Cyclist Duties Under Ohio Law

Riding bikes is fun, healthy, and a great way to get around; but bikes aren’t toys, and when you’re out on the road on two-wheels, you have rules and responsibilities you need to adhere to. Here is a run down on some of the most important ones (please note: this is not an exhaustive list!). 

  • A bicycle is a legal road vehicle in Ohio, but you must follow all applicable traffic laws! Most traffic laws that pertain to a “vehicle” apply to bicycles. Bikes don’t block traffic, they are traffic. Cyclists are not in motorists’ way, they are on their own way! Cyclists can lawfully ride on most roads (bike are not allowed on freeways or limited access roadways). Ohio Rev. Code §§ 4501.01(A); 4511.051(A)(2). 
  • Ohio law generally permits people to ride on a sidewalk, but in Ohio you cannot be forced to ride on a sidewalk; you may always ride in the street. Ohio Rev. Code§4511.711(A).
    • But be careful, some municipalities like Cleveland and Lakewood prohibit riding on the sidewalk in a “business district,” or place other restrictions on sidewalk riding. See e.g., CLE Mun. Ord. § 473.09; Lakewood Mun. Ord. §  373.10. Local authorities are allowed to do this as long as the regulations they pass are not “fundamentally inconsistent” with the Ohio Revised code, which is why they can regulate sidewalks to a point, but you cannot be forced to ride on them.
  • A cyclist must ride as near to the right side of the roadway as “practicable” [not “possible”] obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles and exercising due care when passing. Ohio Rev. Code §4511.55(A).
    • What does “practicable” mean? It means ride to the right as long as it is basically reasonable. If it’s unsafe for a cyclist to ride at the far right side of a roadway, it’s not required. Valid reasons exist for not staying far right like avoiding fixed or moving objects like parked cars or surface debris/potholes.
    • It is also unnecessary for a cyclist to “move over” to allow a motor vehicle to pass, nor is it necessary to ride close to the right edge if the rider reasonably believes it unsafe or there is not enough room to share the lane with a motor vehicle. In fact, if the lane is too narrow for a motor vehicle to safely pass a cyclist, the cyclist can legally take the full (whole) lane. Ohio Rev. Code §4511.55(C).
  • Lights are not only common sense, they are Ohio Law. A cyclist must have a front white light and a rear red light (and a red rear passive reflector) activated from sundown to sunrise, when it’s foggy, and when it rains.Ohio Rev. Code §§ 4511.56( A); 4513.03(A). 
    • Quality lights are as inexpensive as ever, and the selection is big, so check out your local bike shop! I ride with the combo below from Cygolight comforted by the fact I know they work, and I know they are bright.
  • Predictability is a component for cyclist safety. A cyclist should avoid weaving or sudden movements and should announce their intentions regarding movement with these hand signals.Ohio Rev. Code §4511.40.
    • Caveat: if you are in a turn lane, or if signaling would be unsafe for any reason, you can choose not to signal. Ohio Rev. Code §4511.39(A).

Stay safe out there! If we all do our part, everyone makes it home safely. 

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