Contending With the Feudal Bicycle Traffic Laws
of NE Ohio -- Part 1

by Fred Oswald, PE, LCI #947

This article shows part of a bicycle travel route that passes through several NE Ohio communities.  The purpose is to show how Ohio's feudal system of bicycle traffic laws creates a "crazy quilt" of conflicting rules that often mandate dangerous practices.

A person driving a motor vehicle on this route will have a single set of consistent driving rules because section 4511.06 of the Ohio Revised Code requires the "Uniform application and precedence of traffic law."

Until 2006, ORC allowed local authorities powers for "Regulating the operation of bicycles" with no restrictions on what form this regulation may take.  The many communities operate like little feudal fiefs, each with separate rules that conflict with the rules in other communities and that conflict with the uniform rules followed by the majority of roadway users.  Since most local officials do not know how to operate bicycles correctly, the resulting regulation tends to be dangerous and discriminatory.

Ohio House Bill 389, which became effective on 21 Sep 2006, has made most of these bad local ordinances invalid.  HB 389 retains the right for local regulation of bicycle operation.  However: ... no such regulation shall be fundamentally inconsistent with the uniform rules of the road.  Also, No such regulation shall prohibit the use of bicycles on any public street or highway (except freeways) and No local authority may require that bicycles be operated on sidewalks.  In addition, signs are required to give notice of any local regulation that is not identical with state law.

Bike lane
Bike lane on road closed to bicycles

Note: The Avon Lake bike ban described below was repealed by Ordinance 86-08, passed June 9, 2008.  Thus, the rating of the city's bicycle ordinances improved from D- to C+.  However, Avon and N. Ridgeville ordinances have apparently not been updated.

Our tour starts at Moore and Lake Roads in Avon Lake (rated C+).  We are immediately faced with a detour because the city prohibits "The riding of bicycles on Moore Road between Lake Road and Webber Road."  Avon Lake also specifies unsafe lane position:  "Every person operating a bicycle shall keep to the right-hand curb upon all streets, highways and other public ways in the City.

Moore Rd. is a fairly easy road for cycling.  Traffic is not heavy and the speed limit is only 25 mph.  Ironically, Moore Rd. has a short and extremely narrow bicycle lane extending from Lake Rd to an elementary school about a block away.  The bike lane is about three blocks from the NO BICYCLES ON PAVEMENT sign shown in the photo at right.  Apparently it is illegal to use this bike lane.

Then we head into Avon (rated F-), which has some of the worst bicycle ordinances in the region.  Avon mandates riding on sidewalks, which have a collision risk several times higher than the roadway.  But then Avon sometimes outlaws riding on sidewalks even as they require it.  A person operating a bicycle shall ride upon the sidewalk rather than the roadway when sidewalks are available, except that no person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk upon or along which signs have been erected ...  The city also mandates riding on sidepaths (about as dangerous as sidewalks).  As if that is not enough, Avon includes this discriminatory rule: No person shall ride a bicycle across or through any intersection involving a through street.

Next, we enter North Ridgeville (rated F-) which also has some of the worst bicycle ordinances in the region (very similar to Avon).

Finally, we enter North Olmsted (rated D).  This city improved its ordinances slightly in 2003, but N. Olmsted still requires riding on dangerous sidepaths, requires sidewalk cyclists to walk across intersections of through streets (How does one know which are through streets?), and does not allow children under 8 to ride on residential streets and children under 12 on non-residential streets.

Better Local Laws

Green color indicates cities with ordinances generally consistent with Ohio Law (rating C or better).  They mostly support safe operation of bicycles.  However, some include the old version of the Ohio "far right rule" that encourages unsafe lane position and they require useless safety equipment.

Bad Local Laws

Yellow color indicates cities with ordinances inconsistent with Ohio Law and that discourage safe operation of bicycles (rating D).  The most common defects require riding on a sidepath or requiring children to ride on sidewalks.  Sidewalk and sidepath riding has 2-9 times the crash risk as the adjacent road.

Dangerous Local Laws

Red color indicates cities with local bicycle traffic ordinances strongly inconsistent with Ohio Law and that strongly discourage safe operation of bicycles (rating F).  These cities typically require even adults to ride on sidewalks.  Some also have other rules inconsistent with Ohio Law.

Avon Lake, Avon, N Olmsted

Please tell the author if you know of changes to ordinances (especially improvements).
For comments, questions, contact
The author is a certified "League Cycling Instructor" and a professional engineer in Ohio.
Last Revised 12/ 5/09.  Check for updates at
© Copyright 2005-2009 Fred Oswald.  Non Commercial distribution authorized.
Map courtesy Google Maps

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