Nice weather can lead many people to pull out bicycles, pump up the tires and hit the road to exercise and travel in an environmentally responsible fashion.
Ohio’s laws concerning roadways and motor vehicles also generally apply to bicycles and their operation. However, some laws are interpreted differently as to bicycles, and there are several laws that are specific to bicycles.
Bicycles are not allowed on all Ohio roadways. Freeways, which include interstate highways, are areas upon which bicycles cannot be operated.
Additionally, bicycles must be operated at safe speeds based upon the context of the road and traffic. A safe speed is defined as neither too slow nor too fast. Therefore, a bicyclist traveling at 10 mph may not be permitted to enter onto or otherwise travel upon a busy highway that already has car traffic moving at 55 mph.
Like cars, bicycles must be operated within a lane of traffic. But, like motorcyclists, bicyclists can travel two abreast, which means that two bicycles can be ridden beside each other in the same lane of traffic.
However, circumstances can require that bicyclists who are not travelling two abreast stay to the right within the travel lane. In other words, a bicyclist who travels within a foot of the center line of a street might be traveling illegally if it is reasonably possible to be travelling down the street closer to the right side of that lane of travel.
Occasionally, despite inadvisability, car drivers will remove their hands from steering wheels for brief periods of time when adjusting knobs or buttons on the dashboard.
Similarly, riding bicycles without putting hands on the handlebars is sometimes physically possible if the bike is properly adjusted to travel straight. However, bicyclists who “ride without their hands” can be found to be recklessly operating their bicycles. Therefore, drinking a water or Mountain Dew while traveling on a bicycle may couple with other factors (such as traveling on the left side of a lane or waving to a passer-by) to make the bicycle’s operation illegal in that situation.
In elementary school, we were taught hand signals to use when intending to stop, turn right or turn left on a bicycle. Even if there is virtually no traffic in the area where the bicycle is being ridden, use of those hand signals by each bicycle operator is still required.
It is never a good idea to ride a bicycle at night. However, if a bicycle is operated on a road at night or in conditions when visibility is less than one-fifth of a mile, the bicycle must be operated with a white light that illuminates at least 500 feet in front of the bicycle.
Additionally, during those times, bicycles must have a rear light that either flashes or remains fully illuminated in red. The rear light must also be visible from at least 500 feet. And, the rear light must be reflective, or an additional rear reflector must be mounted on the bicycle.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.