Michigan Bike Laws: What You Should Know

Michigan Bike Laws: What You Should Know

by / Friday, 10 June 2022 / Published in Michigan Law, Motor Vehicle Accidents
Teal bike leaning against a brick wall.

As the weather warms up in the springtime and early summer, you can always expect to see an increase in the number of bicyclists you see on the road. But over the past couple of years, biking has become an increasingly popular activity. In 2020, bikes were suddenly in high demand as people were looking for alternatives to public transportation and for ways to have fun outdoors. But now that gas prices are on the rise, crossing the $5 a gallon mark in the Metro Detroit area in June 2022, many people see riding a bike as a way to get around while being less reliant on cars. 

Every year, far too many bicyclists are injured as a result of accidents with cars. According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, 1,235 bicyclists were involved in crashes with motor vehicles in 2020, resulting in 38 deaths and injuries in 993 cyclists. As cyclists return to the road in growing numbers, it’s a good time for drivers and cyclists alike to remind themselves about what laws apply to bicyclists in the state of Michigan so that everyone can share the road safely.

Sharing the Road With Bicyclists

Under Michigan law, bicyclists are allowed to ride on all roadways unless expressly prohibited, such as on expressways and limited access highways. Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as those that apply to drivers of motor vehicles. This means cyclists are required to do things like obeying traffic lights/signs, riding with the flow of traffic, and alerting others to turns and stops by using hand signals. Drivers also need to yield to bicyclists just like they would to motor vehicles. 

When riding in a street, Michigan law requires bicyclists to ride as close to the right-hand curb or the edge of the roadway as is practicable and safe when riding at a speed slower than the posted limit. However, Section 257.660a of the Michigan Vehicle Code outlines times when bicyclists are allowed to move away from the right:

  • When overtaking and passing another bicycle or any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  • When preparing to turn left.
  • When conditions make the right-hand edge of the roadway unsafe or reasonably unusable by bicycles, including, but not limited to, surface hazards, an uneven roadway surface, drain openings, debris, parked or moving vehicles or bicycles, pedestrians, animals, or other obstacles, or if the lane is too narrow to permit a vehicle to safely overtake and pass a bicycle.
  • When operating a bicycle in a lane in which the traffic is turning right but the individual intends to go straight through the intersection.
  • When operating a bicycle upon a 1-way highway or street that has 2 or more marked traffic lanes, in which case the individual may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.
  •  When riding as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway would block, delay, or otherwise interfere with the movement of a streetcar on a streetcar track.

When riding on a one-way road, bicyclists are allowed to ride as close to the left curb or edge of the road as it is safe for them to do so. 

If a driver needs to pass a cyclist on the road, they are required to leave at least three feet of space between their car and the bicycle. However, some cities have ordinances that require drivers to leave at least 5 feet of space when passing cyclists. According to Michigan State Police, these cities (as of October 2019 include: Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Township, Muskegon, Norton Shores, Oshtemo Township, and Portage. 

If you are about to exit a vehicle parked on a street, check to make sure there aren’t any cyclists coming before opening your door. While this isn’t specifically required by Michigan law, the law does require drivers to act in a reasonably safe manner and it’s very easy for cyclists to get hurt if a car door suddenly enters their path of travel. 

When cyclists are riding in the road as a group, they cannot travel more than two abreast unless they are on a road designated for bicyclists. 

Bicycle Lanes

Many cities around Michigan have installed designated bicycle lanes in recent years. In some cases, bicycle lanes are painted onto the road directly alongside regular traffic lanes. In other cases, traffic markings might be used to create distance between the bike line and the regular lanes or physical barriers might be used to separate bike lanes from other lanes of traffic. 

Regardless of how a bicycle lane is designed, it is illegal to drive or park in a marked bicycle lane (unless a sign is posted stating that parking is allowed.) If a motorist needs to make a right turn while driving alongside a bike lane, be careful to make sure the bicycle lane is clear before turning. If a cyclist is heading straight through an intersection, allow them to cross before making your turn. Do not pass the cyclist, then immediately turn in front of them. 

Even if a bicycle lane is present, Michigan law does not require cyclists to use them. In some situations, they may need to ride in a regular traffic lane if there is something unsafe in the bike lane. 

Are Bicycle Helmets Required in Michigan?

Under Michigan law, most cyclists are not required to wear a helmet while riding their bike. However, Michigan does have a law requiring people under the age of 18 to wear one if they are riding on a Class 3 e-bike.

Can Bicyclists Ride on the Sidewalk?

The state of Michigan does not have a law prohibiting people from riding bikes on the sidewalk. But it’s very important to note that some cities may have ordinances banning bikes from being ridden on the sidewalk, especially in busy downtown areas. If you are able to ride on the sidewalk, you need to yield to pedestrians. Also, if you are riding a bike on the sidewalk and need to pass a pedestrian, the cyclist needs to make some audible alert to the pedestrian, such as using a bell or shouting to get their attention. 

Parking a bike on a sidewalk is generally allowed, unless there are signs posted saying it is restricted. But the cyclist owner needs to make sure their bike isn’t parked on the sidewalk in a way that interferes with pedestrian traffic. 

Other Things Cyclists Aren’t Allowed to Do in Michigan

Michigan law also prohibits cyclists from doing the following:

  • Carrying more people than the bike is designed for
  • Riding while carrying a package that prevents the rider from having both hands on the handlebar
  • Ride a bike that lacks functional brakes
  • Attach their bike to a motor vehicle
  • Ride without a white light (visible for 500 feet) and a red rear reflector (visible for 100-600 feet) if riding one half-hour after sunset or one half-hour before sunrise

Contact a Michigan Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured while riding your bike, it’s very important to have a personal injury lawyer on your side who knows the law and can fight for you to get everything you need for your recovery. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’re experienced in handling motor vehicle accident cases of all kinds in the state of Michigan, including car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

Image: Pexels / Leandro Boogalu

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