As the end of summer approaches, a change of season means more Michigan residents will be opting for bicycles as a means to commute, get out and about, and enjoy the cooler weather.
Though bicycling is an age-old pastime enjoyed by many, it’s become increasingly dangerous in Michigan. Over the past several years, the Lansing State Journal reports, local roads have seen dramatic spikes in fatal bicycle accidents. According to crash statistics from the Office of Highway and Safety Planning, for example, 38 bicyclists were killed in traffic crashes in 2016 alone – a significant jump from the 21 bicyclist fatalities in 2011.
Although our local, county and state leaders have been working to keep riders safer on our roads, the most effective way for cyclists to protect themselves when riding with and near traffic is to always stay alert, and to always follow the rules of the road.
Michigan Bicycle Law: Riders’ Rights
In Michigan, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. This applies to cyclists’ duties to:
- Safely operate their bicycles;
- Refrain from texting while riding and cell phone use;
- Ride with traffic and obey traffic signals, right-of-way, and passing restrictions;
- Obey laws pertaining to safe passing distances and pedestrians on sidewalks;
- Comply with requirements to have a front headlamp and rear red reflector when riding at night.
In addition to obeying the traffic laws, Michigan requires bicyclists to ride as close to the right hand curb as possible when traveling on public roadways. However, there are exceptions for when riders pass other bicycles, or when road conditions or hazards make riding on the right edge unsafe. Riders may also move away from the right-hand curb when preparing to make left turns, when riding straight after a right-turn lane branches off, or when riding down a one-way street.
While bicyclists can ride on sidewalks instead of roadways, they must yield the right of way to pedestrians, and are required by law to give an audible signal before passing pedestrians on sidewalks. When traveling on sidewalks, riders have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians. For parents with children who enjoy bicyclists, there’s also a duty to not authorize or knowingly allow a child to violate any laws applicable to cycling.
Other safety precautions bicyclists should take:
- Keep an eye on turning traffic or drivers who may overlook riders when turning;
- Use hand signals when turning or stopping to alert nearby motorists;
- Ride on trails, paved shoulders, protected bike lanes, or bike routes;
- Make yourself visible by wearing reflective gear and / or bright colors;
- Watch for roadway debris that can cause you to swerve or fall;
- Wear a helmet and ensure children wear helmets when riding;
- Ride no more than two abreast (side by side).
Michigan Bicycle Passing Laws
Michigan law requires motorists to provide at least 3 feet of space when passing bicyclists.
In some Michigan cities, local ordinances require drivers to give at least 5 feet of space when passing riders. These laws supersede state law and – as of October 1, 2019 – apply to the following communities:
- Ann Arbor
- Grand Rapids
- Kalamazoo Township
- Norton Shores
- Oshtemo Township
You can find more information about local laws and bicyclist safety here.
At Grewal Law PLLC, we have handled enough motor vehicle accident cases to know that even the most safety-conscious riders can suffer harm when those around them are negligent. If you or someone you love have been injured in a preventable bicycle accident, we’re available to discuss your rights and options during a FREE consultation. Contact us to speak with a lawyer.