A brief refresher course:
Bicycles are vehicles of the road, and have as much right to the road as other vehicles. I quote from What Every Driver Must Know, published by the secretary of state (page 100): “…you share the road with a variety of traffic, such as commercial trucks, emergency vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles and pedestrians.” And on page 109, “bicycles and moped riders are allowed to ride in a traffic lane, but must stay as far to the right as practical, obey traffic signals, not ride more than two abreast in a single lane, and must ride in the same direction as other traffic.”
To be more specific, Michigan Vehicle Code chapter 257, sec. 657, reads, in part, “each person riding a bicycle… upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to the provision of this chapter, which by their nature do not have application.”
And sec. 660a: “a person operating a bicycle upon a highway or street at less than the existing speed of traffic shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except as follows:
“(a) when overtaking and passing another bicycle or any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
“(b) when preparing to turn left.
“(c) when conditions make the right-hand edge of the roadway unsafe or reasonably unsafe by bicycles.”
“C” goes on to list examples of such conditions. “D” refers to right turn only lanes. A bicyclist intending to proceed through the intersection need not be in that lane. And (e) allows for cycling as near the left hand curb as practicable when operating a bike upon “a one-way highway or street that has 2 or more marked traffic lanes.”
These laws and related ones can be found in The League of Michigan Bicyclists’ booklet, What Every Michigan Bicyclist Must Know, pages 24 and 25.
Let me reiterate. Bicycles have every right to be on the road (obviously, freeways are excluded). And for those who think that cars have an exclusive right to the road, I’ll just remind you that roads were around long before cars.
Since bicycles are vehicles of the road, that means they have to obey traffic signals. Unfortunately, I see too many bicyclists running stop signs or red lights. People like that are not only breaking the law (and being incredibly stupid), they’re also giving bicyclists in general a bad name. Bikes and cars both must stop at stop signs and red lights.
Of course there are ignorant people who seem to think that bicycles don’t belong on any road under any circumstances. A few years ago, I was going to the Royal Oak Public Library, and was on Troy Street, which happens to have a 25 MPH speed limit. I was waiting for the light to change at 11 mile (the library’s on the corner opposite), and a woman in an SUV next to me all but tried to force me off the road as we proceeded.
“Miss Congeniality” inspired me to start work on a mystery story when I got home. Let’s just say that the nasty, hateful, ignorant woman we meet at the start of the story isn’t the detective.
What’s wrong with driving your bike on the sidewalk? Well, as What Every Michigan Bicyclist Must Know points out (page 5): “Cycling on sidewalks is very dangerous because motorists are not expecting you and often can’t/don’t see you at driveways and intersections.” And then on page 6: “Motorists are looking in the road, they are not looking for objects moving at near vehicle speed on the sidewalk.”
Think about it. You’re in your car and you come to a stop sign. You check for cross traffic before proceeding. How often- if at all- are you thinking of a vehicle moving at fast speeds on the sidewalk? Probably not very often. So if you’re on your bike, and you’re on the sidewalk, what do you think the odds are that the driver of a car will be thinking of the possibility that you’ll go rushing by?
As the League of Michigan Bicyclists so aptly put it (page 6): “Remember that you are invisible on sidewalks.”
This refers to adult bicyclists, of course. In many cases, young children are required to drive their bikes on the sidewalk.
Yes, I did refer to driving a bike. Seems a bit incongruous to describe someone as “riding” a bike when the bike is moving because of the actions of the muscles in his or her legs. Moving your legs on a bike is “riding.” Sitting still in a car, with your foot applying slight pressure on a pedal, is “driving.” Got it.
Yes, there are times when it might be more prudent to use the sidewalk. Say you’re primarily cycling through subdivisions to get to your destination. The street you’re on ends at Telegraph, and it’s, say, a quarter mile before you can get to another subdivision and continue your journey. You’d be out of your mind to get on Telegraph itself, with its 50 MPH speed limit (I wouldn’t even try it with the current construction, lower speed limit notwithstanding); so the best thing to do would be to take the sidewalk that quarter mile. But if you do use the sidewalk in such situations, you must yield to pedestrians, and use caution if crossing an intersection.
Myself, when on my bike, I prefer working my way through subdivisions whenever possible. But if I wanted to use, say, Lahser, I’d have every right to do so.
What Every Driver Must Know stated that bicyclists “must ride in the same direction as other traffic.” That bears repeating. Drive your bike with traffic. Too often, especially in Detroit, I see people on bikes going against the flow of traffic. Yes, cars can see you coming (and vice versa), but- to give two examples- if you’re on your bike going the wrong way on a one way street, the driver of a car pulling out from a side street will only be looking toward oncoming traffic, not the other direction- from which you’d be coming. Also, if you’re traveling with traffic, if there isn’t room for a car to pass you, the driver can slow down until there is room. If you’re going against traffic, not only may one of you be forced into incoming traffic, but as pointed out at this website,
“There are many good reasons for not riding on the wrong side. The simplest perhaps is the increase in the number of passing vehicles. For instance, traveling in the same direction as 30 mph traffic at 15 mph halves the number of passing vehicles while traveling against the same traffic at the same speed increases the number of passing vehicles by 150%. So, the number of passing vehicles increases by three times.”
And you can attach a mirror to your bicycle’s handlebar. Any good bike shop will carry them.
So, for drivers of cars: a bicyclist has every right to be on the road. For drivers of bikes, that means you need to move with traffic, not against it; and stop at stop signs and traffic lights.
Finally, if you’re going to buy a bike, you’re better off buying it from a dedicated bike shop than a discount store, even though it may cost more. The bike shop specializes in bicycles, while the discount store doesn’t.
Some bike shops also allow test rides, and service plans, such as one year of free service for new bikes.
Copyright 2010 Patrick Keating