Monday, March 4, 2013

Bike law from Missed Connections

Spotted this Missed Connection the other day. The text says:
"You're right. I was in the wrong, apparently "passing on the right" in a bike is illegal in Michigan. Sorry about that, I honestly thought it was ok, but I guess there has to be a bike lane."
Honestly, I've been wondering about the whole "passing on the right" thing for a while. I've always just assumed that passing a long line of cars stopped at a red light was my privilege as a cyclist. Based on the above Missed Connections, it seems like this might only be legal if there is a bike lane. Does anyone know if this is true? Also, how do our sharrows factor into this? For the purpose of passing on the right, do they count as a bike lane?


  1. My understanding is that a sharrow is just a way of saying "share the road with bikes" which really just means "expect bikes in the road" or "bikes are allowed to be in the road". These just get placed where it isn't possible or realistic to widen the road and install a bike lane.

    Passing on the right is technically illegal, but I honestly feel like passing cars on the left is just as, if not more, traumatizing for motorists.

    There are plenty of laws that people (including motorists) that people break everyday. But when a cyclist breaks a law you can be sure it will make headlines on

  2. This is a pretty deep pit to go into. I am in no way qualified to answer this question, but here was my journey, which didn't include local ordinances, a very good education, or ever having been to traffic court:

    It seems as though moped riders *can* pass on the right, but, and for no apparent reason, this section leaves out 'bicycles.':

    "(1) A person operating an electric personal assistive mobility device, low-speed vehicle, or moped upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction."

    So if (*if*) there's no specific permission for bicycles to do this, I guess we go to: "Each person riding a bicycle... upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle..."

    Which leads to:

    (1) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only if 1 or more of the following conditions exist:

    (a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn.

    (b) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement not occupied by parked vehicles of sufficient width for 2 or more lines of moving vehicles in each direction and when the vehicles are moving in substantially continuous lanes of traffic.

    (c) Upon a 1-way street, or upon a roadway on which traffic is restricted to 1 direction of movement, where the roadway is free from obstructions and of sufficient width for 2 or more lines of moving vehicles and when the vehicles are moving in substantially continuous lanes of traffic.

    (2) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting the overtaking and passing in safety. The driver of a vehicle shall not overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right by driving off the pavement or main-traveled portion of the roadway.

    So, (b) I guess is where we'd try to get permission from - surely there was sufficient width, but does the "moving in substantially continuous lanes" mean you'd need 5-10 bikes all doing it to constitute a continuous lane? And is 'moving' strict here (not stopped at a light) - it's wide enough for moving vehicles, but do they actually have to BE moving? What's worse, points out that bikes are not technically vehicles, so is the width sufficient for only a bicycle, or some other kind of vehicle (a motorcycle, we'd argue).

    I think I'd give it to the cyclist were I a judge (unobstructed, wide enough for two lanes of vehicles - if one lane is a motorcycle lane - you were 'moving in a continuous lane' when you did the passing). But it sure seems like you could get dinged for it if someone was really, really desperate to meet quota.

    On the other hand, it's technically illegal to stand up while riding your bike. We just can't take all the laws seriously. 'A person propelling a bicycle or operating a motorcycle or moped shall not ride other than upon and astride a permanent and regular seat attached to that vehicle.'

    I pass on the right slowly, and as far as I can go before reaching any one or line of consecutive right-turners (assuming they're using their signals, ha) beginning at the front position. Don't want them to turn into me and don't want to be seen as holding anyone up.

    ps: can we talk about how egregious (or not) the plowing has been this year in terms of shoving everything into bike lanes and then leaving it there? The wonderful new lane on Stadium was absolutely useless (at best I saw 6" of uncovered pavement within the bike lane) last I went by. I haven't had reason to bike as much this winter - are the other ones just as bad? Or are the guys on this route just not used to bike lanes?

  3. Thanks for your input Sandeee and um, Taco Farts.

    Regarding plowing, my route takes me through a neighborhood for about a mile and then I hop onto Washington at Seventh. I actually don't think I ride on any street with bike lanes, just sharrows. I usually try to take a good amount of space to avoid both doors and snow piles.