Friday, February 2, 2007

Columbus City Bike Laws:

It only makes sense to start things off with a discussion of what is and isn't allowed in the city of Columbus, cycling-wise. The city bicycle laws website is in my list of links in the sidebar, but I'm going to take some time to try to figure out exactly what these laws are saying. This is just as much an exercise for me as it is supposed to be helpful for you, so expect some chatter about this.

If you're a lawyer, and you wish to comment on any of my interpretations of the law or anything you think I've left out, please comment or email me at jfellrath AT yahoo DOT com.

Note: Columbus bicycle law is in the same section as motorcycle law, so you'll see some mention of motorcycle laws here.

2173.01 Code application to bicycles.

The provisions of this Traffic Code that are applicable to bicycles apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any street or highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. The provisions of this Traffic Code, except those that by their nature are inapplicable shall apply to bicycles except those which by their nature are not applicable, and any person operating a bicycle on a street shall comply with all operational rules and traffic control devices applicable to vehicular traffic. (ORC 4511.52; Ord. 1579-72; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
This appears to me to be the city's way of saying "Bicycles belong on the streets just as much as cars do, but you gotta follow the rules. Let's look at the points of this one by one.
The provisions of this Traffic Code that are applicable to bicycles apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any street or highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
This seems to be saying: "If you're going to ride on the street, you must follow the rules. If you're on a bike path, you still have to follow the rules." Simple enough.
The provisions of this Traffic Code, except those that by their nature are inapplicable shall apply to bicycles except those which by their nature are not applicable, and any person operating a bicycle on a street shall comply with all operational rules and traffic control devices applicable to vehicular traffic.
Here, I assume this means more of the same: all traffic laws for motorized vehicles apply to bicycles as well, except for those laws that don't make sense for bicycles. I take this to mean things like keeping your vehicle in proper working condition, including repair issues and the like. I mean, bikes don't exactly have mufflers to drag along the ground, so that sort of law wouldn't apply to a bike.

And also note: it specifically mentions traffic control devices: stoplights and such.

In short: FOLLOW THE LAW. For bikes, this is even more important than it is for motorists: our health and even our lives can depend on it. Stop at stoplights. Signal when you change lanes or turn. Be smart! Even the smallest little Toyota Echo is big enough to put you in the hospital with the least of contact.

Okay, that first clause was simple enough. Let's keep going:

2173.02 Riding upon seats; motorcycle handlebars; helmets and glasses.

(a) A person operating a bicycle or motorcycle shall not ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto, nor carry any other person upon such bicycle or motorcycle other than upon a firmly attached and regular seat thereon, nor shall any person ride upon a bicycle or motorcycle other than upon such a firmly attached and regular seat. A person shall ride upon a motorcycle only while sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on each side of the motorcycle. No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle or article that prevents the driver from keeping at least one (1) hand upon the handle bars. No bicycle or motorcycle shall be used to carry more persons at one (1) time than the number for which it is designed and equipped, nor shall any motorcycle be operated on a street or highway when the handle bars or grips are more than fifteen (15) inches higher than the seat or saddle for the operator. No person shall operate or be a passenger on a snowmobile or motorcycle without using safety glasses or other protective eye device. No person who is under the age of eighteen (18) years, or who holds a motorcycle operator’s endorsement or license bearing a “novice” designation that is currently in effect as provided in Section 4507.13 of the Ohio Revised Code shall operate a motorcycle on a highway, or be a passenger on a motorcycle, unless wearing a protective helmet on his head, and no other person shall be a passenger on a motorcycle operated by such a person unless similarly wearing a protective helmet. The helmet, safety glasses, or other protective eye device shall conform with regulations prescribed and promulgated by the Ohio Director of Public Safety. The provisions of this paragraph or a violation thereof shall not be used in the trial of any civil action.
(b) For purposes of this section “snowmobile” means any self propelled vehicle designed primarily for use on snow or ice, and steered by skis, runners, or caterpillar treads.
(c) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (ORC 4511.53; Ord. 1317-78; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
Lotsa legalese here. Let's sort it out:
(a) A person operating a bicycle or motorcycle shall not ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto, nor carry any other person upon such bicycle or motorcycle other than upon a firmly attached and regular seat thereon, nor shall any person ride upon a bicycle or motorcycle other than upon such a firmly attached and regular seat.
Easy enough. Sit on the seat properly. And don't be carrying anyone unless they can fit on the seat with you safely. If you're riding an old banana-seat bike, this applies to you. If you're on a regular seat, this pretty much means that you're the only person allowed to ride on your bike.
A person shall ride upon a motorcycle only while sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on each side of the motorcycle.
No side saddle. You're not THIS person:

No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle or article that prevents the driver from keeping at least one (1) hand upon the handle bars.
Keep both hands on the handlebars. Don't try to carry anything. At a future date, I'll talk about backpacks, panniers, racks, and such.
No bicycle or motorcycle shall be used to carry more persons at one (1) time than the number for which it is designed and equipped, nor shall any motorcycle be operated on a street or highway when the handle bars or grips are more than fifteen (15) inches higher than the seat or saddle for the operator.
Don't carry any extra people - in other words, any more than one per seat (in the case of tandem bikes). Now, I think the use of the term "for which it is designed and equipped" covers the use of children's seats on bikes - the permanently fixed ones. Obviously, the motorcycle part doesn't apply to us.
No person shall operate or be a passenger on a snowmobile or motorcycle without using safety glasses or other protective eye device. No person who is under the age of eighteen (18) years, or who holds a motorcycle operator’s endorsement or license bearing a “novice” designation that is currently in effect as provided in Section 4507.13 of the Ohio Revised Code shall operate a motorcycle on a highway, or be a passenger on a motorcycle, unless wearing a protective helmet on his head, and no other person shall be a passenger on a motorcycle operated by such a person unless similarly wearing a protective helmet. The helmet, safety glasses, or other protective eye device shall conform with regulations prescribed and promulgated by the Ohio Director of Public Safety. The provisions of this paragraph or a violation thereof shall not be used in the trial of any civil action.
Looks like motorcycle helmet law to me. Notice that this doesn't say ANYTHING about bike helmets. We seem not to have a bike helmet law in the traffic code.
(b) For purposes of this section “snowmobile” means any self propelled vehicle designed primarily for use on snow or ice, and steered by skis, runners, or caterpillar treads.
(c) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (ORC 4511.53; Ord. 1317-78; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
Some definitions and punishment clauses. Okay, so we're done with the first part of the law.

Basically, it all boils down to this: the traffic laws apply to you. Ride your bike safely. And don't let people ride your bike if they don't have their own seat.

That's fairly straightforward, I think. Next time we'll move on to attaching things to your bicycle and riding abreast.

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