Same Roads, Same Rights, Same Rules — not true

There’s a popular bumper sticker that says “Same Roads, Same Rights, Same Rules.”

It sounds good, but it’s clearly not true and often not even desirable..

During an internet discussion about making drivers more aware of bicyclists’ rights, someone suggested having a required question for those renewing their driver’s licenses: Do bicyclists have the same rights to the roads as drivers?

They thought the answer was “Yes”, but they were mistaken.

Similarly, some have said bicycle advocates shouldn’t pursue rolling stop or vulnerable user legislation because it would make cyclists a separate group. Too late. We are a separate group despite what the bumper sticker implies.

Same Roads?

Michigan Bicyclists have access to nearly all of Michigan’s roads, but there are major exceptions including all limited-access expressways and ramps, such as I-75 and M-14. The tunnel and bridge between Detroit and Windsor are not open to bicyclists either.

And of course you can ride a bike on state trunkline M-185 but you can drive on it. That’s the road around Mackinaw Island.

Same Rights and Rules?

While bicyclists have similar rights as motorists while on the roadway, there are limitations. We must ride to the far right where practicable. We cannot ride on limited-access expressways. We have no special privileges in funeral processions.

Bicyclists do have rights that motorists do not. We can generally ride on the sidewalk and in crosswalks unless prohibited by a local ordinance. We can park on sidewalks. Turning vehicles must yield to us in a crosswalk. We can ride two abreast. We can ride in bike lanes and on shared-use paths.

We don’t need a driver’s license, registration or proof of insurance. We can’t get points on a driver’s license.

State law also allows local governments to further regulate bicycle use.

When bicyclists are not on a roadway, they no longer have to follow vehicle rules. This is why it’s legal for bicyclists to travel on shoulders or unused parking lanes, whereas vehicles cannot.

And of course, in Michigan bicycles are not vehicles. Bicycles are devices. As a result, bicycles are generally not burdened by vehicle regulations. For instance, it’s legal for cyclists to run studded tires.

A better bumper sticker

A more accurate slogan, and one we’ve seen on the back of Windsor Transit buses is “Share the Road — It’s the law.”

This message can be reinforced with “Share the Road” signs as well.

Bicyclists are a special class and rather than advocate against it, we should advocate for regulations that encourage more cycling and safer places to ride.

Additional Reading: One Surprising Reason America Lags Behind the World on Bikes

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4 Responses to “Same Roads, Same Rights, Same Rules — not true”

  1. Jason Says:

    Your comments on bicycles having different rules than roads are well researched. There are numerous cases where specific roads or areas treat cycling as a unique class. And, that, is exactly why it doesn’t work. No one can keep track of all of the local, state or regional rules for cycling. It’s unmanageable and, ultimately, unenforceable. Vehicular cycling isn’t dead, except in the pipe dreams of motorists minded politicians.

  2. Regina Says:

    Bicyclists SHOULD be required to take a drivers test, obtain a license and have proof of insurance. They should register their bicycles and receive tickets if and when they violate the laws of the road. They should not be allowed to ride side by side and should obey the existing laws.

  3. Pinky Says:

    Obviously, Regina doesn’t ride bikes.

  4. Todd Scott Says:

    Why Regina? You haven’t provided any reasons why this additional requirements and bureaucracy SHOULD be required. Why would bicyclists have to take a driver’s test? Do you think children should have to get licensed and insured before they can ride their bikes? It sounds like you just don’t like sharing the road with bicycles and are thinking up untested and unsound ideas to burden bicyclists.

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