Review of traffic types in Michigan

A reader recently asked me why people on bicycles ride the wrong way on one-way streets (FB) and my answer alluded to the dual nature of bicyclists; they are often more like pedestrians than drivers of a vehicle. It doesn’t excuse the illegality and lack of consideration of riding the wrong way down a one-way, but it does help explain why it sometimes happens, particularly when the design doesn’t provide a natural alternative. Part of this dual nature is actually captured in Michigan law (MW).

The mantra that bicyclists are vehicles and subject to the same laws and responsibilities as people in 2-ton transportation pods is expressed a lot, but as the team at M-Bike clarified last week, that isn’t the case under Michigan law (MB). They simplified the traffic types under Michigan law in the following info-graphic:

Although they are many crossovers responsibilities between traffic types, Michigan does specifically call out bicycles under devices. Even granting them “all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle” when upon the roadway. But, people on bikes are also able to go back and forth between being a roadway user, sidewalk user, or a trail user. It’s an advantage of the device and highlights the separateness between the actions of driving and riding a bicycle. To quote a previous M-Bike post, “we are a separate group despite what the bumper sticker implies” (MB).

There are certainly more we, whether we ride a bicycle or not, can do to be more informed of the laws. The League of Michigan Bicyclists Handbook (LMB) is a good start. As well, as we move into the busy time of the year for people moving about on two-wheels a better understanding of the bicyclist’s needs, both recognized and un-recognized in the law, needs to occur.

Last week, Talk of the Nation highlighted the issues about sharing the road (NPR) by starting with a question centered around the idea that bicyclists are their own worst enemies. A notion we’d never apply to people when they drive, yet every so often it’s expressed that if we want more bicycle amenities, bicyclists need to follow the rules (TW).

Thankfully, the NPR program quickly left that angle behind and author Tom Vanderbilt captured that by pointing out that in many U.S. communities the bicycle amenities are disconnected and ill-thought out. This leads to quite predictable law-bending and abrasive attitudes. “In the U.S., sometimes, there’s kind of this marginalization, almost criminalization that cyclists feel on the road, attributed to a sense of persecution,” he said.

That won’t go away by simply wishing it to be. It’s why we are advocates for complete streets (MW).

We can all do better; be considerate. We are all trying to get somewhere.





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  1. April 9, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Thank you Gary! Talk about not well thought out……people naturally want to circulate…we walk where and how we want to walk…(and ride). One-Way streets work against nature and the natural flow of people. I’ve jokingly said many times, that if a municipality believes that people in cars should only flow one direction, then the sidewalk flow should ONLY be the same direction. That’s just how absurd one-way streets are. One-way streets are barriers to half of all traffic and create unnatural, indirect, unnecessary circulation of traffic. Since pedestrians and cyclists see past the folly of one-way streets, they are simply ahead of the game…getting directly to their desired destination. Motorists should be outraged that they cannot efficiently circulate as freely as pedestrians…. one-ways need to go away.

  2. Kc
    April 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    No one sees anything but your folly of trying to persuade everyone to conform to your way of life in this town. John you obviously have an axe to grind yet love the money the town throws your way.

    I take umbrage with your zeal to backhand motorists with your comments. I am a runner and a motorist and find oneway streets to be very well thought out in Traverse City and other towns.
    Could you imagine the chaos on Front street with two-way traffic in the middle of summers or trying to remove snow in winter? Who ever decided a bike lane needed to be put right next to the opening doors of cars is really absurd too! Your direction here is limited only by your thought process that seems to be oneway.

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