People like to bike for a variety of reasons: it’s great exercise, it gets you outdoors, and it’s a more environmentally friendly form of transportation.
If you’re getting on your bicycle this summer—for whatever reason—it’s important you know your rights and responsibilities. Biking is fun, but it can also be dangerous in certain circumstances: specifically, biking on the road.
Let’s take a look at what Ohio and Cincinnati law says about bikes.
Basic Bike Law in Ohio
Bicycles as Vehicles
Bicycles are considered vehicles in the state of Ohio. What does that mean? It means that you have to follow the same rules of the road as you would when driving a car. For example, you must ride in the same direction as the flow of traffic, stop at stop lights and stop signs, and yield the right of way.
That being said, bicycles aren’t allowed everywhere that motor vehicles are. Freeways and certain limited access roadways prohibit bicycles. (You might have seen signs prohibiting bicycles, pedestrians, farm animals, etc.)
Sharing the Roadway
Bicyclists are supposed to use the roadway. In fact, it is illegal under Cincinnati law for anyone over the age of 15 to ride his or her bike on the sidewalk. Children and young adults under the age of 15 are allowed to ride on the sidewalk, but they must yield to pedestrians. (However, this law doesn’t apply to certain wide sidewalks, or “shared paths” that are open to both bicyclists and pedestrians. Look for the shared path designated sign on trails like the ones near the Ohio River.)
For bicyclists 16 and older, there are certain bike-specific laws designed to make sharing the roadway easier and safer.
Because bikes are slower than motor vehicles, they are required to ride to the right of the roadway “when practicable.” This phrase means that you only have to ride to the right when it’s safe and reasonable to do so. There are a few situations in which you would not ride to the right:
- You are turning left.
- The lane is too narrow to ride beside traffic.
- You are going straight through an intersection with a right turn-only lane.
- There are obstacles (like parked cars) or road surface hazards (like potholes) to the right.
- You and another bicyclist are riding two abreast (only during a legally permitted event).
Essentially, you are not required to ride to the right whenever doing so would be unsafe.
If a motor vehicle wants to pass you, the driver is required to obey Ohio’s 3-foot passing law. He or she must leave a “safe distance” (at least 3 feet) between the car and your bicycle when overtaking you. You are not required to move out of the way for faster traffic.
Many people think that bicyclists are required to use bike lanes if they are present, but this is a myth.
Some people like to use bike lanes because they feel more comfortable; others worry that motorists won’t see them and prefer to ride with traffic. Either way is permitted so long as you are riding to the right (whenever safe and reasonable—see above.)
Bicycles are required to have certain safety equipment installed in order to be road-ready in Cincinnati. Your bike must have the following:
- A bell “capable of giving an audible signal” (but not a siren or whistle)
- A brake, even if it is a fixed gear bike
- A lamp emitting a white light, visible for 500 feet to the front and 300 feet to the sides (if the bike will be ridden between sunset and sunrise)
- A red reflector on the back, visible for 600 feet when directly in front of a motor vehicle’s headlights
- A lamp emitting a flashing or steady red light on the back, visible for 500 feet
Under Cincinnati law, children 15 years of age and under are required to wear helmets. Adults are not required to wear helmets, though they’re encouraged to do so.
What to Do after a Bike Accident
We hope that this post helps you ride safely and responsibly on the roadway. (For even more information, be sure to read the Pocket Guide to Cincinnati Bike Laws.)
Unfortunately, you can be a very safe rider and still get in an accident on the road. Motorists frequently cause accidents because they are not always good at looking out for bicyclists. If this happens to you, we recommend doing the following:
- Determine if there are injuries and call 911. (If there are no injuries, call the authorities.)
- Get the name of the driver, the make of the car, the car’s license plate number, and the driver’s insurance information (including insurer and policy number).
- Take pictures of any damage and/or injuries. Write down how the accident happened as soon as you are able.
- Get the name and information of any witnesses.
- Get the name and badge number of the police offer at the scene and the police report number.
If you’ve suffered serious injuries after a bike accident with a motorist, we’re here to help. Feel free to call us to talk to an experienced and knowledgeable Cincinnati, Ohio, personal injury attorney. We’d be happy to answer your questions and let you know your options. Contact us today.