COLUMN: Reading up on city bicycle rules

Published 12:00 pm Friday, September 25, 2015

By TJ Ray

Convincing folks that I was once young enough to ride a bicycle is far beyond my skill-set, but now as a senior citizen (that phrase has an ominous, nasty aspect to it), I find I have some interest in bike riding.

Ever desiring to be a law-abiding citizen, I read the city regulations for such vehicles.

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“Any person operating a bicycle shall obey the instructions of official traffic control signals, signs and other control devices applicable to vehicles, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.”

My assumption is that such devices would probably include stop signs and traffic lights. Often I watch riders pedal past the one and not even look up at the other, even when it’s red. Recently on campus, stopped at a four-way intersection, a two-wheeler blew through (notice contemporary language) the stop sign, even though a police car was facing him. And the officer ignored it.

“Whenever authorized signs are erected indicating that no right or left or ‘U’ turn is permitted, no person operating a bicycle shall disobey the direction of any such sign….”

A person might be forgiven who assumes that one-way signs are meant to direct all kinds of traffic in that direction. Meeting bikes going the wrong way on Oxford streets is almost the rule.

“Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable….”

With the aplomb of a drunk, some bike peddlers follow the stripe down the middle of a street, and they’re quite ready to give an obscene gesture to the motorist vainly tries to pass after tooting the horn.

“Wherever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.”

My guess is that a goodly amount of public funds have gone into creating the bike paths beside many of our streets. And more money was spent to paint them, with the aim of making sure their purpose was clear. I urge you not to assume that some cyclists will use the bike path instead of a street lane. And the greater the number of cyclists, the more likely that regulation will be ignored.

A note must be made here: Someone told me that there are signs that tell the cyclist that he or she may use the car lanes or the bike path. If that’s the case, then someone needs to clean up the contradictory language of those signs and this regulation.

I’ll forego listing other rules that are on the books or should be. A simple list of items that I’ve heard folks mention might suffice: tags, liability insurance, headlights, rear lights or reflectors, signals for turns, helmets.

Travel safely. Avoid becoming the victim of an unthinking Schwinn driver.

T.J. Ray, a retired professor of English at the University of Mississippi, can be reached at