Ohio’s Bike Laws featured on ODOT’s website

Ohio’s Bike Laws featured on ODOT’s website

Ohio Bicycling Street Smarts

Riding Confidently, Legally, and Safely

Produced by the Ohio Department of Transportation; funded by FHWA/USDOT.  Significant portions of the publication are reproduced with permission from Bicycling Street Smarts:  Riding Confidently, Legally, and Safely, by John S. Allen, published by Rubel BikeMaps and copyright 1988, 2001 Rodale Inc.

This manual teaches safe bicycling techniques on public roads and streets, but only you can assure your own safety.  Users of this manual assume full responsibility for their own actions and safety.


A significant number of Ohio’s traffic laws apply to bicyclists as well as to motorists. In addition, there are some laws that are directed towards bicyclists alone.  The state’s traffic laws applicable to bicyclists are listed below and are paraphrased.  For the official version refer to the Ohio Revised Code, Titles 29 and 45, available online at: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc Green text displays law affected by the Better Bicycling in Ohio Act of September, 2006.


2921.33.1 Following Police Orders – All persons are obligated to follow the lawful orders of a police officer.



Vehicle: Every device used for the purpose of transportation on a highway.  Exceptions are motorized wheelchairs, devices powered by overhead electric trolley wires, or which moves exclusively on stationary rails or tracks, and devices other than bicycles moved by human power.

Bicycle: Every device (other than a tricycle designed solely for use a s a play vehicle by a child) propelled solely by human power and having either two tandem wheels, or one wheel in the front and two wheels in the rear, any of which measures more than 14 inches in diameter.

Driver/Operator: Every person who is in actual physical control of a vehicle.

Street/Highway: The entire width between the boundary lines of every way open to the public as a thoroughfare for purposes of vehicular travel.

Roadway: The improved portion of a highway designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, except for the berm or shoulder.

Right of Way: The right of a vehicle or pedestrian to proceed uninterruptedly in the direction in which it is moving in preference to another vehicle or pedestrian approaching from a different direction.

Freeway: A divided  multilane highway with underpasses or overpasses at all crossroads. These look like interstates on the Official Ohio Transportation Map, but may be state or U.S. highways.   Examples include SR 11, SR 315, portions of U.S. 33 and U.S. 35, the Ohio Turnpike, and I-75.

Expressway: A divided major highway with more than half of all crossroads having an underpass or overpass.   Examples include SR 32 (the Appalachian Highway), and portions of U.S. 23, U.S. 30, U.S. 33 and U.S. 35.

4511.051 Prohibitions on Use of Freeways – No person shall operate a bicycle within the boundary lines of a freeway except where there exists a facility that is separate from the roadway and shoulders designed and appropriately marked for bicycle use.

4511.07 Local Traffic Regulations – Local authorities may regulate the operation of bicycles as long as such regulation is not inconsistent with the uniform rules of the road prescribed in Ohio law, e.g., local authorities may not prohibit the use of bicycles on any public street or highway.  Local authorities may require registration and licensing, but licensing rules cannot be applied to non-residents.  (See also 4511.711.)

4511.12 Obeying Traffic Control Devices – Drivers of bicycles are obligated to obey all traffic control devices, including: flagpersons, signs, pavement markings, and signal lights.

4511.13 Signal Lights – The red, green and yellow signal lights apply to all vehicles including bicycles.

4511.15 Flashing Traffic Signals -At flashing red stop signals, the driver of a vehicle shall stop before the crosswalk or intersection, move forward for a clear view of approaching traffic, and proceed the same as for a stop sign (See 4511.43).  At flashing yellow caution signals, the driver of a vehicle may proceed through the intersection only with caution.

4511.19 Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs – Operation of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is prohibited.

4511.20 Reckless Operation – It is unlawful to intentionally operate a vehicle in a manner which endangers the safety of persons or property.

4511.21 Speed Limits – No person shall operate a vehicle at a speed greater or less than is reasonable or proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the street or highway and any other conditions, and no person shall drive any vehicle in and upon any street or highway at a greater speed than will permit him to bring it to a stop within a safe enough time to avoid collision.

4511.22 Slow Speed – No driver may operate a vehicle at such a slow speed so as to impede the normal flow of traffic except when necessary for safe operation or to comply with law.  The capabilities of the vehicle and its operator must be considered when deciding if an infraction has been committed.

4511.25 Lanes of Travel upon Roadways – A vehicle is to be driven on the right side of the roadway except when:  1) passing another vehicle going in the same direction, 2) making a left turn, 3) when an obstruction exists, 4) when driving on a roadway divided into three or more marked lanes for traffic, or 5) when driving on a roadway for one-way traffic.  Slow moving vehicles must remain far enough right to allow others to pass if passing is safe and reasonable.  Bicyclists may ride out of the curb lane when preparing for a left turn; when continuing straight when a right-turn-only lane is present; when the curb lane is blocked; and when overtaking and passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction.  Operators of slow moving vehicles are not required to compromise their safety in order to allow a faster vehicle to pass.  See also 4511.55 below.

4511.26 Traveling In Opposite Direction – Operators of vehicles proceeding in opposite directions shall pass each other to the right, and on roadways wide enough for one single lane of traffic in each direction, each operator shall give the other one-half of the roadway.

4511.27 Passing Other Vehicles – A driver must audibly signal before passing any other vehicle and then he or she may proceed to pass on the left.  The vehicle being passed must give way after being signaled and must not increase speed.

4511.28 Overtaking and Passing on the Right – A driver may overtake and pass on the right of another vehicle when the vehicle being passed is making a left turn; when a clear roadway offers enough space for the vehicle to pass safely without driving off the roadway.

4511.29 Driving Left of Center in Passing – No vehicle shall drive to the left of the center of the roadway unless the left side of the roadway is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic.

4511.31 Hazardous Zones – Allows for the crossing of a double yellow line in instances when drivers are approaching a slower vehicle (bicycles, horse-drawn buggies, farm vehicles, etc.) proceeding at less than half of the posted speed, as long as the faster vehicle is capable of passing without exceeding the speed limit and as long as there is sufficient clear space in which to do so.

4511.32 One-Way Traffic and Rotary Islands – When traveling on a one-way street a vehicle must proceed only in the direction indicated by the one-way sign.  A vehicle driving around a rotary traffic island must drive only to the right of the island.

4511.33 Rules for Driving in Marked Lanes – Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, a vehicle shall be driven within a single marked lane or line of traffic and shall not move from such lane until such movement can be made with safety.

4511.34 Divided Roadways – When a highway is divided into two roadways, vehicles must remain on the right side of the roadway with the exception of an emergency stop or in compliance with the order of a police officer.

4511.36 Turning at an Intersection – Right turn; make right turns as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.  Left turn; driver must be as close to the right of the center line as is practicable before turning left.  After passing through the intersection the vehicle shall commence travel in the lane closest to the right of the center line.  When traveling on a one-way street a left turn must always be made in the extreme left hand lane available.

4511.39 Turning and Stop Signals – A driver must indicate his or her intention to turn, or move left or right, by signaling continuously at least one hundred feet prior to a turn.  Bicycle riders must make a turn signal at least one time, but it need not be continuous.  The bicyclist is not required to signal if the bicycle is in a designated turn lane, and a signal shall not be given when the operator’s hands are needed for the safe operation of the bicycle.  A signal is required when bringing a vehicle to a stop or suddenly decreasing speed.

4511.40 Hand and Arm Signals – When using hand and arm signals always do so from the left side (except where noted) of the vehicle and in the following manner:

  • Left turn – left hand and arm extended horizontally.
  • Right turn – left hand and arm extended outward (with forearm extended upward), or by extending the right hand and arm horizontally and to the right side of the bicycle (effective September 9, 1996).
  • Stop or decrease speed – left hand and arm extended downward.

4511.41 Right Of Way at Intersections – When two vehicles coming from different directions approach an intersection at approximately the same time, the driver on the left shall yield the right of way to the vehicle on the right.

4511.42 Right Of Way When Turning Left – The driver of a vehicle attempting to turn left shall yield the right of way to a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.

4511.43 Right Of Way at Stop Signs and Yield Signs – Once a driver has come to a full stop at a stop sign then he or she can resume travel after yielding to traffic.  A yield sign indicates that a vehicle must slow down, or if, necessary for safety, come to a stop before entering the flow of traffic.

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.

4511.44 Right Of Way on a Public Highway – The operator of a vehicle about to enter a highway must yield the right of way to all approaching traffic on the roadway.

4511.441 Pedestrian Right Of Way – The driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to any pedestrian on a sidewalk.

4511.45 Public Safety Vehicles – The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way to any safety vehicle when warned with lights and sirens.  The driver shall yield by pulling his vehicle to the extreme right side of the street, shall stop and remain stopped until the safety vehicle has passed.

4511.451 Funeral Procession – The driver of any vehicle shall yield the right of way to a funeral procession.

4511.52 Bicycles – Sections 4511.01 through 4511.78, Section 4511.99 and Section  4513.01 through 4513.37 of  the revised code apply whenever a bicycle is operated on a highway or bike path. A bicycle operator who violates any section of the motor vehicle traffic or equipment law applicable to bicycles may be issued a ticket by a law enforcement officer.  No points can be assessed against the bicycle operator’s driver’s license except in instances of operating under the influence.

Where it is determined that a violation by a motor vehicle operator endangered the lives of bicycle riders at the time of a violation, either the bicycle operator or motor vehicle operator may be required to successfully complete a bicycling skills course approved by the court in addition to, or in lieu of, any penalty for the violation.

4511.53 Rules for Bicycles – A person operating a bicycle shall ride either standing upon the pedals or seated upon the permanent and regular seat and shall carry no more persons than the number for which it is designed and equipped.  No person operating a bicycle shall carry any item which would prevent them from having at least one hand on the handle bars.

4511.54 Prohibition Against Attaching Bicycles To Vehicles – No person riding upon a bicycle shall attach the bicycle or himself to any other vehicle upon the roadway.  No operator shall knowingly permit a bicyclist to attach a bicycle or himself to their moving vehicle.

4511.55 Riding Bicycles – Every person operating a bicycle on a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, but may ride to the left of hazards, e.g., when fixed or moving objects are in the way; when there are surface hazards; when it is unsafe or otherwise impractical to do so – such as when the lane is too narrow for the bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side; or when a slow moving vehicle is permitted to leave the curb lane, as described in 4511.25 above.   Persons riding bicycles must obey all traffic rules applicable to vehicles, and exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.  Persons riding bicycles on a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast in a single lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for that purpose.

4511.56 Signal Devices on Bicycles – A bicycle may be equipped with a bell, horn, or some device, other than a siren or whistle, audible within at least 100 feet distance.  Every bicycle must be equipped with an adequate brake when used on a street or highway.

Every bicycle when in use one-half hour before sunrise or one-half hour before sunset, and in inclement weather, shall be equipped with the following:

  • Front lamp with a white light, steady or flashing, visible from at least 500 feet.  The lamp may be mounted on either the bicycle or the helmet.
  • Rear red reflector visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle.
  • Rear red light, steady or flashing, visible from at least 500 feet, in addition to the rear red reflector, unless the light can be seen as well as the reflector.
  • Colorless front reflector mounted at the front.
  • Tire sidewalls may be retro-reflective or colorless, or amber reflectors may be mounted on the front wheel spokes and colorless or red reflectors mounted on rear wheel spokes. Reflectors must be visible from 600 feet of a motorist’s headlamps.

4511.66 Parking on Highways – On any highway outside a business or residence district a person shall not stop, park or leave standing any vehicle on the paved or main traveled part of the highway if it is possible to take the vehicle off the highway.

4511.67 Police Removal of Vehicle – Whenever a police officer finds a vehicle unattended and obstructing traffic he may have it removed to the nearest garage or safe place.

4511.68 Parking – No parking of a vehicle is permitted in the following areas unless unavoidable or authorized by a police officer.

  • On a sidewalk (except for a bicycle).
  • In front of a public or private driveway.
  • Within an intersection.
  • On a crosswalk.
  • Within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection.
  • Within 30 feet of a traffic control device.
  • Within 50 feet of a railroad crossing.
  • Between a safety zone and the bordering curb.
  • Within 20 feet of a driveway entrance to any fire station or directly across the street from the entrance.
  • Alongside or opposite any street excavation or obstruction when such parking would block traffic.
  • Alongside any vehicle stopped or parked at the edge or curb of a street.
  • On any bridge or within a tunnel.
  • At any place where signs prohibit stopping.
  • Within one foot of another parked vehicle.
  • On the roadway portion of a freeway, expressway, or any major road.

4511.71 Driving Upon a Closed Highway – It is illegal to drive on a roadway closed due to construction when appropriate signs are posted.

4511.711 Driving On a Sidewalk – Bicycles are the only vehicles allowed on sidewalks: local authorities may prohibit but not require bicycle riding on sidewalks. (See also 4511.07 and 4511.431.)

4511.712 Obstructing Intersection, Crosswalk, Grade Crossing – At no time shall a vehicle obstruct an intersection, crosswalk or grade crossing.

4511.713 Prohibition of Motor Vehicles on Bicycle Paths – No person shall operate a motor vehicle, snowmobile, or all-purpose vehicle upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, when an appropriate sign giving notice of such use is posted on the path.  This law does not affect any rule of the Director of Natural Resources governing operation of said vehicles or bicycles on lands under his jurisdiction.

4511.72 Following an Emergency Vehicle or a Public Safety Vehicle Prohibited – The driver of any vehicle shall not follow any emergency vehicle or public safety vehicle traveling in response to an alarm closer than five hundred feet.

4511.75 Stopping For a School Bus – The driver of a vehicle must stop at least 10 feet from the front or rear of a school bus when children are boarding or exiting the bus as indicated by flashing lights on the bus or other signals.


(Most laws in this chapter that are applicable to bicycles are repetitions of laws contained in Chapter 4511.)

4513.31 Properly Secured Loads – No vehicle shall be driven on any highway unless such vehicle is loaded to prevent any of its load from shifting, dropping, leaking or otherwise escaping therefrom

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