Know the Law – Sharing the road with bicyclists

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In Michigan, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists on the roadways. As a result, both drivers and bicyclists need to know the rules, so they can safely share the roads.

Under Michigan law, bicyclists have an absolute right to ride their bikes on the roadways. The Michigan Vehicle Code says that “each person riding a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights, and is subject to all duties, applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle.” Given this, motorists and bicyclists must respect each other’s right to be on the roadway and look out for each other.

When a motorist approaches a bicyclist, the bicyclist must be treated like any other vehicle on the road. At the same time, bicyclists must obey the basic rules of the road, as well as those laws specific to bicycling. For example, bicyclists must ride as close to right-hand curb or edge of road as practicable, they cannot ride more than two abreast and they must use hand signals.

What about when drivers pass bicyclists on the roadway? In general, drivers should allow a safe and clear distance between their vehicle and the bicyclist.

In the City of Grand Rapids, which is a bicycle-friendly community, local ordinance requires that drivers provide at least 5 feet between the bicycle they are passing and their vehicle. Other cities across Michigan have enacted similar local ordinances, and there is currently a proposal in the state Legislature for a statewide 5-foot passing law.

Another important thing for motorists to remember is this: do not honk when passing a bicyclist. Honking at a bicyclist could scare them, causing them to crash or even veer into your vehicle.

In the end, both motorists and bicyclists need to be respectful of each other and safely share the roadways.

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