Bike photos by Steve Magas, a race in Walnut Hills, a bike rack at Ride Cincinnati, A ghost bike dedication ceremony and a beautiful bike bell

Protecting The Rights Of Those Who Ride

Steve Magas is Ohio's Bike Lawyer. He has written about Ohio Bike Laws, bike crashes, bicycle advocacy and court cases for some 30 years. Soon we'll be adding a series of features about your favorite Ohio bike shops.

Looking for Crash Stats? Check NHTSA’s publications


Looking for bicycle accident or crash statistics?  They can be hard to find sometimes.

NHTSA has a LOT of publications to look at.  FINDING them has always been difficult, though.

Now it’s easy.

A  simple chart, found here, Read the rest of this entry »

RAY LaHOOD – Friends in High Places

It’s good to have friends in high places.  If you’ve been a bicycle advocate for the past 20+ years, as I have, you know that with few exceptions we’ve RARELY had friends … at all, it seems… at the federal level.

That’s changed now.

Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation Secretary, is officially a “friend” of cycling in my book.

In an era when politicians expect high praise for giving lip service to dedicating a 2 mile trail for cycling which real bike advocates struggled for 10 years to build LaHood is a breath of fresh air.  His comments at the National Bike Summit were truly incredible.  He stood on top of a table and told more than 500 bike advocates that the federal government was actually interested in BIKES.  What a thing! Read the rest of this entry »

Bicycle Crash Statistics – IS IT SAFE TO RIDE?

It’s finally SPRING and riding weather is here in abundance!  With bicycle weather, unfortunately, comes a slew of bicycle crashes.  Reading about people hurt or killed in crashes tends to get us wondering – Is Cycling Safe?

I think the short answer is a resounding YES!!! Read the rest of this entry »

More TASERS In The News –

More Tasers in the News

Here’s a story from ABC News about some recent TASER incidents.

Steve Magas

====== ABC NEWS STORY ======

Two Cops Suspended for Allegedly Slapping and Tasering Boy

Captain Allegedly Smacked and Tasered 10-Year-Old Boy at Day Care Center

By CLEOPATRA ANDREADIS and SARAH NETTER Read the rest of this entry »

Steve Speaks in Columbus

Steve Speaks at HCAT – Healthy Communities – Active Transportation Conference

On March 30, 2010 I spoke at the Healthy Communities – Active Transportation Conference at the gorgeous Riffe Center across from the Capitol in Columbus.  This conference was sponsored by the Ohio Department of Transportation, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Ohio Association of Regional Councils, Federal Highway Administration, and the Ohio departments of Health and Natural Resources.  The focus was on promoting safety and Complete Streets as a path to building healthy communities and transportation choices for Ohioans. Read the rest of this entry »


This just in from the League of American Bicyclists – CALL THE GOVERNOR!

The LAB is asking cyclists around the country to reach out and touch their governors and ask for support for Ray LaHood’s recently announced National Bike Policy which you can read here or check out the video here!

When you think of the many areas of your personal life, and the many areas of our national policy and “life,” in which bicycling can have an immediate positive impact, it’s hard to believe anyone would not support a statement supporting cycling.  But… these are tough time and cycling’s enemies lurk in strange, dark little [and big] corners… sooo…. Read the rest of this entry »


This just in the the League of American Bicyclists!

Washington, D.C.  March 10, 2010  The League of American Bicyclists is proud to be the forum for Google to announce what all bike riders have been waiting for – Grab Your Bike and Go with Google Maps. Google is announcing at the Opening Plenary Session at the National Bike Summitthat they are adding biking directions in the U.S. to Google Maps.”This new tool will open people’s eyes to the possibility and practicality of hopping on a bike and riding,” said Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists. “We know people want to ride more, and we know it’s good for people and communities when they do ride more – this makes it possible. It is a game-changer, especially for those short trips that are the most polluting,” Read the rest of this entry »



By, Steven M. Magas, The Bike Lawyer

In the summer of 1999 I was asked to become involved with a young man who had received a traffic ticket for “impeding traffic” in Trotwood, Ohio.  Little did I know that the case would ultimately garner international intention, cause hundreds emails to be sent to the City of Trotwood, and generate an extremely favorable appellate court ruling that is cited all over the country today!

The case, Trotwood v. Selz, made Steven Selz a household name – at least among that small core of cycling advocates who regularly fight to protect YOUR right to ride on our nations highways.  Let’s take a detailed look at Steve’s case to see what all the fuss is about!


The trial of this case, like most traffic matters, was quick and to-the-point.  The Selz case was on the docket with dozens of other matters, but  was the only serious trial of the evening on the Area One docket of Judge Connie Price.  When Judge Price finally called the case for trial, the prosecution presented only one witness  -the officer who gave Steve his ticket.  I presented Steve Selz and an expert witness, Allan Byrum.

On July 16, 1999, Steven Selz was operating his bicycle along State Route 49 in Trotwood, Ohio, a five lane roadway with a speed limit of 45 mph.  He had stopped a light and was going uphill from the light when Trotwood Police Officer Vance, with lights and siren blaring, pulled him over.

Officer Vance issued a citation to Mr. Selz for “impeding traffic” under a local Trotwood ordinance.  At the February 7, 2000 trial, Officer Vance testified that Mr. Selz “…was driving in the middle of the lane…” and was going “…no more than 15 miles per hour…” She further testified that “…cars had to stop and … go over to the other lane to get around him…”

It should be noted that State Route 49 at this point consisted of FIVE lanes, two in each direction with a universal turning lane between them.  It should also be noted that Mr. Selz was charged with violating Trotwood Municipal Code Section 333.04(a), for “impeding traffic” and was not charged with a violation of Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.55(A), which requires cyclists to ride “as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable…” This ended up as a critical distinction in the eyes of the court of appeals, as will be discussed below.

My cross examination of Officer Vance focused on attempting to show that Mr. Selz was traveling as a reasonable CYCLIST, as opposed to a reasonable MOTORIST.  She admitted that he was traveling at a reasonable speed “for a cyclist.”  She also showed a lack of knowledge of the law governing the operation of bicycles on the roadway as she testified that Steve had to stay “X feet from the curb.”  Officer Vance also admitted that there was no posted minimum speed on State Route 49.

One of the critical exchanges on cross-examination was as follows:

“Q. Now, is it your testimony that Mr. Selz was riding at a slower speed than he could have otherwise ridden?

“A. A slower speed than he — no.

“Q. He was riding at a reasonably normal bicycling speed, wasn’t he?

“A. Yes, sir.”

Officer Vance had some vague notion that Mr. Selz was somehow in danger because he was riding on State Route 49, a roadway that is, admittedly not for everyone.  Officer Vance candidly testified as follows on cross-examination:

Q:I take it your opinion is that State Route 49 is simply a dangerous place for bicycles to be?

A:Honestly, yes.

It became clear as the trial progressed that the City of Trotwood was going to take the position that if you can’t ride a bicycle at a speed of 45 mph then you can be charged with “impeding traffic.”  Further, the prosecutor simply felt that it was “unsafe” to ride on this stretch of State Route 49 and he, and the great State of Ohio, were trying to “protect” Mr. Selz from his own foolishness by ticketing him and encouraging him not to ride this stretch of roadway.

Mr. Selz disputed some of the facts during his testimony.  He testified that he was “…going as fast as he could go…” as he chugged up the hill.  He denied that he was in the “…middle of the lane…” as the officer testified, but was rather towards the right half of the lane. During the prosecution’s cross examination Mr. Selz admitted that some traffic probably did slow down for him, stating “If they can’t make a lane change, yes, they would have to slow down and not run over me!”

I also tried to establish the plain silliness of the prosecution’s position.  Mr. Selz testified that he had only gone 45 mph once in his entire life, and then only on a long downhill run.  He testified that it was physically impossible for him to travel 45 mph on a normal flat road, let alone from a standing start at the bottom of a hill!

I also presented “expert testimony” in the form of an extremely experienced cyclist, Allan Byrum.  The prosecution stipulated that the expert would testify that Mr. Selz was operating his bicycle in a reasonable fashion and in a competent manner for a bicycle operator on State Route 49 at that point in time.  The expert also offered the opinion that Mr. Selz was traveling at a reasonable speed for a bicycle operator and that 45 mph is “…not only an unreasonable speed for a bicycle, it’s an unsafe speed for bicycles…” due to a variety of factors.

Once the facts were before the court, the court heard the arguments of counsel as to whether the City had proved its case against Mr. Selz.


The City of Trotwood Ordinance §333.04(a) states that

“No person shall stop or operate a vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when stopping or reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or to comply with law.”

The Prosecutor argued that, in essence, if you can’t go 45 mph on Salem Avenue, you should not ride on the road.  The prosecution claimed that it was that was “absurd” to allow bicycle operators to “impede traffic” because they can only go “…ten, fifteen, twenty, whatever, miles per hour and therefore become a danger to himself…” This concept of “protecting” the poor bicycle operator came through loud and clear from both the Prosecutor and the Court!

I argued that the most important word in the Trotwood ordinance was the word “traffic.”  “Traffic” is what cannot be impeded under the ordinance, so just what is “traffic” under the law?

State law tells us that traffic includes far more than cars and trucks and buses.  “Traffic” is defined to include “…pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars, trackless trolleys, and other devices either singly or together while using any highway for purposes of traveling.”  Thus a bicycle operator IS traffic  — the bicycle operator is part of the class of people PROTECTED by the statute.  The bicycle operator is one of those elements of traffic whose movement cannot be “impeded” under the law!

“Traffic,” I argued, is a broad and colorful piece of fabric, with many different threads.  Not all “traffic” goes, or is capable of going, 45 mph.  By including these slower moving objects in the definition of “traffic” the Ohio legislature [and the legislatures of virtually all 50 states] recognizes that vehicles of various capabilities and speeds are permitted on the roadways.  If a vehicle is going as fast as it can on a roadway on which the operator has the legal right to use, how can the operator be “impeding” traffic?

I also argued that bicycles were a unique type of vehicle.  Unlike motorized vehicles, the bicycle has an “engine” that tires and has a limited physical capacity.  Further, wind and weather impact the speed a bicycle can safely travel, as do potholes, debris and other road hazards.  No human on the planet can get a bicycle moving 45 mph uphill and it would be ridiculously unsafe to do so.  The legislature is presumed to know the limitations of bicycles [and huge farm equipment and Amish buggies] and, yet, permitted such vehicles to use to the roadways. Their slower speeds are not to be condemned and ticketed – they are to be accommodated!

The trial court, of course, did not buy this argument.  The court found Mr. Selz guilty as charged, stating

“…I certainly understand the impassioned defense on this case because I do believe that bicyclists need a place to ride and it is not safe a lot of times to ride it on the streets on 49. I don’t even think I’d ride there at 2:00 a.m. just because of the traffic. I don’t think it’s safe.”

After so “protecting” Mr. Selz from his own self, Judge Price found him guilty  of “impeding traffic” and fined Steve $100.00, plus costs.  A discussion with Mr. Selz and various bicycling folks then ensued over the question of whether this was a case to appeal.

If the case was appealed and lost, it could be a terrible blow.  A loss would mean that any community in Ohio could, in essence, ban bikes from any road on which a bicycle could not meet the speed limit.  This would amount to virtually every road in the state as how many of us can maintain a 25 mph pace  — the speed limit of virtually every subdivision in Ohio?

I liked the odds of appealing the case.  The Second Appellate District has a reputation for being fair and scholarly.  I liked our case on both the law and the facts.

There were five judges on the Court of Appeals.  Only three would hear an appeal, but you did not know WHICH three you got until you showed up for oral argument.  Checking with a friend of mine who once clerked for one of judges on the Second Appellate District, I discovered that two of the five judges were avid outdoorsy/bike riding types of folks who might be sympathetic to our arguments.  Of the remaining three, only one was likely to be opposed to our view.  The other two would keep an open mind and look closely at the legal arguments.  Given this scenario, we decided to proceed with an appeal.

This was the first time in my career that I had cooperated so closely with an advocacy group — The Ohio Bike Federation.  Chuck Smith and the OBF were fabulous and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  The OBF publicized the case on the webpage, which caused emails critical of Trotwood’s handling of the case to be sent from all over the WORLD to Trotwood.

I also provided the various court documents to be published on the OBF website,  This included my trial brief, the entire trial transcript, my appellate brief, the city’s brief and, ultimately, the court’s decision.  Further, the OBF started a Steven Selz Legal Defense Fund that collected money to help cover the cost of an appeal.  I agreed to handle the appeal pro bono.  However, we still had to “buy” a copy of the transcript and file it with the court.

Before we published all the material online, there were various versions of “the facts” of the case floating around.  Publishing the trial transcript allowed the true “facts” of the case to be known.  Further, I openly invited comments, criticism and ideas for the appeal and received dozens of emails, mostly friendly, about the case.  I had a number of email exchanges with cyclists from all over the country on the case, strategy, arguments and other issues.

Ultimately, the brief was prepared and filed.  This was a rather unique brief in that, in addition to typical legal arguments, I described a bit of the history of cycling in the United States and the impact cyclists, specifically the League of American Wheelmen, had in paving our roadways.   I wanted the court to understand that cyclists have a 100+ year history of using the roadways and were included in the very first “vehicle codes” ever published.  We added the brief to the website.

The City’s brief was also filed.  This provided us with some surprises.  The City virtually abandoned the view it took at trial.  Rather the City now argued that it was Mr. Selz’s position on the roadway as described by the officer, in combination with his “slow speed,” that made the conviction reasonable.  This was quite a change from the “get off the road if you can’t do 45mph” attitude the City had taken at trial.

I requested oral argument in the court of appeals.  I thought this would be a good way to really push our best points.  The City gave notice that its attorneys would NOT be appearing at the oral argument – another surprise and a signal that perhaps they were not going to fight TOO hard on this one.

Oral argument was in Dayton on October 2, 2000.  Chuck Smith from the OBF was in the audience.  Steve Selz had to work that day.  Our three judge panel consisted of one of the “outdoorsy” judges we wanted, one of the “fair/scholary” judges and the one judge we thought would oppose our arguments.  I thought the argument went extremely well.  I was able to toss in several historical “tidbits” about the development of paved roads without worrying about what the other side would say, since the other side elected not to show up!

On October 20, 2000, the Court of Appeals released its decision – a 2-1 victory for Steven Selz. The dissenting judge was the judge we thought would oppose our viewpoint while the other two felt Steve was wrongly convicted.


The court did a good bit of its own research and cited a case in Georgia involving a slow moving farm combine.  In that case, the Georgia court found that operator of a slow moving vehicle, which was traveling at or near its top speed, could not be convicted of “impeding traffic” under a similar law.  The Court of Appeals compared the Georgia case to this one and stated:

“In either case, holding the operator to have violated the slow speed statute would be tantamount to excluding operators of these vehicles from the public roadways, something that each legislative authority, respectively, has not clearly expressed an intention to do.”

The court DID note, though, that had Steve Selz been charged with violating Ohio’s “AFRAP” law [as far right as practicable] the court would have had to uphold a conviction.  An “AFRAP” violation is based on lane position.  SInce there was disputed evidence as to Steve’s lane position, the appeals court would have been required to accept the facts as found by the trial court.  Thus, if the trial court would have believed the officer over Steve as to where on the roadway he was riding, the appeals court would have been bound by such a finding.

In Steve’s case, though, the court was NOT bound by the trial judge’s legal conclusion that Steve was “impeding traffic.”  Since Steve’s case turned on an interpretation of law the appeals court was able to say that the trial court simply misinterpreted the “impeding traffic” law.

The appellate decision was picked for official publication and, on May 14, 2001, the case hit the desk of every lawyer in Ohio.  This publication gives the opinion increased importance and precedential value.

The appeal was not without risk. However, a reasoned analysis of the risk was undertaken and, with perfect 20-20 hindsight, it looks like we made a smart move. I hope this review of the case helps out someone considering a trial on their bicycling traffic matter! In a future column, I will discuss some tactics, techniques and tricks you can use in fighting bicycle traffic tickets.

If you search for “Trotwood v. Selz” on google, you can find citations and discussions of the case all over the country during these past 10 years or so.  What started out as a dinky little traffic ticket has become one of the important victories in the world of “Bike Law!”


Carlos Bertonatti, the pop singer charged with drunkenly running into, and killing,Florida bicycle rider Christopher LeCanne, is facing some new problems – relating to his passport, or more accurately “passports.”

According to the Miami New Times, prosecutors filed a motion to return Bertonatti to jail after he had posted a $100,000.00 bond.  The reason, according to the report, was that Bertonatti “lied to Judge David Miller” about possessing only a Venezuelan passport and because he has a history of missing court appearances in traffic cases.

The New Miami Times reports, “…According to prosecutors, Bertonatti has “an additional passport issued by Argentina,” which he didn’t see fit to mention during his bond hearing.   What’s more, prosecutors say that Bertonatti has missed court hearings on four separate occasions in the past on traffic charges.  Strangely, prosecutors also testified in court that they have reason to believe that Bertonatti may actually hold a third passport that he didn’t mention in his bond hearing, from Romania, of all places…”

In this case, Bertonatti is charged with being over the 0.08% BAC limit [he reportedly blew a 0.122%] and with hitting, and killing, a bicycle operator and then leaving the scene, dragging the  man’s bicycle for miles while the cyclist lay bleeding to death on the side of the road.

On January 8,2010, he received a speeding ticket for going 80mph in a 50mph zone.  Nine days later, he allegedly struck and killed the cyclist.  This crash occurred in the morning.  He is facing charges of felony DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, driving without a license, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and resisting arrest. He has entered a Not Guilty plea.

On February 8, 2010, reported as follows:

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge David Miller ruled that Carlos G. Bertonatti, 28, should be held without bond after prosecutors alleged he was not entirely truthful when he told the court he had only a Venezuelan passport.

Bertonatti holds another passport from Argentina, which federal agents discovered. Bertonatti has also listed himself as a citizen of Romania, in addition to residential-alien status in the United States.

Armed with evidence of Bertonatti’s multiple citizenships, Miller granted the wish of prosecutors, who feared the suspect might flee the country to evade prosecution.

“The web of deceit has caught up with him,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle said. “He can’t bond out and now he’s got to sit there, in jail, and wait.””



By Steven M. Magas, Ohio’s Bike Lawyer[1]

Have you ever wondered what “The Law” actually SAYS about riding a bicycle?  Many Ohio riders are familiar with some of the common rules or phrases.  The “AFRAP” rule, for example.  Many of us also have a sense that we have a “right” to ride our bicycles on the roadway, but where does that right come from? What limitations are there on that right? Can that right be taken away? Can cities pass their own bike laws? Can those be different from State Law?

A few years ago, a number of us on the Board of the Ohio Bicycle Federation took on the challenge of listing the most important laws applicable to cyclists in Ohio.  You can read the actual results of our efforts on the OBF’s website.

Below are annotated excerpts of laws that EVERY Ohio Cyclist should be familiar with – at least those who want to venture out on the roadway. I’ve highlighted in bold some of the most critical language and have added my own commentary in italics to the original OBF commentary.


Where to start? Why at the beginning of course – with Title 45 of the Ohio Revised Code. “Title 45” contains the laws that govern operation of all vehicles on Ohio roads, including bicycles.  The laws describe what a driver is required to do or prohibited from doing. But laws do not tell people how to drive.  That is the function of a driver’s manual.


You can find ALL Ohio laws in the Ohio Revised Code, and the Traffic Laws in Title 45.  If you actually go to the library and want to pull the books off the shelf, the entire Ohio Revised Code is a huge set of bright red books. The traffic laws are found in Title 45. Chapter 4511 of Title 45 contains the “Rules of the Road” and Chapter 4513 has the equipment rules.


Be warned, though, that these are only the STATE laws.  There are 88 counties in Ohio and hundreds of cities, villages, and other political jurisdictions. Each political body can and does pass its own laws.  You will find local laws governing bicycle riding in many of these municipalities.


Below – after the Law discussion –I am including a discussion of this “Home Rule” issue… however, Bottom Line, ALWAYS CONSULT LOCAL LISTINGS for additional laws applicable in your neighborhood!


SO, without further ado, I present….. Ohio’s Bike Laws…



  • 4501.01.  Definitions. As used in this chapter and Chapters 4503., 4505., 4507., 4509., 4511.,4513., 4515., and 4517. of the Revised Code, and in the penal laws, except as otherwise provided:

(A)”Vehicle” means every device, including a motorized bicycle, in, upon, or by which any person or property may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except that “vehicle” does not include any motorized wheelchair, any electric personal assistive mobility device, any device that is moved by power collected from overhead electric trolley wires or that is used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks, or any device, other than a bicycle, that is moved by human power.


(G) “Bicycle” means every device, other than a tricycle designed solely for use as a play vehicle by a child, propelled solely by human power upon which any person may ride having two tandem wheels, or one wheel in the front and two wheels in the rear, or two wheels in the front and one wheel in the rear, any of which is more than fourteen inches in diameter.

Comment: A History Lesson is in order here.  In the 1880’s bicycle operators wielded a LOT of political power.  The “Good Roads Movement” was an organized political effort to force municipalities to pave roads.  Farmers and cyclists banded together with some business interests, but cyclists led the way. The newly formed “League of American Bicyclists” developed a following of more than 1,000,000 very quickly.  Courts began to recognize cyclists as having rights on the roadways, particularly when those new-fangled MOTOR vehicles started popping up!

In the late 1800’s the very first Vehicle Codes started to be written to try to put some order on the roadways.  In virtually every case, including Ohio, a “bicycle” was included in the definition of “vehicle”  and was recognized as having a right to the roadway. Certain special provisions for bikes were put into play, but all in all, cyclists used their political clout to get us a spot on the pavement!

In Ohio, a bicycle is defined as a vehicle and thus is governed by a uniform set of rules common to all vehicles and a small set of specific rules for bicycles.  (There are other specific rules for other vehicle types, such as trucks or busses.)  The definition of what types of things are “bicycles” was recently revised to be broader in scope.  The annotated list below summarizes the most important parts of the traffic rules and equipment rules that govern bicycle driving.  People who try to make up their own rules have an accident rate five times higher than knowledgeable cyclists who follow the rules of the road.

  • 4511.07.  Local traffic regulations. (A) Sections 4511.01 to 4511.78, 4511.99, and 4513.01 to 4513.37 of the Revised Code do not prevent local authorities from carrying out the following activities with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power:


(8) Regulating the operation of bicycles: provided that no such regulation shall be fundamentally inconsistent with the uniform rules of the road prescribed by this chapter and that no such regulation shall prohibit the use of bicycles on any public street or highway except as provided in section 4511.051 of the Revised Code;

(9) Requiring the registration and licensing of bicycles, including the requirement of a registration fee for residents of the local authority;

(B) No ordinance or regulation enacted under division (A)(4), (5), (6), (7), (8), or (10) of this section shall be effective until signs giving notice of the local traffic regulations are posted upon or at the entrance to the highway or part of the highway affected, as may be most appropriate.

Comment: When we looked at the state of the law in preparing the 2006 Better Bicycling Bill, there was a lot of discussion of the patchwork quilt of local laws that all of us faced.  In the Cincinnati area alone, there are more than FORTY separate jurisdictions capable of passing “bike laws.”  The number near Cleveland was even higher.  Since there was no restriction on what those laws could say, we often found neighboring cities would have wildly different “bike laws.” Not only did this make it difficult for cyclists to know and obey local law, it just didn’t make sense.

The most important of the reforms passed in the 2006 Better Bicycling Bill requires that any local regulations be consistent with the uniform rules of the road.  In addition, signs are required to tell of any permitted local regulations.  Unfortunately, some communities have been very slow to remove non-conforming ordinances that mandate unsafe practices.

  • 4511.22.  Slow Speed

(A) No person shall stop or operate a vehicle, trackless trolley, or street car at such an unreasonably slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when stopping or reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or to comply with law.


(C) In a case involving a violation of this section, the trier of fact, in determining whether the vehicle was being operated at an unreasonably slow speed, shall consider the capabilities of the vehicle and its operator.

Comment: The “slow speed” statute was amended in 2006 as the result of a case I handled – State v. Selz.  In the Selz case, Steve Selz was a true “transportation cyclist” – he owned no car and went everywhere by bike.  In 1999, Steve was riding on S.R. 44 in Trotwood – a 5 lane, 45 mph roadway.  After stopping at a light, Steve pedaled off in the right lane, with cars behind him.  A police officer didn’t like seeing the cars behind him and pulled him over, citing him for “impeding traffic.”

I took the case pro bono, to try to help Steve out.  At trial, we presented expert testimony that what Steve did was perfectly appropriate and that his speed was appropriate FOR A CYCLIST.  The prosecution argued that if he could not travel at the 45 mph speed limit, he shouldn’t be on the road blocking “traffic.”  I argued that under the definition of traffic in the Revised Code, Steve WAS “traffic” just like any slow moving vehicle.

The trial judge disagreed and found Steve Guilty.  We appealed and, with the help of the OBF, publicized Steve’s case through the Internet.  Trotwood got emails from all over the WORLD chastising it for prosecuting Steve.  We won a 2-1 decision on appeal, with the court holding that in analyzing an “impeding traffic” charge, the court must consider the capabilities of the vehicle and its operator.  Since the officer conceded that Steve was going at a reasonable speed for a cyclist, the court overturned the conviction.

When we looked at the state of the law in preparing the 2006 Better Bicycling Bill, we thought it would be important to change the “Slow Speed” statute to incorporate the holding of State v. Selz and the highlighted language was added.

  • 4511.25.  Lanes of travel upon roadways of sufficient width.

(A) Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle or trackless trolley shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway except as follows:

(1) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, or when making a left turn under the rules governing such movements;

(2) When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway; provided, any person so doing shall yield the right of way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway within such distance as to constitute an immediate hazard;

(3) When driving upon a roadway divided into three or more marked lanes for traffic under the rules applicable thereon;

(4) When driving upon a roadway designated and posted with signs for one-way traffic;

(5) When otherwise directed by a police officer or traffic control device.

(B)(1) Upon all roadways any vehicle or trackless trolley proceeding at less than the prevailing and lawful speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, and far enough to the right to allow passing by faster vehicles if such passing is safe and reasonable, except under any of the following circumstances:

(a) When overtaking and passing another vehicle or trackless trolley proceeding in the same direction:

(b) When preparing for a left turn;

(c) When the driver must necessarily drive in a lane other than the right-hand lane to continue on the driver’s intended route.

(B)(2) Nothing in division (B)(1) of this section requires a driver of a slower vehicle to compromise the driver’s safety to allow overtaking by a faster vehicle.

Comment: Section 4511.25(A) is a general rule that applies to all vehicles, including bicycles.  Some people think it is safer to ride on the left to “see traffic coming”.  This is illegal and wrong!  Pedestrians walk facing traffic so they can sidestep off the road if necessary.  But you cannot sidestep a bike.  Riding on the left is both illegal and dangerous.  Crash statistics show that wrong way riding has about 3½ times the risk as riding on the right.

Section 4511.25(B) simply means that slower vehicles should not unnecessarily delay faster traffic.  (See also § 4511.55 below.)  The language of (B)(2) is important as it gives a bicycle operator the right to make decisions, when being passed, based on safety concerns.

  • 4511.27.  Overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction. The following rules govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles or trackless trolleys proceeding in the same direction:

(A) The operator of a vehicle or trackless trolley overtaking another vehicle or trackless trolley proceeding in the same direction shall … pass to the left thereof at a safe distance, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle or trackless trolley.

(B) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the operator of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle at the latter’s audible signal, and he shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

Comment: Since cyclists usually ride near the right side of the road, beginners are tempted to pass slow or stopped traffic on the right, especially in a “bicycle lane” with a painted line.  Passing on the right is often dangerous and, in many cases, illegal.

There is a move afoot to add a “three foot rule” to the passing law.  In 2009 a bill was introduced into the Ohio legislature [HB 174] which would establish a safe passing distance of “not less than three feet” whenever a motor vehicle overtakes a bicycle.  In 2013 another bill was introduced, but it died in the Ohio Senate. In 2015 the bill was re-introduced again.  This time we think the bill has some legs.  At this writing [June 2015], the bill is expected to move out of Committee and to the floor of the House in the next week or so. Hopefully, by the NEXT time I edit this page the bill will have become law. I have testified several times in Columbus on “bike” bills, and hope to do so again on this one.

  • 4511.31.  Hazardous zones

(A) The department of transportation may determine those portions of any state highway where overtaking and passing other traffic or driving to the left of the center or center line of the roadway would be especially hazardous and may, by appropriate signs or markings on the highway, indicate the beginning and end of such zones. …

(B) Division (A) of this section does not apply when all of the following apply:

(1) The slower vehicle is proceeding at less than half the speed of the speed limit applicable to that location.

(2) The faster vehicle is capable of overtaking and passing the slower vehicle without exceeding the speed limit.

(3) There is sufficient clear sight distance to the left of the center or center line of the roadway to meet the overtaking and passing provisions of section 4511.29 of the Revised Code, considering the speed of the slower vehicle.

Comment: Section 4511.31(B) should help reduce tension between cyclists and faster drivers.  Now, they can pass in “no passing” zones IF passing is safe and the three elements of Section (B) are met.  This was an important addition to the law which we incorporated in the 2006 Better Bicycling Bill.

  • 4511.36.  Rules for turns at intersections. The driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall be governed by the following rules:

(A) Approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

(B) At any intersection where traffic is permitted to move in both directions on each roadway entering the intersection, an approach for a left turn shall be made in that portion of the right half of the roadway nearest the center line thereof and by passing to the right of such center line where it enters the intersection and after entering the intersection the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection to the right of the center line of the roadway being entered.  Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection.

Comment: The rules for turns are exactly the same for bicycles as for other vehicles – merge to the appropriate position (right for right turns, left for left turns), yield to any traffic that has the right of way and then turn.  A cyclist also has the option to make turns as a pedestrian by dismounting and walking the bicycle through the intersection.

Getting into position for a left turn may involve merging across lanes of traffic.  If traffic is heavy, you should start doing this early to take advantage of gaps in traffic.  Otherwise, there may not be a gap when you need it.  Beginners, who have not yet developed the skill to merge in traffic, may make pedestrian-style turns instead.

Interesting to note the use of that word, “Practicable.”  It comes up below in one of the most important rules of the road for cyclists, yet is completely UNDEFINED in the Ohio Revised Code.  If you do a search of the entire O.R.C. for the word, you get 24PAGES of “hits.”  Obviously, it’s a word the legislature likes~!

In most laws, the use of the word “practicable” comes in the phrase “as soon as practicable” and defines a time when some act must be completed.  Another use is found in the Rules for Use of Alternating Current”  in MINES [
§ 1567.17] as follows: If feed wires are installed in entries that are not equipped with trolleys, they are to be installed as close to the rib as practicable.

Clearly “practicable” has a meaning that includes SAFETY built into it.  This is what I have been arguing for years.

  • 4511.39.  Turn and stop signals. No person shall turn a vehicle or trackless trolley or move right or left upon a highway unless and until such person has exercised due care to ascertain that the movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.

When required, a signal of intention to turn or move right or left shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle or trackless trolley before turning, except that in the case of a person operating a bicycle, the signal shall be made not less than one time but is not required to be continuous.  A bicycle operator is not required to make a signal if the bicycle is in a designated turn lane, and a signal shall not be given when the operator’s hands are needed for the safe operation of the bicycle. …

Comment: Never turn or change lanes without first yielding to any traffic that has the right of way, and give a signal if possible.  However, skip the signal if your hand is needed for control or brakes.

  • 4511.40.  Hand and arm signals. (A) Except as provided in division (B) of this section, all signals required by sections 4511.01 to 4511.78 of the Revised Code, when given by hand and arm, shall be given from the left side of the vehicle in the following manner, and such signals shall indicate as follows:
    (1) Left turn, hand and arm extended horizontally;
    (2) Right turn, hand and arm extended upward;
    (3) Stop or decrease speed, hand and arm extended downward.

(B) As an alternative to division (A)(2) of this section, a person operating a bicycle may give a right turn signal by extending the right hand and arm horizontally and to the right side of the bicycle.

Comment: The right-arm turn signal described in (B) above is more easily understood. This change in the law was brought about in 19__

  • 4511.52.  Bicycles – issuance of ticket – points not assessed.

(A) Sections 4511.01 to 4511.78, 4511.99, and 4513.01 to 4513.37, of the Revised Code that are applicable to bicycles apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

(B) Except as provided in division (D) of this section, a bicycle operator who violates any section of the Revised Code described in division (A) of this section that is applicable to bicycles may be issued a ticket, citation, or summons by a law enforcement officer for the violation in the same manner as the operator of a motor vehicle would be cited for the same violation.  A person who commits any such violation while operating a bicycle shall not have any points assessed against the person’s driver’s license, commercial driver’s license, temporary instruction permit, or probationary license under section 4510.036 of the Revised Code.

(C) Except as provided in division (D) of this section, in the case of a violation of any section of the Revised Code described in division (A) of this section by a bicycle operator or by a motor vehicle operator when the trier of fact finds that the violation by the motor vehicle operator endangered the lives of bicycle riders at the time of the violation, the court, notwithstanding any provision of the Revised Code to the contrary, may require the bicycle operator or motor vehicle operator to take and successfully complete a bicycling skills course approved by the court in addition to or in lieu of any penalty otherwise prescribed by the Revised Code for that violation.

Comment: 4511.52(A) Means that the standard traffic rules apply to bicycle drivers.  These driving laws allow safe, fast and efficient travel.  Riding on sidewalks or multi-use “bike paths” is moderately safe only if done at slow speeds and extremely carefully.  Riding on paths is popular for recreation but provides only limited utility for transportation.  Path riding is not covered in this digest.  (B) Means that bicycle violators may be ticketed but will not have “points” assessed against any driver’s license, except for a DWI offense.  (C) allows judges to offer a cycling skills course to violators.

  • 4511.54.  Prohibition against attaching bicycles and sleds to vehicles. No person riding upon any bicycle, coaster, roller skates, sled, or toy vehicle shall attach the same or self to any streetcar, trackless trolley, or vehicle upon a roadway.
  • 4511.55.  Operating bicycles and motorcycles on roadway.

(A) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles and exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.

(B) Persons riding bicycles or motorcycles upon a roadway shall ride not more than two abreast in a single lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles or motorcycles.

(C) This section does not require a person operating a bicycle to ride at the edge of the roadway when it is unreasonable or unsafe to do so.  Conditions that may require riding away from the edge of the roadway include when necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, surface hazards, or if it otherwise is unsafe or impracticable to do so, including if the lane is too narrow for the bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

Comment: Section 4511.55(A) is one of the most important, and misquoted, bike laws in Ohio.  Many [including police officers] will tell cyclists that they are required to ride “as near as possible” to the curb.  That’s NOT what it says.  The word “practicable” is an odd word, but a word that clearly incorporates the notion of SAFETY.

The new paragraph (C)- added in the 2006 Better Bicycling Bill – should help reduce this confusion.  There are many conditions where it is much safer to ride near the middle of the lane.  It is not obviously not practicable (practice-able) to ride on the far right when passing on the left, or turning left.  As you ride you will need to avoid objects in the gutter, parked cars, moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface or other hazards.  If the travel lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to pass safely side by side within the lane you will want to move over and “take” the lane.

Many cycling experts will testify under oath that cyclists should NOT hug the white line, but rather should ride a few feet off the white line.  This makes the bicycle operator more “conspicuous” and keeps a margin of safety to the right for the rider. A cyclist who “hugs the curb” unintentionally invites motorists to pass with unsafe clearance.  I’ve often written that the lane divider, or center lines, are almost like a plate of glass to a motorist passing a cyclist and if the motorist thinks she/he can squeeze in between the cyclist and the divider line, they will do it regularly. Riding a few feet off the white line, or near the middle of a narrow lane helps overtaking motorists realize that they must “break the plane” of glass and use the next lane to pass.

The real purpose of this law is to prevent unnecessary delay to faster traffic.  However, NO law mandates unsafe operation and the phrase as near right as practicable is highly flexible, varying widely according to conditions.  Positions well away from the edge of the road can be in compliance.

Section 4511.55(B) allows riding two abreast.  As a matter of courtesy, not law, I believe cyclists should avoid unnecessary delay to other traffic.  Please be courteous and “single up” when other drivers wish to pass if such passing is safe and reasonable.  By doing so, you cause the meter measuring Public Opinion to slide ever so slightly in our favor!

As a matter of LAW, however, cyclists have the legal right to ride two abreast and NOT give way – at least until a vehicle starts a passing maneuver.  In State v. Patrick, 153 Ohio Misc.2d 20, Tony Patrick and another rider were riding two abreast when a police officer ordered them to get off the road.  They refused and Tony was ultimately stopped, TASER-ed, beaten and arrested by police.  However, the trial judge dismissed all charges holding, in part, that cyclists have the right to ride two abreast.  The judge in that case, a cyclist himself, stated that while cyclists SHOULD display courtesy to motorists, there is no legal requirement that they give way.

There is no violation if any of the following apply:  (1) If there is no traffic being delayed; (2) If the cyclists are traveling as fast as other traffic; (3) If traffic can reasonably pass by using another lane; (4) If the lane is too narrow or it is otherwise unsafe for passing.

  • 4511.56.  Bicycle signal devices.

(A) Every bicycle when in use at the times specified in section 4513.03 of the Revised Code, shall be equipped with the following:

(1) A lamp mounted on the front of either the bicycle or the operator that shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front and three hundred feet to the sides.  A generator-powered lamp that emits light only when the bicycle is moving may be used to meet this requirement.

(2) A red reflector on the rear that shall be visible from all distances from one hundred feet to six hundred feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle;

(3) A lamp emitting either flashing or steady red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear shall be used in addition to the red reflector.  If the red lamp performs as a reflector in that it is visible as specified in division (A)(2) of this section, the red lamp may serve as the reflector and a separate reflector is not required.

(B) Additional lamps and reflectors may be used in addition to those required under division (A) of this section, except that red lamps and red reflectors shall not be used on the front of the bicycle and white lamps and white reflectors shall not be used on the rear of the bicycle.

(C) A bicycle may be equipped with a device capable of giving an audible signal, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.

(D) Every bicycle shall be equipped with an adequate brake when used on a street or highway.

Comment: An unseen cyclist is in great danger.  According to the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety data for 2007, about 62 percent of fatal bicycle crashes in Ohio occur during non-daylight hours (even though few cyclists ride then).   The reflectors that come with new bikes are grossly inadequate for nighttime visibility.  Always use both a headlight and taillight when you ride in the dark.

  • 4511.711.  Driving upon sidewalk area. No person shall drive any vehicle, other than a bicycle, upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway.

Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting local authorities from regulating the operation of bicycles within their respective jurisdictions, except that no local authority may require that bicycles be operated on sidewalks.

Comment: Sidewalk riding is controversial.  In the 2006 Better Bicycling Bill we added the highlighted language to this code section.  We felt it was EXTREMELY important to make sure local authorities knew that they could not “ban” bicycle operation by mandating that bicycles only be ridden on the sidewalk.  By the same token, we did not want to prevent communities from banning sidewalk riding.

Sidewalk riding is generally more dangerous than riding on the roadway.  Accident studies show that even low-speed sidewalk riding has about double the accident rate as riding on the road.  The danger increases with speed.  If you ride on the sidewalk, every intersection and even every driveway is a potential collision site.  Motorists crossing your path do not look for conflicting traffic on the sidewalk, especially if you are coming from the “wrong way”.

While there is no statewide ban on sidewalk riding, there are MANY jurisdictions that have some sort of sidewalk ban in place.  In some cities, you are just flat out banned from riding a bike on the sidewalk.  Some ban riding in a defined “business district” and others take the approach of banning riders over a certain age from riding on the sidewalk, while allowing young children to ride. As always, consult local listings for the laws in place near YOU.





As I pointed out above, Ohio cities have the power to draft their own laws – including traffic laws, and “bike laws.” Historically, we have had problems develop when neighboring cities passed conflicting laws governing bicycle operation.


In 2006, the Ohio Bicycle Federation developed and pushed through the legislature a series of “Bike Law” reforms that, among other things, prohibited local jurisdictions from passing local bike laws that conflict with state law.


I wish I could say “Voila – problem solved” but that’s not the case.


Ohio is a “home rule” state. This means our Ohio Constitution allows local jurisdictions a lot of power in passing their own laws. Whenever there’s a conflict between state and local laws someone may file a lawsuit challenging one or the other. Often the city attorney argues that the city has the power to pass laws which differ from state law. These are long, drawn out and EXPENSIVE law suits requiring a tremendous amount of legal work. These battles are usually fought by large corporations or big special interest groups.


Two recent examples of “home rule” litigation bear this out. In the “Tow Truck Case – City of Cleveland v. State of Ohio” of 2014, the city of Cleveland had rules for tow truck operators and the state had passed a law giving the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio [PUCO] the exclusive power to regulate “for hire motor carriers.” The state included tow trucks in the definition of “for hire motor carriers.” The City of Cleveland sued the State of Ohio, claiming the state law was unconstitutional based on the constitutional “home rule” provisions. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed – holding that a sentence of state law was unconstitutional and allowing the city to regulate tow trucks.


In 2015, “Fracking” laws came under fire. The city of Munroe Falls had long standing laws governing any mining or drilling operations within its boundaries. Later, the state passed laws relative to obtaining mining permits throughout the state. Beck Energy obtained a state permit and started drilling, but was ordered to stop its “fracking” efforts by Munroe Falls based on the city’s mining ordinances. Beck sued…and won. The Supreme Court held that here state law controlled and cities throughout Ohio had no power to control mining within their boundaries.


How do Tow Trucks and Mining play into “Bike Laws,” you ask? Well, let’s say your city decides that it is “too dangerous” for you to ride your bike down Main Street during rush hour, so it passes a bike ban. You point out that state law prohibits bike bans. The city says, under Home Rule we can do what we want…


Perhaps a better example is the one I encountered in one of my cases. The City of Pickerington, near Columbus, had a law which required cyclists to use a sidewalk if one was adjacent to the road. State law clearly says that cyclists cannot be banned from most roads and that cyclists cannot be forced to use the sidewalk. My client was riding on the road. He was rear-ended by an elderly driver and suffered a severe brain injury. Pickerington Police wrote the report and held my client “at fault” for “riding on the road” when there was an adjacent sidewalk. I reached out to the City Attorney and suggested that the city’s ordinance conflicted with state law. I asked if the city really wanted to get into a long legal battle over this issue – he agreed that it did not. The report was amended to reflect that state law trumped the city ordinance and the crash case proceeded. Had the city not been as cooperative I may have had serious problems in pursuing money damages for a client who did absolutely nothing wrong.


[1] Steve Magas, Ohio’s Bike Lawyer, is an avid cyclist and Ohio trial lawyer whose law practice has focused on protecting the rights of riders for more than 30 years.  Steve has handled more than 350 “bike cases,” in which cyclists have been hurt or killed.  Steve also sits on the Board of Trustees of the Ohio Bicycle Federation and regularly publishes articles on the legal aspects of cycling.  Steve co-authored “Bicycling and the Law” with Olympic-cyclist-turned-lawyer, Bob Mionske.  Steve’s practice stretches throughout Ohio and he has represented cyclists in every corner of Ohio– from Cincinnati to Cleveland – Columbus to Portsmouth – Bellefontaine to Marietta – Toledo to Youngstown – Mansfield – Springfield – Akron – Canton – and more.