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When bicycling, how far to the right must I travel?

If you bicycle frequently, you probably know the safety basics. You know to ride in the bike lane when there is one. You know to bike in the same direction as motorized traffic when a bike lane is not available. However, there can be confusion among bicyclists about exactly how far to the right you must travel.

Many bicyclists try to ride as far to the right as possible. While this is not always bad, some situations can make this a dangerous misinterpretation of the law.

There are exceptions to the rule

Ohio law states that bicyclists must ride “as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable.” It adds that bicyclists do not need to ride to the right when it is “unreasonable or unsafe to do so.”

Sometimes it is safer to take the lane

This means there are some circumstances when it may be appropriate to ride near the center of a lane, an action called “taking the lane.” You may need to take the lane if the roadway is too narrow for a vehicle to safely pass you within the lane. By moving into the center of the lane, you can remove the temptation for drivers to pass you in an area when it wouldn’t be safe to do so.

You may also need to take the lane if there are parked cars, broken pavement or other hazards on the right side of the lane. Keep in mind that you should travel far enough away from parked cars that you can avoid colliding with a car door that may be unexpectedly swung open. Also, drivers may struggle to predict your behavior if you weave in and out of the lane to avoid hazards.

Bicycling as close to the right side as you can is safe and compliant with the law in most instances. However, it is important to recognize the situations when it is safest to take the lane. Understanding your safest lane position can help you avoid being involved in a traffic collision.

If a driver does injure you while you are bicycling, it may be appropriate to hold the driver responsible. You may be able to receive compensation for medical expenses and other costs associated with your injury.

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