Team Stelleri Captain Pamela Semanik in new OBF 3 Feet Passing Kit in Cleveland Velodrome during OBF Day in Cleveland on June 3, 2017

With Emmy and Advocacy Organization of the Year Award at OBF Display

Strong support at Wright Wride 2015

OBF Chair Chuck Smith presents $1,000 check to Queen City Bikes for bike lights

The Ohio State University Bicycle Racing Team visits the 3rd Annual OBF Ohio Bicycling Summit

Huffman Award to Jim Sheehan

OBF Chair Chuck Smith and daughter Julia arrive at statehouse on a tandem

Ohio House Representatives Mike Sheehy and Mike Henne, sponsors of House Bill 154, during Ohio Bicycling Summit on April 22, 2015.

Holding the "Three Feet" banner in the Ohio Statehouse on May 21, 2013 minutes before testifying on our Safer Ohio Cycling Bill

Six members of the Upper Arlington High School Bicycle Racing Team (first Ohio high school racing team) visited their Senator Kris Jordan

OBF Day 2015 at Bicycle Museum of America

by Fred Oswald, PE, LCI #947

This article illustrates typical cycling road hazards and measures a community can take to correct the hazards and improve conditions.  Keywords: Cyclist friendly, Bicycle friendly, Bike safety, Road hazards.

The most important measure a community can take to improve the cycling environment is to teach people how to drive a bicycle.  Most of the problems illustrated here are exacerbated by common mistakes made by people who do not understand the best practices of cycling.  Sometimes a well-chosen sign can help prevent mistakes and overcome misinformation.  For example, the sign in the photo at right says that bikes (actually cyclists) can use a full lane and faster drivers must change lanes to pass.

It is also important to fix problems that can contribute to crashes.  The most common accidents to cyclists are falls.  This is because bicycles are balanced vehicles with hard, narrow tires and (usually) no springs.  Some of these falls cause serious injuries, including fatalities.

Road defects often cause bicycle crashes.  A bump gives the cyclist an uncomfortable jolt.  A large bump can cause tire and/or rim damage and can cause a crash if the cyclist loses control or swerves to avoid the bump.  A deep chuckhole creates a severe jolt and can cause a stopping fall where the wheel stops suddenly while momentum carries the cyclist over the handlebars.  Small defects such as ridges and slots nearly parallel to the direction of travel can cause the front wheel to steer to the side or it can prevent steering required for balance.  This causes a diversion fall.  In addition, gravel or other slippery surfaces can cause skidding falls.  Besides direct injuries from impact with the ground, falling in front of a vehicle is likely fatal.


Cracks and Slots often cause diversion falls.  These gaps are prevalent in older concrete roads, especially in the joints between sections of concrete.  The left photo shows a wheel in a water-filled gap near a sewer grate.  There was a separate "pour" of concrete around the sewer catch basin to make sewer repairs easier.  This adds a seam thqat can produce a dangerous gap right where cyclists ride.

This photo was included on a one-page report of road defects the author gave to the Service Director of Middleburg Hts, Ohio.  The very next day, the supervisor of the city's road repair crew called to discuss the problem.  Since most city officials (like most citizens) are not experienced cyclists, they do not recognize problems such as this unless someone tells them about it.

The right photo shows temporary patching applied that same day.  The white paint marks where more permanent repairs will be made when schedule and budget permit.  We have also met to discuss other problem areas and how the city can reduce hazards.  This is an excellent example of a responsible government responding to a problem.  (Location: Bagley Road at Century Oak Rd.)


Parallel Bar Sewer Grates are extremely dangerous for cyclists.  A wheel can easily get trapped between the bars, causing a stopping fall which will pitch the cyclist on his head.  If the wheel does not slip in far, it may still be prevented from steering.  This will cause a diversion fall.

Another problem occurs when a grate is not level with the surrounding pavement.  Even a "bike safe" design can cause a crash if it becomes part of a "chuckhole".  The top photo at right shows a dangerous grate that is also mounted a little too low.  Notice how the wheel is in the slot up to the spokes.  (Location: E. Bridge St, Berea.  This defect should be reported to the city.)

Normally, an experienced cyclist will be at least 2-4 feet from the curb, outside of the grate area.  However, novices often ride too close to the road edge and in an emergency, even an expert may ride there.


The left photo shows a dangerous grate in a very bad location -- out in the roadway and just after a curve.  Although cross bars had been welded across the openings, both of these were partly torn away (likely by snowplows).

The right photo shows a much better grate installed just a few days after the author notified the Service Department of Brook Park, Ohio.  This is another good example of a responsible city government in action.  (Location: Switzer & Lucille Rd.)

Roadway Shoulders are a popular place for touring cyclists riding in the country.  But in an urban area, the shoulder is often NOT a safe place to ride.  A shoulder cyclist is much more likely to suffer a collision with turning traffic because other drivers do not look for conflicting traffic off the roadway.  In addition, the shoulder is likely to accumulate glass, gravel and other debris because passing traffic does not "sweep" it clean.  For these reasons, experienced cyclists avoid shoulders on urban roads.


A small shoulder protects the edge of the pavement from being broken by keeping heavy wheels nearer the middle of the road where the pavement is better supported.  One foot is enough shoulder space for this benefit.

In the photo at right, the travel lane is of marginal width to allow faster traffic to pass a bicycle.  The four feet of pavement in the shoulder is largely wasted as far as cycling is concerned.  If the fog line were moved over about three feet (indicated by dashed line), then the lane would be wide enough to share with faster traffic.  The remaining shoulder would be enough to protect the edge of the pavement.  (Location: W. 130 St, S of Bagley)

Difficult Spots for cyclists include narrow 2-lane roads with heavy traffic, narrow bridges, and "pinch points" in the roadway.  Since these problems are generally built in to the infrastructure, it can be difficult and expensive to cure them.  Often the best you can do is to teach people how to deal with the problem and perhaps erect a warning sign.


The photo at right illustrates a diagonal railroad crossing complicated by a grade that blocks sight of approaching traffic.  The cyclist must cross the tracks at nearly a right angle to avoid getting the front wheel caught in the groove next to the rails and then a diversion fall. That means veering to the left. Cyclists must be taught how to do this safely. Motorists must be taught that it is unsafe to pass at a place such as this.  (Location: Smith Rd. near Sheldon)

Sidewalks are designed for pedestrian use.  Many people think a person on a bicycle is some kind of pedestrian.  Wrong!  A bike can easily go 4 or 5 times as fast as a person walking.  And even faster downhill.  A bike cannot stop in a stride; it has brakes like other vehicles.  It cannot turn in place or step sideways like a pedestrian either.  These are a few of many reasons why riding on sidewalks is much more dangerous than driving on the roadway.  And why mixing cyclists and pedestrians is dangerous for both.


Those who ride on sidewalks face the risk of collisions at every intersection and even at driveways.  Other drivers do not look for conflicting traffic in unusual locations, such as on a sidewalk.

Sidewalks often have specific hazards, in addition to being inherently unsuitable for vehicular traffic.  The hazards include rough surfaces, sidewalk "furniture" such as utility poles and mail boxes, and poor sight lines due to vegetation, fences, etc.  The photo at right shows an untrimmed hedge blocking the view from a commercial driveway.  (Location: Smith Rd. exit of Ganley auto dealership)

Appropriate Facilities do not subject cyclists to unforeseen hazards by forcing them to violate the rules of the road.  A bicycle "sidepath" is really just an asphalt sidewalk and it has nearly all of the dangers.  Recreational paths are often popular.  They can be reasonably safe only for slow speed use if designed properly.


A shortcut path linking places that are otherwise not connected can be very useful for transportation.  The photo at right shows a road barricaded to prevent cut-through traffic.  A short path would restore this road as a bicycle corridor without compromising the "traffic calming" purpose of the barricade.  (Location: S. Rocky River Dr, Berea)

The best bicycle facility is a well-designed and maintained road. A little extra space in the right lane (called a wide outside lane) helps faster traffic pass bicycles and this reduces friction between road users.

Parking is nearly as important for cyclists as for motorists.  Bicycles take little room and can often be locked to a fence, sign, etc.  Traditional school yard "wheel bender" bike racks are not suitable for good bicycles with expensive aluminum wheels.  unfortunately, some bike racks are even worse than the old schoolyard racks.


Often an informal parking spot (locking to a signpost or fence, etc.) is the best choice.  Appropriately, the sign below the parking meter at right says "small vehicles only".  Unfortunately, some communities make locking to parking meters illegal.  We have even heard of local ordinances requiring use of a bike rack, where provided.  They make no allowance for the risk that a bad rack can damage a good bicycle.

Other Issues:  Important tasks include teaching people the best practices of safe and effective bicycle operation, passing equitable laws, training police and making vehicle detectors work with bicycles.  These are covered in the Ohio Bicycle Federation's Cyclist Friendly Communities Program 'Toolkit'.  For more information on planning for bicycle transportation, see Bicycle Transportation Policy Statement from the Ohio Bicycle Federation. 

We suggest that transportation officials and planners read the book Bicycle Transportation, by John Forester, MIT Press, 1994.  It will take some effort to get past the bitter, confrontational style of the author but once this is done, you can learn from a real expert.


[1] Alan Forkosh photo.

© Copyright 2003-2008 Fred Oswald and Ohio Bicycle Federation.  Material may be copied with attribution.
The author is a certified "League Cycling Instructor", and a professional engineer in Ohio.
Last Revised 6/25/08  Check for updates at

Ohio Bicycle Federation Cyclist Friendly Communities Award

An award for communities that treat cyclists well

Some of the measures Vandalia and NASA Glenn Research Center took to earn the Ohio Bicycle Federation Cyclist Friendly Communities Award


Organization & Planning

  • Vandalia: Deputy City Engineer works on cycling issues
  • Glenn: GO-BIKE committee advises Safety Chief
  • Vandalia: Bicycle Advisory Committee includes experienced bike commuters and recreational cyclists
  • Both: A League Cycling Instructor advises with planning

Equitable Treatment, Safe and Fair Laws

  • Both: No unsafe/discriminatory ordinances
  • Both: No helmet ordinance
  • Vandalia: City Resolution #95-R32 declares cyclists are equal users of the roads
  • Both: "Share the Road" information is in newsletters and web sites
  • Vandalia: BAC chair plans road rage prevention program with Vandalia Police Chief


  • Both: Street Smarts booklet distributed widely
  • Both: Bicycle driving seminars
  • Glenn: Hosted Road-1 class for employees.
  • Vandalia: Police and advisory committee conduct Bike Rodeos at all elementary schools twice each year
  • Glenn: Earth Week cycling information table provided for many years.
  • Vandalia: Articles in city newsletter teach motorists that cyclists are not required to ride on paths
  • Glenn: GO-BIKE web site distributes cycling educational materials
  • Vandalia: Cycling posters displayed at rec. center
  • Glenn: Safety messages distributed on "Today@Glenn" email
  • Vandalia: Hawaii Ironman triathlete and nutritionist Michelle Kitze spoke on cycling nutrition in 1995 and 2004
  • Glenn: Parents' bike education program given at day care center

Accommodation, Engineering and Safety

  • Vandalia: Resolution #95-R-32 declares policy for routine accommodation of cyclists on all non-freeway roadways
  • Both: All vehicle detectors have been adjusted to detect bicycles
  • Glenn: Vehicle detectors are marked for bicycles (note arrow in photo)
  • Vandalia: Seminar for community officials
  • Vandalia: Replaced several dangerous parallel bar grates
  • Vandalia: Committee identifies road hazards for repair
  • Vandalia: City plans bikeway under a barrier formed by Railroad
  • Vandalia: Secure inverted "U" bike racks installed at city hall, court, recreation center, and library
  • Glenn: Informal parking allowed in building doorways, along railings, etc.
  • Both: No striped bike lanes
  • Vandalia: studying safety issues related to a shared use path in city park
  • Vandalia: Page on city web site for problem reports

Promoting and Encouraging Cycling

  • Vandalia: Mayor's bike month proclamation is covered in the press each year
  • Vandalia Bike to Work Day meets at the gazebo in May
  • Glenn: Ride to work day celebrated in April during Earth Week
  • Vandalia: Annual Freedom Tour (community ride) since 1996
  • Glenn: GO-BIKE web site includes contacts for mentor program & shower info.
  • Vandalia: Brochures from Dayton Cycling Club encourage businesses accommodation of bike commuters

© Copyright 2004-2006 Fred Oswald and Ohio Bicycle Federation.
Non Commercial distribution authorized.  Cycling organizations from other states may adapt this material so long as they maintain emphasis on education for safe "vehicular cycling" techniques.
Rev. 9/15/06

Ohio Bicycle Federation Cyclist Friendly Communities Award

An award for communities that treat cyclists well



The purpose of the Cyclist Friendly Communities Program is to encourage communities to treat cyclists fairly, promote safety by teaching the best practices of bicycle driving, and encourage cycling for transportation, health, recreation and sport.  The award is open to any Ohio city, village, park district, college campus, etc. that meets the criteria.

Many of the most important things you can do cost very little.  The greatest need is to understand how to drive a bicycle as a vehicle, use this knowledge to carry out your civic duties and teach your citizens.  We offer much of the information you need right here.  Please contact us for help.

The first communities that have earned the award are the city of Vandalia, near Dayton and NASA Glenn Research Center, near Cleveland.


What is a Cyclist Friendly Community?

Application for OBF Cyclist Friendly Award

Below is a blank application form for the CFC award plus a sample application for a fictional, nearly perfect city.  The sample shows the measures we hope communities will take.  Both are in "rich text files" that should work with any modern word processor.  Also we offer ideas for extra credit measures to help your community qualify for an award.

Reference Material Toolkit:

The Toolkit can help you improve conditions in your community.  It covers policy & planning, ordinances, education, signal detectors and parking.

Disclaimer:  Materials are listed here as a public service.  Some is from outside sources.  The Ohio Bicycle Federation does not control these sources and is not responsible for their content.

Bicycle Transportation Policy Statement (pdf file).  Ohio Bicycle Fed. guidelines for planners and city officials.

Improving the Cycling Environment, an illustrated article by Fred Oswald that gives tips on fixing road hazards, proper shoulder width, appropriate facilities, dealing with problems, sidewalk issues, etc.

Digest of Ohio Bicycle Traffic Laws.  Excerpts from Ohio traffic laws with explanations for what they mean to cyclists.

Guide for Bicycle Traffic Ordinances.  Guidelines for local ordinances that are fair, uniform and promote safety.

Model Local Bicycle Code.  A model package of local bicycle laws that promote safe practices and are consistent with Ohio traffic law.

Cycling Education.  Links for many more articles on education, including presentations, handouts, videos and a photo gallery.

Bicycle Blunders by Fred Oswald.  Illustrated article discusses common blunders (serious mistakes) related to bicycle use, education, advocacy, engineering, and traffic laws.  These blunders make cycling more difficult, more dangerous and threaten our right to use the roads.  Article concludes with "Getting beyond the Blunders" -- how to avoid repeating these mistakes. 

Let's Stop Miseducating Society About Cycling.  Much of what we were taught as kids is wrong and some is dangerous.  This article explains why and how this happened and how to stop the circle of misinformation.

Dilemmas of Bicycle Planning by Paul Schimek, An excellent discussion of issues that should be understood by every bicycle planner.

National Police Bicycle Awareness Curriculum, a new program developed through a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For information, contact the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The International Police Mountain Bike Assoc. runs classes for police bicycle patrols.

Getting Vehicle Detectors to Detect Bicycles 2-page illustrated flyer by Fred Oswald.
Re-Evaluating Signal Detector Loops article by Alan Wachtel
Detection of Bicycles by Quadrapole Loops at Demand-Actuated Traffic Signals article by Steven Goodridge.

Cycling Educational Materials

We have several flyers below as pdf files.  These are available as a public service at no charge except your cost to duplicate.  Download the file, and print to make a master that you can then photocopy.  A laser printer may give best results.  (Some flyers have tight margins so they may not print properly on an ink jet printer.)

Ohio Bicycling Street Smarts:  A 48 page booklet that includes a summary of Ohio traffic laws plus a concise reference of proper cycling technique.  Issued by Ohio Dept. of Public Safety and ODOT.  Call 614-644-7095 to request copies.  You can also read the commercial edition online.

Cycling Education Links for many more articles on education, including presentations, handouts, videos and a photo gallery.

Bicycle Safety Cards  Small cards useful for handouts.  Both parent and adult cyclist versions. (pdf file, 2-sides, 6 per page).

Bike Safety for Kids - A Parent's Guide  (1-sheet, 2-sides, fold to make brochure, pdf file, 79 Kb)

Where to Ride.  Flyer for adults by Bob Bayn.  pdf file, print 2-sides, cut to make 1/2 pg flyers. (Utah State Web site)

Tips for Bicycle Operation (pdf file, 500 Kb).  A 1/2 page, 2-sided illustrated flyer that gives basics of riding in traffic.

Passing Thoughts -- Bikes and Cars Sharing the Road.  Covers lane position, safe passing clearance and the concern about delaying traffic.

Teaching Cycling to Children.  A compilation of ideas and resources for teaching children (and their parents) good cycling techniques.

'Cycling Shorts' -- Short Bicycle Education Messages.  This article has several short messages you can use in a city newsletter, to accompany youth activity mailings or add to your web site.

Bike Quiz for Scouts or other youth groups.  (1/2 page, 2-side flyer plus 1/2 pg 1-side answer sheet, pdf file)   The quiz is not easy.  You need a resource book such as Bicycling Street Smarts so kids can find the answers.

Bicycle Driving Seminar slideshow
A program showing the safest, most efficient methods as used by experienced cyclists (notes included).
Full ~3 Mb PowerPoint file suitable for showing to an audience.

Cycling Knowledge Test, (pdf file, 20 Kb, answer sheet included), based on the Effective Cycling video.  Use this test for two different purposes: (1) A training tool for public officials & police; (2) For a 'diversion' program as an alternative to fines for bicycle-related traffic violators. (Especially recommended for motorists that harass or endanger cyclists).


Please give us your feedback

We would like to know whether you find our directions clear, what you find useful or if the measures we recommend are difficult.  For comments or questions, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

© Copyright 2003-2011 Fred Oswald and Ohio Bicycle Federation.  Non Commercial distribution authorized.  Cycling organizations from other states are welcome to adapt this material so long as they maintain emphasis on education for safe "vehicular cycling" techniques.
Rev. 1/16/11

by the Ohio Bicycle Federation


The Problem --

Our government is spending millions to find a pollution-free vehicle.  But we already have such a vehicle, the bicycle.  So governments everywhere treat cyclists fairly, right?  We get equal protection under the law, right?  Well, lets see ....

Motor vehicle traffic laws are generally uniform throughout the 50 states.  A driver traveling from state to state need not learn a new set of laws with each border crossing.  Likewise, within each state, local authorities have only limited powers to enact local ordinances.  The basic set of the "rules of the road" is consistent throughout the country.

Unfortunately, uniformity does not exist for bicycle traffic laws.  Part of the reason for the confusion is the misguided attitude that bicycles are toys for children, rather than vehicles used by adults.  However, a significant reason is that the people who make the rules are not cyclists; they do not know how to operate a bicycle properly.

Governments at the state and local level sometimes treat cyclists as incompetent children or as third-class citizens.  Some forbid cycling on roadways, but instead direct cyclists to use more dangerous facilities such as sidewalks and pathways beside the road.  Some bicycle laws confine cyclists to the edge of the road, even where the edge may not be a safe place to ride.  Local ordinances form a crazy-quilt of conflicting rules that vary from community to community.

Improving these ordinances may protect communities from liability for accidents where their current laws mandate practices known to be dangerous.  The safest way to operate a bicycle is as the lawful driver of a vehicle.  This means riding on the roadway and following the same traffic rules as other drivers.  Cyclists who operate this way have one-fifth the accident rate of the average.


Local Ordinances --

Ohio Bicycle Federation board member Fred Oswald has undertaken a survey of local cycling traffic ordinances in NE Ohio and proposed a Model Municipal Bicycle Code.  The survey includes ratings on a scale of A to F.  Of 60 communities examined so far, the best rating is C+.  About half of the communities specify one or more dangerous practices (thus earning D or F ratings).  A few communities have more than one provision that deserves a failing score, so their grade becomes F-.  The survey provides compelling evidence that uniform laws are badly needed.

Since the survey project began in 1999, two communities have revised their ordinances.  One improved from D to C, the other from F- to C+ (among the worst to the best).  As this was written, a third community was reviewing their cycling ordinances.

Changes such as we propose take time and tenacity to accomplish.  It usually takes three readings in order to change a local ordinance.  But before changes will even be considered, we must establish credibility to convince local authorities to believe us.  You can download an educational presentation Introduction for a BikeEd class.  With minor modifications, such as customized local information, this could serve to educate local officials.

Reforming laws one community at a time is not an effective strategy.  Cyclists need fair and uniform traffic laws, just as much as motorists do.  We need a national advocacy organization to support reforms of the cycling laws in all 50 states.  Lawmakers at all levels must know that bicycles are vehicles that should be operated under the same rules as other vehicles.  We must make officials realize that present laws represent a failure of their responsibility to their citizens.


Working on the Solution --

The Ohio Bicycle Federation persuaded the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety to issue a bicycle drivers' manual, following the example of Pennsylvania.  The manual is called Ohio Bicycling Street Smarts, and it includes John Allen's booklet Bicycling Street Smarts.  Because the booklet was issued by a state agency, it defines official Ohio policy regarding cycling practices.  Thus it helps interpret state law in a positive manner, mitigating the harm from some bad bicycle traffic laws.

The Ohio Bicycle Federation successfully advocated important reforms of state cycling laws in 2006.  These included two priority issues plus several other changes.  The priority issues address (1) the "far right rule", which says cyclists shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable ...(with no exceptions) and (2) dangerous and discriminatory local ordinances that conflict with the standard rules of the road.  You can read the proposed Ohio Bicycle Law Reforms.  We also put the reforms in Booklet format for state legislators.  We invite cycling activists from other states to use these as examples to improve their own laws.

OBF Chair Chuck Smith has served on the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, the organization that maintains the Uniform Vehicle Code.  Chuck, working with LAB representative Riley Geary was able to get several reforms in the UVC, including a statement about the purpose of the "slow vehicle rule", §11-301(c):  "The intent of this subsection is to facilitate the overtaking of slowly moving vehicles by faster moving vehicles."  However, more improvement is needed in the UVC and especially in state laws.

A small committee has been developing Model Bicycle Traffic Laws and has begun rating the cycling laws in the 50 states.  This work will be a significant help to state cycling organizations when they seek reforms in their own states.  For a discussion of the issues affecting traffic law, see A Guide to Improving U.S. Traffic Laws Pertaining to Bicycling by Paul Schimek.


Enforcement and Education --

We also need to train police so they enforce laws properly and fairly.  An educated officer is the cyclist's friend.  But unfortunately, harassment by misinformed officers is much too common, such as the The Steve Selz Case in Ohio.  Selz was cited because an untrained officer thought he was riding dangerously because he was on a major street.

Ultimately, the problems of bad laws and improper enforcement are caused by miseducation in our society on matters related to the bicycle.  The cure requires educating society about cycling.  We need to develop training programs at all levels, from public service announcements in the media, to real cycling education in schools and youth groups, to cycling questions on driver's license exams and "op-ed" articles in the paper.

What are you doing about this problem in your area?  Contact us through to help with this effort.

Ohio Bicycle Federation, 19 Oct 02, minor update 16 Sep 07

By the Ohio Bicycle Federation

Title 45 of the Ohio Revised Code contains the laws that govern operation of vehicles on Ohio roads.  The laws describe what a driver is required to do orprohibited from doing.  But laws do not tell people how to drive.  That is the function of a driver’s manual. 

There are a few books that make excellent driver’s manuals for cyclists:  Street Smarts by John Allen is a concise booklet that summarizes what all cyclists should know.  The booklet was issued by the Ohio Department of Public Safety as Ohio Bicycling Street Smarts.  It is also used for the Bicycle Driver's Manual in Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona and Idaho as well as Ohio.  Street Smarts is available commercially from Rubel Bikemaps

We also recommend the books Effective Cycling, MIT Press, 1993 and Bicycle Transportation, MIT Press, 1994 by John Forester that give a more complete treatment but are difficult reading for beginners.  Effective Cycling is available at any good bookstore.  Every active cyclist should have a well-worn copy on the bookshelf.  New in 2009 is a North American edition of John Franklin's excellent book Cyclecraft.

People who follow the techniques in these books will reduce their accident risk by 80% compared to the average bicycle rider.  Cycling in this way is also more effective, more enjoyable and it allows riding confidently in many more places than would otherwise be possible.

Below are annotated excerpts of concern to cyclists from Ohio traffic the entire Ohio Revised Code online,  The traffic laws are in Title 45. You can also go directly to Chapter 4511 (the rules of the road) and Chapter 4513 (equipment rules).

Information given here includes revisions to the Ohio Revised Code effective Sep 2006.

§ 4501.01.  Definitions.
As used in this chapter and Chapters 4503., 4505., 4507., 4509., 4511.,4513., 4515., and 4517. of the Revised Code, and in the penal laws, except as otherwise provided:

(A) "Vehicle" means every device, including a motorized bicycle, in, upon, or by which any person or property may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except that "vehicle" does not include any motorized wheelchair, any electric personal assistive mobility device, any device that is moved by power collected from overhead electric trolley wires or that is used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks, or any device, other than a bicycle, that is moved by human power.

Comment:  A bicycle is defined as a vehicle and thus is governed by a uniform set of rules common to all vehicles and a small set of specific rules for bicycles.  (There are other specific rules for other vehicle types, such as trucks or busses.)  The annotated list here summarizes the most important parts of the traffic rules and equipment rules that govern bicycle driving.  People who try to make up their own rules have an accident rate five times higher than knowledgeable cyclists who follow the rules of the road.

§ 4511.07.  Local traffic regulations.
(A) Sections 4511.01 to 4511.78, 4511.99, and 4513.01 to 4513.37 of the Revised Code do not prevent local authorities from carrying out the following activities with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power:

    (8) Regulating the operation of bicycles: provided that no such regulation shall be fundamentally inconsistent with the uniform rules of the road prescribed by this chapter and that no such regulation shall prohibit the use of bicycles on any public street or highway except as provided in section 4511.051 of the Revised Code;
    (9) Requiring the registration and licensing of bicycles, including the requirement of a registration fee for residents of the local authority;

(B) No ordinance or regulation enacted under division (A)(4), (5), (6), (7), (8), or (10) of this section shall be effective until signs giving notice of the local traffic regulations are posted upon or at the entrance to the highway or part of the highway affected, as may be most appropriate.

Comment:  The most important of the reforms passed in 2006 requires that any local regulations be consistent with the uniform rules of the road.  In addition, signs are required to tell of any permitted local regulations.  Unfortunately, some communities have been very slow to remove non-conforming ordinances that mandate unsafe practices.

§ 4511.25.  Lanes of travel upon roadways of sufficient width.
(A) Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle or trackless trolley shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway except as follows:
    (1) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, or when making a left turn under the rules governing such movements;
    (2) When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway; provided, any person so doing shall yield the right of way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway within such distance as to constitute an immediate hazard;
    (3) When driving upon a roadway divided into three or more marked lanes for traffic under the rules applicable thereon;
    (4) When driving upon a roadway designated and posted with signs for one-way traffic;
    (5) When otherwise directed by a police officer or traffic control device.

(B)(1) Upon all roadways any vehicle or trackless trolley proceeding at less than the prevailing and lawful speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, and far enough to the right to allow passing by faster vehicles if such passing is safe and reasonable, except under any of the following circumstances:
      (a) When overtaking and passing another vehicle or trackless trolley proceeding in the same direction:
      (b) When preparing for a left turn;
      (c) When the driver must necessarily drive in a lane other than the right-hand lane to continue on the driver's intended route.
    (2) Nothing in division (B)(1) of this section requires a driver of a slower vehicle to compromise the driver's safety to allow overtaking by a faster vehicle.

Comment:  Section 4511.25(A) is a general rule that applies to all vehicles, including bicycles.  Some people think it is safer to ride on the left to "see traffic coming".  This is illegal and wrong!  Pedestrians walk facing traffic so they can sidestep off the road if necessary.  But you cannot sidestep a bike.  Riding on the left is both illegal and dangerous.  Crash statistics show that wrong way riding has about 3½ times the risk as riding on the right.

Section 4511.25(B) simply means that slower vehicles should not unnecessarily delay faster traffic.  (See also § 4511.55 below.)

§ 4511.27.  Overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction.
The following rules govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles or trackless trolleys proceeding in the same direction:

(A) The operator of a vehicle or trackless trolley overtaking another vehicle or trackless trolley proceeding in the same direction shall … pass to the left thereof at a safe distance, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle or trackless trolley.

(B) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the operator of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle at the latter's audible signal, and he shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

Comment:  Since cyclists usually ride near the right side of the road, beginners are tempted to pass slow or stopped traffic on the right, especially in a "bicycle lane" with a painted line.  Passing on the right is often dangerous and, in many cases, illegal.

§4511.31.  Hazardous zones
(A) The department of transportation may determine those portions of any state highway where overtaking and passing other traffic or driving to the left of the center or center line of the roadway would be especially hazardous and may, by appropriate signs or markings on the highway, indicate the beginning and end of such zones. …

(B) Division (A) of this section does not apply when all of the following apply:
    (1) The slower vehicle is proceeding at less than half the speed of the speed limit applicable to that location.
    (2) The faster vehicle is capable of overtaking and passing the slower vehicle without exceeding the speed limit.
    (3) There is sufficient clear sight distance to the left of the center or center line of the roadway to meet the overtaking and passing provisions of section 4511.29 of the Revised Code, considering the speed of the slower vehicle.

Comment:  Section 4511.31(B) should help reduce tension between cyclists and faster drivers.  Now, they can pass in "no passing" zones IF passing is safe.

§ 4511.36.  Rules for turns at intersections.
The driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall be governed by the following rules:

(A) Approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

(B) At any intersection where traffic is permitted to move in both directions on each roadway entering the intersection, an approach for a left turn shall be made in that portion of the right half of the roadway nearest the center line thereof and by passing to the right of such center line where it enters the intersection and after entering the intersection the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection to the right of the center line of the roadway being entered.  Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection.

Comment:  The rules for turns are exactly the same for bicycles as for other vehicles – merge to the appropriate position (right for right turns, left for left turns), yield to any traffic that has the right of way and then turn.  A cyclist also has the option to make turns as a pedestrian by dismounting and walking the bicycle through the intersection.

Getting into position for a left turn may involve merging across lanes of traffic.  If traffic is heavy, you should start doing this early to take advantage of gaps in traffic.  Otherwise, there may not be a gap when you need it.  Beginners, who have not yet developed the skill to merge in traffic, may make pedestrian-style turns instead.

§ 4511.39.  Turn and stop signals.
No person shall turn a vehicle or trackless trolley or move right or left upon a highway unless and until such person has exercised due care to ascertain that the movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.

When required, a signal of intention to turn or move right or left shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle or trackless trolley before turning, except that in the case of a person operating a bicycle, the signal shall be made not less than one time but is not required to be continuous.  A bicycle operator is not required to make a signal if the bicycle is in a designated turn lane, and a signal shall not be given when the operator's hands are needed for the safe operation of the bicycle. …

Comment:  Never turn or change lanes without first yielding to any traffic that has the right of way, and give a signal if possible.  However, skip the signal if your hand is needed for control or brakes.

§ 4511.40.  Hand and arm signals.
(A) Except as provided in division (B) of this section, all signals required by sections 4511.01 to 4511.78 of the Revised Code, when given by hand and arm, shall be given from the left side of the vehicle in the following manner, and such signals shall indicate as follows:
    (1) Left turn, hand and arm extended horizontally;
    (2) Right turn, hand and arm extended upward;
    (3) Stop or decrease speed, hand and arm extended downward.

(B) As an alternative to division (A)(2) of this section, a person operating a bicycle may give a right turn signal by extending the right hand and arm horizontally and to the right side of the bicycle.

Comment:  The right-arm turn signal described in (B) above is more easily understood.

§ 4511.52.  Bicycles - issuance of ticket - points not assessed.
(A) Sections 4511.01 to 4511.78, 4511.99, and 4513.01 to 4513.37, of the Revised Code that are applicable to bicycles apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

(B) Except as provided in division (D) of this section, a bicycle operator who violates any section of the Revised Code described in division (A) of this section that is applicable to bicycles may be issued a ticket, citation, or summons by a law enforcement officer for the violation in the same manner as the operator of a motor vehicle would be cited for the same violation.  A person who commits any such violation while operating a bicycle shall not have any points assessed against the person's driver's license, commercial driver's license, temporary instruction permit, or probationary license under section 4510.036 of the Revised Code.

(C) Except as provided in division (D) of this section, in the case of a violation of any section of the Revised Code described in division (A) of this section by a bicycle operator or by a motor vehicle operator when the trier of fact finds that the violation by the motor vehicle operator endangered the lives of bicycle riders at the time of the violation, the court, notwithstanding any provision of the Revised Code to the contrary, may require the bicycle operator or motor vehicle operator to take and successfully complete a bicycling skills course approved by the court in addition to or in lieu of any penalty otherwise prescribed by the Revised Code for that violation.

Comment:  4511.52(A) Means that the standard traffic rules apply to bicycle drivers.  These driving laws allow safe, fast and efficient travel.  Riding on sidewalks or multi-use "bike paths" is moderately safe only if done at slow speeds and extremely carefully.  Riding on paths is popular for recreation but provides only limited utility for transportation.  Path riding is not covered in this digest.  (B) Means that bicycle violators may be ticketed but will not have "points" assessed against any driver's license, except for a DWI offense.  (C) allows judges to offer a cycling skills course to violators.

§ 4511.54.  Prohibition against attaching bicycles and sleds to vehicles.
No person riding upon any bicycle, coaster, roller skates, sled, or toy vehicle shall attach the same or self to any streetcar, trackless trolley, or vehicle upon a roadway.

§ 4511.55.  Operating bicycles and motorcycles on roadway.
(A) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles and exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.

(B) Persons riding bicycles or motorcycles upon a roadway shall ride not more than two abreast in a single lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles or motorcycles.

(C) This section does not require a person operating a bicycle to ride at the edge of the roadway when it is unreasonable or unsafe to do so.  Conditions that may require riding away from the edge of the roadway include when necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, surface hazards, or if it otherwise is unsafe or impracticable to do so, including if the lane is too narrow for the bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

Comment:  Section 4511.55(A) is very often misquoted to say that cyclists are required to ride as near as possible to the curb.  The new paragraph (C) should help reduce this confusion.  There are many conditions where it is much safer to ride near the middle of the lane.  It is not practicable (practice-able) to ride on the far right when passing or turning left; or when avoiding objects, parked cars, moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface or other hazards; or when the travel lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to pass safely side by side within the lane.

Many motorists are reluctant to cross a lane line when passing a bicycle.  A cyclist who "hugs the curb" unintentionally invites motorists to pass with unsafe clearance.  Riding near the middle of a narrow lane helps overtaking motorists realize that they must must use the next lane to pass.

The real purpose of this law is to prevent unnecessary delay to faster traffic.  Since the law cannot require unsafe operation, the phrase as close as practicable is highly flexible, varying widely according to conditions.  Positions well away from the edge of the road can be in compliance.

Section 4511.55(B) allows riding two abreast.  However, cyclists should avoid unnecessary delay to other traffic.  Please be courteous and "single up" when other drivers wish to pass if such passing is safe and reasonable.  There is no violation if any of the following apply:  (1) If there is no traffic being delayed; (2) If the cyclists are traveling as fast as other traffic; (3) If traffic can reasonably pass by using another lane; (4) If the lane is too narrow or it is otherwise unsafe for passing.

§ 4511.56.  Bicycle signal devices.
(A) Every bicycle when in use at the times specified in section 4513.03 of the Revised Code, shall be equipped with the following:
    (1) A lamp mounted on the front of either the bicycle or the operator that shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front and three hundred feet to the sides.  A generator-powered lamp that emits light only when the bicycle is moving may be used to meet this requirement.
    (2) A red reflector on the rear that shall be visible from all distances from one hundred feet to six hundred feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle;
    (3) A lamp emitting either flashing or steady red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear shall be used in addition to the red reflector.  If the red lamp performs as a reflector in that it is visible as specified in division (A)(2) of this section, the red lamp may serve as the reflector and a separate reflector is not required.

(B) Additional lamps and reflectors may be used in addition to those required under division (A) of this section, except that red lamps and red reflectors shall not be used on the front of the bicycle and white lamps and white reflectors shall not be used on the rear of the bicycle.

(C) A bicycle may be equipped with a device capable of giving an audible signal, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.

(D) Every bicycle shall be equipped with an adequate brake when used on a street or highway.

Comment:  An unseen cyclist is in great danger.  According to the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety data for 2007, about 62 percent of fatal bicycle crashes in Ohio occur during non-daylight hours (even though few cyclists ride then).   The reflectors that come with new bikes are grossly inadequate for nighttime visibility.  Always use both a headlight and taillight when you ride in the dark.

§ 4511.711.  Driving upon sidewalk area.
No person shall drive any vehicle, other than a bicycle, upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway.

Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting local authorities from regulating the operation of bicycles within their respective jurisdictions, except that no local authority may require that bicycles be operated on sidewalks.

Comment:  Although this section allows riding on sidewalks, don’t do it.  Accident studies show that even low-speed sidewalk riding has about double the accident rate as riding on the road.  The danger increases with speed.  If you ride on the sidewalk, every intersection and even every driveway is a potential collision site.  Motorists crossing your path do not look for conflicting traffic on the sidewalk, especially if you are coming from the "wrong way".

This guide was produced by the following Ohio Bicycle Federation Members:
Fred Oswald 
Gordon Renkles 
Steve Magas
Chuck Smith 
Cal Kirchick 
Don Burrell
James Swaney 
Gary Boulanger 


See the Ohio Bicycle Federation Web Pages, for more information about bicycle operation, safety, traffic law and measures communities can take to improve cycling.

© Copyright 2003-2009 by Fred Oswald and Ohio Bicycle Federation.  Minor revision:  22 Oct 2009