CYCLIST RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITIES: What Ohio Cyclists Need To Know To Ride Their Bicycles Legally

Road bicycles and e-bikes are enjoying great popularity. With the green revolution in alternate transportation, the proliferation of bike lane access, and the social and fitness benefits, bicycling is increasingly popular in the Greater Cleveland area.

Ohio bicycle law requires cyclists and other drivers to share public roads by following legal parameters. Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities is vital for riding safety and enjoyment and preventing bike accidents or crashes.

Cycling Law: Find It in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC)

Statutes in the ORC trump local ordinances that are fundamentally inconsistent.

Bicycle traffic IS traffic! A bike is defined as a vehicle and people on bicycles have an absolute legal right to ride on the road (except divided, controlled/limited access freeways) ORC §§ 4511.051(A)(2), 4511.07(A)(8), & 4511.01(YY). Cyclists also can’t be confined to marked bicycle lanes. 

CYCLISTS must obey all traffic rules that apply to vehicles ORC §§ 4501.01(A) & 4511.01(A):

  • Stop at traffic-control signals e.g., red lights and stop signs ORC §   4511.12(A) &  4511.43
  • “Dead red” exception law allows cyclist to fully stop at a red light, then enter the intersection if red light malfunctions/won’t trip to green ORC § 4511.132(A)(1)(2)(3) ; cyclist still will NOT have the right of way if they proceed
  • Yield to pedestrians on sidewalks ORC § 4511.441; many municipalities, such as Cleveland, have an ordinance requiring an audible signalfrom a cyclist passing a pedestrian § 473.09(c)
  • Bike lights (front white, red rear + red rear reflector) must be used from sunset to sunrise and/or visibility less than 1000 feet ahead ORC § 4511.56 ; most e-bikes come equipped with a white front and red back light
  • Ride in direction of road traffic ORC § 4511.25
  • Ride two abreast ORC § 4511.55(B) BUT some local ordinances, i.e. Hunting Valley, Solon and Moreland Hills prohibit it; these ordinances are likely invalid as they conflict with the ORC
  • Ride as near to right side of roadway as “practicable” (not “possible”) UNLESS it is unsafe due to hazards/if a motor vehicle can’t safely pass cyclist ORC § 4511.55(A) & (C)
  • Use state-mandated hand signals ORC § 4511.40(A)(1)(2)(3)(B) which don’t have to be held continuously ORC § 4511.39(A), aren’t necessary in turn lanes, and don’t have to be used if will interfere with safe operation of bicycle e.g., if a cyclist feels it is unsafe to take a hand off handlebars

Left Turn

Old School Right Turn

Modern Right Turn

CYCLISTS can’t be confined to sidewalk riding ORC § 4511.711(A)

CYCLISTS can’t be confined to all purpose trails in the Metroparks or elsewhere ORC §§ 4511.07(A)(8) & 4511.711(A)

CYCLISTS can’t be required to wear protective bicycle helmets under Ohio law, but some local authorities (cities) require them, especially for minors. Given that head injuries cause ¾ of cyclist fatalities, however, they are worth considering and most bike shops have a great selection of bike helmets in stock. Learn concussion symptoms, in the event of a bike crash. Concussions are brain injuries that can become serious and should be addressed medically as soon as possible after a crash. Always look inside your helmet for cracks or other damage to corroborate any head injury, e.g.,

GOOD NEWS: Cyclists who follow traffic laws are in fewer crashes!

Ken Knabe, Greater Cleveland’s Bike Attorney: Helping injured cyclists from the ground, up!

14222 Madison Avenue, Lakewood, OH 44107 * 216-228-7200

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