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Michigan, a state boasting more than 19 million acres of forest land, over 11,000 lakes and ponds, and more than 36,000 miles of streams, is a haven for individuals who love the outdoors. One way to enjoy these scenic landscapes is by riding a bicycle, as bolstered by Michigan’s reputation for being a bike-friendly state. The People for Bikes Coalition has also recognized Detroit as one of the top cycling destinations among the largest cities in the country in 2023.

These commendations are not without merit, partly due to the state’s excellent use of funding for infrastructure, including its secure bicycle lanes. It also has related projects in effect, including a program to measure bike and pedestrian volumes, and an updated bike plan.

Moreover, Michigan enforces a variety of laws related to bicycling. Some aim to keep cyclists safe, while others intend to protect the rights of individuals who have been involved in a bike crash. This article tackles some of these laws, crash data, and the different legal resources available to accident victims.

Are Bicycles Considered Vehicles in Michigan?

According to Section 257.4 of the state legislation, a bicycle is a device a person can ride and operate using human power. Meanwhile, a vehicle is defined under the law as a device a person can use for transportation on a highway that is not solely operated by human power.

With these contrasting definitions, bicycles, therefore, are not classified as vehicles in Michigan. Despite this, bicycle routes and rules are still primarily governed by the state’s Department of Transportation.

Do Cyclists in Michigan Have to Wear Helmets?

No, cyclists are not required to use helmets; Michigan does not have bicycle laws that explicitly mandate cyclists to wear protective headgear when riding on its roadways. Nevertheless, wearing one is good sense and, of course, safe practice. 

Having the correct helmet can prevent head injuries in the event of a bicycle crash. Therefore, it is important to ensure one’s helmet meets safety standards and fits properly. To see if one is right for your head size, you should confirm the following:

  • Two fingers between the helmet strap and chin can fit.

  • A “V” shape is formed by the strap under the ears.

  • The gap between the helmet and your eyebrows is two fingerbreadths in width.

Are Brakes and Lights Required on Bikes in Michigan?

Yes. Michigan requires bicycles to be equipped with brakes that allow them to skid on dry, flat, and clean pavement. The law also states that bikes being operated anytime from 30 minutes after sunset up to 30 minutes before sunrise should have the following:

  • A white light in front, visible from at least 500 feet. 

  • A red reflector and/or light on the rear visible from at least 600 feet.

In line with these regulations, it is required to sell bicycles or bike pedals with pedal reflectors, as well as tires with reflective sidewalls or wide-angle prismatic spoke reflectors.

Should Michigan Cyclists Follow the Same Rules as Motorists?

Yes. Section 257.657 of Michigan law states that bicyclists traveling on roadways are bound to the same duties and have the same rights as vehicle operators. For instance, they are expected to ride in the direction of traffic. That said, exceptions and special regulations may apply due to the significant differences between these modes of transportation.

Section 257.660a adds that a cyclist going slower than the traffic should be on the right-hand edge of the road as much as possible. This rule, however, does not apply to the following situations:

  • When passing or overtaking another bicycle or a vehicle going in the same direction.

  • When preparing to turn left.

  • When conditions, such as uneven surfaces, narrow lanes, drain openings, or parked vehicles, make the right-hand edge of the road unsafe or reasonably unusable.

Meanwhile, on one-way roads, bicyclists should ride on the left side.

Do Bicyclists in Michigan Have to Signal Their Turns?

Per Michigan law, bicyclists should make the following hand and arm signals when they intend to make a turn or move for safety reasons:

  • When making a left turn, a cyclist needs to extend a hand and arm horizontally.

  • When making a right turn, a cyclist needs to extend their left hand and put their arm upward or raise their right hand and arm horizontally.

  • When slowing down or stopping, a cyclist needs to extend a hand and point an arm downward.

Which Types of Lanes and Paths Can Cyclists in Michigan Use?

Michigan does not require bicyclists to only use bike lanes and side paths when traveling. In fact, an amendment to the law in 2006 removed them from the types of road users mandated to use side paths.

They can also ride on sidewalks since no laws prevent them from doing so, but some local ordinances and signs still regulate this practice. Additionally, state law makes it clear that bicyclists riding on sidewalks or crosswalks should yield the right of way to pedestrians. They should also make an audible signal if they need to pass or overtake a pedestrian.

Despite being permissible, riding on sidewalks is still discouraged by the League of Michigan Bicyclists in the interest of bike riders’ and pedestrians’ safety.

Can Cyclists Park Their Bikes on Michigan Sidewalks?

Yes. Section 257.660d of Michigan legislation provides that people can park their bicycles on a street or a sidewalk if it will not block the way and is not prohibited by an official traffic control device.

The law further states that bikes can be parked at any location where parking for motor vehicles is allowed. They can be parked at any angle to the edge or curb or parallel to another bike. However, they should not block a legally parked vehicle and prevent it from moving.

Does Michigan Follow the Three-Foot Passing Rule?

Typically, yes. Motor vehicle drivers should observe a distance of at least three feet to the left of a bike they intend to overtake. In case the minimum distance is hard to achieve or they are in a no-passing zone, a driver must still pass at a safe speed and distance. Failure to follow this law is a civil infraction.

One must note that several jurisdictions within Michigan have implemented five-foot passing clearance ordinances. These include Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Portage.

How Common Are Bicycle Accidents in Michigan?

According to data collected between 2017 and 2021, Michigan recorded approximately 25 bicycle-related fatalities annually. During this period, Detroit had the most number of bicycle crashes (753), followed by Ann Arbor (244). 

Among the most common causes of accidents involving bikes were:

  • Making illegal turns.

  • Failing to follow the three-foot passing rule.

  • Not using lights when riding a bike at night.

  • Failing to stop at a signal or stop sign.

The authorities have also determined that most bicycle-related crashes occurred between 3 and 4 p.m.

Consequently, to reduce the number of bike injuries and deaths in the state, the Office of Highway Safety Planning implemented a high-visibility safety campaign from August 7 to 13, 2022. The Michigan Department of Transportation also released relevant information, such as bicyclist safety protocols, accessible online.

Is Michigan a No-Fault State for Bike Accidents?

Michigan is a no-fault state. This means a cyclist who figures in a vehicle-related mishap can obtain insurance benefits up to $250,000 after suffering damages, whether they caused their accident or not.

To be covered, no direct contact between an injured cyclist’s bike and another vehicle is necessary; the vehicle’s operation just has to be a significant factor in the accident and the resulting injury.

Due to this rule, a cyclist who sustains an injury due to an incident not involving a motor vehicle would not be entitled to recover insurance benefits.

How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Michigan?

A bicyclist injured in an accident can file a personal injury lawsuit for their incurred damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages. They may also pursue other kinds of economic damages or monetary losses from the individual who caused the incident.

Moreover, they may seek compensation for non-economic damages against the at-fault party. These include pain and suffering for the physical and mental anguish they may experience due to the accident. Other non-economic damages or non-financial losses include post-traumatic stress disorder and the loss of enjoyment of life. 

Michigan does not put a cap on both economic and non-economic damages in personal injury cases. Nevertheless, having a well-versed personal injury attorney can be beneficial to accurately determine the value of one’s case.

What Is Michigan’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?

Under Michigan law, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases, including those arising from bike accidents, is three years. Any civil remedy to recover damages for the death of a person or damage to property due to a bike accident should also be filed within three years. For wrongful death cases, the clock begins on the day the victim passes away.

However, there are circumstances when the court may allow the filing of claims beyond the stated timeframe. For instance, if the injured person is a minor or in a “condition of mental derangement” at the time of the accident, they will have one year to pursue legal action once they turn 18 or when the condition is over, respectively.

Meanwhile, should the liable party leave Michigan for at least two months after the accident and before a lawsuit can be filed, the statute of limitations will be paused unless there is another way to serve the lawsuit on them.

Legal Resources for Michigan Bicycle Accident Victims

Michigan Department of Transportation

The Michigan Department of Transportation is in charge of the state’s highway system, which is the backbone of the local road and street network. It is responsible for maintaining road and trail maps for recreational and commuter cycling. It also offers a variety of related information, including bike riders’ rights and responsibilities, traffic crash statistics, and bicycle safety measures. Cyclists can refer to this website in case they need legal references should they meet an accident while riding in any part of the state.

The Michigan Bicycle Law Reference Guide

This document outlines important things that cyclists in Michigan should be aware of. It discusses how the state defines a bicycle, as well as road rules and local regulations that they must understand and follow. It also expounds on various kinds of infractions, which may be important to know in case one figures in a bike accident.

Michigan State Bar Lawyer Referral Service

The organization’s Lawyer Referral Service is a program that matches individuals seeking legal assistance — including bike accident victims — with a lawyer that has experience handling their concerns. All member lawyers are active, in good standing with the state bar, have malpractice insurance, and do not have pending disciplinary proceedings. Clients are provided free 25-minute initial consultations, and the administrative fee is waived for those with urgent personal injury, Social Security, housing, and workers’ compensation concerns. Other fees are to be negotiated between the attorney and the client.

MiCOURT Case Search

People in Michigan can look for court records through the online MiCOURT Case Search system. Cases can be searched by court name, description, or county. Among those included in the online database are traffic, criminal, and probate cases. It also covers civil cases, which may involve personal injury claims due to motor vehicle or bicycle accidents. It should be noted, however, that the information provided online is only for informational purposes and is not a replacement for official records filed with the courts.

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