Permitted Bicycle Byways

Just in time for the 2021 cycling season, cyclist Stephen Johnson of Westerville recently shared some timely and relevant questions regarding where to ride legally and safely!

In Ohio, adult cyclists have an absolute legal right to ride on the road except on divided, controlled access freeways. The selective bicycle exclusion signage on freeways is published in the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices under its “R5” series signage. The most common signs restricting bikes are the R5-10a, R5-10b, and the R5-6 sign in attached image, which is on the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway. Certainly interstate routes I-71, I-270, I-70, etc. are off limits.
The freeway definition comes under 4511.01 (YY) section of the ORC for traffic law: (YY) “Freeway” means a divided multi-lane highway for through traffic with all crossroads separated in grade and with full control of access.

Most of the time one of these signs will be posted at the entrance to a true “Freeway” (closed access highway) prohibiting pedestrians and bicycles. Always look for these signs!

That said, even if there is no sign prohibiting pedestrians or bicycles, given the definition of a freeway, bicycles and pedestrians are still prohibited on them as follows in 4511.051 (2):

Occupy any space within the limits of the right-of-way of a freeway, with: an animal-drawn vehicle; a ridden or led animal; herded animals; a pushcart; a bicycle, except on a facility that is separated from the roadway and shoulders of the freeway and is designed and appropriately marked for bicycle use; an electric bicycle; a bicycle with motor attached; a motor driven cycle with a motor which produces not to exceed five brake horsepower; an agricultural tractor; farm machinery; except in the performance of public works or official duties.

Typically, however, separated bike lanes are not found on the sides of freeways/closed access highways.

State Routes are typically good to go. As far as priority goes, single-digit State Routes like SR 8 are more major than double-digit Routes like SR 82, and lastly, three-digit State Routes such SR 250 are lower in priority. As long as a bicycle is riding with traffic and is to the right hand side of the roadway as is ‘practicable’, bicycles can use State Routes, again unless there is a specific sign prohibiting bicycle riding.

At times a State Route, such as State Route 8 could be considered a freeway, if access is controlled (with no intersections). However, at other locations SR 8 is not a controlled access route and bicycles should be O.K. AGAIN: Always look for the signs.

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