How to Help Improve
Local Bicycle Traffic Ordinances

by Fred Oswald, PE, LCI #947

The Cleveland Bikes Safety Committee [1] has begun contacting city governments to advocate for better (safer and more fair) local ordinances covering bicycle operation.  We have rated the ordinances in 67 NE Ohio communities and what we found is not good.  Until very recently, only one city, Brook Park, had excellent ordinances (rated A-) [2].  About half (32) are mediocre (rating C) and the rest are worse -- D's and F's (some even F-).

The rating scheme is simple, based mostly on whether laws require unsafe operation or are discriminatory.  One of the most serious defects is requiring riding on sidewalks (especially for adults).

Details are in the article Bike Laws Ratings,  Examples of better ordinances are in Model Laws,

House Bill 389, which became law in 2006 at the urging of the Ohio Bicycle Federation makes our task much easier.

Effective September, 2006, the Ohio Revised Code requires that any local bicycle ordinances must not be "fundamentally inconsistent with the uniform rules of the road prescribed by this chapter and that no such regulation shall prohibit the use of bicycles on any public street or highway except as provided in section 4511.051 of the Revised Code."  In addition, "No ordinance or regulation enacted ... shall be effective until signs giving notice of the local traffic regulations are posted upon or at the entrance to the highway or part of the highway affected, as may be most appropriate." (ORC 4511.07).  Further," no local authority may require that bicycles be operated on sidewalks." (ORC 4511.711).

We need your help -- It's easy.  Please speak up in favor of better bicycle driving laws.  We need one or more cyclists from each community to act as local representatives:

Better laws will help YOU because traffic laws shape ---

How to help

  1. Contact Fred Oswald to coordinate our response.
  2. Check whether the information in the ratings is accurate and up to date
  3. Talk to city government officials about reforming their ordinances
  4. Identify one or two officials to receive our letter.
  5. Attend some council meetings (to become known to the city gov't)
  6. Accompany and support us if we make a presentation to city government (or possibly you give the presentation, using our materials).

You can see a sample of our letter describing problems and suggesting improvementsWe will send letters first to cities where we have a local representative, where we sense the officials are receptive and where improvements are most needed.

We have a Powerpoint slide show to present to city officials.  You can see this as either a compact (3 slides/page) pdf file with notes (best for viewing on your own computer) or the full PowerPoint slide show (~ 2Mb) for showing to an audience.


[1] Contact Fred Oswald (see below) for information.

[2] It is in Brook Park that we had the greatest success.  Until 2003, the city's rating was an F.  Ron & Cathy McCutcheon gave copies of the article Bike Laws Ratings to all members of council, inspiring the significant reforms passed in 2003.  There is a small remaining problem in the Brook Park ordinances, a requirement for brakes that can "make the brake [SIC] wheel skid".

Recently, other communities started responding to reforms in the Ohio Revised Code that require local ordinances to be consistent with the uniform rules of the road.  Unfortuantely, several failed to repeal their worst ordinances that mandate unsafe practices.

For comments, questions, contact fredoswald_AT_yahoo_DOT_com.
The author is a certified "League Cycling Instructor and a professional engineer in Ohio.
Last Revised 8/10/08

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