SHERIFF'S CORNER: A little about bicycles

Many months ago, I was asked to do an article about the rules relating to bicycles.

Bicycles are widely used for transportation, recreation and sporting activities. All around the world, bicycles are the basic mode for moving people and goods in areas where there are few automobiles.

We have a few established trails and roadways in Lake County. To name a few, we have the "Rail-to-Trails" in Baldwin and Chase area, and the U.S. Bicycle Route 20 which runs through the northern part of the county.

In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," I discuss a little history of bicycles and some of the laws relating to bicycles.


There is much argument on who or where the first bicycle was invented. It is generally accepted that the first actual bicycle was invented in Germany by Baron Karl von Drais in 1817.

It was a success, which saw some popularity in both Germany and France.

In 1866, the High-Wheeler was invented. These bikes are easily recognized by their enormous front wheel and tiny back wheel. When I was younger, I remember going to an Ice Cream Shop named "The High Wheeler" that had one of these pictured on the door, as well as having an actual one on display inside the lobby.

In 1869 is when the first rubber tires were used for bicycles, which was a major game changer in the development and production as well as the capabilities of bikes.

The first American manufacturer of bicycles began with the Columbia Bicycle at the Weed Sewing Machine Company factory in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1878.

The safety bicycle was invented in 1884, and is the first to resemble the bicycles we ride today. It was the first to have two wheels of equal size with a similar frame.

Since the safety bike was lower to the ground and its wheels were the same size, braking was safer, and crashing in generally was not nearly as dangerous.

Under Michigan Law, a bicycle is defined as:

"Bicycle means a device propelled by human power upon which a person may ride, having either two or three wheels in a tandem or tricycle arrangement, all of which are over 14 inches in diameter."


Below are a few rules and regulations relating to the operation of bicycles.

• Rights and Duties: Each person riding a bicycle upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle except as to the provisions which by their nature do not have application.

• Signals for Stopping or Turning: The operator of a bicycle upon a highway, before stopping or turning from a direct line shall first determine that the stopping or turning can be made in safety and shall give a signal as required.

• Multiple Riders: A bicycle shall not be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped.

• Riding while Attached to a Vehicle: A person riding upon a bicycle shall not attach the same or himself to a vehicle upon a roadway.

• Riding More than Two Abreast: Individuals operating bicycles upon a highway or street shall not ride more than two abreast except upon a path or portion of the highway or street set aside for the use of bicycles.

• Limited Access Highways: Bicycles shall not be permitted on a limited access highway in this state except for paths designated for the exclusive use of bicycles.

• Operating on Sidewalks: Unless prohibited by an official traffic control device, an individual may operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk but shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian and has all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to a pedestrian using that sidewalk or crosswalk.

• Parking: A bicycle may be parked on a sidewalk, except in places prohibited by posted official traffic control signs and may not be parked in a manner that impedes the movement of pedestrians or other traffic. A bicycle may be parked on a street or highway in any location where parking is allowed for motor vehicles and may be parked abreast of another bicycle.

• Carrying Packages: A person operating a bicycle shall not carry any package, bundle or article that prevents keeping both hands upon the handlebars.

• Lights and Reflectors: A bicycle being operated between 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise shall be equipped with an appropriate white lamp on the front and a red reflector on the rear.

• Brakes: A bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

• Parents or Guardians: The parent or guardian of a minor shall not authorize or knowingly permit the child to violate the laws applicable to bicycles.


Bicycles are to ride as close as practicable and safe to the right hand curb or edge of the road.

However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule, which include:

(1) When passing another bicycle or vehicle traveling in the same direction.

(2) When preparing to make a left turn.

(3) When conditions make the right edge of the road unsafe due to conditions such as debris, drain openings, uneven road surfaces, pedestrians, animals, or other obstacles.

(4) When the lane is too narrow to permit a vehicle to safely overtake or pass a bicycle.

(5) When the right lane is used for right turns and the cyclist intends to proceed straight through the intersection. On one-way roads bicyclists may ride as close as practicable to the left curb or edge of the roadway.


As we all know there are many ORV and snowmobile trails in Lake County, we do have our share of biking and hiking trails. Some of the more popular ones are listed below.

• North Country Trail: About 120 miles of this National Scenic Trail occurs on the Huron-Manistee National Forests. The twenty-mile trail section between the Marilla and High Bridge Trailheads is featured here. This trail section follows the general course of the scenic Manistee River, crossing Coates Highway about half way.

• Pere Marquette State Trail: Better known as "Rails-to-Trails," is 53 miles in length and runs from Baldwin to Clare.

• Pine Valley Pathway: Being 8.2 miles in length, this trail is just east of M-37 at 7 Mile Road, north of Baldwin and west of Luther.

• Sleep Ranch Pathway: This trail which is 4.5 miles in length is just east of Baldwin near Leverentz Lake near U.S. 10 and Mud Trail. It used to be maintained for skiing.

• Silver Creek Pathway: This trail which is 4 miles in length, starts at Silver Creek campground, north of Luther near State Road.

This information is provided to you for clarification of specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you may always email me your questions to