Bike Safety a Must in the City

Bike Safety a Must in the City

(Crystal A. Proxmire, 7/4/2011)

A young man was in a collision with a car near the Courthouse on East Nine Mile Road on June 17.  Although he walked away with no apparent injuries, the front tire off his bike was knocked off and damaged.  The driver of the vehicle did not receive a ticket because the bicyclist had been riding on the sidewalk and rode into the side of the vehicle.  Police Chief Timothy Collins, who was across the street from the accident,  said that most bicycle accidents occur then the bicyclist is not following the rules and tickets are rarely issued.

Incidents like this are easily avoidable if bicyclists follow the traffic laws, and if drivers learn to keep their eyes open for pedestrians and bicyclists.


Most rules regarding bike usage are outlined by the State of Michigan. has an excellent list of traffic codes that apply to bikes, as well as statutes relating to funding and comment on how local ordinances relate.  For a comprehensive list of laws, check out their website.  You can also search the State of Michigan website as a primary source.    In the meantime here are some of the rules that drivers and cyclists need to know:

1.  Cars and bikes must share the road.  According to MICHIGAN VEHICLE CODE — Act 300 of 1949, “257.657 Rights and duties of persons riding bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating low-speed vehicle. Each person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating a low-speed vehicle 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.”

2. Cities can require registrations of bicycles and enact other local ordinances about their use, however those ordinances must be clearly posted in order to be enforced.  (257.606 Regulation of streets or highways under jurisdiction of local authority…)

Cyclists need to use signals when turning, and drivers should be aware of what the signals mean.  257.648 Signals for stopping or turning; violation as civil infraction. This section states that signals can be given by hand or with a clearly lit signaling device. A person who fails to signal could be issued a civil violation.  The code outlines hand signals as such:

“When a signal is given by means of the hand and arm, the driver shall indicate his or her intention to stop or turn by extending his hand and arm from and beyond the left side of the vehicle and signal as follows:

(a) Left turn ….. hand and arm extended horizontally.

(b) Right turn ….. hand and arm extended upward.

(c) Stop or decrease speed ….. hand and arm extended downward.

3.  There are rules about where cyclists can ride, with some leeway for safety concerns.  “257.660a Operation of bicycle upon highway or street; riding close to right-hand curb or edge of roadway; exceptions. 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.”

4.  Bikes that use the sidewalk have to yield to pedestrians.  257.660c Operation of bicycle upon sidewalk or pedestrian crosswalk.(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.

5. Bikes must have lights in order to be used ½ hour before sunset, through the night, until ½ hour after dawn.  To read the technical specifications, see 257.662 Bicycles or electric personal assistive mobility device; equipment; violation as civil infraction.

6. Other provisions.  Other actions are prohibited as well.  The state doesn’t want people riding on the handlebars, bicyclists grabbing on to moving cars, or carrying packages that prevent them from steering properly.

The Motor Vehicle Code is an extensive document, and has more specific requirements about the use, sale of, safety features, and local regulations for bicycle use.  Thank you to for providing a more digestible (and thoroughly referenced) resource. Check them out to learn more about all your needs as a bicycle user in Michigan.



According to    Michigan Traffic Crash Facts (, there are an average of 26.5 fatalities each year in the state due to accidents involving bicycles and cars.  Many bike accidents go unreported in Ferndale and throughout the state.modern tax


In addition to obeying the laws, there are things bicycle riders and drivers can do to be safe.  No matter what mode of transportation, being aware and being courteous make getting around safer for everybody.


Stick to the Streets.


“Knowing your rights as a biker is a good place to start,” says Councilperson Melanie Piana.  “Protections are in place, but it’s a matter of being comfortable.”  Piana regularly rides her bicycle to work and other places.  She says she has a hard time riding on Woodward or 9 Mile because it can be intimidating.  “Hopefully as more and more people begin using the streets to bike it will increase awareness and drivers and bicyclists will get used to sharing the road.”

The League of Michigan Bicyclists says riding in the street is safest. According to their website, more than half of all urban car-bike crashes are caused by one or more of the following behaviors:



• Cycling against the direction of traffic

• Failure to yield when required

• Running a stop sign or red light

• Cycling at night without required lighting

• Riding into a street at mid-block



• Failure to yield to a cyclist when required

• Unsafely passing a cyclist

• Right or left turn immediately in front of a cyclist

• Driving too fast for conditions

• Opening driver-side door into a cyclist’s path



Here are the tips given by the League of Michigan Bicyclists for having a safe ride:


• Wear a properly fitted helmet every time you ride; wearing a helmet can prevent 85% of brain injuries

• Wear light-colored and/or reflective clothing to be as visible as possible.

• Carry a tire pump, tire levers, patch kit and spare tube.

• Equip your bike with a white front headlight and red rear reflector and light for riding in twilight and darkness and a bell or horn to warn pedestrians and other cyclists.

• Carry a cell phone in case of a emergency.

• Carry identification and medical information.


They also suggest the following when possible:


• Mirror for your handlebar, helmet or glasses (to improve your overall awareness and allow you to see following vehicles and riding companions more easily).

• Water bottle and cage.

• Rack and saddlebags to carry things.


“Even if a driver is exceptionally safe themselves, there are always going to be drivers out there who aren’t.  That’s why you need to take responsibility for your own safety,” Piana said.


If an accident occurs, it’s important to make a police report and visit a doctor for follow up.  If someone is in a collision they may experience an adrenaline rush and not feel injuries right away.




There are basically two groups of bicyclists in Ferndale – those that bike for fun and those that do it to get around.  And of course there is some overlap. The City has dedicated bike lanes along Hilton Road and Pinecrest, and a growing culture of bicycling that is especially present in these warm summer months.  The Downtown Development Authority recently added new bike racks along Woodward and 9 Mile, and a new bike shop, The Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop, recently opened at 163 W. 9 Mile. There was a Bike Night held in May.


The push for a more bike-friendly city has been led by Councilperson Piana, who in October 2010 introduced and passed a Complete Streets Ordinance for Ferndale.

According to the Ordinance introduction memo, “Complete Streets is a best practice with growing national and state support that calls for cities to rethink how they design or redesign road infrastructure projects to accommodate all users, not just cars. The City of Ferndale has already set policies that promote walkability, encourage investments in public transportation, increase bicycling and create safer spaces for pedestrians, as means to become a more environmentally friendly community, reduce energy consumption and provide options for all residents.”

The Ordinance (No. 1101, Article IV, Complete Streets, Section 16-50, Chapter 16) states “It is the intent of the Council of the City of Ferndale in enacting this ordinance to encourage healthy, active living, reduce traffic congestion and fossil fuel use, and improve the safety and quality of life of residents of Ferndale by ensuring its routes are safe, convenient, and comfortable for walking, bicycling, and public transportation.”

Piana also works for the Michigan Suburbs Alliance and has a background in urban planning. Before bringing the ordinance to Council, she testified before the House Transportation Committee about the need for encompassing transportation policies, conducted public forums about Complete Streets, and spent countless hours researching what other cities had done to make their communities multi-modal friendly.

“In the past a lot of how we planned our community was with cars being more of a priority than people,” Piana said.  “How do we create a community for people?  How do we make streets safe for people.”

Now as any planning in the City moves forward, multimodal transportation must be considered.




Defying the Law Bicycle Club is one way that cyclists have come together.  “I joined soon after moving to Ferndale. I was invited by my friend Dave, who was the secretary of the club at that time,” said Matt Belcer who has been a member since 2008.  “It was good way to socialize and meet new like-minded friends. Joining was as easy as just biking down to the meeting point, usually the Mobil gas station on Woodward, and signing in.


‘It’s more about the love of the leisurely ride and socializing than serious cycling. The weekly rides vary from just around Ferndale to destinations in Royal Oak, Berkley, Hamtramck, Detroit, and other cities.”


The group can be found on Facebook, and their many rides are often posted as Facebook Events.


There are other bike-friendly events as well.  The Bike Rodeo is an annual event put on by the Ferndale Recreation Department with help from The Ferndale Police, Ferndale Youth Assistance, Ferndale Rotary and others who donate to make the day possible.  Kids are given free bicycle helmets and bike registration, and there are usually bike inspections and fun activities.


The Annual Sierra Club Green Cruise highlights all non-motorized forms of transportation, and of course bicycles have their part.  The morning starts off with two grand bike rides, and ends in Downtown Ferndale where there is a green parade down W. 9 Mile and a parking lot full of earth-friendly vendors and groups together to celebrate and educate people about contentious living.  The event takes place Aug. 13, 2011, with more info. to be found at


Keep up with many exciting Ferndale events by regularly checking our Event Page.  If you have more bicycle-related resources to share, please email us at so we can add them to this page.


For other biking resources, go to:


And download “What Every Michigan Bicyclist Must Know”,com_jdownloads/Itemid,204/catid,4/cid,8/m,0/task,finish/


Previous bike-related stories:


(Defying the Law)

(Green Cruise)

(Piana’s Push for Complete Streets)


(Complete Streets Passed)

(Stolen Bikes)

(Bike Night)


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