League of Michigan Bicyclists

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Ten Myths About Biking

MYTH #1:

Bikes belong on the sidewalk.


State law states that "every person riding a bicycle or moped upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle." The statute is MCL 257.657


MYTH #2:

Bikes can not ride two abreast.


State law states that a "person riding a bicycle, motorcycle, or moped upon a roadway shall not ride more than 2 abreast except on a path or part of a roadway set aside for the exclusive use of those vehicles." The statute is MCL 257.660(2).

MYTH #3:

Bikes can not ride on a roadway after dark.


State law says that a "bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear which shall be visible from all distances from at least 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of the lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector." The statute is MCL 257.662(1).


MYTH #4:

Bike helmet usage reduces head injuries and brain injuries by 85 and 88 percent respectively.


This is true IF the helmet fits properly. Use pads and chin straps to ensure a snug fit. Make sure the helmet is ANSI or Snell approved and meets current standards.


MYTH #5:

Use your right arm to make a right turn.


Always use your LEFT arm to signal all stops and turns. Left turn: hand and arm extended horizontally. Right turn: left arm extended out, hand and upper arm extended upward. Stopping or decreasing speed: left arm extended out, hand and upper arm extended downward. The statute is MCL 257.648(2)(a)(b) and (c).


MYTH #6:

The shoulder is not part of a roadway.


"Shoulder means that portion of the highway contiguous to the roadway generally extending the contour of the highway, not designed for vehicular travel but maintained for the temporary accommodation of disabled or stopped vehicles otherwise permitted on the roadway." The statute is MCL 257.59a. Currently, the Michigan Supreme Court considers the shoulder of a highway part of the improved portion designed for vehicular traffic. Grimes v Dep't of Transportation, Court of Appeals, unpublished opinion.


MYTH #7:

A biker does not have to ride on the shoulder.


State law states that a "person operating a bicycle or moped upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable." State statute MCL 257.660(1). Common sense dictates that if the shoulder is gravel, potholed or full of glass or stones it is not "practicable" to ride on it. If "the condition of the shoulder of the road at the time of the accident was such as to afford a suitable path for his bicycle, then it was the duty of the [bicyclist] to use it and not the roadway and his failure so to do would amount to contributory negligence which could bar plaintiff's recovery." Winter v Perz, 335 Mich. 575 (1953).
What is a safe distance with regard to positions of an automobile and bicycle on a highway "is not measured by cold inches but by circumstances and that variations from perfectly straight driving or riding which may be anticipated from ordinarily careful persons." The Michigan Supreme Court also stated in Winter that "the law provides no groove on a highway in which a bicycle shall travel, and a driver coming from behind without warning may not rely upon a bike remaining at a specific distance from the edge of the road. A motor vehicle passing a biker needs to pass far enough away to allow "for possible change of position of the bicycle, from ordinary operation." Myers v Hinds, 110 Mich. 300.


MYTH #8:

A governmental entity can not be sued for its failure to properly maintain the highway in reasonable repair.


The failure to "maintain and repair" a highway is an exception to governmental immunity. MCL 691.1402. If a bicyclist (or motor vehicle operator) sustains personal injury due to the defective condition of a roadway, they may recover if the governmental entity knew or should have known of the condition with the exercise of reasonable diligence. Knowledge of the defect and time to repair it shall be conclusively presumed if the defective condition is readily apparent to an ordinarily observant person for a period of 30 days or longer before the injury took place. MCL 691.1403. An example is where a biker loses control of her bike because of the failure of a city to repair cracks in the roadway and sustains personal injury. Grenadier v City of Bloomfield Hills, Court of Appeals, unpublished opinion, June 7, 2002; also Jackson v Genesee County Road Commission, Court of Appeals, unpublished opinion, October 29, 2002; and Dykstra v Kent County Road Commission, Case #: 98-090086-NO, April 19, 2000.


MYTH #9:

A governmental entity can be sued for its failure to maintain and repair a bike path.


Even though a governmental entity has a duty to maintain and repair "highways," which according to state law (MCL 691.1401(e)) also includes "bridges, sidewalks, trailways, crosswalks, and culverts on the highway," bike paths are NOT included. The current appellate courts VERY narrowly construe exceptions to governmental immunity. Since "bike paths" are not mentioned in the state statute, they are not counted in the exception to governmental immunity. "Regardless of its proximity to a highway, a bicycle path is simply not a sidewalk." Hatch v Grand Haven Charter Township, 461 Mich. 457 (2000). This probably would mean that "bike lanes" also do not have to be accounted for by a governmental entity.


MYTH #10:

The No-Fault Law allows a biker (or even a motor vehicle operator) to sue a negligent driver (even one legally drunk) for personal injuries.


A "threshold injury" must occur first before a negligent (or even drunk) driver may be sued. A threshold injury is "death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement." MCL 500.3135(1). How this doctrine has been applied in recent cases, goes beyond this article. However, courts have been holding that normal broken bones, (including broken collarbones), normal scarring, scarring from stitches and broken or missing teeth do not qualify as a serious impairment or serious disfigurement. Whether the driver was drunk or otherwise reckless, has no bearing on whether or not the threshold is met.


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