"2008 Better Ohio Bicycling Bill"
House Bill 390

by Fred Oswald, Cal Kirchick, and Chuck Smith


H.B. 390 proposes several changes to Ohio law developed by Ohio Bicycle Federation bicycling experts, including certified safety instructors. Safe operation of bicycles is based on the same principles as the rules of the road for all other drivers. These principles promote consistency, clarity, fairness and efficiency in addition to safety.

It is important to realize that some of these principles are counter-intuitive and not widely understood.  That is why there are safety problems with bicycle traffic laws in many states and even more in local ordinances.  The changes in H.B. 390 will make Ohio Law more consistent with the best principles.

Please write to Ohio lawmakers asking them to support the bill.  You can find your Senator and Representative by entering your ZIP code via the links below.

Summary of ORC changes in H.B. 390

Technical revision to 4511.07 (A) (8) -- (Powers of Local authorities)

Our change deletes the word "fundamentally" from "no such regulation shall be fundamentally inconsistent ..."  This word has created problems in interpretation and thus tends to undermine the vital concept of uniform traffic laws.  We cannot afford to have every city and village in the state making its own interpretation of the law.  This word causes confusion with city officials and potentially with the courts.  This one word should be deleted.

4511.132 (A) -- (Malfunctioning Traffic Signals)

Our change permits cyclists to treat a "stuck" traffic light as a stop sign.  With the change, we can stop, look both ways, then proceed with caution.

Current Ohio law is ambiguous with respect to malfunctioning traffic signal lights that fail to present a green (proceed) signal to traffic from one direction at a controlled intersection.  This can occur because of the failure of a vehicle detector to detect an approaching vehicle or because of a malfunction to the timer on timed lights, producing a "stuck on red" situation.

This problem most often affects operators of bicycles and motorcycles.  The change will make traffic law consistent with what reasonable people do in this situation.

4511.27 (A) (1) and (2) -- (Safer Passing Rules)

Our change adds a requirement that faster vehicles pass cyclists with not less than a 3 foot clearance, and deletes the "give way on audible signal" language. The present form of § 4511.27(A)(1) lacks a definition for the minimum safe passing distance when a motor vehicle passes a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle.  In hit from behind or sideswipe collisions, motorists often claim that the cyclists swerved.  This provision will lead to improved justice for victims of unconscionably reckless motoring because the defense would be required to establish that the victim swerved more than the minimum clearance distance to have caused the accident.  Similar provisions have been enacted in at least six other states (WI, AZ, MN, UT, OK, FL).

The present "give way on audible signal" language is an antiquated leftover from the days of Model T Fords and dirt roads.  Then, people drove towards the center of such roads to avoid ruts at the edge.  A faster driver would signal with his horn to alert the leading driver to move over.  On modern roads, people do not drive on the center line; therefore this instruction has little meaning.  Use of horns must be reserved for emergency situations or to alert inattentive drivers, not to intimidate slower drivers.  In addition, unnecessary use of horns contributes to noise pollution.

4511.55. (A), (C) -- (Riding position)

Our change deletes the "ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable" language from 4511.55 and instead, links to the normal "slow vehicle rule".

The current § 4511.55(A) consists of three parts: (1) What we call "the far right rule"; (2) An important instruction to follow the rules of the road; and (3) An instruction to "exercise due care" when passing.

(Part 1) The "far right rule" as modified in 2006 should not, in theory, create serious problems with one exception discussed below.  This is because the specific clarifications added in 2006 and the nature of the word "practicable" are flexible enough to allow riding far enough from the curb to allow a safety zone to the cyclist's right.

Existing law leaves uncertain the question of whether the exceptions in the 4511.25(B) (the "slow vehicle rule") apply to bicycles, or whether they are overridden by the far to the right rule.  Our proposal makes clear that they apply.  (The exceptions in 4511.25(B) cover passing, preparing for a left turn and avoiding a right turn lane for vehicles not turning.)

(Part 2) The important instruction to follow the rules of the road is hidden between the two redundant and unnecessary parts of this law.  H.B. 390 makes this more prominent and understandable.

(Part 3) The "exercise due care when passing" language is redundant of the obligation to obey all rules applicable to drivers of other vehicles.

The appropriate purpose of both § 4511.55 and § 4511.25 is to facilitate safe passing of slower vehicles by faster vehicles.  A bicycle moving slower than the normal flow of traffic should be treated like any other slow moving vehicle and use the right hand lane.  It should stay far enough to the right within that lane to facilitate safe passing by faster vehicles but only if passing is safe and reasonable.  The change to § 4511.55 will eliminate a potential inconsistency with § 4511.25.

We urge the Legislature to adopt the improved language, which is based (and slightly improves) upon the Pennsylvania Code, § 3301(b) and § 3505(c) and the UVC § 11-1205(a)(3).

4511.56. (A) (3) (D) -- (Brake Performance)

Our change requires that bicycles used on Ohio roads be equipped with brakes capable of stopping within 15 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement.

The present requirement in § 4511.56(D) for an "adequate brake" is vague and ambiguous.  Many law enforcement officers prefer an objective standard.  This desire has led some communities to enact a misguided requirement that the brake "skid the wheel", which encourages the irresponsible action of children.

In addition, skidding the wheel works only with rear wheel coaster brakes; skidding the front wheel is impossible on most bicycles and it is extremely dangerous to try.  H.B. 390 adopts language from the Uniform Vehicle Code § 12-706.  The requirement is a reasonable metric for adequate brakes and will provide a uniform statewide rule consistent with the Uniform Vehicle Code.


Please send any questions, suggestions or corrections to fredoswald_AT_yahoo.com.
© Copyright 2008 Ohio Bicycle Federation.
May be copied with attribution.
Page revised 26 Jan 2008