Bike Michiana

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

Indiana Bicycle Safety Legislation for 2010

Posted by Paul Taylor on August 7, 2009

In 2009, we came very close to getting a bill pased. The legislative team has already started work on the 2010 campaign, and we expect Indiana to be a more bicycle friendly state come next year.

Read more details here

12 Responses to “Indiana Bicycle Safety Legislation for 2010”

  1. Adam Bee said

    Looks great! Certainly a big improvement over the current laws.

    I’m not a lawyer, so I’m confused by a couple of parts:
    -Does a water bottle count as a package or article banned under Section 19?

    -In section 28, how can a right signal with the right arm be “from the left side of the vehicle”?

    -What brakes count as “functional”, and what brakes count as “mechanical”? Provisions like this have been used in other places to ticket fixed-gear riders.

    -What happens if your lights run out of batteries mid-ride? I’ve heard some cyclists have already been ticketed for this even in South Bend.

    -The current law doesn’t allow two-abreast riding anywhere. Does this amendment change that?

    Of course, there’s also a lot to be said about not biting off more than can be chewed, politically, and realistically there’s little chance of any of this being enforced anyway. IMO the whole project is worthwhile if only for the parts that spell out specific legal penalties for drivers who injure cyclists, regardless of their intent or negligence.

  2. Paul Taylor said


    1. Sec 19: We don’t know if a water bottle counts as a package/bundle or not. We tried to delete that whole section from the code last year, and it caused so many side-issues that we decided to let sleeping dogs lie. It’s probably an issue only if the rider has an accident while holding the bottle, and the violation is used to prove negligence.

    2. Sec 28: Oops, we accidentally left in some legacy language. We copied the language from the motor vehicle signals code and modified it to be bicycle specific. But, as you point out, we accidentally left in an inappropriate clause. Good catch – we’ll get that taken out.

    3. Yes, bikes are required to have a real brake if they’re used on a roadway. We think that’s an improvement because it eliminates the requirement that the brake make the wheel skid. I only have only ridden a fixed gear bike once, and I don’t think I could have made the rear wheel skid. If that’s the case fixed gear bikes would be violating current law.

    4. The night riding continues to require that you have functional batteries in your light (or a generator). That hasn’t changed, except now you must have a light on the rear as well as the front.

    5. Take a closer look at the ‘two abreast’ rule in the current law. There is a double negative that can make it confusing. It says “may not ride more than two (2) abreast”. Thus you can not ride three abreast.

    Adam, thanks for your thought provoking comments.

  3. Adam Bee said

    Aha! I see you are indeed correct on the “two abreast” rule.

    Yeah, the trick with skidding on fixed gears is to shift more weight on the front wheel. Most riders of these often stop or slow using only skidding, which seems totally insane. There was a bit of a controversy recently in some cities as to whether the lockring on the hub counts as a “brake”, thus satisfying the requirement, but it’s one of those things that probably will never be a problem at all in Indiana.

    In any case, all bikes with a front brake are currently violating Indiana law, since the braked front wheel is impossible to skid on dry, level pavement.

    Given that no one’s even been ticketed for having a front brake, I doubt anyone will get ticketed for having a water bottle, either. Riders can, are, and will be unjustly ticketed for not having working lights, though. It will especially hurt the poorest and most vulnerable utility cyclists, not the kinds of folks who drive to rides (as I often do).

    I myself was pulled over once five years ago in my hometown of Peoria for having dead batteries in my front light, as well as “running” a yellow light. The cop let me off, but I think his main intention was to harass me. The light was in fact working when I left the house, as is often the case when the batteries are on their last legs.

    On at least three other occasions, my lights have been stolen when I forgot to remove them when parking in public. It sure would be funny for police to ticket me but never find the thief!

    Of course lights are a problem recreational riders will never have to worry about, but it’s really tough on utility cyclists. Just as last year’s one-abreast law would have killed rec rides but left utility cyclists unaffected.

    I’m definitely looking forward to supporting the law as it stands, but I won’t be bummed if those lighting sections get dropped in favor of reflectors or nothing. The preponderance of risk is on the cyclist.

  4. ron melton said

    I am writing in response to this subject because I was stopped by a Saint Joseph County Cop yesterday while riding south on Bittersweet Road between Jefferson Road and Vistula Streets. If you are familiar with the area, it’s a four lane street. The cop made a ‘scene’ by using his siren and flashing lights. He said I was ‘obstructing’ traffic. I asked him what statute I was violating, and he couldn’t come up with one. He only said that I must ride to the extreme right side of the road. I retorted by saying when I do that the motorists get too close and asked him what is the legal distance a motorist must abide when passing a bicycle. He said there wasn’t a law pertaining to that. I told him that he thinks it’s okay to terrorize bicyclists. He denied that. That ticked him off and he threatened to impound my bike if he sees me on the streets again. He only stopped me to harass me and to intimidate me. Beware of these ignorant cops in this area.

    As to the subject of water bottles, it is not a package and does not interfere with riding your bike. According to the law, you need a front light a rear light or a red reflector visible for 500 feet. You also need a bell on your bike according to the law in Indiana as well.

    Something as obvious as non-working lights is an easy target for the cops to harass you. The chance you get pulled over about what kind of brakes, bell you have is not likely.

    As to riding ‘two abreast’, it is legal. That is what makes me mad about that ignorant cop yesterday. If I had been riding with someone ‘two abreast’, he would have pulled us over and given us the riot act. What these cops don’t understand is that bicycles are not classified as vehicles and by riding a bike on the street should not be construed as ‘obstructing traffic’. Motorists do not have the ‘right of way’ over bicycles.

  5. Adam Bee said

    We’re not obstructing traffic, we ARE traffic!

    Thanks for your story, Ron; don’t let them get you down. I hope he’s learned his lesson that hassling cyclists is just more trouble than it’s worth.

  6. ron melton said

    Thanks for your support, Adam.

  7. Chris VandenBossche said

    The law states that you must be as far to the right as “practicable.” Police officers very often think this means (or even that the law states) as far as “possible.” So you do not need to ride to the extreme right of the road if it isn’t practicable. And if there isn’t room in the lane for a vehicle to pass safely, it doesn’t really matter where you are. They still have to cross the centerline.

  8. Hi, all. Getting this much change in transportation law is commendable.

    I’ll comment on two points:

    1. Mandatory bike lane use: With a nod toward the previous post regarding bicyclist harassment by an officer, I would like to see the mandatory bike lane use statute clarify what constitutes “unsafe.” Not every bike lane is the result of rigorous attention to context or available standards. Some, strictly because of design, maintenance or placement issues, should be avoided: At least one town in the Chicagoland area has striped 3′ bike lanes; debris and pavement irregularity are two common things to avoid on the street, and you’ll find yourself leaving a 3′ bike lane a lot…and under this statute, potentially having to explain your take on “unsafe” to an officer, or even worse, to a town council who is taking heat regarding unlawful cyclists. Even 5′ lanes, particularly adjacent to parallel parking, provide lots of reasons to ride outside of them that drivers – and police – won’t necessarily understand. The irony is that towns with the most poorly designed & maintained bicycle lanes will have the most incidences of citations for cycling and cycling harassment.

    You want statues that provide peace of mind for you while riding, as well as justify your actions when questioned/accused. With some itemization of what constitutes unsafe, you’ll get more peace of mind as well as justification. Maybe look at exception language that says something like “when the cyclist determines the bike lane to be unsafe due to design, maintenance, traffic behavior, or context.”

    And please note: any language change regarding cyclist behavior in the street, including the current language, MUST be supported by a law enforcement education campaign backed by significant resources. Without education, better cycling laws are worth the paper they are printed on, and little else until there’s an incident. And by my thinking, that’s too late.

    2. Regarding cyclists in a bike lane having the same rights & responsibilities as pedestrians – This reads as an exchange of rights as a vehicle for rights as a pedestrian. Bike lanes are not pedestrian facilities, and I’d be wary of how a cyclists’ actions within and leaving a bike lane square with what’s expected of a pedestrian on an adjacent sidewalk, or walking in the street. Bike lanes are vehicular facilities. The statutes defining vehicular behavior should probably apply.

    I’m open to pedestrian rights within a bike lane perhaps granting cyclists a much higher level of protection, and maybe I just don’t see it. Somebody will have to explain it to me though.

    Overall, this is great stuff. Cars must not block bike lanes! Cyclists can run uncooperative red lights! And if it passes, again puts Indiana ahead of Illinois, which never fails to get my goat.

  9. Paul Taylor said


    Thanks for your careful read of our provisions. As you were writing your comments, Sen. Broden was filing the 2010 bill. It didn’t turn out quite as we wanted, but it was something he thought he could pass, and was close enough to our request that we can enthusiastically support it.

    I have written a post on that bill, see

    1. I like your suggestion of elaborating on unsafe/dangerous, with “when the cyclist determines the bike lane to be unsafe due to design, maintenance, traffic behavior, or context.” If we don’t pass this bill in 2010, I’ll shoot for that language in 2011. I am well aware of 3′ bike lanes in the gutter of the street or in the crumbling paved shoulder, although I don’t know of any in Indiana.

    2. Your take on the pedestrian provision differs from mine. I don’t think it gives the pedestrian any rights he/she doesn’t already have. The intent of that provision is to give the cyclist the same rights as a pedestrian in crosswalks.

  10. Yes it is sad that you cannot ride you bike in the south bend mishwaka area I’m a full time college student student studying visual art and politics and it sad how these law men sterotype men especially minorites I had and problem with the law also and I wrote the cop name down and wrote the south bend police department and i haven’t heard a reply in month next time the harras get there name and fight with your pen write south bend if that does not work write the state capitol and if that doesnt work write washington d.c and other orgainzation including your problems and the city and state or incident and lawmen name Yes they do harrass very much within the city of south bend the men and women they should be harrassing like drug dealers and rapist they don’t and that’s other reason why i dislike the city very much do to police harassment and i aint been in trouble and im 28 years of age…

  11. So how did 2010 campaign go? As somebody who believes in promoting eco-friendly mode of transportation, I find it heartening to know that more and more countries are making an effort to make their states and cities more bicycle friendly. Considering the health, economic and environmental benefits of riding a bicycle, the growing popularity of bikes comes as no surprise.

  12. Paul Taylor said

    The 2010 bill did not pass. A version was passed by the House, and a different version was passed by the Senate. They died in the reconciliation process.

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