May 25, 2018
As the weather finally warms in this great state of Ohio, the urge and need to be outside becomes unmanageable. But, driving to beaches, amusement parks, and other outdoor festivities can be expensive, especially since the price to fill your vehicle with gas steadily increases. Let’s consider a classic rite of passage we all went through as a child, a skill that, once acquired, is never forgotten. This skill I am referring to is riding a bicycle, and as we celebrate National Bike Month this May, we are encouraged to get on our bikes to ride to school and work, to exercise, or even just for fun. Cycling has been found to increase energy, reduce fatigue, and build muscle while also helping to improve reaction time, memory, and creative thinking. While riding a bicycle is both fun and great for physical and mental health, do understand that there are laws that we must follow to ensure the safety of not only yourself, but everyone that we share the road with.
Under the Ohio Law, bicycles are defined as “vehicles”, and may be operated everywhere automobiles can except freeways and certain limited access roadways. This simply means that bicyclists can ride on roadways and be in accordance with Ohio law, but must follow the basic rules of the road, i.e. one must ride with traffic, obey basic traffic laws, stop at stop signs and red lights, and follow all traffic-controlled devices. A cyclist does not have to ride on sidewalks when they’re present, in fact, many larger cities in Ohio do not allow riding on sidewalks and label these areas as “business districts.” In addition, cyclists are not required to use bike lanes either, and are to be used at the discretion of the rider. The lane may contain dangerous debris or obstacles that make riding in that confined space difficult. The most significant “bike law” in Ohio declares that a bicycle must be operated “as closely to the right side of the roadway as practicable,” meaning ride to the right on the roadway unless it is unsafe or unreasonable to do so. But, faster moving motorists are allowed to cross a double yellow line to pass any slower traffic, if the slower “vehicle” is traveling less than the posted speed limit, and the passing vehicle can do so without exceeding this posted speed. This applies to bicycles but is not a specific bicycle law because it can also pertain to Amish buggies and slower moving tractors. Cyclist can ride two abreast, meaning side-by-side, in the same lane, and law does not require them to move out of the way of faster traffic. Every bicycle must have a white light on the front of the bike and both a red reflector and light in the rear between sunset and sunrise or whenever the weather makes light necessary. Serious or fatal crashes tend to occur at night or when weather cause poor visibility, with over 500,000 Americans suffering bicycle related injuries severe enough to send them to hospital emergency rooms. Although it is not required by the state, in certain municipal codes, it may be required to wear a helmet or even have a bell that is audible for up to 100 feet.
These laws are put in place to ensure the safety of all motorist who share the roads with each other, and it is important that we continually educate ourselves so to further improve this safety. In summation, bicycles are vehicles and must follow basic traffic rules such as riding with traffic, obey traffic signals, signaling when turning, and must have proper equipment when circumstances permit. Riding a bicycle can be enjoyable, great exercise, a way to save money, and a method used to help reduce our ecological footprint on the Earth. Help celebrate National Bike Month as an Ohioan by remembering a communal memory of your first ride, then dust your bicycle off and enjoy the great weather that is soon to come this summer.
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