The golden rule is to make sure your safety comes first. The law and what’s safest or most prudent may be at odds. For example, though you may have the right-of-way at an intersection, you should not assume all motorists respect that. A 2014 study by the Transport for London suggests that bicyclists who get a head start on red lights may be safer than those who stick to the law since it reduces conflicts with turning traffic, especially trucks. While not recommending that, we do suggest that you ride defensively. It is always best to err on the side of your safety. Be Safe First!
WHEN RIDING ON A ROADWAY, generally, bicyclists must follow the same rules as vehicles [MCL 257.657]. Bicyclists have the right to ride on all roadways except freeways [MCL 257.679a]. Bicyclists are not required to ride in bike lanes, parking lanes, sidewalks, or off-road pathways [MCL 257.660a].
Bicyclists should typically stay on the right side of the roadway when travelling below the speed of other traffic. Some exceptions:
- When passing other bicycles or vehicles
- When turning left
- When it’s unsafe, e.g. there’s debris, potholes, streetcar rails, or pedestrians in the road
- When the road is too narrow for a vehicle to safely pass
- When going straight and there’s a right turn lane
- When on a one-way street with two or more lanes. In that case, you can ride on the left-hand side of the road.
Bicyclists are allowed to ride side-by-side on roadways [MCL 257.660b]. The law against driving at slow speeds only applies to motor vehicles [Rule 28.1409a], not bicycles.
IN GENERAL, bicyclists are required to signal turns using their outstretched arms. The law requires bicyclists to signal when slowing or stopping [MCL 257.648]. However, removing a hand from the handlebar when turning or slowing makes you less safe. When riding in the ever-popular Detroit group rides, it is common (and more visible) to raise a fist when slowing or stopping. IMPORTANT! Riding on the sidewalks is generally allowed but bicyclists must yield to pedestrians [MCL 257.660c].
Required Bicycle Equipment
There are legal requirements for bicycles in Michigan. Bicycles must have a working brake. When biking on a roadway 30 minutes after sunset or 30 minutes before sunrise, bikes must have a front white light and a rear red reflector or red light [MCL 257.662]. Though not required, additional lighting, especially if visible from the sides may increase safety.
Bicycles can be legally parked on the roadway where vehicle parking is allowed [Rule 28.1617a]. Bicycles can also be parking on the sidewalk if there are no signs prohibiting it and if the bicycle does not obstruct pedestrian traffic [Rule 28.1617].
Parked bicycles should not impede the streetcar [58-10-17].