Cycling safety and Traffic Laws

Submitted by Kevin Cronin on Wed, 08/29/2007 - 15:04.

So what is the proper decision for police and prosecutors evaluating a collision between the operator of a bicycle and a motor vehicle? What, if any, is the criminal conduct? Well,of course, that depends on the circumstances of the accident, but if the cyclist is lawfully in the road, the answers could be many.

At the outset, I want to be clear that I share everybody's horror about the accident and injuries to State
Representative Michael Skindell and am very glad to hear he's in the hospital and receiving appropriate care. While we would all prefer that the accident not occur at all, consider what sort of charge are available to remind the public of the need to "share the road" with cyclists.

In earlier posts, I reminded people of the need to wear a helmet and practice safe cycling. If your a motorist, remember that a bicycle is a vehicle, subject to the same rights and rules of the road as your car (with the exception of high-speed freeways). A bicycle, like all other vehicles in the road, should turn left from the center lane of traffic. Once in the lawful position and signaling the intent to turn, the obligation falls to the trailing vehicle, which is obligated to maintain a “safe, clear distance” behind the stopped vehicle and yield to a vehicle lawfully in the road, by proceeding only after the first vehicle (the bicycle) completes it’s lawful traffic action (the left hand turn). If a motor vehicle passes the bicycle lawfully in the road, the car must do so in a safe manner and if the trailing motor vehicle is itself intending to turn left, must yield to preceding vehicle and turn from the center lane.

I am a lawyer, whose practice has included representing criminal defendants and I don't wish prison or fines on people if, instead, we can educate people and the community about rights and responsibilities. However, I've noted we need a lot more education by motorists, than cyclists, about each other's rights and responsibilities. Road safety improves for everyone when motorists treat cyclists like all other vehicles.  

For more information, visit the nonprofit ClevelandBikes ( or the Ohio Bicycle Federation (  Share the Road, It's the Law!

Kevin Cronin
ClevelandBikes, a 501(C)(3) charitable organization
When ClevelandBikes, Cleveland Benefits!

Here are the statutes for your reference:

Ohio Rev Code §4511.21 Speed limits - assured clear distance.

A) No person shall operate a motor vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar at a speed greater or less than is reasonable or proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the street or highway and any other conditions, and no person shall drive any motor vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar in and upon any street or highway at a greater speed than will permit the person to bring it to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.

Ohio Rev. Code §4511.43 Right-of-way rule through highways, stop signs, yield signs

(A) Except when directed to proceed by a law enforcement officer, every driver of a vehicle or trackless trolley approaching a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or, if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering it. After having stopped, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways.

Ohio Rev. Code §4511.39 Turn and stop signals.

(A) No person shall turn a vehicle or trackless trolley or move right or left upon a highway unless and until such person has exercised due care to ascertain that the movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.

When required, a signal of intention to turn or move right or left shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle or trackless trolley before turning, except that 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.

No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle or trackless trolley without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided herein to the driver of any vehicle or trackless trolley immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give a signal.

Ohio Rev. Code §4511.36 Rules for turns at intersections.

(A) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall be governed by the following rules:

(1) Approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

(2) At any intersection where traffic is permitted to move in both directions on each roadway entering the intersection, an approach for a left turn shall be made in that portion of the right half of the roadway nearest the center line thereof and by passing to the right of such center line where it enters the intersection and after entering the intersection the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection to the right of the center line of the roadway being entered. Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection.

(3) At any intersection where traffic is restricted to one direction on one or more of the roadways, the driver of a vehicle intending to turn left at any such intersection shall approach the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle, and after entering the intersection the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection, as nearly as practicable, in the left-hand lane of the roadway being entered lawfully available to traffic moving in that lane.