It’s almost cycling season! And that means it’s time to discuss bicycle and E-Bike rules.
Fun fact: our own attorney Greg Demopoulous is an avid cyclist. Just last year, he rode over 4k miles! And with those miles, there have been a few close calls with non-observant motorists. As you can imagine, this gives us a personal interest in protecting cyclists and their rights!
Here are just a few tips we’ve picked up over the years.
Rules of the Road
You are the most important component of your cycling safety. When it comes to riding, here are some important rules to keep in mind.
- Wear a helmet
- Assume that every driver does not see you, and act accordingly.
- When on a sidewalk in commercial areas, watch for cars entering a business by right or left turns before you cross a drive, and observe vehicles trying to exit the business.
- Night riding requires front light and rear light. Reflectors are not enough.
- Garmin makes a rear facing radar which gives you audible and visual alerts to vehicles coming 2/10ths of a mile to your rear.
- Have a rear view mirror.
- Carry basic tools and a replacement inner tube. On long rides carry a spare chain. Know how to change a tire.
- Carry a flashlight for an evening repair.
- Carry a cell phone with emergency contacts.
Of course, even with our best intentions, accidents can still happen. We are great advocates as your attorney in the event that you are injured by a motor vehicle.
However, with those rights come several legal duties for bicyclists. While according to MCL 257.657, all bicycle riders have the same rights as vehicle drivers, there are some provisions and laws that need to be kept in mind.
Here’s what you should know:
- Signals for Stopping or Turning. The operator of a bicycle upon a highway, before stopping or turning from a direct line shall first determine that the stopping or turning can be made in safety and shall give a signal as required. MCL 257.648
- Keep Right. A person operating a bicycle upon a highway or street at less than the existing speed of traffic shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except as follows:
- When overtaking and passing;
- When preparing to turn left;
- When conditions make the right-hand edge of the roadway unsafe or reasonably unusable by bicycles;
- When traffic is turning right but the individual intends to go straight through the intersection;
- When riding as near the left-hand curb or edge as practicable on a one-way highway or street. MCL 257.660a
- Multiple Riders. A bicycle shall not be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped. MCL 257.658(2)
- Riding while Attached to a Vehicle. A person riding upon a bicycle shall not attach the same or himself to a vehicle upon a roadway. MCL 257.659
- Riding More than Two Abreast. Individuals operating bicycles upon a highway or street shall not ride more than two abreast except upon a path or portion of the highway or street set aside for the use of bicycles. MCL 257.660b
- Limited Access Highways. Bicycles shall not be permitted on a limited access highway in this state except for paths designated for the exclusive use of bicycles. MCL 257.679a
- Operating on Sidewalks. Unless prohibited by an official traffic control device, an individual may operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk but shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian and has all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to a pedestrian using that sidewalk or crosswalk. MCL 257.660c
- Carrying Packages. A person operating a bicycle shall not carry any package, bundle, or article that prevents keeping both hands upon the handlebars. MCL 257.661
- Lights and Reflectors. A bicycle being operated between 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise shall be equipped with an appropriate white lamp on the front and a red reflector on the rear. MCL 257.662(1)
- A bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement. MCL 257.662(2)
- Parents or Guardians. The parent or guardian of a minor shall not authorize or knowingly permit the child to violate the laws applicable to bicycles. MCL 257.656(2)les of the Road”
Based on the particular facts and circumstances, certain provisions of the Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, which set forth the “rules of the road” for vehicles in general, may by their nature be applicable to bicyclists. Such possible offenses include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Fail to Yield Right-of-Way MCL 257.649
- Fail to Yield-Left at Intersection MCL 257.650
- Fail to Stop-Leaving Private Drive MCL 257.652
- Disobey Stop, Yield, or Merge Sign MCL 257.671
- Disobey Traffic Signal MCL 257.612
- MCL 257.614
- Careless Driving MCL 257.626b
- Impeding Traffic* MCL 257.676b
*Note: A bicyclist otherwise operating lawfully at less than the existing speed of traffic that “keeps right” as required by MCL 257.660a, is not impeding the normal flow of traffic.
Electric Bicycle Classes
The Michigan Vehicle Code defines electric bicycles (also known as e-bikes) and categorizes them into three classes.
Class 1 electric bicycles are equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that disengages or ceases to function when the electric bicycle reaches a speed of 20 mph.
Class 1 e-bikes may be ridden on a linear trail (a multi-use trail that runs from point to point) that has an asphalt, crushed limestone, or similar surface, or a rail trail. However, the law allows local agencies that have authority over the trail to also regulate, or prohibit, the operation of Class 1 e-bikes. [MCL 257.662a(8)]
Class 2 electric bicycle are equipped with a motor that propels the bicycle to a speed of no more than 20 mph, whether the rider is pedaling or not, and that disengages or ceases to function when the brakes are applied.
Class 3 electric bicycles are equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that disengages or ceases to function when the electric bicycle reaches a speed of 28 mph. (MCL 257.13e)
A Class 2 or Class 3 e-bike may be ridden on a linear trail that has an asphalt, crushed limestone, or similar surface, or a rail trail only if authorized by the local authority or agency having jurisdiction over the trail. In other words, there is a presumption that it is illegal to ride a Class 2 or Class 3 e-bike on a trail unless expressly allowed by the local authority or entity with jurisdiction over the trail. [MCL 257.662a(9)]
In addition to class-specific laws, there are some laws that all e-bike riders need to be aware of.
For example, Michigan law prohibits the operation of all e-bikes on nonmotorized trails (such as mountain bike and hiking trails), unless the local entity or agency that has jurisdiction over a nonmotorized trail specifically allows the operation of an e-bike on that trail. [MCL 257.662a(10)]
Michigan’s e-bike laws do not apply to a trail system authorized by the United States Congress. [MCL 257.662a(13)] This means Michigan’s e-bike laws do not apply to the North Country National Scenic Trail.
Another thing to keep in mind are highways. When riding an electric bicycle on a roadway, the rider has all the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle. In addition, the law requires an individual riding an electric bicycle to follow all the laws that apply to human powered bicycles. The law specifies that e-bikes may be used on bike lanes and the shoulder of a roadway. [MCL 257.662a(6)] Simply put, when an e-bike is ridden on the road, it is treated like a bicycle.
There are also some age-specific concerns. Children under the age of 14 may not operate a Class 3 e-bike. However, they may ride as a passenger if the e-bike is designed to accommodate passengers.
Riders and passengers of Class 3 e-bikes who are under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet that meets standards established by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission or the American Society for Testing and Materials. All other e-bike riders are not required to wear a helmet. [MCL 257.662a(4)(b)]
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that Michigan law specifically excludes e-bikes from the definition of “motor vehicles.” (MCL 257.33) This means purchasing auto insurance for an electric bicycle is not required. However, it is recommended that e-bike owners consult with their insurance agent to see if it is covered under their homeowners or renters insurance policy. If not, a rider on the homeowners or renters insurance policy may be required to insure an e-bike.