Happy news from Yellow Springs, OH

Tip of the helmet to Steve A for this one.

“The roads are a shared social network — we all have a right to use them.” — Dan Carrigan

The [Bicycles] May Use Full Lane (BMUFL) sign finally became an official part of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) just a few months ago, and it’s already being put to good use in Yellow Springs, OH.

Bicycles, use the whole lane

bmuflPerhaps most important are the signs that were added at each entrance to the village, showing an image of a bicycle with the words, “May use the full lane.” The sign is a reminder of a regulation stated in the Ohio Revised Code that bicyclists have the right to use the full travel lane of any road less than 14 feet wide from the outer white line to the yellow center line — which applies to 99.4 percent of the 25 miles of roads in Yellow Springs, according to Carrigan. If a car wants to pass a bike, the car must change lanes to do so.

Motorized drivers may not be aware that bicycles have the right to use the road much like a car, and many bicyclists lack awareness, too, Carrigan said. But according to the bicycle safety regulations published by the Ohio Department of Transportation, taking control as a cyclist by using the whole lane and signaling clearly to the vehicle following behind is the safest way to ride, said Carrigan, who is a certified bicycle safety instructor who offers periodic classes in town and in the area.

“It’s safer for me and everyone else around me as well,” Carrigan said of using the full lane. “As a bicyclist I need to control the lane by taking the primary position to ensure my safety.”

Bravo Dan! Read the rest here.

I hope to see some of those signs around here soon.

26 replies
  1. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:


    If only “as goes Ohio, so goes the country” could be applied here.

    This is probably one of the most astonishing things one could hope to see.

    If I saw that sign in FL, I’d probably fall over, and I’m riding on three wheels!

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    “could be applied here.”

    Done. Florida Statutes make the MUTCD Florida Law upon it’s adoption. I was wondering when it would finally be adopted.

    I’m thinking about stenciling some signs up and adding posts, so the city can’t complain and say “We don’t have the money.”

  3. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Eric, do you double as Yehuda Moon?

    I’ve considered doing the same, especially since it would be a wonderful way of recycling old coroplast campaign signs and really durable, inexpensive.

    As with so many practical ideas, yours must be unlawful.

    How long before we’ll see these signs REPLACING the “share the road” signs?

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      “How long before we’ll see these signs REPLACING the “share the road” signs?”

      Far be it from me to break the law, but those signs might be taken down, painted white, turned 90 degrees and stenciled, then remounted.

      I would never say who might do something as dastardly as that.

  4. Nick
    Nick says:

    I’m not confident that this “14 foot” law actually exists.

    The supposed law was cited by Lauren Heaton in her article “Bicycles, use the whole lane” on bicyclelaw.com

    After some research, I’m unable to find this law in Ohio’s Revised Code, in chapter 4511 where the bicycle laws are written.
    I’m also unable to find any other mention of this law on Google.

    Heaton does not cite the code — I’ve contacted the managers of the website, and they should get back to me soon.

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      I think Texas is the only state that actually has 14ft written in statute. Most other state statutes have some variation of “too narrow to operate side by side.” Then you have to go to the DOT’s standards to find 14ft as the minimum shareable width. If the width isn’t codified in statute, that is not necessarily a bad thing. In certain weather and traffic conditions 14ft is not wide enough to share.

      • wombatgrrl
        wombatgrrl says:

        ODOT uses the AASHTO standard, and you can find this stated here:


        Here is the exact quote from the page:

        AASHTO “Guidelines for the Development of Bicycle Facilities,” 1999
        ODOT currently relies on the AASHTO guide as the standard for design of bicycle facilities.

        On page 17 of the AASSHTO publication called Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, you’ll find the 14 foot width mentioned. Here is a link to the entire guide:


        And here is the quote that applies:

        In general, 4.2m (14feet) of usable lane width is the recommended
        width for shared use in a wide curb lane. Usable width normally would
        be from edge stripe to lane stripe or from the longitudinal joint of the gut-
        ter pan to lane stripe (the gutter pan should not be included as usable

        • Nick
          Nick says:

          Thanks Wombat. The debate here is what’s LAW and what’s ODOT STANDARDS. In the article above, Lauren Heaton wrote that the Ohio Revised Code states that Bicyclists have the right to take the whole lane when the lane is under 14feet. This is not true: this is no Ohio LAW that permits bicyclists to take the lane.

          You’re citing ODOT uses the AASHTO standards, which is not the same as the law.

          • wombatgrrl
            wombatgrrl says:

            Thanks, Nick! Did I say somewhere in there that I was under the impression it was a law? Sorry if I wasn’t clear enuff. I was actually just trying to make it clear to others here as to exactly where the 14 foot width number was coming from, even though it is only a guideline and not a law. Though it’s too bad we can’t get city planners to see long fought over guidelines as being worthy of consideration. Alas, the gutter bunny mentality rules…..

          • wombatgrrl
            wombatgrrl says:

            From the Ohio Revised Code (Law, not guidelines):

            (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.

            Seems to me that if conditions are such that taking the lane is a practicable position for me to ride in, then I am within the law as stated above. If the law above says one of the conditions for not needing to ride on the edge of the road is a lane that that is too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to share, then I would again be within the law. Therefore, I would think that the conclusion could be drawn that there is an Ohio law that permits bicyclists to take the lane.

            How narrow is too narrow for lane sharing? This is not in the Ohio law, but they do have established guidelines for it.

            Perhaps my logic is completely off? Please let me know. I love a lively debate! Hopefully we have a lawyer in the house.

  5. Nick
    Nick says:

    Thanks Keri

    From what I can find, the closest Ohio has to a law like this is:
    “[The law] 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” (4511.55c).
    But there is no language that specifies when a lane is “too narrow.”

  6. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Nick, I went looking for a reference in the Ohio statutes as well. I did not find a reference any clearer than the one you located. Florida law is virtually identical, but there is a reference in the FL DOT book for width and specifies fourteen feet as the MINIMUM which does imply that it can be even wider and yet be unsafe. I did not search OH DOT information.

    I found something even more frightening than a motor vehicle operator passing too closely. OH law permits local municipalities to enact their own bicycle laws which can conflict with state laws. Sheesh.

  7. Nick
    Nick says:

    It’s great to see this site is active with users.

    I emailed Bob and Rick from bicyclelaws.com, who I believe are both lawyers, and they said they’ll get back to me by Monday. If I don’t get any word from them, I’ll take Kari’s advice and contact Steve Magas.

    It is scary — but I don’t think many cities take advantage of that provision. Cleveland Heights requires, by law, that cyclists register their bikes…. Cincinatti just passed the three-foot-when-passing law (awesome!), but for the most part, cities use the Ohio state laws as they’re written.

  8. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I’d probably not use the word “advantage” and would replace it with “abuse”.

    The three-foot passing law is meaningless in my opinion, and also in the opinion of other cyclists who understand how to control a lane and perhaps of those who have had interaction with law enforcement. The general consensus I’ve learned is that law enforcement will do nothing unless it is witnessed and I’ve read of only one incident in which a driver was cited for it. A cyclist who controls the lane with proper positioning is more likely to get safe passing. There are exceptions to this, of course, but lane positioning is more valuable than an unenforceable law.

    I would have enjoyed to see a collection of BMUFL signs on the road recently, although I doubt it would have changed the behavior of the driver who passed me with six inch clearance.

    • Nick
      Nick says:

      The cycling community isn’t known for it’s lack of opinion. You make valid points on all accounts. Every inch of ground the cycling community makes in improving laws/infrastructure/education, however, is an opportunity for celebration. Progress, as always, is good.

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        Nick, Fred actually had a cop pull him over for controlling a narrow lane and then say there was no reason for him to control the lane since the three foot law would give him enough clearance. HAHAHA, as if it was some magical force… or like that anyone in that PD had ever or would ever enforce that law.

        Seems like every tool ya give ’em they find a way to use it against us.

  9. Nick
    Nick says:

    Update: I’ve contacted the two lawyers who manage bicyclelaw.com. Rick said he’d get back to me last week — no word since then.

    I also contacted Steve Magas, the Lawyer recommended by Kari. No reply.

    I’ll update if things change.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      I’m pretty sure that having a specific number is a relatively new thing in bicycle law. For years, and more than likely still the law in many states, riding positions have been decided by policemen and judges.

      The Ohio law mentions narrow lanes, but I’ll bet if you researched it, prior to the middle ’80’s or so, it didn’t.

      Not having a number or any other language other than FTR meant that even if you hugged the curb, you could still get a ticket or, in my case several times, just be ordered off the road (for my own safety, natch) or get a ticket for not riding far enough to the right or some other ginned up charge.

      Without specific language, it all becomes what is “reasonable.”

  10. NE2
    NE2 says:

    Copied from my reply to a different post:

    If I were designing the sign, I’d add a state law citation like they do (in Orange County, Florida) on the red light running signs. That would make it clear it applies to all roads and isn’t something special.

  11. Steve Magas
    Steve Magas says:

    Howdy from Ohio! I just saw this site. Sorry if I missed an email somewhere.. I was out of town at the end of August on vacation and I feel like I’ve spent the entire month of September playing Catch Up.

    The issue of “how big” of a lane has to be to justify a BMUFL position is…well… arguable in Ohio. There’s no “number’ in the statute. What that does for me, as a lawyer, is give me a LOT of room to argue. I can look at each case, each roadway, each circumstance and factor and make the best argument I can.

    The change in Ohio law was part of the 2006 Better Bicycling BIll drafted by the Ohio Bicycle Federation. Many of us testified in Columbus on that final day and watched the unanimous passage of that bill.

    Steve Magas

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      As I said in a comment above, whatever is “reasonable” was also the FL standard for years.

      Which is okay if you don’t mind fighting tickets — and losing sometimes because judges have their prejudices, too. It is also okay for personal injury attorneys.

      Teenagers catch the brunt of this since they, by definition, can’t determine for themselves what is reasonable and this gives a nice opening for a “friendly” cop to kick the minor off the road altogether.

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      Yeah, I think the laws are only as good as the culture enforcing them. If the culture is against us, ambiguity can work against us and specificity can work against us.

      We all know police and magistrates that have claimed a 12 foot lane is “standard” and therefore the legislature couldn’t possibly mean for cyclists to be allowed to “get in the way” on most roads.

      Likewise, if the predominant vehicles on a given road look like this:

      then 14ft is not wide enough to share either. The lane in the photo is 15ft wide.

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