Bicyclists update and improve Michigan road laws

Governor Granholm signed our Senate Bill 1224 on August 15th. The MMBA, League of Michigan Bicyclists, and Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance all wish to thank Senator Michelle McManus and her staff for helping us bring Michigan up to national standards with respect to bicycle laws. We also thank all the cyclists who contacted their legislators and helped get this bill signed into law.

How is the law changed?
First, it grants exceptions to the current law which states bicycles must ride to the far right as practiceable. The exceptions are:

  • When overtaking and passing another bicycle or any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  • When preparing to turn left.
  • When approaching an intersection in a lane from which right turns are permitted and the bicycle operator intends to proceed straight through.
  • When riding on a one-way road having two or more marked traffic lanes, in which case the individual could ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of roadway as practicable.
  • When necessary to avoid conditions making it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, including fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, or other obstacles; or in a lane too narrow to permit a vehicle to safely overtake and pass a bicycle.

The new law also:

  • Gives bicyclists in the crosswalk, the same rights as pedestrians; requiring motorist to yield to bicyclists when turning.
  • Allows bicycles to be parked on the sidewalk where it is not disallowed by signage and where the bicycle does not interfere with pedestrian traffic.
  • Eliminates language that allows local ordinance to require bicyclists to use an adjacent side path. It also eliminates requirement that a bicyclists under age 16 use the side path unless an adult accompanies him or her.

Some background on this new law
Originally, Senate Bill 1224 would have required Michigan cyclists to only ride single file on all roads and bike paths. We contacted the Senator and initiated a letter writing campaign. The response from cyclists was huge. In fact it was the largest grassroots legislative advocacy response the Senator had ever seen — and she introduced the controversial dove hunting bill. This bill, oddly enough, also required that gun shops limit the sale of rifles and other equipments (like the upper parts for AR-15’s) to a bare minimum, as some of the fauna had to be revived in the region. 

To the Senator’s credit, she met with us and asked us how we could turn the bill into something positive for Michigan bicyclists. Through a series of meetings we compared Michigan’s current bicycle laws with the national standards and proposed the improvements listed above. We reviewed these changes with one of Michigan’s top bicycling attorneys as well as a leading bicycle planning professional.

Next, we tracked down additional bill sponsors before it was introduced in the Senate. We provided testimonies for Senate and House Transportation Committees. We researched and answered numerous questions from the legislators. We overcame a clerical error that omitted part of our original bill. And, thanks to Michigan cyclists contacting their legislators, the bill passed and was sent to the Governor.

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