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10 Bicycle Safety Tips That Are Law in the City of Columbus

We’re only four minutes into Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryanthe new Amazon Prime Original series, when we almost lose our title character, CIA analyst Jack Ryan. (Season 1, Episode 1, Pilot.) What imperils our hero, and the future of the entire free world as we know it? Is it a terrorist attack or some other subservice plot? No, not at all. It’s nothing like that. [SPOILER ALERT?] What, then, is the danger? As Jack is riding his bicycle to work, an inattentive driver of a parked car flings open the car door into Jack’s pathway, forcing Jack to swerve out of his lane into oncoming traffic, and then again into oncoming cross-traffic. Whew! That was close. Too close.

While Jack Ryan bicycles to and from work in Washington, D.C., the City of Columbus, Ohio, is experiencing a rise in popularity in transportation alternatives, especially bicycling, to get around and to and from downtown.

As a sign of this rise in popularity, Columbus now has its own bike share system, CoGo (cogobikeshare.com). To participate in CoGo, you purchase either a one-day or three-day pass or an annual membership. The pass lets you use CoGo bicycles to take an unlimited number of rides, up to 30 minutes long per ride, throughout the duration of your purchase period. Rides longer than 30 minutes incur a surcharge per additional 30 minutes.

Here’s how the bike share system works: You locate a bicycle at a CoGo docking station, unlock the bicycle with your pass key, ride, return the bicycle to a CoGo docking station, and lock it. CoGo online maps show locations for docking stations along with the number of bicycles available for riding, and the number of docks available for returning bicycles. According to CoGo, it has about 46 stations and about 365 bicycles across the City. CoGo promotes its system as a convenient way to save time, to save money, to have fun, to get exercise, and to go green.

Another sign of the rise in the popularity of bicycling in Columbus is the rise in downtown bicycle traffic. For that reason, it’s a good time to review bicycle safety tips. Here are 10. The list is merely a selection. It’s not exhaustive. It’s suggested in part by CoGo itself (https://www.cogobikeshare.com/how-it-works/rules-of-the-road). Additional safety tips are available from the City of Columbus (https://www.columbus.gov/publicservice/).

 Notice that all 10 of these practical bicycle safety tips have been adopted by the City of Columbus into the Columbus City Code. The City Code provides the law that governs the sometimes competing interests of bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians in Columbus, Ohio.

Here, then, are 10 bicycle safety tips that are law in the City of Columbus.

  1. Ride with, not against, the traffic. It’s the law. In Columbus, bicyclists must ride in the street, not on the sidewalk, in the same direction as the motor vehicle traffic. Columbus City Code § 2173.04(A). So plan your route carefully. Downtown Columbus streets are busy, to say the least. Know which streets are one-way, which streets prohibit right or left turns, and which streets have lighter or heavier car, truck, bus, and bicycle traffic.
  2. Check your bicycle. It’s the law. Check your required brakes for adequate resistance. Check your required front white-light lamp, your rear red reflector, and your rear red-light lamp. CCC § 2173.05. And while you’re at it, check for low or flat tires, adjust the seat, and tighten the seat and the handlebars.
  3. Wear a helmet. It’s the law. All bicyclists should wear protective helmets with chin straps. The Columbus City Code requires bicyclists under 18 years of age to wear protective helmets with chin straps. CCC § 2173.02(B)(1). Also, check your clothing, shoes, and shoestrings so that they don’t become entangled in the bicycle.
  4. Obey all motor vehicle traffic signals. It’s the law. In Columbus, the same traffic laws that apply to motorists apply to bicyclists, including obeying all traffic lights and signs. CCC § 2173.04(A).
  5. Use hand signals to indicate changes in direction. It’s the law. To signal a left turn, point your left arm and hand straight out horizontally to the left. To signal a right turn, point your left upper arm horizontally to the left, bend your left arm upward at the elbow, and point your left forearm and hand straight upward. Or, to signal a right turn, point your right arm and hand straight out horizontally to the right. To signal a stop, point your left arm and hand straight downward at your side. CCC § 2131.15(a)-(b).
  6. Ride as near to the right side of the roadway as “practicable.” It’s the law. The City Code requires a bicyclist to ride as far to the right side as is reasonable under the circumstances. CCC § 2173.04(A).
  7. But do not ALWAYS ride as near to the right side of the roadway as possible. It’s the law. The City Code requires a bicyclist to exercise due care when passing a parked car or a car moving in the same direction. The City Code specifically does NOT require a bicyclist to ride as near to the right side of the roadway as possible, or in a designated bike lane, when it is unreasonable, or unsafe, to do so, such as when it may be necessary to avoid parked or moving cars. CCC § 2173.04(C). We’re talking to you, Jack Ryan!
  8. Stay off of the sidewalks. It’s the law. With only a few exceptions for public safety officers, sidewalks are reserved for pedestrian traffic only. CCC § 2173.10(a). If you must take your bicycle onto the sidewalk, you should walk your bicycle.
  9. Maintain control of your bicycle. It’s the law. The City Code requires bicyclists to keep one hand on the handlebar grips at all times. CCC § 2173.08(A)(4). The City Code prohibits bicyclists from carrying packages, bundles, or other articles that prevent bicyclists from keeping one hand on the handlebars. CCC § 2173.02(A).
  10. Avoid being distracted by your mobile device. It’s the law. Always pull over to read, write, or send text messages, to access the internet, or even to talk on your cell phone. CCC § 2131.44.

At Mallory Law Office, our founder, Thomas “Buck” Mallory, is passionate about bicycling. He’s also passionate about bicycle safety.

So, remember, in the City of Columbus, bicycle safety is the law. As bicyclists, let’s be safe! And as bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians, let’s be on the lookout for each other! You never know. The future of the entire free world may hang in the balance.

This article is provided as a public service by Mallory Law Office, LLC. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not legal advice, legal counsel or legal representation. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the law and our reliance upon outside sources, we make no warranty or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of information contained herein.