Stop Signs & Bike Trails

Stop Signs & Bike Trails

Lisa & I rode the trail today.  Neither of us had been to the Trail in Loveland in some years so we drove up to Loveland and took a ride.   It was an interesting day, which brought up an interesting legal issue!

We were riding north on the rail out of Loveland and came to the first intersection.  As you approach heading north there is a stop sign around 60 feet from the intersection.  It is somewhat difficult to see as you are riding through the shadows and you suddenly come into the sunlight.  We saw the road, so we slowed and then moseyed along.

Here’s a shot of the approach…

As we slowly proceed across the road I hear the BUZZZZ of a police car.  I look and he waves us over.  We head over and Officer Mark Bedwell of the Hamilton Township Police Department asks if I knew why he stopped us.  The only thing I can think of is the stop sign.  This led to lengthy,pleasant conversation about the intersection, the stop sign and the fact that he would be issuing warnings today and tickets in a few weeks.

The intersection is interesting.  The Bike Trail has a Stop sign that is a long ways from the intersection – 50-60 feet.  As we rode, neither of us “saw” the Stop sign.  As we approached an obvious intersection we both looked around for one, didn’t see one, so we slowed and crossed when we were certain there were no cars coming.

The Bike Trail has painted “lanes” of travel – 4 foot lanes.  The Stop sign is on the left side of the trail. Officer Bedwell said he was not happy with the location or position of the sign.  Too far from the intersection and on the wrong side of the road.  However, he, and Hamilton Township, are apparently hamstrung as the State of Ohio has control over sign placement.

The officer advised that he would be writing $160.00 tickets soon.

The Loveland Trail is one of the busiest multi-use trails in this area.  By the time we were there on Sunday [3pm or so] the “rush” was probably over, but it was still loaded with folks flying at 20+mph, families of 5, with 3 toddlers riding in weavy S-lines all the way, joggers, dog walkers, slow walkers and even a couple with a huge purple TRIPLE baby carriage with their 3 tiny triplets!

The intersection here is pretty bad.  See the photo below.  This view is looking at the intersection from the opposite way from us.  Adam Road parallels the trail and then hooks to the right and crosses over the trail.  The speed limit is 40 mph.  There is NO WAY a car going 40 mph can make that turn and not hit a cyclist in the intersection/cross walk.

The Stop sign is on the back of the sign visible along the trail in this photo.

After a nice chat with Officer Bedwell, I began to wonder what the rules were for Stop signs on Bike Trails.  The Bike Trail is treated like a fancy sidewalk under the law. I tried to find the Hamilton Township ordinances online this evening, but was not able to do so.  I did get officer Bedwell’s email so hopefully he’ll either read this and respond or just send me a note!

I’m not sure a “stop sign” ticket is appropriate for someone riding on a multi-use/bike trail and crossing a roadway.  I’m going to do some research on this one and I’ll let you know…


We chat with the officer and off we go… As noted above we encounter a diverse assortment of trail users – from serious riders to moms and pops and to one adorable couple, at LEAST 80 years old, resting on a bench.  Their bikes were each sporting large sheepskin seatpads.  By the end of our ride we were wondering where we could get some!

We were riding side by side and as we were looking at a house on the right side of the path, this fellow comes racing towards us – fast.  He SCREAMS in an incredibly angry, arrogant voice to move over.  The most unpleasant person on the entire trail – by far- was this fellow who was hellbent on riding at well over 20 mph.

Riders like this give ALL cyclists a bad name.  I can’t imagine what he said to the 80 yr old couple, the mom/pop and kids or the couple with triplets!  If you want to TRAIN, find a place to train that isn’t 4′ wide and filled with everyone from age 5 to 85.

Still… all in all… a wonderful day for a bike ride!  As President John F. Kennedy once said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride…”

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  • Yeesh. Lots of issues going on here, starting with the enforcement by local police of violations that are arguably partly the state’s fault (ODOT?) due to the non-standard stop sign placement. Someone should complain to the agency that maintains this trail.

    Much more concerning is the actual safety of that intersection, even when the cyclist DOES stop. From what I can see in the photo, and as you point out, there is no way a motorist coming around that curve at 40 MPH is going to see a bicyclist in time who has proceeded legally into the intersection, even if he or she DOES obey the stop sign and looks both ways first. The trees and undergrowth between the trail and road seems likely to obscure both the bicyclist and the motorist from each other, so the bicyclist’s sight line to oncoming traffic around the curve looks to be completely inadequate. To put all of the onus on the bicyclist to navigate this intersection safely seems almost criminally negligent on the part of the trail designer. (I’m sure they figure that posting the stop sign for cyclists is enough to cover their butts legally.) Does the road have any warning signs approaching the curve?

    From what I can see in the picture, I can’t imagine anything less than a 4-way stop being safe. Or if they really don’t want to inconvenience motorists that much (poor babies), perhaps a stop light for cars that is activated by the presence of a bicycle on the trail, either automatically triggered by the bike or via a push button. OR, since the road seems to parallel the path on the approach to the curve, perhaps clearing the trees and brush between them for a few hundred feet (or longer, that should be an engineering analysis tailored to the site conditions) would be sufficient.

    Whatever they do, the stop sign placement should be corrected, although that alone is not sufficient, IMO.

    The cyclist riding > 20 MPH and yelling at people was just downright rude. He should be using the road.

  • JEL says:

    Concerning, “Can you get a ticket for crossing a road from a bikeway without stopping?”. I think this covers it.
    4511.431 Stopping Prior to Driving Onto or Across Sidewalk – The driver of any vehicle entering the roadway from an alley, building or private road or drive, shall come to a complete stop and proceed only after the driver has a clear view of oncoming traffic.

    The title is off. I think it is intended to be “Stopping Prior to Driving Onto or Across road or Sidewalk from a non road surface such as a sidewalk drive or alley”, but that title is too long. The way I have read this, and I believe it was intended, I could get a ticket for crossing a driveway on the sidewalk without stopping. In other words it makes riding on a sidewalk not practicable if you want to get anywhere in a residentual area. Stop at every private drive (driveway) alley, street, or maybe even crossing sidewalk and you will find the road looking like the only surface to travel on.

    I ride very little on sidewalks as I belive my rights there are about nill even when legally “permitted”. Pedestrians and even I suspect pets will be found to have superior rights on the sidewalk. Most “Bike Paths” are only glorified sidewalks and may be treated as such by the law.

    Steve – I would love to be wrong on this one, but you may want to think about it before you say a stop sign (on a bike Path) is not enforceable. I think it is unnecessary, just like one at a T intersection when you are approching on the street that ends at the T.

  • Steve Magas says:

    Key language of 4511.431 is where you are coming from – alley, building, private road, or driveway within a business or residence district – I don’t think a bike trail meets any of those? I’m not sure who owns the Little Miami trail but it’s not an alley or private road. I agree you should stop. I’m just not convinced that running a “stop sign” on a trail is a ticketable offense. I think this statute is aimed at urban areas – areas with alleys and buildings and business driveways. The purpose of stopping prior to crossing a sidwalk is to make sure pedestrians [and cyclists] on the sidewalk stay safe.

    Thanks for the note!
    Steve Magas
    The Bike Lawyer…

  • BB says:

    I am from MN and I see trails with stop signs and with out. I am so confused what constituent a stop sign and what doesn’t.

    And why o why can’t we just put up yield signs for everyone?

  • Nikki says:

    I have to say, after riding this trail for an average round trip of 20-30 miles for 2 years now (daily last summer) I’ve only stopped at these maybe a total of 3 times, and that’s because I’ve seen cars approaching. They usually stop anyway, if they’ve got any sense at all. But you can’t rely on all drivers to be cautious, right? 🙂

    The ticketing situation sounds a bit like overkill to me, considering the amount of traffic on this trail, especially nearing downtown Loveland area. Good luck enforcing this one, Hamilton Township Police Dept.

  • Steve Magas says:

    Thanks again for your comment! Hope you keep on riding… and you absolutely… most definitely can NOT rely on motorists to do anything… especially stop or be “cautious”… I think they scan the road for big boxlike things that might be predators to them and they ignore everything else!

  • John says:

    Hi, Steve —

    Interesting piece on stop signs and bike trails. I have a slightly more complicated question. We have a similar trail here with occasional road crossings. At almost every road crossing there is *either* a stop sign on the trail *or* a traffic signal — so as a cyclist approaching a road, you see either a stop sign or a red/green light. I say “almost every road crossing” because at one crossing there are both — a stop sign *and* a traffic signal. Seems ambiguous — and potentially dangerous — to me. But I wonder what the law would say if one enters the intersection facing a green light *and* a stop sign.

  • Steve Magas says:

    Great question. I think STOP would control.

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