’s a her, generally I would say bark some kind of rude command, like “get on the right side of the road” or something, but as touchy as some folks can be about that… I don’t know. To avoid assault charges though, a simple, “dude (him or her) you’re on the wrong side of the road, ya dope” will do.

    • While I don’t condone violence against anyone — male or female — “…or just punch him in the face as we pass?” made me laugh out loud, for real,… and for longer than it should have.

      Thanks for brightening my day! =)

      • bgddyjim says:

        I don’t really condone violence either, I was just trying to be funny. Your laughter was the point of the comment, it made me laugh writing it. 😉

  5. […] my post entitled Legal Cycling In The USA Part Two, I reviewed some Michigan and Ohio bicycling laws. One had to do with riding on the wrong side of […]

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