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Road Rights- Not So Slow

By Bob Mionske



Photo: vetta/Getty Images


A common misconception about cyclists is that we are in the way of drivers. In fact, motorists often underestimate just how quickly a bike can travel—a mistake that can result in right-of-way violations and crashes. If your bike is the fastest vehicle on the road in the three common scenarios below, here’s how to ride it safely and legally.

1 Rush Hour
When cars are lined up at a red light, it’s tempting to roll past them on the right, either on the shoulder or in the traffic lane. But is it legal? You might logically think so. If we must ride to the right so that cars traveling at a faster clip can pass us, we shouldn’t be required to merge with a traffic jam when we’re the speedier vehicle. Unfortunately, many state laws do not specifically address the question, and police officers have been known to ticket cyclists for this. In Oregon and Illinois, however, the law specifically permits cyclists to pass on the right if they can do it safely. Even if the law allows right-hand passing, drivers might not expect you. You still need to watch out for car doors opening and motorists making turns.

2 In the Country
It’s perfectly legal to overtake slow-moving vehicles such as farm machines or mail trucks, provided that you pass on the left and don’t cross the double-yellow line unless your state allows it. If the vehicle is horse-drawn, take care not to spook the animal. Before you get too close, ring your bell gently or call out a friendly greeting. When you pass, be sure to give the horse plenty of space.

3 At the Bus Stop
When a school bus is stopped with its red flashing lights on, all vehicles–including bicycles–are required to stop until the lights stop flashing. The purpose of the law is to protect schoolchildren who may be crossing the street as they get on and off the bus.


Q: If a traffic light won’t trigger for me, is it okay to ride through the intersection?
A: First, try triggering the light by placing a metal part of your bike close to the sensor in the road. If that doesn’t work, some states, including Pennsylvania and Tennessee, allow cyclists to treat a red light like a stop sign. No such law in your state? You can go to the crosswalk and wait for the pedestrian signal.

Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, JD

This article, Not So Slow, was originally published on Bicycling on April 14, 2014.

Now read the fine print:
Bicycle and the Law, Bob MionskeBob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented the U.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the road race), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championship road race.
After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske's practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).
Mionske is also the author of Bicycling and the Law, designed to be the primary resource for cyclists to consult when faced with a legal question. It provides readers with the knowledge to avoid many legal problems in the first place, and informs them of their rights, their responsibilities, and what steps they can take if they do encounter a legal problem.
 
If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to mionskelaw@hotmail.com Bob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions each week to answer in this column. General bicycle-accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.
Important notice:
The information provided in the "Road Rights" column is not legal advice. The information provided on this public web site is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors to this web site. The information contained in the column applies to general principles of American jurisprudence and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and therefore should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Understand that reading the information contained in this column does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Bob Mionske. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained in the web site without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.

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