Posts Tagged ‘state law’

Bad local biking ordinances become enforceable in 2018

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017


The state legislature recently enacted bills that raise speed limits in Michigan and decrease penalties for doing so. That wasn’t smart but that’s not all.

Many Michigan cities have bad local bicycling laws. We’ve documented them both here and here, though some may have been removed since these articles were written. Now fortunately nearly none of these are enforceable since current state law (MCL 257.606 Section 4) requires local authorities to post these local bicycle ordinances on signs.

That requirement goes away on January 5th, 2018.

Why? Because the that speeding bill we mentioned earlier incorrectly amended 257.606. It removed items from Section (1) and failed to update Section (4) which referenced those items. It appears to only affect the enforcement of local bicycle ordinances (posted signs are no longer required) and truck routes (posted signs are now required.)

The Detroit Greenways Coalition worked with Detroit City Council to remove its outdated local ordinances. Other cities have not. We expect the Coalition will help get this state law corrected. It would also be a good opportunity to remove local authorities from requiring bicycle registrations and licenses — and fees.

Not that you will, but you can potentially get tickets for the following bicycle violations starting January 5th: (more…)

Bicycles are not vehicles in Michigan

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

The city of Ann Arbor web site says, “Ann Arbor and Michigan laws classify bicycles as vehicles and requires them to follow the rules of the road.”

That’s not correct.

Despite what you may read or hear, under state law bicycles are not vehicles in Michigan. Yes, this differs from some other states, but that is what Michigan law says.

And cities such as Ann Arbor adopt the state law definitions for vehicles and bicycles.

Not convinced? Here’s the state law:

257.79 “Vehicle” defined.

“Vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices exclusively moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks and except, only for the purpose of titling and registration under this act, a mobile home as defined in section 2 of the mobile home commission act, Act No. 96 of the Public Acts of 1987, being section 125.2302 of the Michigan Compiled Laws.

We’ve highlighted the key point. If you’re human powered, you’re not a vehicle in Michigan.

There are many traffic types defined by state law. We’ve put together this graphic which shows the relationships between them.

Bicyclist rights to the road

If bicycles aren’t vehicles in Michigan, how are we granted access to most of the roads?

That’s handled by this state law:

257.657 Rights and duties of persons riding bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating low-speed vehicle.

Each person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating a low-speed vehicle 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 provisions of this chapter which by their nature do not have application.

Again, we’ve highlighted the key point. A driver is a person “in actual physical control of a vehicle.”

Bicyclists are do not have the same duties as an vehicle owner. We don’t need to register and license our bicycles with the state.

And as the definition shows, there are exceptions. As we’ve said before, those “same roads, same rights, same rules” stickers are simply wrong.

Why can bicycles ride on sidewalks?

It is against most Michigan municipal ordinances to drive vehicles on sidewalks under the Uniform Traffic Codes. So why isn’t bicycling always illegal on sidewalks?

State law makes an exception:

257.660c Operation of bicycle upon sidewalk or pedestrian crosswalk.

(1) An individual operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.

(2) An individual shall not operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk if that operation is prohibited by an official traffic control device.

(3) An individual lawfully operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk has all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to a pedestrian using that sidewalk or crosswalk.

Of course municipalities can locally prohibit bicycles from sidewalks.

This leads into another subject. The false notion that bicycles can impede traffic while operating legally.

That’s something we’ll cover in a future post.

What are the bike lane laws?

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

With new bike lanes being added in the city of Detroit this year (and many more planned for next year), the question has come up: What are the state laws and local ordinances pertaining to them?

The answer in Detroit is there are none. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

Unfortunately that’s probably true in many cities, villages, and townships (CVTs) across Michigan that are “maintaining” their own traffic law language. We quoted “maintaining” because most CVTs aren’t. While state laws and national model traffic laws for bicycles have been updated, in many, if not most cases local ordinances have not.

Ideally, all CVTs, including Detroit would eliminate their local traffic laws and simply reference the Motor Vehicle Code (state law) and the Uniform Traffic Code (which is a maintained by the Michigan State Police.) By doing this, everyone would be working off the same set of traffic laws and it would be easier this one copy up to date.

But getting back to bike lanes, what does the Uniform Traffic Code say about them?

R 28.1001 Rule 1. Words and phrases.
(1) As used in this code:
(c) “Bicycle lane” means a portion of a street or highway that is adjacent to the roadway and that is
established for the use of persons riding bicycles


R 28.1320 Rule 320. Bicycle paths or bicycle lanes; establishment; traffic-control devices.

(1) When the traffic engineer, after a traffic survey and engineering study, determines there is a need, he or she may establish a part of a street or highway under his or her jurisdiction as a bicycle path or lane.

(2) The bicycle path or lane shall be identified by official traffic-control devices that conform to the Michigan manual of uniform traffic-control devices.

R 28.1322 Rule 322. Bicycle lanes; vehicles prohibited; parking permitted under certain conditions; violation as misdemeanor.

(1) A person shall not operate a vehicle on or across a bicycle lane, except to enter or leave adjacent property.

(2) A person shall not park a vehicle on a bicycle lane, except where parking is permitted by official signs.

(3) A person who violates this rule is guilty of a misdemeanor.

One item we don’t like in the above language is the requirement that a traffic engineer determine “a need” for bicycle lane. We would like to see the survey, study and need requirement stricken. It’s an unnecessary cost burden and “need” can be quite vague.

It’s one thing to do a traffic study and determine the need for vehicle travel lanes in order to accommodate traffic flow. One can measure traffic and plug those numbers into a computer model.

It’s quite another to do a traffic study which  determines how unsafe a road is for bicyclists — both perceived and real — without a dedicated bike lane.

Illegal to pass cars while on the shoulder?

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

We are not providing legal advice. This is our interpretation of Michigan state law. UPDATED August 8, 2017

We’ve previously provided many situations where the rules of the road should be ignored due to their impracticality or unreasonableness. The bottom line is a cyclist’s safety is more important than strictly following the letter of the law.

Here’s another justification for those who ride on the shoulder.

Let’s start with these key definitions under Michigan’s state law.

  1. Bicycles are not vehicles since they are “exclusively moved by human power.”
  2. Roadway means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.”
  3. Shoulder means that portion of the highway contiguous to the roadway generally extending the contour of the roadway, not designed for vehicular travel”

So, this means shoulders are not part of the roadway. This was reaffirmed in Grimes vs. MDOT (2006).

A shoulder may be capable of supporting some form of vehicular traffic, but it is not a travel lane and it is not “designed for vehicular travel.”

State law does not define “bike lanes”, however since bicycles are not vehicles, bike lanes are not designed for vehicular travel. Therefore bike lanes are not part of the roadway. Neither are parking lanes for that matter.

Riding on shoulders

State law does prohibit vehicles passing other vehicles while on the shoulder.

The driver of a vehicle shall not overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right by driving off the pavement or main-traveled portion of the roadway.

State law also states that bicyclists upon the roadway  have “all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” When you ride on the road shoulder, you’re not on the roadway and are not required to follow the same laws as vehicle operators.

So go ahead and pass on the shoulder.


Do bicyclists have to ride on the shoulders?

Actually, they don’t. The law says:

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.

The shoulder is not part of the roadway. Bicyclists are not required to ride in bike lanes or parking lanes either.

Highland Park Police, bicycles, and state law

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Highland Park, MichiganYesterday, the below letter was sent to the Highland Park Chief of Police, Theodore G. Cadwell II:

Dear Chief Cadwell,

I am writing to express concern that some of the Highland Park police officers may not be familiar with state law and bicycling.

Last night I was riding home from the Detroit Fireworks along Woodward Avenue through Highland Park.

At 11:11pm, I passed a Highland Park squad car at a traffic stop on northbound Woodward near Church. The police officer yelled “Sidewalk” to me. Apparently he expected me to ride on the sidewalk rather than the road. However, under state law, I have the same access to the road as any motorist (though I must stay to the right.)

According to MCL 257.657:

Each person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating a low-speed vehicle 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 provisions of this chapter which by their nature do not have application.

I would also note that bicycling on a sidewalk is far more dangerous than bicycling on a road. There have been numerous studies which have come to that conclusion.

Also, last month the Secretary of Transportation posted the article, Bicycling is only healthy when you ride safely. In the article he said, “Motorists should recognize that bicyclists have a right to ride on the roadway” and “bicyclists should ride on the roadway, rather than on sidewalks.”

I will drop off some booklets called “What Every Bicyclists Must Know” at the police station. They were printed in partnership with MDOT and help explain bicycle laws in the state of Michigan.