What are the bike lane laws?

With new bike lanes being added in the city of Detroit this year (and many more planned for next year), the question has come up: What are the state laws and local ordinances pertaining to them?

The answer in Detroit is there are none. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

Unfortunately that’s probably true in many cities, villages, and townships (CVTs) across Michigan that are “maintaining” their own traffic law language. We quoted “maintaining” because most CVTs aren’t. While state laws and national model traffic laws for bicycles have been updated, in many, if not most cases local ordinances have not.

Ideally, all CVTs, including Detroit would eliminate their local traffic laws and simply reference the Motor Vehicle Code (state law) and the Uniform Traffic Code (which is a maintained by the Michigan State Police.) By doing this, everyone would be working off the same set of traffic laws and it would be easier this one copy up to date.

But getting back to bike lanes, what does the Uniform Traffic Code say about them?

R 28.1001 Rule 1. Words and phrases.
(1) As used in this code:
(c) “Bicycle lane” means a portion of a street or highway that is adjacent to the roadway and that is
established for the use of persons riding bicycles


R 28.1320 Rule 320. Bicycle paths or bicycle lanes; establishment; traffic-control devices.

(1) When the traffic engineer, after a traffic survey and engineering study, determines there is a need, he or she may establish a part of a street or highway under his or her jurisdiction as a bicycle path or lane.

(2) The bicycle path or lane shall be identified by official traffic-control devices that conform to the Michigan manual of uniform traffic-control devices.

R 28.1322 Rule 322. Bicycle lanes; vehicles prohibited; parking permitted under certain conditions; violation as misdemeanor.

(1) A person shall not operate a vehicle on or across a bicycle lane, except to enter or leave adjacent property.

(2) A person shall not park a vehicle on a bicycle lane, except where parking is permitted by official signs.

(3) A person who violates this rule is guilty of a misdemeanor.

One item we don’t like in the above language is the requirement that a traffic engineer determine “a need” for bicycle lane. We would like to see the survey, study and need requirement stricken. It’s an unnecessary cost burden and “need” can be quite vague.

It’s one thing to do a traffic study and determine the need for vehicle travel lanes in order to accommodate traffic flow. One can measure traffic and plug those numbers into a computer model.

It’s quite another to do a traffic study which  determines how unsafe a road is for bicyclists — both perceived and real — without a dedicated bike lane.

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2 Responses to “What are the bike lane laws?”

  1. Pedro Coss Says:

    I tried the Bike lane in Detroit, Michigan Ave., headed east with traffic I came to make a
    right turn on Vinewood St., just a few feet from the curb their is a broken white line
    in the bike lane and to its right is a parking lane. I had a Pickup truck Motorist blow
    his horn angerly becuse he wanted to cross over the bike lane to turn right on
    Vinewood and I was on the bike lane. He should have stayed in his lane with
    his signal on to turn right and I would have stopped and wated for him to turn.
    The City of Detroit, should have made rules first before creating a bike lane., The Bike lane is going to get someone killed or attacked by angry ediots that
    don’t understand what to do when their is a bike the the lane. The media has to get
    the word out and Secretary of State add new rulles to Driver License to protect the people riding, their bikes.
    Thank You!

  2. Todd Scott Says:

    We do need to do a better job educating everyone on bike lanes since they are relatively new to this area. Also having a lot more people riding bicycles in Detroit will help as well since studies show there is greater safety in numbers.

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