Tips for Safe, Responsible Bicycling
By AJ Wagner
The City of Dayton 2025 Bicycle Action Plan opens with this statement: “A simple, accessible, inexpensive, and environmentally-friendly form of transportation, the bicycle continues to be a pivotal part of the City of Dayton’s vision for an active citizenry, vibrant economy, and engaging street life. Every day, citizens across the City of Dayton choose the bicycle to run everyday errands, commute to work, visit friends and neighbors, increase fitness, and have fun. It is vital to the future of the City that citizens are continuously provided the opportunity to choose bicycling as a cost-efficient, viable alternative to the automobile. An active bicycling culture has the potential to be a key factor in attracting the community leaders and entrepreneurs on which the City of Dayton will rely to move into the 21st Century. Across the country, individuals and businesses are choosing to locate or recreate in areas where alternative transportation options are both abundant and convenient. As the centerpiece of the Dayton Region, the City of Dayton and its partner organizations must work to provide these options to those who live, work, learn, shop, and recreate within our borders. The City of Dayton 2025 Bicycle Action Plan provides the comprehensive, strategic pathway to fully incorporate bicycling into our transportation network.”
But what are the rules for biking in Ohio? Spring weather demands an answer.
The most important thing to know about bicycles is that Ohio law defines them as “vehicles.” That means all of Ohio’s laws that apply to cars also apply to bikes. More specifically, it means that if you ride your bike drunk you could be cited for driving under the influence. Run a red light — pay the ticket. Ride against traffic — your mistake. Every rule that you obey when driving a vehicle must be obeyed on the bicycle as well. (There are a few driving rules that apply to “motor vehicles” only, but they are few.)
If you ride the many bike paths in the greater Dayton area, the rules do not change. Stay to the right, heed the stop signs and pass with a signal and with care.
I’m sure you love to give your kid sister a lift every once and a while, but unless there is a separate and firmly attached seat for her you will be violating the law. The peddler must also have a permanent, regular seat. Stay off the handlebars.
Ohio law requires at least one hand be on the handle bar when riding. Thus, the famous line, “Look Ma, No hands!” may be followed by another famous line, “Book him, Dano!” (Okay, it would only be a ticket, but I love that line.)
It is illegal to hang on to a car to hitch a ride. It is also stupid.
A problematic rule is that a bike must ride as near to the right side of the road as is practicable. This can be a problem because if you ride too close to a curb and a car approaches beside you, you will have nowhere to go except into the curb. The word “practicable” gives some room to argue the need to avoid closeness to the curb and possibly the car door opening area but, as I noted, it is problematic.
The law does allow two riders to ride abreast on a roadway but not on a bike path or in a bike lane. The rider on the left would have a different view of “as far to the right as practicable” but that rule doesn’t change.
A bike must have lights and reflectors for night riding. The light facing forward must be white and the one to rear must be red, both with a visibility of 500 feet. If you ride in some cities, such as Dayton, this requirement can be enforced even during daylight hours.
The bike must also have a bell or audible signal that can be heard at least 100 feet. But don’t get carried away. You cannot use sirens or whistles.
Brakes are a must. If you don’t have them, don’t ride, or prepare to answer this question, “What are you thinking?”
A violation will be treated much like any traffic offense. If you’re guilty expect to pay a fine of up to $150.00 plus some court costs, which can add more than $100 to your tab. The penalty goes up if you have a second ticket within a year, and can include a possible 30 days in jail. A third offense within a year gets worse.
Remember that there may be local laws that add to the requirements such as requirements for helmets, registration, or limitations on where you can ride. Get to know the rules of your community before you head out.
Be careful and have fun!
Disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and information only. Do not use this as a legal consultation. Every situation has different nuances that can affect the outcome and laws change without notice. If you’re in a situation that calls for legal advice, get a lawyer. You represent yourself at your own risk. The author, the Dayton City Paper and its affiliates shall have no liability stemming from your use of the information contained herein.
A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at AJWagner@DaytonCityPaper.com.