The following is a summary of the Michigan Compiled Law (MCL), Motor Vehicle Code (MVC) and Administrative Rules pertaining to bicyclists. Local ordinances may not supersede the MVC, MCL or Administrative Rules unless explicitly specified in statute. For more details concerning the following laws and penalties, please review the complete MVC at the Michigan State Legislature website. The following excerpts also appear in the Appendix of What Every Michigan Bicyclist Must Know.
1. Is a bicycle considered a vehicle in Michigan?
No. MCL 257.79 defines a “vehicle” as:
“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…”
2. What is the definition of a bicycle?
MCL 257.4 defines a “bicycle” as:
“…a device propelled by human power upon which a person may ride, having either 2 or 3 wheels in a tandem or tricycle arrangement, all of which are over 14 inches in diameter.”
3. Where do Michigan laws apply to bicyclists?
MCL 257.656(3) states:
“The regulations applicable to bicycles under sections 656 to 662 shall apply when a bicycle is operated upon a highway or upon a path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, subject to those exceptions stated in sections 656 to 662.”
4. Does a bicyclist have to obey the same traffic laws as a motorist?
Yes, with exceptions. MCL 257.657 states:
“Each person riding a bicycle…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.”
This includes obeying stop signs and stop lights.
5. Does a bicyclist have to signal their turns?
Yes. MCL 257.648 states:
“When a person is operating a bicycle and signal is given by means of the hand and arm, the operator shall signal as follows:
(a) Left turn…extend…hand and arm horizontally.
(b) Right turn…extend…left hand and arm upward or… right hand and arm horizontally.
(c) Stop or decrease speed…extend…hand and arm downward.”
6. Does a bicyclist have to ride with the direction of traffic?
Yes. MCL 257.634 (1) states:
“Upon each roadway of sufficient width, the driver of a vehicle shall drive the vehicle upon the right half of the roadway…”
Since a bicyclist has all the rights and is subject to all the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle according to MCL Section 257.657, they must generally ride in the right half of the roadway. MCL 257.660a outlines specific exceptions due to hazards and road conditions. These include if a road is “too narrow to permit a vehicle to safely overtake and pass a bicycle” in accordance with Michigan’s 3-Foot Passing Law (MCL 257.637). On one-way roads, bicyclists can ride on the left side of the road (see question 7).
7. Where in the right half of the roadway must a bicyclist ride?
MCL 257.660a states:
“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 except as follows:
(a) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
(b) When preparing to turn left.
(c) When conditions make the right-hand edge of the roadway unsafe or reasonably unusable by bicycles, including, but not limited to, surface hazards, an uneven roadway surface, drain openings, debris, parked or moving vehicles or bicycles, pedestrians, animals, or other obstacles, or if the lane is too narrow to permit a vehicle to safely overtake and pass a bicycle.
(d) When operating a bicycle in a lane in which the traffic is turning right but the individual intends to go straight through the intersection.
(e) When operating a bicycle upon a 1-way highway or street that has 2 or more marked traffic lanes, in which case the individual may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.”
8. Can a bicyclist be ticketed for impeding traffic if they are traveling on a roadway and obeying all rules of the road?
No.Bicyclists are considered traffic based on MCL 257.69 and have the same rights and responsibilities applicable to the driver of a vehicle according to MCL 257.657. The spirit of the impeding traffic statute, MCL 257.676b, is intended to refer to stationary objects such as a vehicle parked across the roadway with the intention of obstructing traffic. Some bicyclists have been warned and even cited with violating MCL 257.676b. Multiple Michigan judges, however, have ruled that the statute does not apply to bicyclists lawfully traveling on a public roadway.
MCL 257.69 states: … “traffic means pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, street cars and other conveyances either singly or together while using any highway for purposes of travel.”
9. May bicyclists ride two abreast?
Yes. MCL 257.660b states:
“Two or more individuals operating bicycles upon a highway or street shall not ride more than 2 abreast except upon a path or portion of the highway or street set aside for the use of bicycles.”
10. Is it legal to ride between lanes?
No. MCL 257.660(4) does not allow passing between lanes of traffic.
“(4) A person operating a motorcycle, moped, low-speed vehicle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or electric skateboard shall not pass between lines of traffic, but may pass on the left of traffic moving in his or her direction in the case of a 2-way street or on the left or right of traffic in the case of a 1-way street, in an unoccupied lane.” Bicyclists may only pass on the right if there is a dedicated bicycle facility.
11. Must a bicyclist ride on the sidewalk? Is it legal? What about crosswalks?
State law does not require bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk. State law also does not prohibit sidewalk riding, but does offer a provision to allow it to be regulated locally through ordinance and posted signs. MCL 257.660c states:
(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.
(10) 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.
(11) 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.”
LMB does not generally recommend riding on the sidewalk because of safety hazards to the bicyclist and pedestrians.
12. Must a bicyclist ride in a bike lane or a side path?
No. State law does not require bicyclists to use bike lanes, even if present. In 2006, MCL 257.660 (3) was amended, removing “bicyclists” from being required to use side paths.
13. Is it legal to ride on a limited-access highway (expressway)?
No. MCL 257.679a(1) states:
“… nor shall a…bicycle, except as provided in this section…be permitted on a limited access highway in this state. Bicycles shall be permitted on paths constructed separately from the roadway and designated for the exclusive use of bicycles.”
14. Does a bicyclist have to wear a helmet?
State Law does not require bicyclists to wear helmets. LMB strongly recommends helmet use, however, since they are proven to help prevent serious brain injuries.
15. Does a bicyclist have to use lights?
Yes. MCL 257.662 states:
(1) “A bicycle…being operated on a roadway between 1⁄2 hour after sunset and 1⁄2 hour before sunrise shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.”
In addition to a rear reflector, LMB strongly recommends using a rear red light, even though state law does not require it. A bicyclist may only use a “white” light on the front. A “blue” light is reserved for emergency services and may not be used. A “white” light may not be used on the rear of a bicycle.
MCL 257.662 (4) and (5) makes it illegal to sell a bicycle or bike pedal without pedal reflectors, or a bike without “either tires which have reflective sidewalls or with wide-angle prismatic spoke reflectors.”
16. Is Does the law require brakes on bicycles?
Yes. MCL 257.662(2) states:
“A bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.”
17. Is it legal to park on the street? Where can bicyclists park on a sidewalk?
MCL 257.660d states:
(1) “An individual may park a bicycle on a sidewalk except as prohibited by an official traffic control device.
(18) An individual shall not park a bicycle on a sidewalk in such a manner that the bicycle impedes the lawful movement of pedestrians or other traffic.
(19) An individual may park a bicycle on a highway or street at any location where parking is allowed for motor vehicles, may park at any angle to the curb or the edge of the highway, and may park abreast of another bicycle.
(20) An individual shall not park a bicycle on a highway or street in such a manner as to obstruct the movement of a legally parked motor vehicle.
(21) Except as otherwise provided in this section, an individual parking a bicycle on a highway or street shall do so in compliance with this act and any local ordinance.”
18. Is it legal to use a cell phone or text while riding a bicycle?
Only if the cell phone is in hands-free mode. MCL 257.661 states:
“A person operating a bicycle…shall not carry any package, bundle, or article that prevents the driver from keeping both hands upon the handlebars of the vehicle.”
19. Is there a three-foot passing law in Michigan? Can a driver pass bicyclists in no-passing zones?
Yes. Public Acts 279 and 280 of 2018 were signed into law effective September 2018. MCL 257.636 states:
“(1) The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules stated in sections 637 to 643a:
(a) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance to the left of that vehicle, and when safely clear of the overtaken vehicle shall take up a position as near the right-hand edge of the main traveled portion of the highway as is practicable.
(b) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.
(2) A person who violates this section is responsible for a civil infraction.”
Additionally, at least nine communities in Michigan have enacted local five-foot passing ordinances.
MCL 257.637 states:
“(3) The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall, when otherwise permitted by this section, pass at a distance of 3 feet to the right of that bicycle or, if it is impracticable to pass the bicycle at a distance of 3 feet to the right, at a safe distance to the right of that bicycle at a safe speed.
(4) A person who violates this section is responsible for a civil infraction.”
Additionally, at least nine communities have enacted local five-foot passing ordinances.
20. What other rules must a motorist follow when overtaking or following a bicyclist?
MCL 257.627 states:
(1) “A person operating a vehicle on a highway shall operate that vehicle at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition then existing. A person shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than that which will permit a stop within the assured, clear distance ahead.”
Motorists must have their vehicle under control when following a bicyclist to be able to react safely if the bicyclist has to make an emergency maneuver.
21. Can you be charged with a DUI while riding your bicycle?
No. Although it is dangerous to ride while intoxicated, a bicycle is not a motor vehicle according to state law. DUI applies only to motor vehicle operators. Other laws may apply however, such as disorderly conduct.
22. What are the penalties for a bicyclist violating the MVC?
MCL 257.656 states:
(1) “A person who violates any of sections 656 to 661a is responsible for a civil infraction.
(2) The parent of a child or the guardian of a ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit the child or ward to violate this chapter.”
23. If a bicyclist is cited for a violation, does it go on their driving record?
No. The violations are civil infractions and do not go on a person’s driving record. There are no points associated with a bicycle violation.
24. Is it legal to carry another person on a bicycle? What about a child seat?
No, unless the seat is designed to be attached. This allows for the legal use of a child seat since it is designed to be attached to the bicycle. MCL 257.658 states:
(1) “A person propelling a bicycle … shall not ride other than upon and astride a
permanent and regular seat attached …
(9) A bicycle … shall not be used to carry more persons at 1 time than the number for which it is designed and equipped.”
25. Is it legal to grab onto another vehicle to “hitch a ride”?
No. MCL 257.659 states
“A person riding upon a bicycle … shall not attach the same or himself to a streetcar or vehicle upon a roadway.”
26. What is the definition of a roadway?
MCL 257.55 states:
“Roadway means that portion of a highway improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.”
Therefore, the gutter is not considered part of the roadway.
27. Does a bicyclist have to carry a driver’s license?
No. The law does not require you to carry a driver’s license. If involved in a law violation, however, law enforcement may detain you long enough to ascertain and verify your identity.
LMB strongly recommends that all bicyclists carry a photo ID and emergency contact information when riding. Law enforcement or safety personnel may need to identify you in case of an emergency. If you have health issues of any kind, it is critical that you carry identification that identifies you and your health issues.
28. What are the laws regarding the use of electric bicycles?
Public Acts 138, 139, and 140 of 2017 clarify the definition and use of electric bicycles, or “e-bikes”. The various components of the package concerning e-bikes are as follows: MCL 257.13e defines an e-bike as follows:
“Electric bicycle” means a device upon which an individual may ride that satisfies all of the following:
(a) The device is equipped with all of the following:
(i) A seat or saddle for use by the rider.
(ii) Fully operable pedals for human propulsion.
(iii) An electric motor of not greater than 750 watts.”
(b) The device falls within 1 of the following categories:
(i) Class 1 electric bicycle. As used in this subparagraph, “class 1 electric bicycle” means an electric bicycle that is equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that disengages or ceases to function when the electric bicycle reaches a speed of 20 miles per hour.
(ii) Class 2 electric bicycle. As used in this subparagraph, “class 2 electric bicycle” means an electric bicycle that is equipped with a motor that propels the electric bicycle to a speed of no more than 20 miles per hour, whether the rider is pedaling or not, and that disengages or ceases to function when the brakes are applied.
(iii) Class 3 electric bicycle. As used in this subparagraph, “class 3 electric bicycle” means an electric bicycle that is equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that disengages or ceases to function when the electric bicycle reaches a speed of 28 miles per hour.”
MCL 324.72105(2) and MCL 257.657 indicates which types of e-bikes can be ridden on what types of facilities:
All three classes of e-bikes are allowed on roadways: MCL 257.662a (6) states “an individual may operate an electric bicycle on any part of a highway that is open to a bicycle, including, but not limited to, a lane designated for the exclusive use of bicycles and the shoulder.”
Class 1 e-bikes are also allowed to ride “on a linear trail that has an asphalt, crushed limestone, or similar surface”. (MCL 257.662a (8))This means that Class 1 e-bikes are allowed on a typical rail-trail or similar trail facility. Local governing bodies, however, have the final say in whether an e-bike is permitted on a local trail and “may regulate or prohibit the operation of a Class 1 electric bicycle on that trail.”
Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes are more restricted in their use. They are allowed on “a linear trail that has an asphalt, crushed limestone, or similar surface, or a rail-trail if authorized by the local authority or agency of this state having jurisdiction over the trail.” (MCL 257.662a (9))This means a local governing body must give special permission within their jurisdiction to permit Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes on their trails.
All three classes of e-bikes are prohibited on any “trail that is designated as nonmotorized and that has a natural surface tread that is made by clearing and grading the native soil with no added surfacing materials.” (MCL 257.662a (10)) This means that e-bikes are not allowed on mountain biking trails. However, again, local governing bodies have the power to permit e-bikes on their non-motorized natural surface trails.
Even though a local governing body “may prohibit, authorize, or regulate the use of electric bicycles within its jurisdiction”, in order for them to exercise that power they must “hold a public hearing on the matter.” (MCL 257.662a (12))
MCL 500.3101 excludes e-bikes from insurance requirements under the Insurance Code.
29. Can a bicyclist be ticketed for an obstructed license plate due to the use of a rear-mounted bicycle rack?
No. Public Act 147 of 2018 amended MCL 227.225 (2) to stipulate that a bicycle rack on the rear of a vehicle, including the bicycle being carried, does not constitute an “obstructed license plate”. PA 147 took effect on August 14, 2018.
(2) The attachment to the rear of a vehicle of a tow ball, bicycle rack, removable hitch, or any other device designed to carry an object on the rear of a vehicle, including the object being carried, does not violate this subsection.
If you have a comment or question about this page and the materials, contact the League of Michigan Bicyclists 517-334-9100 or email at [email protected]
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