A bike rider is typically presented with several options including the actual road that motor vehicles use, sidewalks, one way roads, roads with bike lanes, roads without bike lanes but with shoulders. So what are you required to select and what is optional.
First, the law requires that when driving on two-way roadways, the bicyclist must ride on the right half of the roadway unless passing another vehicle or avoiding obstructions (while yielding the right of way to all vehicles driving in the proper direction).
Do I have to ride in the bicycle lane if there is one? The law requires that you ride in the bicycle lane or if there is no bike lane, as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway. There are a few exceptions, including where reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict; these conflicts include a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, anima, surface hazard, turn lane, or substandard width lane which makes it unsafe to continue along the curb, edge or bicycle lane. Another exception to this rule is when overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction. Two other exceptions are when preparing for a left turn or if the lane is too narrow to share safely with another vehicle, and when the bicyclist is traveling at or near the same speed as other traffic. In that case, the bicyclist can ride as if he/she is a motor vehicle.
What about the sidewalk? What if there is a bike lane and a sidewalk? You can avoid the bike lane for the above listed exceptions and select the sidewalk. However, sidewalks are also typically shared with pedestrians, skate boarders, parents with baby strollers. The bicyclist has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances. A bicyclist must yield the right of way to any pedestrian and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing the pedestrian – so use that bell. You can bicycle on the sidewalk either going with or against traffic.
Many counties have ordinances that prohibit bicycling on the sidewalks. Sometimes these prohibitions are limited to downtown areas. I will blog about other related issues, including whether you can wear a headset while riding, whether you can carry your child on your bicycle, equipment issues and other issues in the next months.
Send us any questions you have and we would be happy to answer them!