Contending With the Feudal Bicycle Traffic Laws
of NE Ohio -- Part 3

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.

This section of our tour leaves Middleburg Hts (rated C) and passes through Strongsville (rated F-).  Strongsville, has some of the worst and most dangerous bicycle traffic ordinances in the region (much like Avon and N. Ridgeville as described in part 1 of this article).

Our route then enters N Royalton (rated A-)  This city is consistent with Ohio Law, other than an excessive and unnecessary requirement to keep two hands on the handlebars.

Finally, we enter Broadview Hts. (rated F-).  Broadview has some of the worst and most dangerous bicycle traffic ordinances in the region (much like Avon, N. Ridgeville and Strongsville as described earlier).  But then, Broadview includes a rule that is in direct conflict with Ohio right of way Law:  A person operating a bicycle shall yield the right of way to vehicular traffic on a roadway.  Consider a cyclist driving his vehicle on a main street as a motorist approaches from a driveway or a side street that has a stop sign.  Ohio law requires the motorist to yield to the traffic on the main street.  But Broadview also requires the cyclist to yield.  Therefore, neither can proceed; one must turn around and go back.  Also, if two cyclists meet at an intersection, neither can go because each must yield to the other.

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.

Middleburg Hts, Parma, Seven Hills, Broadview Hts

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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