Sharing the Road With Bicycles

Sharing the Road With Bicycles

A bicycle is considered a vehicle on the roadway and has exactly the same rights as any other vehicle.

Bicycling is one of the most popular recreational activities in the United States, indeed, in the world. There are over 90,000,000 cyclists in the U. S. and over 30,000,000 adult cyclists. In any given year we can expect 800 - 1000 cyclists to die on our roadways while some 500,000 will be treated for injuries. In fact, the first automobile accident in the United States occurred when a motor vehicle crashed into a pedal cycle rider in New York City in 1896!

How to Avoid Six Potential Accident Situations

Listed below are the six most common bicycle-related accidents and ways to avoid them. The types of accidents are listed in order from most common to least common.

1. Motorist's Failure To Yield
(approximately 30 percent of bicycle-related accidents)

  • Causes:
    a) Motorist pulls out from a stop sign and fails to yield to cyclist or,
    b) turns left in front of oncoming bike.
  • How to avoid:
    As you approach an intersection, don't hug the curb. If you are going straight, ride approximately where the right wheel of a car would be if it was going straight. Put your hands on the brake levers and watch closely. Be prepared for an emergency maneuver.

2. Cyclist's Failure To Yield
(approximately 30 percent of bicycle-related accidents)

  • Causes:
    Cyclists who don't yield, who ride out of driveways without stopping, or run red lights and stop signs, or turn left in front of oncoming cars.
  • How to avoid:
    Easy! Wait for traffic to clear. Stop for red lights and stop signs. Don't turn left unless you have checked for traffic and it is clear.

3. No Lights At Night
(approximately 18 percent of bicycle-related accidents)

  • Causes:
    Bicyclists who ride without lights are hit in many different situations - by turning cars, by overtaking cars, by cars pulling out from stop signs.
  • How to avoid:
    Easy, again. Use proper lights.

4. Wrong-Way Riding
(approximately 10 percent of bicycle-related accidents)

  • Causes:
    These typically involve a cyclist being hit by a car turning or emerging from a side street. The motorist doesn't look in the wrong direction for oncoming traffic and POW!
  • How to avoid:
    Ride with traffic, as required by law.

5. Being Hit From Behind
(approximately 7 percent of bicycle-related accidents)

  • Causes:
    Overtaking car, unlit cyclist at night. Some involve drunk drivers.
  • How to avoid:
    Become proficient at looking over your shoulder without swerving. Get a rear view mirror. Occasionally checking traffic to the rear can help you blend better with the flow of cars, buses, trucks and other bikes.

6. Opening Car Doors
(approximately 5 percent of bicycle-related accidents)

  • Causes:
    Someone opens a parked car door in front of an overtaking bike. Typically, the motorist fails to check for traffic before emerging. This is, by the way, illegal and the collision is the motorists' fault.
  • How to avoid:
    Never ride closer than three feet to a parked car.

Cars Passing Bikes - Close Encounters & Wrecks

About a year ago I was asked to contribute a chapter to a new book entitled Bicycle Accident Reconstruction and Litigation. The book has just been released and, while you won't find it on the New York Times bestseller list, it does offer some fascinating insights into bike accident litigation from all over the country.

One of the most common bike accident scenarios involves motorists colliding with cyclists while overtaking them. It's not difficult to understand why. My experience is that motorists perceive that lane lines are absolute and believe that they cannot cross them when passing cyclists. If they can squeeze between you and the lane line, they will do so no matter how close they come to you. Once they break the plane and cross the lane line they will usually allow sufficient room to pass. [I modestly call this the "Magas Phenomenon."] In Effective Cycling," John Forester recommends riding in the center of narrow lanes and just to the right of cars in wide lanes in order to encourage the motorist leave the lane to pass you and to give you some room to dive if you need it!. Cars still manage to frequently collide with cyclists during the execution of the passing maneuver and in Bicycle Accident Reconstruction and Litigation there is a virtual catalog of dozens of reported cases on this issue.

An interesting case arose in Idaho in the 1960's. A 14 year old boy was riding on a narrow gravel shoulder of a two lane 24 foot wide highway. A motorist came upon the boy at 55 mph. A disinterested witness said the boy appeared to be having problems controlling his bike on the gravel and said the motorist neither slowed nor steered left. As the motorist approached, the bike operator sweved left onto the roadway in front of the car and was killed. The point of impact was one to two feet onto the roadway. The court ruled that the cyclist was entitled to use the right edge of the roadway as a matter of law since Idaho law, like Ohio law, requires cyclists to ride as far to the right as is practicable. The court stated that a motorist may not assume that a bike operator traveling on the berm will stay on the berm since he has a legal right to ride on the roadway. Kelley v. Bruch (Id. 1966), 415 P.2d 693.

In a 1987 Ohio case a motorist argued that he lost the cyclist "in the sun" while passing The jury, for some unknown reason, found the cyclist to be 20% negligent when the motorist struck the cyclist. The court determined that the motorists argument was not a legal excuse to hit the cyclist and found that the jury made a mistake when assigning any blame for the accident to the cyclist. Howard v. McKitrick, Lexis Slip Opinion, Ohio App., July 2, 1987.

In Ohio, a passing motorist must sound a horn before passing and the motorist is negligent if he fails to do so. However, courts have also held that a horn blown in an untimely fashion which scares a cyclist and causes the cyclist to move unexpectedly or lose control is also negligence. In one case a cyclist heard a horn close by, turned to look and moved left into a passing car. The jury found the cyclist to be 95% responsible for the wreck, but the trial judge reversed the jury's findings and found the motorist to be 75% responsible!

The bottom line...keep an eye in your mirror and watch out for those passing motorists. Take up your fair share of the roadway and make motorists get into the other lane to pass you. Drive defensively a famous TV character used to say..."Let's be careful out there...."

Bicycling is one of the most popular recreational activities in the United States, indeed, in the world. There are over 90,000,000 cyclists in the U. S. and over 30,000,000 adult cyclists. In any given year we can expect 800 - 1000 cyclists to die on our roadways while some 500,000 will be treated for injuries. In fact, the first automobile accident in the United States occurred when a motor vehicle crashed into a pedal cycle rider in New York City in 1896!

ORC Section 4511.01(A) - Defines "vehicles" to include "bicycles." This very important statute has the impact of making all laws restricting the behavior of "vehicle operators" applicable to cyclists. By defining "vehicles" to include bikes, the legislature has indicated its approval of bikes as transportation devices with a place on the roadway. This definition means that virtually every traffic law, including speeding, drunk driving, traffic control device rules, reckless operation, passing rules and the like, apply to motorists and cyclists alike. Cyclists are required to ride in the proper lane, are not permitted to ride "against traffic" and, generally, must act like any other vehicle on the roadway.

ORC Section 4511.52 - This section specifically makes all traffic laws applicable to bicycles whenever a bike is operated on any road or "any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles." Thus, you can be cited by the police for reckless operation, drunk driving, speeding and the like even while riding on a bike path!

ORC Section 4511.53 - Requires bike riders to only ride upon the "permanent and regular seat" attached to the bike and prohibits a cyclist from carrying any other person on a bike except upon a "firmly attached and regular seat."

This section also:

Prohibits bicycle operation where one hand cannot be kept on the handle bars due to your carrying any "package, bundle, or article."

Prohibits using a bike to "carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped"

ORC Section 4511.54 - Prohibits a cyclist from attaching his bike or himself to any other vehicle on the roadway. Thus, we are not permitted to grab onto those little ladders that are seen on the backs of conversion vans, and get pulled along as the van speeds away from a stoplight.

ORC Section 4511.55 - Requires cyclists to ride "as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable." This section of the law is practically universal across the country and generates much concern among cyclists. As a practical matter, it rarely comes into play until there is an accident and a cyclist is hurt. The defense then typically argues that the cyclist was not riding "as far to the right as practicable" and was therefore in some way responsible for his or her own injuries. I have always argued, sometimes successfully, that this means "as far to the right as is reasonably safe to ride given the road conditions, traffic, and all other factors." I argue that this gives us, at least, half the lane and does not bind us to within inches of the white line.

Section 4511.55 also permits cyclists to ride "two abreast" on the roadway except in bike lanes and on bike paths. There is a bit of a conflict with being permitted to ride two abreast and being required to "ride as far to the right as practicable." I have always argued that since we are permitted to ride two abreast, we are entitled to use the entire lane when doing so -- one half lane for each rider.

ORC Section 4511.56 - Defines lights and reflectors needed for night riding and requires:

- a "bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least 100 feet." [Sirens and whistles may not be used.]

-an "adequate brake" for roadway use (i.e., no track bikes on the road).

As you browsed 'Sharing the Road With Bicycles' you may find interest in following articles . . .


I do have a comment or two about bicyclists on the nation's highways. Maybe some law includes bicycles as the same as a motor-powered vehicle, but, alas, they cause motorists to swerve in the lane of oncoming traffic, or to slam on brakes unless the roadway is straight and clear; this, to me, is the cyclist's fault. Many of them ride their bikes on turn-filled roadways, knowing that vehicles are going to be in both lanes; they almost defy a driver to claim any part of the proper lane, and they refuse to move over in order to promote safe passing for the vehicle. I have seen one accident that could have ended in tragedy for the cyclist if the motorist hadn't of had impeccable reactions; it was the cyclist who was ticketed for refusal to yield to the driver! In my opinion (and everyone has one), I believe that the roads were created for motorists, not cyclists. If I was still able to ride my bike as I used to, I would always get off the road to allow motorists to pass; if it was not safe to ride off the road, then I stopped and walked my bike off the road. Why should cyclists have rights over and above motorists? Why shouldn't they have to yield to the motorist? It's not like they're riding their bikes to the hospital, or the ER, or the dentist, etc. Most motorists have a plan for their trip; cyclists are doing their riding for recreation, or some type of fitness training. My final comment; cyclists have no business taking over the roadways and expecting motorists to take second place--get a REAL life! Ride your bike in your driveway or in a place especially provided for cyclists!

Martha, most people who ride bikes are recreational riders..I give you that. But alot of cyclists rely on their bikes as their means of transportation..have you not heard of that? Alot of people, like myself, cannot afford, or just don't even care to own a car. When I commute on my bike, I expect driver's to go around me safely... and not to be endangered by someone who wants to go buy shoes at the mall. The horn is the most annoying thing from a motorist. About 75 percent of the time when i get honked at its cause they want me off the road, or I am riding too far to the Left..yes, the Left. Cyclists who ride on the white line near the edge of the roadway are 80 percent more likely to get hit. I ride in the center of narrow lanes, and if the lane is wide enough i ride to the Right, but no along the pavement edge..which is dangerous cause motorists will squeeze you off the road. I ride my bike properly and in the safest method I know..but motorists do not, and I do whatever i can to prevent that.

Chris, Cars honk at you because they want you to get of the road becuase you and other cyclists shouldn't be on the road. If thats your only way of transportation you can ride on the sidewalks like you're supposed to instead of distrupting drivers, or you can take the bus! You shouldn't expect drivers to get out of your way, because you shouldn't be in their way! Stay of the road unless you want to get hurt.

Lady, you should turn in your license if you are not going to 1. learn the traffic laws, 2. obey them. Don't forget that you have a license plate on your car and people can use that complain to the DMV about your bad driving. The can also provide it to a lawyer who will sue your moronically, negligent ass for harassment and emotional damage.

Martha you wrote '... Maybe some law includes bicycles as the same as a motor-powered vehicle, but, alas, they cause motorists to swerve in the lane of oncoming traffic, or to slam on brakes unless the roadway is straight and clear; this, to me, is the cyclist's fault ...'
You need to become better acquainted both with the highway traffic act in your state and with your legal and moral obligations as a licensed operator of a motor vehicle. An attentive, competent and responsible driver will look far enough ahead to see what they're approaching in time to plan and react; not '... swerve in the lane of oncoming traffic, or to slam on brakes ...'. If you believe the situation you describe is the cyclist's fault you either have no understanding of the duty of care we all owe to other road users, or you have a very cavalier attitude to the lives and well being of others. These are parents, children, spouses. Please readjust your attitude before you get back behind the wheel.

A bicylist is a moron if he/she doesnt use a off road perfect wide lane and try to cause a car wreck. If a motorist has a choice between a head on or a bike then sorry for the moron he/she is dead now !

One thing people that ride bikes on the roadways forget. Or want to ignore. It IS dangerous to the vehicle that is forced by laws to go 10 to 15 miles per hour on a very curvy small two lane rd that has a 40 mile per hour speed limit. Someone coming around a corner at 35 to 40 miles per hour with very limited sight in front can very easily run into the back of a vehicle that is unexpectantly going 10 miles per hour. I was going the speedlimit and came around a corner and allmost ran into a ol women that was going this speed in her car. There are laws for vehicles not to impead the flow of traffic as well as to go at such a slow rate of speed to be dangerous. IT IS DANGEROUS! No one can deny this. This is why people in vehicles are mad because bicycles disregard the well being and safety of people and even children in vehicles so that they can have what they want. What part of common sense doesnt tell you that if you force someone to go 10 miles per hour on a very windy wooded rd that that isnt a large risk of getting hit in the rear end? Im literally scared to death, keep looking in my rearview mirror just waiting, cringing that someones going to come around the corner and hit me in another vehicle. Where is the common sense. Its disregarded for the people in the vehicles. I believe this is due to votes possibly for the people that pass this law for bikes on roadways because it doesnt make any sense. If we cant pass, which is known that every time you cross that line that it is a risk. That is like me saying that I have a right to jog down the street and cars better watch out for me or ride my horse on a roadway. That would be stupid and I wouldnt do it because its called comman sense and Id also be causing danger to the drivers in vehicles. Comman sense and stop ignoring what is plainly facts. We know what is dangerous on the roads in vehicles. Dont tell us its not! You get no respect from me because you show no respect to begin with for other people and there familys safety. Yes it will anger a person that has there little children in the car and there in fear of going 10 miles on a backroad when the speedlimit is 40 or 45 sometimes 55 in narrow lanes and we are at risk of getting rear ended! Trust me, disrespect and throw away and be careless with our familys saftey and we wont respect yours. Goes both ways!

If it is very easy to run into someone when you are driving through a curve at the posted speed limit, then a traffic engineer needs to find a new occupation. Also, for all those people who are "forced" into an oncoming lane for whatever reason, nobody forces you into an oncoming lane, it is your choice. Get rid of the attitude that you are special and need to drive over or constantly at the posted speed limit or that you are so skilled you don't need to pay careful attention to the road and you won't be forced to change lanes in a dangerous manner.

Driving without killing people isn't that difficult. Driving with skill, patience, and without a me-first attitude can be difficult but if learned will save much grievance. This applies to motorist, cyclists, pedestrians, young and ancient, and to me. I too am guilty of making the same mistakes and irrational decisions as other road users. I just don't blame anyone but myself for those mistakes.

Sadly, the me-first attitude is commonly seen in in packs of cyclists who take over more than 1/2 the lane.

Rules of the road are that bicyclists should be riding single-file and yet I constantly run across pelotons where people are riding 2, 3, and yes, sometimes more, abreast.

And I've had bicyclists tell me that "well, they like to talk, sometimes."

Soy, yeah...If I have to choose between hitting a cyclist and hitting another car, the cyclist who will lose. Visibility CAN be poor on windy roads. Ignoring that fact won't make you any less dead if you're trying to honk up a hill that has a 45-mile an hour speed limit and you're barely going 5. Particularly if there are 2 of you doing that side by side like the idiots you are.

And when that happened to me? Had there been another cars passing at that point in the road...

When I drive my car, I assume other other driver's are idiots. It's saved my bacon a few times. Bicyclists should assume not only that drivers are idiots, but that many of their fellow bicyclists are, too, and that their idiocy -- and their holier-than-thou attitude -- isn't doing their reputation any good.

Mandatory bike lines must be created on all major streets all across the country. That's the only solution. It makes no sense for vehicles traveling at two starkly different speeds to share the road. It's completely illogical and dangerous. Just like cars shouldn't share their lanes with pedestrians, they shouldn't share them with bikers either. Bikers need their own lanes.

I treat self righteous cyclists no different from unpredictable squirrels on the road.. not my problem if you want to play in traffic.

I like to think of it as natural selection; wikipedia defines it nicely:

'It is considered that organisms less adapted to their environment are more likely to die having produced fewer offspring, thereby reducing their contribution to the gene pool.'

Not to mention, you look totally ridiculous in that spandex outfit.

Wonder if Martha ever considered that those who ride bikes helped pay for those roads with their tax dollars that they so clearly obstruct others by their mere existence.

Roads are normally paid for by the taxing of gas. Bicyclists are not paying for the roads. Motorists are. Bikes are great for subdivision roads, where the can move at a safe speed relative to traffic. They have no business forcing me to endanger my life by driving 10mph behind them on a narrow, twisty two lane road with no should and very limited visibilty. Please use some common sense. Driving is dangerous enough, don't make it worse on everyone else.

What you're saying, essentially, is that since pedestrians don't pay for sidewalks, we don't really need sidewalks? And you should never follow a cyclist. Generally there is plenty of room for you to pass, if you do so safely. Staying behind a cyclist is a distraction to the cyclist, almost as much a hazard as riding on those crappy roads that you say you pay for.

'ORC Section 4511.56 - Defines lights and reflectors needed for night riding and requires:
- a 'bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least 100 feet.' [Sirens and whistles may not be used.]'

What? says:

'(C) A bicycle may be equipped with a device capable of giving an audible signal, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.'

I see nothing about 'requirement' or '100 feet' anywhere here.

Here in Cincinnati we have lots of new taxpayer funded bike paths that either run parallel to existing roads or have been put in place of existing lanes of traffic thus adding to traffic congestion. (Not very "green" kids) Lot's of cars sitting and idling so one person can peddle his way along.
My favorite display of moronic, arrogant, it's all about me behavior is the countless times I see a cyclist riding right in the middle of a lane of traffic when just a few feet away is a designated bike lane that the taxpayers paid for. Ok all you bicycle lobbyists. Explain the logic behind that assinine behavior and why I shouldn't hold my horn down until they use the prescious path we paid for, THATS RIGHT NEXT TO THEM!


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