Posts Tagged ‘paved shoulders’

Illegal to pass cars while on the shoulder?

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

We are not providing legal advice. This is our interpretation of Michigan state law. UPDATED August 8, 2017

We’ve previously provided many situations where the rules of the road should be ignored due to their impracticality or unreasonableness. The bottom line is a cyclist’s safety is more important than strictly following the letter of the law.

Here’s another justification for those who ride on the shoulder.

Let’s start with these key definitions under Michigan’s state law.

  1. Bicycles are not vehicles since they are “exclusively moved by human power.”
  2. Roadway means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.”
  3. Shoulder means that portion of the highway contiguous to the roadway generally extending the contour of the roadway, not designed for vehicular travel”

So, this means shoulders are not part of the roadway. This was reaffirmed in Grimes vs. MDOT (2006).

A shoulder may be capable of supporting some form of vehicular traffic, but it is not a travel lane and it is not “designed for vehicular travel.”

State law does not define “bike lanes”, however since bicycles are not vehicles, bike lanes are not designed for vehicular travel. Therefore bike lanes are not part of the roadway. Neither are parking lanes for that matter.

Riding on shoulders

State law does prohibit vehicles passing other vehicles while on the shoulder.

The driver of a vehicle shall not overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right by driving off the pavement or main-traveled portion of the roadway.

State law also states that bicyclists upon the roadway  have “all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” When you ride on the road shoulder, you’re not on the roadway and are not required to follow the same laws as vehicle operators.

So go ahead and pass on the shoulder.


Do bicyclists have to ride on the shoulders?

Actually, they don’t. The law says:

A person operating a bicycle upon a highway or street at less than the existing speed of traffic shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

The shoulder is not part of the roadway. Bicyclists are not required to ride in bike lanes or parking lanes either.

MDOT Adding Paved Shoulders

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

E.J. Levy recently sent me an article about Colorado State Highways and how many of them have paved shoulders 4 feet or wider — a great way to make roads safer for bicyclists.  Colorado has had a policy since 1999 to add these shoulders to their state highways.  Nine years later, 72% of their state highway roads have them.

I am not sure if this includes Interstates, where in Colorado they are sometimes open to biking (e.g. I-70, I-76.)

So what’s the story in Michigan? As of last year, 35.8% of MDOT trunklines had paved shoulders 4′ or greater.    That percentage does not include Interstates, which are not currently opening to Michigan bicyclists.

That’s 3,031 miles of state roads with wide paved shoulders.

According to Josh Debruyn, MDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, “In the last two years, MDOT has added 365 miles of paved shoulder suitable for bicycling and the number continues to grow every year.”

We expect these to grow as well now that the Governor has directed MDOT to do more.

And don’t think paved shoulders are just for bicyclists.  They help roads last longer, provide a safe pull-off area for vehicles, and allow vehicles to pass bicyclists more safely.

Now if we could only get the Metro Detroit road agencies (e.g. Road Commission for Oakland County) to step up and make this same committment to bicyclist safety.