Bike Michiana

resources, news, observations and ideas about bicycling in the Michiana area

Is it time to update Indiana Bike Laws?

Posted by Paul Taylor on July 23, 2008

Indiana, like all other states, has some rinky dink laws,  some too-restrictive laws,  some dated laws, and some missing laws. I think it is time for change.

At the bottom of this post, is a section that  summarizes most, if not all, state laws affecting bicyclists, and my proposed changes. It’s rather long, and the second paragraph (Notes) tells how to interpret the various colored type. In this section, I have detailed proposed legal changes to the Indiana Code.

I am neither a lawyer nor a politician, but I think its time for change in our next legislative session which starts in January, 2009. I have had a tiny bit of experience in working with the Indiana Legislature, and am convinced that, rather than saying ‘there outta be a law’, we should be saying ‘let’s make a law’. I’m willing to step up to the challenge.

I want feedback on my proposals, and an idea of how much support  I can expect in this endeavor.

To save you from reading the whole section, here is a summary:

  1. Allow cyclist to legally stand up and pedal, even on a tandem
  2. Disallow the use of headphones by cyclist on the road
  3. Allow cyclists to ride legally without a bell or other sound device
  4. Require motorist to allow at least one meter distance when passing a cyclist
  5. Allow the cyclist the option of signaling a right turn by extending the right arm to the right

——————————————————————

Here’s the section:

References:

http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title9/ar21/ch8.html

http://www.geocities.com/midimagic@sbcglobal.net/bikedang.htm

http://www.ai.org/legislative/ic/code/title9/ar21/ch8.html

 

Notes:

Black text is law that I would not change.

Red text is law that I would delete.

Blue text is law that I would add.

 

 

 

Roadways; rights and duties
Sec. 2. A person riding a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights and duties under this article that are applicable to a person who drives a vehicle, except the following:
(1) Special regulations of this article.
(2) Those provisions of this article that by their nature have no application.
As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.

 

 

 

IC 9-21-11-3
Operation; seats; passengers
Sec. 3. (a) A person propelling a bicycle may not:
(1) ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle; or
(2) carry any other person upon the bicycle who is not seated upon a firmly attached and regular seat on the bicycle.
(b) A person may not ride upon a bicycle unless seated under this section.
As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.

 

IC 9-21-11-7
Packages, bundles, or other articles preventing proper use of handlebars
Sec. 7. A person who rides a bicycle may not carry a package, a bundle, or an article that prevents the person from keeping both hands upon the handlebars.
They may not wear headphones that interfere with their ability to hear on-coming traffic or voice communication from nearby cyclists.

As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.

 

 

 

IC 9-21-11-8
Bell or other audible signaling devices; sirens; whistles
Sec. 8.
A person may not ride a bicycle unless the bicycle is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred (100) feet.
A bicycle may not be equipped with and a person may not use upon a bicycle a siren or whistle.
As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.

 

IC 9-21-11-10
Brakes
Sec. 10. A bicycle must be equipped with a brake that will enable the person who operates the bicycle to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.

 

9-21-8-5.  Overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the

same direction — The following rules govern the overtaking and

passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to

the limitations, exceptions, and special rules stated:

 

(1) A person who drives a vehicle overtaking another vehicle (including bicycles) proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance of at least 1 (one) meter and may not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

 

 

IC 9-21-8-28
Hand and arm signals; left turn; right turn; decrease in speed
    
Sec. 28. All signals required under this chapter may be given by hand and arm. A signal given under this section shall be given from the left side of the vehicle in the following manner:
        (1) A left turn is indicated by extending the hand and arm horizontally.
        (2) A right turn is indicated by extending the hand and arm upward,
or by extending the right arm to the right.
        (3) A stop or decreased speed is indicated by extending the hand and arm downward.
As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.

 

IC 9-21-8-20

Pedestrians, bicycles, and other nonmotorized traffic; prohibition

on use of highways

Sec. 20. The Indiana department of transportation may by

resolution or order entered in its minutes, and local authorities may

by ordinance, with respect to any freeway or interstate highway

system under their respective jurisdictions, prohibit the use of a

highway by pedestrians, bicycles, or other nonmotorized traffic or by

a person operating a motor-driven cycle. The Indiana department of

transportation or the local authority adopting a prohibiting regulation

shall erect and maintain official signs on the freeway or interstate

highway system on which the regulations are applicable. If signs are

erected, a person may not disobey the restrictions stated on the signs.

As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.

 

Author:

Paul Taylor

July 22,2008

PTaylor574@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

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21 Responses to “Is it time to update Indiana Bike Laws?”

  1. Chris Vanden Bossche said

    In my view #4 is the most important. I’d say three feet instead of one meter as that is the measure used in the US and familiar to motorists and cyclists. I’ve been told that the IBC is working on implementing this. It would make sense to coordinate with them, and this would be a good topic to bring up at the planned Bike Summit. Some states already have this rule; others have rejected it.
    Is it clear that the law addressed in #1 requires one to stay seated? I could be wrong but it looks to me as if it merely means that you can’t position yourself say behind the seat or in some other odd place (like the handlebars). I’ve never heard anyone say it was illegal to stand while pedalling, but certainly if that is what the law means it should be clarified to allow it.
    The others make good sense, but I think #5 is most useful of these. I’ve read that at least one other state has adopted, or is considering adopting, this practice.

  2. Paul Taylor said

    Thanks for your insight Chris.

    I agree that #4 (3-foot rule) is most important, and yes, the IBC has been advocating this law, without success. And I also agree that #5 (right turn signal) is the second most important.

    #1 (staying seated) is just a poorly worded law, and, as a matter of principal, ought to be fixed.

    My thinking is that we should be advocating a mini-omnibus bicycling bill, which I think would be as easy to pass as simply a 3-foot bill. Note however, that I have avoided the big controversy over whether the bike is a ‘vehicle’ under Indiana law. That’s a can of worms I don’t want to open, and I don’t think it is important.

    You are absolutely right, that we need to work through the IBC. I have been invited to attend one of their meetings, but so far have not (at least not since 1999 when I was on the board). I would first like to get a consensus of thought here in the northern part of the state.

  3. Chris Vanden Bossche said

    I don’t know the details, but I know that advocates in South Carolina just got new legislation passed. It might be useful to see what they’ve done. Also, it occurred to me after I made my post to recommend Bob Mionske’s Bicycling and the Law. His column on Velonews.com has taught me a lot about the subject.

  4. Robert Hedrick said

    (2) Those provisions of this article that by their nature have no application.
    As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.

    IC 9-21-11-3
    Operation; seats; passengers
    Sec. 3. (a) A person propelling a bicycle may not:
    (1) ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle; or
    (2) carry any other person upon the bicycle who is not seated upon a firmly attached and regular seat on the bicycle.
    (b) A person may not ride upon a bicycle unless seated under this section.
    As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.
    …………………………………………
    I am NOT a PERSON who is subject to the application of PERSONS subject to rules of commerce..

    I retain my RIGHT to TRAVEL freely and unresricted.

    PERSON-The term “person” whenever used in this act, shall be construed to include firm,company or corporation

  5. Paul Taylor said

    Another response to Chris regarding ‘staying seated’.

    Here is a law I would keep intact:
    “9-21-11-4. Number of persons that may be carried on
    bicycle.–A bicycle may not be used to carry more persons at one
    (1) time than the number for which the bicycle is designed and
    equipped.”

    I don’t know why 9-21-11-4 was an additional law rather than a replacement for the funky 9-21-11-3.

  6. Paul Taylor said

    As a result of Chris’ comments, and reviewing the South Carolina laws, I have revised my proposal.

    I have clarified my issue #1, by listing law # 9-21-11-4. “Number of persons that may be carried on bicycle.–A bicycle may not be used to carry more persons at one
    (1) time than the number for which the bicycle is designed and
    equipped.” This is a law I would not change.

    I have added issue #6. Allow a cyclist to ride with only one hand on the handlebar.

    I have changed my proposed passing distance from 1 meter to 3 feet

  7. Ben said

    No headphones? Seriously.

    I have to take issue with this. This is too far reaching. Why not say no earmuffs or hats with ear covers.

    If a bike is a vehicle and we want that respect, don’t derail this by making bike more of a special type vehicle. We would be all better off if car drivers HAD headphones (i.e. Handsfree).

    The wording is vague actually

    They may not wear headphones that interfere with their ability to hear on-coming traffic or voice communication from nearby cyclists.

    So I could wear headphones, as long as the enforcer thinks they wouldn’t interfere. If the enforcer thought they would, then I would have to go to court and argue that my headphones were acceptable.

  8. Paul Taylor said

    Headphones make biking, running, and walking more dangerous, when the wearer is mingling with automobile and truck traffic. Some biking organizations prohibit their use, just as most organizations require helmets. Most (not all) experienced runners and bikers shun their use, and for good reason: the sense of hearing is one of your best defenses.

  9. Ben said

    Paul, I whole-heartedly agree with you. Not listening to radio or phone conversations greatly increases your chances of getting input from the outside world, I don’t think we should apply this especially to bikers.
    Now if this was a gateway to keep drivers from doing the same I would be all for it, but I doubt that will happen.
    I fear this will be a law that will be enforced, if at all, in a harassment sense.
    I love that you are putting this out there for us to comment on, and I’ll chew on your comment for a few days.

  10. Paul Taylor said

    Ben.

    I think we are in 99% agreement. And please be assured, I appreciate your input.

    Personally, I wish there was a law (that was enforced) that limited sound levels to all members of society: but that ain’t the case, and ain’t likely to be the case in my future. I predict that future cars will have an electronic feature that alerts the driver to ‘pull over and stop’, when an emergency vehicle transmits some kind of emergency signal to them. But that’s 10 or more years away.

    I would like to see a law making it illegal to make or answer a phone call while driving. PERIOD. But that ain’t likely to happen either.

    Meanwhile, my scope is rather limited: trying to save the lives of a few bikers.

    So. Do you think my scope is too limited, or too broad. How would you change my proposal to give it a better chance of passing in the 2009 legislative session?

  11. Adam Bee said

    I agree with all your proposed changes (and more), but I disagree with the headphones one.

    My reason for disagreeing is that cyclists are already hassled enough on a daily basis by drivers and police. Police have a well documented bias against cyclists in crashes and following up with charges.

    The last thing we need is another legal requirement imposed on cyclists, and a reason for cops and prosecutors to not protect our rights. I can just hear it now: “He deserved to get hit–he was wearing headphones!” We already have similar stigmas regarding helmet use and taking the lane–we don’t need even more reasons for drivers to feel like they can literally get away with murder.

    Finally, although it’s obvious that headphones are generally a bad idea, they can dramatically increase one’s enjoyment of a ride with very low safety costs if you’re so far away from civilization that you’re only likely to see a car once every couple of hours.

    I’ve even heard of experienced tourers carrying TVs with them, let alone radios. Let’s leave this decision up to individual riders.

  12. Ben said

    Paul, I reread the changes and I think your scope is sound and narrow. Bell changes, which bike police don’t even follow, is fine. I honestly don’t know what happens when a law gets put on table, as in so far as how the whole state will view it.
    The headphone and the bell law changes seem on the outside of your narrow scope.
    I’m glad this is being mulled over and pushed from a bikers perspective, instead of the other way around.

    I followed the Austin Bike Helmet law changes in 1996, seems like they had a round two in 2006.
    http://bicycleaustin.info/laws/helmet-laws.html
    http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A399577

    I became interested in 1996 when a friend of mine living in Austin told me about a parade/protest was had after the law was passed. There was much opposition to the law, for some decent reasons. I personally thought they were crazy, of course you need a helmet! I still think a helmet is necessary for safety. But the arguments are strong against an law. (I just wanted to share)

  13. Adam Bee said

    Interesting! That bicycleaustin.info site seems to have a lot going on that we could borrow for Bike Michiana. I especially like the “Justice” section which, among other things, keeps track of all the bike-car collisions in Austin and their consequences.

  14. Adam Bee said

    I just noticed this part:

    Here is a law I would keep intact:
    “9-21-11-4. Number of persons that may be carried on
    bicycle.–A bicycle may not be used to carry more persons at one
    (1) time than the number for which the bicycle is designed and
    equipped.”

    Sounds to me like it bans child trailers? Depends on the meaning of “carry”.

  15. Paul Taylor said

    Interesting thought. It’s my understanding that judges interpret laws.

    If I were a judge, I would say that a bicycle is designed to pull a trailer, either via a special rear wheel skewer, a rear wheel stay, or the seat-post. Next, I would judge that when a bike is pulling a child trailer, it is properly and legally equipped for the purpose or carrying one or two passengers, in addition to the rider.

  16. sean murphy said

    I dont agree with the headphones law it takes is discrimating against us since most bikes cant have a stereo like cars and motorcycles. I this passes then I would like to see a law that bans all audio in any kind of vehicle as they can also distract the drivers as well.

  17. Robert said

    #14; that depends on the definition of “equipped”

    and of course the definition of “person” to whom the commerce laws [UCC]are applied to……

  18. Adam Bee said

    If I were a judge, I would say that a bicycle is designed to pull a trailer

    Sure, judges interpret laws, but once you’ve got a ticket it’s already too late for that. More importantly, it seems like poor legislative philosophy to write laws so vaguely that nearly every case of its application must be interpreted by a judge.

    That certainly seems a bit stretchy. It’s more like the exact opposite. The only bike I’ve seen designed for a trailer is the Big Dummy.

    I wonder if riding on pegs is allowed or prohibited under this law. I’d argue that seatposts are designed for trailers as much as handlebars are designed to sit on?

    I also disagree with the headphone law, but not because it is discriminatory. Car drivers can’t wear headphones either. Bikes can be equipped with stereos, and some are.

    The more important question is whether the benefit is greater than the harm. Surely there are some times and places where listening to music when riding isn’t going to hurt anything (say, the back roads of Montana for example). What evidence do we have that listening to headphones poses a risk to those who partake in it? It’s purely theoretical, and seems like puritanical zeal on the part of those who by habit don’t listen to music while riding.

    I’m loath to outlaw any kind of riding that isn’t obviously harmful to others. Protecting citizens from themselves is not a proper function of free societies, and bikes are nothing if not free.

    The last part is that it leads to a slippery slope which leads to cycling being banned from public roadways. You may think it’s too dangerous to ride with headphones. But nearly everyone thinks it’s too dangerous to ride in public roads at all. I mean, you could get hit out there in the road like that!

    That all goes for helmets, too… I can’t support helmet laws until I see some evidence that they actually help more than they hurt.

  19. Paul said

    I also disagree with making headphones illegal for bicyclists. If hearing is critically important to a person’s safety, we should make it illegal for the deaf to ride bicycles. I have a 40% hearing loss, should I be allowed to ride?

    Let’s not get into the business of taking away personal choice and freedom. If I am doing something that will hurt others, then you can make a law to prohibit that, but if I am doing something to hurt myself, then educate me so that I know the dangers and let me decide on my own appropriate course of action.

    If we need laws that make bicycling safe, then lets make a law that state and local governments can no longer build roads without paved shoulders or with curbs that force bicyclists to ride in the traffic lanes. If a road design forces riders into vehicle lanes, then require adjoining paths to separate riders and vehicle traffic.

    Both of this summer’s fatal bike accidents were on roads that forced the riders into the traffic lanes. Cleveland Road has curbs at the edge of the traffic lane and Ash Road has no shoulder at all. If there was some place to ride other than in the vehicle lane, both of these fatalities would have been avoided.

  20. Paul Taylor said

    Just a note to the regular readers of this blog. ‘Paul’ and ‘Paul Taylor’ are two different people.

  21. Max McCoy said

    1 meter or 3 feet is not a safe distance for a motor vehicle that is in motion at any speed greater than 10 miles per hour to pass or be near a two wheeled vehicle of any means of propulsion.
    You have no means of protection from impact from an automobile while on a bicycle like that afforded by the body of an automobile.
    A bicycle is an unstable vehicle when encountering typical road or street hazards such as rocks, any kind of debis that might be in the roadway and of course pot holes or holes of any kind that might be in the pavement.
    And it would be easy enough for such hazards to cause a bicyclist to lose control enough to momentarily change thier intended direction of travel to cause them to veer into the path of a vehicle that was intending to pass at a distance of only three feet.
    Why don’t you ride your bicycle along the road and tell me that you don’t get an uneasy feeling when someone in an automobile passes you at 45 miles per hour only three feet away from your handle bars.
    I, as a cyclists, am entitled to the complete width of my lane, from berm to centerline, and for an automobile to pass me while keep all or part of his vehicle in my lane is completely unsafe and I believe to be illegal as it is considered to an ” unsafe pass.”
    Your mentallity has fatalities written all over it!

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