Let’s All Just Get Along: Cyclists, Drivers and the Law

Admit it — at some point in your life, you cursed at the bike rider who rides on the road as if he owns it. Or maybe you’re the one on the bike cursing at why drivers can’t seem to understand the road is not only for cars. If you haven’t experienced either scenario yet, you soon will. The number of young adult cyclists (ages 18 to 24) has exploded in the last six years doubling to 4.3 million, and riding isn’t just for fun like when I was a kid (Statista). Today, the average age of a cyclist is 46 years old and people are riding for fitness and transportation purposes. It’s not surprising then that bicycle-car collisions are on the rise, so whether your hands are on handlebars or the steering wheel you should know the law.

In Ohio, a bicycle is a vehicle and must obey the same traffic laws as a car, bus, or truck. In 2006, the state updated Title 45 of the Ohio Revised Code (e.g., 4511 and 4513), which governs the operation of vehicles. One change that might surprise you states that a cyclist is not required to ride at the edge of the roadway when it is “unreasonable or unsafe to do so” (4511.55). It is considered safer for both parties if the cyclist rides in the middle of the lane and can be more easily seen. In addition, you may want to check your local city’s ordinances for cycling law, though the city cannot conflict with state law.

Despite safety regulations by the state and city, several bicycle-car collisions occur each year. Five common types of accidents occur between cars and cyclists:

  • Left cross – when an oncoming driver turns left in front of a cyclist
    Tip: Prevent this type of accident by turning right whenever possible.
  • Right hook – when a driver passes a cyclist and makes a right turn into the cyclist
    Tip: The best way to avoid a right hook is to ride in the middle of the lane and to check your mirror before approaching an intersection.
  • Door prize – when a cyclist is hit by a driver opening his car door
    Tip: Ride at least three to four feet from parked cars.
  • Parking lot (right cross) – when a driver hits a cyclist while exiting a parking lot or driveway
    Tip: Slow down before the exit to allow enough time to look for cars and stop if necessary.
  • Overtaking (rear end) – when a cyclist passes a parked car or obstruction on the left and is hit from behind
    Tip: Use your mirror and look behind you before moving left. Be as conspicuous as possible by wearing bright-colored clothing and a front headlight.

So let’s all slow down, breathe deep, refrain from cursing, and be more aware of each other with the hope of sharing the road in blissful harmony — until the next cyclist or driver you come across who decides to hog the road.

Reference: Statista. “Number of young adult participants in bicycling in the U.S. from 2006 to 2012 (in millions).” URL: http://www.statista.com/topics/1686/cycling/