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by Robbie Ventura
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HomeA Bicyclists Guide to Traffic Laws

Essential Oklahoma State Statutes:

Traffic Laws Which Apply To Bicyclists

 

  

1. A bicycle is a vehicle and bicyclists have the right to the road, and a duty to obey traffic laws, however some laws don't apply.

  

§47-1-104

A bicycle is a device upon which any person or persons may ride, propelled solely by human

power through a belt, chain, or gears, and having two or more wheels, excluding mopeds.

  

§47-1-186

A vehicle is any device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or

drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

  

§47-11-1202

Every person riding a bicycle ... upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be

subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle ... except to those provisions of

this title which by their nature can have no application.

  

Examples of laws “which by their nature” can't apply:

1. Pedaling the posted speed limit is not possible for most bicyclists. After all it is a speed limit,

not a speed requirement. However minimum posted speeds may also be too high for

bicyclists and therefore ”by their nature” cannot apply. Most bicycles are not built for speed,

and neither are their riders.

2. Signaling continuously through a turn - a bicyclist requires both hands on the handlebars to

maintain control.

  

2. Bicyclists must ride on the right, but not always the far right.

  

§47-11-1205

A. Every person operating a bicycle . . . upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of

traffic ... shall ride as close as is safe to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except

under any of the following situations:

1. When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;

3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions and while exercising due care, including but

not limited to:

 

 a. fixed or moving objects,

 

 b. parked or moving vehicles,

 

 c. pedestrians or animals,

 

 d. surface hazards, or

 

 e. any time it is unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway; and

4. When riding in the right-turn-only lane.

  

Examples of when a bicyclist is not safe being far to the right:

1. The lane is too narrow for a bicyclist and motor vehicle to share side by side (see below

regarding the 3 foot safe passing law.)

2. Anytime it is unsafe to pass. See 47-11-303, 47-11-305, 47-11-306, all of which deal with

safe passing (overtaking) of another vehicle.

Essential Oklahoma Bicycle Laws - _1

3. There is bad pavement, debris, or a parked car at the edge of the roadway.

4. The bicyclist is making a left turn.

5. The bicyclist is going as fast as, or passing other vehicles.

6. Compare §47-11-1205 with §47-11-301 below. Bicyclists receive more leeway than motorists

when it comes to a choice between safety or absolute positioning in the lane.

7. Chapter 11 of the Oklahoma Drivers Manual states conditions when a bicyclist may use

the full lane for safety.

  

3. Bicyclists don’t impede traffic and riding single file may be all that is required if other traffic is present.

  

Bicycles don’t impede traffic, they are traffic. A bicyclist is not required to get out of the way of

motorists.

  

§47-1-177 Definition of Traffic

Pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, and other conveyances either singly or

together, while using any highway for purposes of travel.

  

§47-11-804

No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and

reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or

in compliance with law.

  

Example: A bicycle is NOT a motor vehicle. The statute specifically says operating a motor

vehicle at a low speed is impeding. A bicyclist at the same speed is probably giving it all he's

worth. His speed would be necessary for safe operation.

  

§47-11-301

B. Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time

and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane when

available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway and

may be temporarily driven upon the right-hand shoulder for the purpose of permitting other vehicles

to pass.

Example:

As stated in §47-11-1202, bicyclists have the same rights and duties as motorists. Motor

vehicles traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic (note, this is NOT the same as the

speed limit) are directed to use the shoulder to allow following vehicles to pass. Most roads in

Oklahoma don’t have shoulders, and §47-11-1202 does not require bicyclists to “go the speed

limit.” Also, §47-11-1205 (A) only requires as far right “as is safe.”  

  

§47-11-1205

D. Persons riding bicycles ... upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast ... Persons

riding two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic and, on a laned

roadway, shall ride within a single lane.

  

Example:

On a two lane road with following traffic present, it may be required to ride single file. While

single file seems courteous, both safe positioning in the lane and the 3 foot minimum safe

passing requirement still apply. Even when single file there may not be enough room to safely

Essential Oklahoma Bicycle Laws - _2

pass a bicyclist within the same lane. On a multilane road there is sufficient room to pass safely

in the next lane and bicyclists would not be required to single up. The passing motorist would

move into the next lane to obey the 3 foot minimum safe passing law and other passing

requirements as noted below.

  

4. Motorists may only pass when it is safe, and bicyclists must be given at least three feet of clearance.

  

§47-11-1208

A. When overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction, a person driving a

motor vehicle shall exercise due care by leaving a safe distance between the motor vehicle and

the bicycle of not less than three (3) feet until the motor vehicle is safely past the overtaken

bicycle.

  

Example:

See pages 11-2 and 11-3 of the Oklahoma Drivers Manual for guidance about safe passing of

bicyclists. See also §47-11-303, §47-11-305, and §47-11-306. It is illegal to pass against

oncoming traffic, on a hill or curve, on a bridge, and within 25 feet of an intersection. Often a

motorist will complain "I'm forced to pass" against oncoming traffic. Nothing requires a motorist

to pass a bicycle. In fact it is illegal to pass when it is not safe. A gray area is crossing a solid

center line when it is clear and safe to pass.

  

5. It is a felony to throw an item at a bicyclist.

  

§47-11-1111

A. No person shall willfully throw or drop any substance at a moving vehicle or any occupant

thereof.

C. Any violation of ... this section shall be deemed a felony...

Example:

As stated in §47-11-1202, bicyclists are granted the same rights as drivers of vehicles. At the

same time bicyclists are occupants of their vehicle and should not be the target of thrown

objects.

  

6. Vehicle equipment requirements do not apply to bicyclists.

  

§47-12-701

No provision in this chapter shall apply to bicycles or to equipment for use on bicycles . . .

unless a provision has been made specifically applicable to bicyclists, bicycles or their

equipment.

  

Example:  

This statute requires specific limitations or requirements on bicyclists be defined, not assumed.

Turn indicators, side lighting, registration and licensing all apply to motor vehicles. This statute

exempts bicycles. However statutes §47-12-702 through §47-12-709 do require lights and

reflectors at night, and brakes. State law does permit local jurisdictions to "regulate" bicycling

(see number 8 below), and some cities have enacted bicycle registration requirements.

  

7. You have to obey the instructions of a police officer.

  

§47-11-103

No person shall willfully fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of any police

officer invested by law with authority to direct, control or regulate traffic.

  

§47-6-112 - License to be Carried and Displayed on Demand of Peace Officer

A. Every licensee shall have his or her driver license in his or her immediate possession at all

times when operating a motor vehicle and shall display the same upon demand of a peace

officer. Any person violating this subsection shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor

  

Example:  

Often discussed is if an order is "lawful." In this context any order is lawful as it is the officer's

duty to control traffic (see Number 9 below). Under the US Constitution the legislative branch

creates laws, the executive branch enforces laws, and the judicial branch interprets laws. The

street is not the place to hold a legal debate. If you feel the officer is instructing you to do

something that is not legal or required, you still have to obey or accept the consequences. If you

feel strongly about the issue, allow yourself to be ticketed or arrested and have your day in

court. Alternately, you could comply with the order, get the officer's ID, and discuss the situation

with his command at a later date.

  

If you are involved in an accident or stopped for a traffic violation, you are required to identify

yourself (§47-10-104 A). While a motor vehicle operator’s license is not required to drive a

bicycle, you do have to be able to identify yourself to an officer’s satisfaction. Simply saying your

name may not be sufficient if he does not personally know you. A drivers license, state ID, or

other government issued ID is an easy thing to carry.

  

8. Oklahoma allows local jurisdictions to enact additional laws governing the operation of bicycles.

  

Oklahoma Statute §47-15-101 assures that laws apply throughout the state, and local laws

cannot be in conflict with state law:

  

 

The provisions of Chapters 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 of this act shall be applicable and  

uniform throughout this state and in all political subdivisions and municipalities therein and no

local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance, rule or regulation in conflict with the

provisions of such chapters unless expressly authorized herein. Local authorities may, however,

adopt additional traffic regulations which are not in conflict with the provisions of such chapters.

  

OS §47-15-102 - “Powers of Local Authorities” then says :

  

A. The provisions of this title shall not be deemed to prevent local authorities with

respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable

exercise of the police power from:

8. Regulating the operating of bicycles and requiring the registration and

licensing of same, including the requirement of a registration fee.

  

Always consult your city ordinances, local laws do vary:

 

• Oklahoma City has a mandatory bike lane law, Tulsa does not.

• Oklahoma City has a headphone ban while walking, biking or motoring in the street.

• Edmond allows bicyclists to proceed through a defective red light after stopping.

• Norman requires minors to wear a bicycle helmet.

  

9. Local police must enforce state laws.

 

  

Police have the authority to enforce state law. §11-34-101 directs that “a municipal police officer

shall at all times have the power to make or order an arrest for any offense against the laws of

this state or the ordinances of the municipality.”

  

OS §47-1-147 further defines the Police Officer: “Every sheriff, constable, policeman, highway

patrolman, and any other officer who is authorized to direct or regulate traffic or make arrests for

violations of state traffic laws and municipal ordinances.”

  

OS§47-15-101 noted in number 8 above also states that statutes are applicable in all

municipalities. Just because a statute is not reflected in a local ordinance does not mean police

can ignore it.

  

Example:  

In a recent incident a bicyclist complained to a police officer that a car had passed so closely

that its mirror struck the cyclist. The officer said the state 3 foot passing law did not apply within

the city limits.  

  

Municipal codes typically do not state murder is a crime, however murderers are routinely

arrested. Additionally, most municipal charters reference state laws as part of city code. Failure

to enforce state laws is illegal.

  

 

References:

  

Local ordinances can be found on your city’s web site or one of these sites:

 

 http://www.amlegal.com/library/

 

 http://www.sterlingcodifiers.com/codesonline.php

 

 http://www.municode.com/Resources/OnlineLibrary.asp

Oklahoma Drivers Manual: http://www.dps.state.ok.us/dls/pub/ODM.pdf

Oklahoma Statutes:  

 

 http://www.oscn.net/applications/oscn/index.asp?ftdb=STOKST&level=1

  

This document was prepared by Pete Kramer, LAB Cycling Instructor 1325. These are his interpretations of

Oklahoma Statutes. Mr. Kramer is not a lawyer, however he finds strange enjoyment reading laws.

  

This document is not the opinion of the League of American Bicyclists, the Oklahoma Bike Summit or any

other organization.

  

Please use this document for informational purposes only.  

Do not rely upon the information presented herein as legal advice.  

Consult with an attorney if you are in the need of legal representation.

  

©2013 P. Kramer

spacepiggy@gmail.com