Bicycle rules of the road

Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists to know the rules of the road.

Summer is in full swing and a favorite summer activity for many is cycling. Whether for fun or functionality, using a bicycle can be an easy and economical way to get around town. Michigan State University Extension agrees. “Riding a bicycle to your destination can be one easy way to reach the recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week,” said MSU Extension educator Lisa Treiber.

Because of the greater attention on shared roads, it’s important for cyclists and motorists alike to know the rules of the road. Bicyclists have the same rights as someone driving a vehicle, but also the same responsibilities and therefore can be ticketed for violating traffic laws. Here is an overview of common rules of the road for cyclists to obey and for motorists to be aware of:

  • Go in the direction of traffic – a bicycle is legally allowed to ride on the road and therefore should move in the same direction as traffic. It is best for a cyclist to ride as if in a vehicle where the right tire would ride on the road. That is the best position to be visible to motorists.
  • Use proper signaling – signal turns and slowing/stopping by using the left arm. The left arm straight out to the side indicates a left turn; elbow bent up at a 90 degree angle with the palm facing forward indicates a right turn; elbow bent down at a 90 degree angle with the palm facing rearward indicates slowing or stopping.
  • Ride in the appropriate areas – bicycle lanes and shoulders are the safest places for cyclists to ride. If those aren’t available the road is the best place. It may seem natural to “hug” the curb so as to not disturb the flow of vehicular traffic, but this makes it easier for vehicles to squeeze bicycles to the side of the lane and pass too close, which is unsafe. Bicycles on sidewalks are also dangerous to pedestrians and make it difficult for motorists to see the bicycle.
  • Minimize distracted driving – texting while riding a bicycle is illegal in Michigan. Stay off cell phones, minimize other distractions and focus on the road and surroundings.

The bottom line is for cyclists and motorists to share the road and maintain good etiquette. A useful resource is the League of Michigan Bicyclists. They have helpful information on tips to ride a bicycle legally and safely.

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