While it shouldn’t be, riding a bike can occasionally be a dangerous affair. This page serves as a resource where you can find some common laws, best practices, and legal contacts when the worst happens and you’re involved in an incident. We are lucky here to have two passionate and experienced lawyers as supporters who not only work hard on a daily basis to advocate on the behalf of cyclists, but are riders themselves and understand the reality of what life is like on two wheels.
We also have downloadable resources; our Crash Card if things go wrong on a ride, and the Laws That Apply to cyclists and motorists to share with friends and co-workers. These are also available in printed card form by contacting us, or at most events we attend.
|| Common Laws for Cyclists ||
|| Common Laws for Drivers ||
Cyclists May Use Full Lane ORC §4511.55(A) & (C) (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. (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. Please always ride with the flow of traffic! (ORC §4511.25)
Dead Red at Signalized Intersections ORC §4511.132 Brief version: “…the signals are otherwise malfunctioning, including the failure of a vehicle detector to detect the vehicle” This simply means if the intersection is the type that only changes when a vehicle is present, and it does not detect you and your bike, that you MAY proceed through on red AFTER completely stopping and checking for safety. Full version: (A) The driver of a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley who approaches an intersection where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals shall do all of the following if the signal facing the driver exhibits no colored lights or colored lighted arrows, exhibits a combination of such lights or arrows that fails to clearly indicate the assignment of right-of-way, or, if the vehicle is a bicycle, the signals are otherwise malfunctioning due to the failure of a vehicle detector to detect the presence of the bicycle: (1) Stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or, if none, stop before entering the intersection; (2) Yield the right-of-way to all vehicles, streetcars, or trackless trolleys in the intersection or approaching on an intersecting road, if the vehicles, streetcars, or trackless trolleys will constitute an immediate hazard during the time the driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways; (3) Exercise ordinary care while proceeding through the intersection.
Front and Rear Lights at Night ORC 4511.56 (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.
Hand Signals ORC § 4511.39 …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.
Licence Points ORC §4511.52 …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. This does not apply if the cyclist is riding under the influence! (DUI)
3 Feet or Greater When Passing Bicycles (ORC) §4511.27 (A) The following rules govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles or trackless trolleys proceeding in the same direction: (1) The operator of a vehicle … 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. When a motor vehicle or trackless trolley overtakes and passes a bicycle, three feet or greater is considered a safe passing distance. A double yellow line CAN be crossed to accomplish this if conditions are safe to do so. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4511.31 explains this.
Interactions with Bike Lanes ORC 4511.713 Use of bicycle paths. (A) No person shall operate a motor vehicle, snowmobile, or all-purpose vehicle upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, when an appropriate sign giving notice of such use is posted on the path. Read more about how to interact with bike lanes HERE.
Bicycles are Legal Road Vehicles ORC §4511.55(A) & (C) (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. (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.
Dooring Cyclists:Ohio ORC §4511.70 (C) states, in part, that …no person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic. Try the Dutch Reach.
First, let’s get acquainted with our two supporting attorneys that specialize in cycling laws.
Greater Cleveland’s Bike Attorney/Cyclist Ken Knabe believes that cycling and legal knowledge equals power
AND protection in our modern cycling world. With decades of experience as a highly qualified trial lawyer,
Ken is also an avid cyclist across numerous disciplines. His legal practice focuses on protecting the rights of
Greater Cleveland cyclists, including representing cyclists who are needlessly injured, or worse, by unsafe
Ken supports the bike community through membership in, and corporate sponsorship of Bike Cleveland in
addition to co-authoring the Bikes & the Law section. However, his involvement in the cycling community goes well beyond himself and support of Bike Cleveland. Ken serves on the boards of the Ohio Bicycle Federation (OBF) and the Ohio to Erie Trail (OTET), and co-chairs the Maintenance & Vehicle Fleet subcommittee of Cleveland’s Vision Zero Taskforce. Vision Zero is a strategy designed to reduce to zero the number of traffic fatalities and severe injuries on our roads, for all users. In September 2020 Ken’s book Cycling Rights: Bicycles, E-Bikes & Micro-Mobility Devices became available to help Cleveland cyclists understand their rights and responsibilities. Ken provides legal and practical advice for cyclist safety, reviews Ohio cycling case law, and helps motorists better understand cyclist behavior as we all strive for calmer, safer roads where bikes, micro- mobility devices, pedestrians and motor vehicles share the road as co-equal users. All profits go to local bike organizations like Bike Cleveland, as well as local bike clubs and bike shops. You can pick up a copy of “Cycling Rights” at BikeCleveland.org/Shop.
Ken has represented numerous cyclists injured in bike crashes and was injured in a bike crash caused by an unsafe driver. His legal practice has a dual focus: safety and crash prevention via knowledge of the law for cyclists, and guiding cyclists who have been injured through the legally complex process on their road to recovery. His commitment, empathy and zest for cyclist justice and safety are the driving forces of his law practice. Bike event sponsorship, publishing, and teaching bike education and safety classes are further ways Ken actively advocates for the cycling community. Ken can be reached through his firm’s website Knabe Law Firm Co., LPA, directly at email@example.com or call him at his Century Law Office on Madison Avenue in Lakewood at 216-228-7200.
Steve Magas, Ohio’s Bike Lawyer, is an avid cyclist and an Ohio trial lawyer with 35+ years of trial experience in state and federal courts throughout Ohio. He has been working on “bike” cases and bike law issues since the early 1980s and has handled more than 400 bike crash cases. Today, 90+% of Steve’s case load consists of “Bike Cases” – representing cyclists injured, or the families of those killed, in “bike” crashes throughout the State of Ohio. Steve jokes that from 9-5 he represents cyclists and from 5-9 he is a cycling advocate. Steve is a long time board member of the Ohio Bicycle Federation, where he focuses on analyzing and drafting law like the “Three Foot Law” and the “Better Bicycling Bill” of 2006. He also works with local cycling organizations, like Bike Cleveland, Yay Bikes in Columbus, TAB in Toledo, Queen City Bikes in Cincinnati and others throughout the state. On a national level Steve has published a regular column on Bike Law in “Bike USA” as well as “Bike Midwest” and “Bike Ohio.” Steve is a co-author of “Bicycling & The Law” and a contributing author to “Bicycle Accident Reconstruction & Litigation.” Currently, Steve teaches Bike Law to attorneys and judged in his “BIKE LAW 101” Continuing Legal Education classes. Steve recently signed a contract with ODOT & Toole Design to participate as a legal consultant on a project to review and analyze all of Ohio’s bicycle & pedestrian laws.
Steve Magas handles bike cases throughout the State of Ohio… from Cleveland to Cincinnati- Youngstown to Portsmouth – Bellefontaine to Marietta. Steve’s popular blog can be read at www.OhioBikeLawyer.com – Steve always provides a free consultation as to any potential bike case and can be reached via email at BikeLawyer@me.com or by phone at 513-484-BIKE . Steve brings his principal tenets – “EXPERIENCE – INTEGRITY – EXCELLENCE – JUSTICE” to every case.
As cyclists, we have all thought about getting hit by a car while riding. Most bike accidents occur when drivers do not see you due to inattention, poor eyesight, distracted driving, or driving under the influence. As too many riders already know, getting hit by a car while riding your bike is no joke. A cyclist always loses in a crash with a three- to four-thousand-pound vehicle. If you are hit, the following eleven tips will help you to pick up the pieces and protect your rights.
(1) Don’t Panic
Sailing over the hood of a car or finding yourself pinned underneath one are equally terrifying events. Your brain is flooding your body with adrenaline. Your mind is racing a mile a minute. Do not panic. Take note of your surroundings. Do you have a strong physical barrier between you and oncoming cars? Make sure you are out of the way of moving traffic. Get someplace safe and triage your injuries.
(2) Call 911
If you are injured, you will likely need immediate medical care. Paramedics are trained to evaluate acute injuries. Let the professionals check you out. Often, injured victims cannot immediately report the extent of their injuries, due to adrenaline or shock. Take the ambulance to the ER if you need it.
(3) Always Call the Police
Call the police to document and map out the collision scenario, take measurements, photos and witness statements to ensure that you will be able to establish a liability case against the negligent motorist. If you are a victim of a hit-and-run and have Uninsured Motorist coverage, you need independent corroborative evidence, ideally from a witness. Make sure you or the police have identified witnesses and secured their contact information before leaving the scene, if possible. Try to record the license plate number, color and model of the hit-and-run vehicle.
It is helpful if you, or someone else takes photos of the scene before it is cleaned up. Hand off your phone to a Good Samaritan and enter this witness information in your phone. Always insist that a police report be made. You will regret later if you do not! The police should record the driver’s name, address, and insurance information.
(4) Preserve Your Damaged Bike
Your bike just went from trusted transportation source to potentially critical piece of evidence. Preserve it in its collision condition to avoid an eventual argument that you tainted the very evidence required to support your claim. Collect your cracked helmet, torn bike clothes and bent rims for evidence. You will probably notice scuffs on your bike shoes and damage to your bike computer. Photograph it and preserve it, not only for property damage compensation but to corroborate your physical injuries.
(5) Get the Medical Treatment You Need
We never tell injured victims to get medical care if they do not need it. We do, however, tell our clients that they had better get the treatment they need, or insurance adjusters and lawyers will argue that they simply were not hurt. Unless you have medical records and reports to back up your claimed injuries, settlement negotiations will not be fruitful. Do not delay in getting the care you need. Do not miss your physical therapy or doctors’ appointments. Comply fully with the course of treatment prescribed by your medical providers. You need to help your medical team for it to most effectively help you heal.
(6) Keep Track of Your Medical Expenses / Lost Wages
Remember when having health insurance meant the doctor would see you for a $10 co-pay? Modern insurance has grown complicated. Keep good records of each of your out-of-pocket expenses, including medications and medical devices, to ensure that you do not pay for care that you received due to someone else’s negligence.
If you miss work because of your injuries, reach out to your employer to calculate the wages that you lost. Work a commission or sales job? Use historical figures to help bolster your argument for expected earnings.
(7) Pain Journal / Chart of Lost Enjoyment
A daily journal describing your pain level and loss of activities will help establish your loss of enjoyment. We include everything from scheduled road races or triathlons, gym records, and softball league schedules to demonstrate how injuries impact our clients’ lives.
(8) What is Subrogation?
In this context, subrogation means the right to be paid back by the negligent party for expenses incurred to help the non-negligent, injured party. Think of it like this: your health insurance policy likely gives your insurer the right to be reimbursed for the care you received due to your bike crash injuries. Theoretically, you could compromise your future health insurance coverage if you do not assist your insurer in its quest for reimbursement out of any settlement that you receive. Be extra careful if you receive governmental health care benefits. The government’s right to reimbursement is protected by state and / or federal law.
(9) Dealing with the Negligent Motorist’s Insurance Company
Insurance adjusters are trained to get as much information from you as possible, and to use that information against you. They will try to get you to provide a recorded statement and blanket medical authorizations for them to dig into your private health history. Do not fall for it. Past medical records for treatment that bears no relation to the parts of your body that are injured in the collision simply are not relevant to the case. Do not give a recorded statement until you have spoken to an experienced bike injury attorney.
(10) Do I need a Lawyer?
Yes, if your accident is serious. Hiring an experienced injury bicycle lawyer will facilitate this complicated process and usually result in 4-5 times more compensation. Attorneys handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. That means you do not pay the attorney directly to handle your case. Rather, the attorney takes a fee of any eventual settlement or award that you receive. The standard fee is 33 1/3 % of the gross recovery if no lawsuit is filed. If a lawsuit is filed, it is 40% of the gross recovery. Attorneys generally front the expenses for the case, but are then paid back out of the settlement (exclusive of the fee).
Attorneys should not take cases unless they feel they can add value to a cyclist’s claim. Most of the time, it makes best sense for injured cyclists to hire an aggressive bike trial lawyer to work their case. Sometimes, in very minor cases, it may not.
Pick a bike lawyer with whom you are comfortable and who will actually represent you all the way to trial, if necessary. Many lawyers push you off to a junior associate or paralegal after the first meeting. Hire a lawyer who (1) will personally handle your case and (2) who is not afraid to try it to a jury.
(11) Signing on the Dotted Line
Insurance companies demand global releases of liability in exchange for settlements. That means you get one shot at the apple. Once you settle, you will not be able to come back and ask for more money, even if you require future medical treatment, miss more work, and/or continue to experience pain and suffering from a collision. Be very careful about accepting a settlement before you are absolutely certain that its terms benefit you. One more reason to hire an experienced bicycle injury lawyer!
Road bicyclists are many varying types: commuters, messengers, urban cool, social, hard-core and recreational. With the “green” revolution in alternate transportation, the proliferation of bike lane access, and the social and fitness benefits, bicycling is very popular in the Greater Cleveland area.
Ohio law requires cyclists and drivers to share the road within the following legal parameters. Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities is vital for all cyclists’ riding safety, enjoyment and experience.
A bicycle is defined as a vehicle: a cyclist must obey all traffic rules applicable to vehicles. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. (ORC) §§4501.01(A) & 4511.01(A). For example, a cyclist must stop at red lights and stop signs (ORC §4511.43); yield to pedestrians on a sidewalk (ORC §4511.441); use a specified front white light, rear red deflector and light from sunset to sunrise and when visibility is low due to weather conditions. (ORC 4511.56); and ride in the direction of road traffic (ORC §4511.25).
FYI: cyclists that follow traffic laws are in 75-80% fewer accidents!
No points can be assessed for a cyclist who violates traffic laws unless the cyclist is driving under the influence (DUI) (ORC §§4511.52 and 4511.19). Often times, a police officer may cite a cyclist and inadvertently fail to delineate the citation as a no point violation. All cyclists should be leery of waiving an appearance on a bicycle traffic citation to avoid being wrongfully assessed points for a moving violation. Also, if a cyclist is cited in a car-bike accident, an Attorney should be consulted before a cyclist waives an appearance, or appears in court, to assess the validity of the citation.
A cyclist must ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and obey all traffic rules and exercise due care when passing. However, a cyclist is not required to ride at the right edge of the roadway when it is unreasonable or unsafe due to surface objects, hazards or when the lane is so narrow that a car cannot safely pass the cyclist (ORC §4511.55(A) & (C)).
Ohio law sets a three-foot safe distance for a car passing a bicycle. (ORC §4511.132; 4511.27). Also, check your local ordinances. For example, Cleveland Ordinance §431.03 also requires a 6-foot passing distance for commercial trucks. I have successfully used this law to establish liability when my client cyclist client was hit by a passing car that obviously did not leave three feet of safe distance – despite allegations that my client was weaving.
Ohio law does not mandate the wearing of a helmet, but some local authorities i.e. cities, require helmets, especially for minors. Though it is generally legal for an adult to operate a bicycle without wearing a helmet, two-thirds or more of fatally injured bicyclists were not wearing helmets.
Ohio law provides that its state traffic laws do not prevent local authorities from reasonably regulating the operation of bicycles; however, no regulation can be fundamentally inconsistent with the state traffic laws. No local regulation can prohibit the use of bicycles on any roadway with the exception that a cyclist cannot ride on a closed access highway or freeway (ORC §§4511.07 (A)(8) & 4511.051).
Ohio Law permits cycling on the sidewalk, but many local ordinances have restrictions mostly in business districts aimed at inherent safety concerns when cycling on a sidewalk.
No local authority can require that bicycles be operated only on the sidewalk (ORC §4511.711 (A)).
Ohio law allows cyclists to ride two abreast (ORC §4511.55(B)) but many local ordinances prohibit it. Query, are these local ordinances fundamentally inconsistent with state law?
A great resource for contrasting state law and local authority ordinances is contained in http://bikelaws.org/neo-bikelaws.htm
Drivers, please watch for cyclists on the road — look three ways! Look to the left, look to the right, then look for a cyclist in front of you, behind you when you turn right, and when you turn left.
If you see a pack of cyclists passing you, look for another pack or even a single straggler.
A driver can legally pass a cyclist providing they don’t exceed the speed limit and it is safe to do so; they must allow at least three feet when passing a cyclist. It is legal for the driver to cross over a double-yellow line when passing. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4511.31 (B) (1) (2) (3) Finally, every cyclist who owns a car or is insured under an auto liability policy as a household/family member, should be sure to have uninsured motorist coverage (‘U’ Coverage). This is coverage which applies if you are hit on your bike by a careless uninsured or underinsured driver. Your U coverage should be at least 100,000.00 or more. You have to ask your insurance agent or company for U coverage, as there is no longer any requirement to automatically offer this coverage.
If a cyclist is hit by a careless hit-and-run driver, U coverage will also apply if you have independent corroborative evidence besides your word that it happened. A witness would satisfy this evidence need, or it could be cumulative such as the police officers’ observations, bike damage with paint transfer, your statements made immediately following the crash, and medical records. A cyclist who is the unfortunate victim of one of the many hit-and-run accidents in the Cleveland area, should always call the police and secure a witness name and contact info, if possible.
Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities as a cyclist will serve you well on the road and help keep you safer.
Remember this handy acronym: “P.H.O.N.E.”!
It bears repeating that those who practice “Vehicular Cycling” – riding their bike the way they drive their motorized vehicle – are in 75-80% fewer accidents!
Causes of bike crashes include distracted driving due to:
Other causes include:
Types of bike crashes include:
As a bike attorney many concerned fellow cyclists ask me how they can avoid being hit by a motorist.
A cyclist can help avoid getting hit by a motorist by following these guidelines:
Remember: Wear a helmet! Although not mandatory, most deaths occur to cyclists not wearing helmets.
Many thanks to The Ohio Bicycle Federation, Bike Cleveland, the Ohio House and Senate, and the Governor for the passage of this much-needed bicycle safety law.
Ohio’s three-foot minimum safe distance passing requirement, Ohio Revised Code (ORC) §4511.27 and the “dead red” exception, ORC §4511.132 were signed into law by Governor Kasich on December 19, 2016 and become effective March 19, 2017
Under newly-enacted ORC §4511.27(A)(1) & (2), a driver of a car passing a cyclist riding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a distance of three feet or more, and shall not drive again to the right until the driver’s vehicle has safely cleared the cyclist. (This rule does not apply at intersections controlled by traffic control signals.) Upon the car’s audible signal, the cyclist being passed must give way to the right in favor of the overtaking car, and the cyclist shall not increase speed until completely passed by the car. A driver that violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor unless convicted of one or more “predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses” which include most other traffic offenses. See ORC §4511.27 (B) & §4511.01 (III) (1). Cleveland already had a similar law but now it is a State wide requirement.
ORC §4511.132 was amended to permit a cyclist to stop and then safely enter an intersection on “dead red”. This occurs when a red light is not tripped to green because of failing to detect a vehicle, i.e. a bicycle.
Generally, “no”. However, if the traffic light detector does not detect your bike, you may ride through the intersection on red only after you make a complete stop, if you can do so safely and yield to oncoming traffic which has the right of way. You better be sure your bike is not detected before entering on red and that it is safe to enter!
The pertinent language of ORC § 4511.132 is as follows:
The driver of a vehicle…. who approaches an intersection where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals shall do all of the following, if… the signals are otherwise malfunctioning, including the failure of a vehicle detector to detect the vehicle;
1) Stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or, if none, stop before entering the intersection;
2) Yield the right-of-way to all vehicles… in the intersection or approaching on an intersecting road, if the vehicle…. will constitute an immediate hazard during the time the driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways;
3) Exercise ordinary care while proceeding through the intersection.