Bike Laws in Ohio

Ohio FlagOhio bike laws are not terribly subtle and are based largely on common sense and the idea that bikes are to be treated (and act) like any other vehicle on the road. Much of the laws therefore around bikes are very similar to laws for vehicles. However, there are still a few things to keep in mind when cycling around Ohio and it’s important to keep these things in mind when cycling so that you don’t run into trouble. What should you know about the bike laws in Ohio?

Where are You Allowed to Ride?

Ohio riders generally have the idea that ‘Same rights, same roads, same rules’, meaning that bikes are allowed on any of the same roads as vehicles, except for freeways or some limited access roadways. Cyclists have the same rights to the rest of the roads as any other vehicles, including the same requirements to do things like ride with traffic, obey traffic laws, stop at both red lights and stop signs and follow any other traffic control devices. However, there are a few more specific laws to ensure that faster traffic keeps moving and cyclists stay safer.

  • Bikes have to be ridden as far to the right s is practical; the idea is that cyclists should stay to the right unless it’s unreasonable or unsafe to do so. This could mean having to avoid fixed objects, parked cards, surface hazards, moving vehicles, animals, and other pedestrians. Cyclists are also not required to stay to the right if the lane is too narrow for a bike and a vehicle trying to pass the bike.
  • Ohio observes the Idaho stop law. Cyclists can proceed through an intersection after stopping and yielding right-of-way if a stop light doesn’t detect the bike (ie, they can go through the red light if it is safe to do so).
  • Cyclists are allowed to ride side-by-side (two abreast) in the same lane and they don’t have to move aside for faster traffic. They can ride more than two abreast if they are on bike paths or bike lanes.

Children are also allowed to ride on the roads, but they too have to follow and understand the rules of the road, so parents have to make sure that their children are prepared to do so before setting them out. Bike bans that force cyclists to ride on the sidewalk are prohibited in Ohio and in many of the larger cities, it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalks anyway. Cyclists are also not required to use bike lanes or side paths.

Finally, Ohio recently passed a law that requires drivers to leave at least three feet of space between themselves and cyclists when passing. This is done to keep everyone safe as cyclists are very vulnerable to several thousand pounds of metal going much faster! Ohio doesn’t have any vulnerable road user laws yet, but they do have share the road license plates to encourage communication between cyclists and drivers.

Safety Equipment While Riding

The big question around equipment and bikes is always around helmets! In Ohio, there is no particular law around wearing a helmet and instead, it’s left up to specific municipalities. That means, there is a wide range of age brackets for who should wear a helmet, with many cities stating that riders under the age of sixteen must wear one, while others state that riders up to the age of seventeen or under the age of nineteen must wear one. Make sure to check local law before letting youth ride to see what the law covers.

Bikes do have to be equipped with a few pieces of safety equipment, particularly at night. Bikes must have a white light on the front of the bike and a red reflector and red light in the rear when being used between sunset and sunrise or during poor weather. Bikes overall do not need to have side reflectors equipped. Municipalities can also add their own safety requirements; Dayton requires the use of helmets and a bell that is audible for up to 100 feet. Other cities are more lax and don’t force much beyond the lights.

Ohio and Electronic Bikes

In early 2018, state lawmakers voted on the regulation of e-bikes which would hold them to the same legal standards as normal bikes. It easily passed the house and is on the way to the senate for ratification.

Electronic bikes would be classified in three ways based on speed. Class 1 and Class 2 bikes can go around 20 miles per hour with some pedal assist and they are allowed on bike-only and shared path use. Class 3 bikes go up to 28 miles per hour when aided by pedalling, and they are not allowed on bike paths or shared-use paths. Cyclists on a Class 3 must also be at least sixteen years old and must wear a helmet. Electronic bikes are still not allowed on trails or natural-surface paths that are geared for nonmotorized use and they aren’t allowed on sidewalks unless the motor is off.

While the senate finishes deciding on electronic bikes, they are currently for sale in many different places and are well used. As long as you are safe riding them and watch the speed capabilities, e-bikes are a great way for people to get around if they aren’t able to ride a traditional bike very well or want to go a little faster.

Ohio very much believes in the common sense of its cyclists and the state largely leaves laws up to the cities to decide on while the state takes a more general view. It’s still important to note where cyclists are allowed to ride so that they don’t get into legal trouble and the safety equipment that is required for bikes to be legal. Ohio is also very recently dealing with the question of e-bikes and it seems very likely that they will be commonplace. All in all, Ohio is a pretty good place to be a cyclist, as long as you use your good sense. Enjoy!