Bicycles are not vehicles in Michigan

The city of Ann Arbor web site says, “Ann Arbor and Michigan laws classify bicycles as vehicles and requires them to follow the rules of the road.”

That’s not correct.

Despite what you may read or hear, under state law bicycles are not vehicles in Michigan. Yes, this differs from some other states, but that is what Michigan law says.

And cities such as Ann Arbor adopt the state law definitions for vehicles and bicycles.

Not convinced? Here’s the state law:

257.79 “Vehicle” defined.

“Vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices exclusively moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks and except, only for the purpose of titling and registration under this act, a mobile home as defined in section 2 of the mobile home commission act, Act No. 96 of the Public Acts of 1987, being section 125.2302 of the Michigan Compiled Laws.

We’ve highlighted the key point. If you’re human powered, you’re not a vehicle in Michigan.

There are many traffic types defined by state law. We’ve put together this graphic which shows the relationships between them.

Bicyclist rights to the road

If bicycles aren’t vehicles in Michigan, how are we granted access to most of the roads?

That’s handled by this state law:

257.657 Rights and duties of persons riding bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating low-speed vehicle.

Each person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating a low-speed vehicle upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to the provisions of this chapter which by their nature do not have application.

Again, we’ve highlighted the key point. A driver is a person “in actual physical control of a vehicle.”

Bicyclists are do not have the same duties as an vehicle owner. We don’t need to register and license our bicycles with the state.

And as the definition shows, there are exceptions. As we’ve said before, those “same roads, same rights, same rules” stickers are simply wrong.

Why can bicycles ride on sidewalks?

It is against most Michigan municipal ordinances to drive vehicles on sidewalks under the Uniform Traffic Codes. So why isn’t bicycling always illegal on sidewalks?

State law makes an exception:

257.660c Operation of bicycle upon sidewalk or pedestrian crosswalk.

(1) An individual operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.

(2) An individual shall not operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk if that operation is prohibited by an official traffic control device.

(3) An individual lawfully operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk has all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to a pedestrian using that sidewalk or crosswalk.

Of course municipalities can locally prohibit bicycles from sidewalks.

This leads into another subject. The false notion that bicycles can impede traffic while operating legally.

That’s something we’ll cover in a future post.

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One Response to “Bicycles are not vehicles in Michigan”

  1. John Martin Says:

    While the MVC does not define a bicycle as a vehicle, I think that the courts have taken it upon themselves to have done this. Kind of like when they took it upon themselves to say that you must signal lane changes, not just “changes of direction”, as said in the MVC.

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