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Montana Laws Governing Cyclists and Roadway Bicycling

Biking in the city

Montana Laws Governing Cyclists and Roadway Bicycling

Since our offices moved last year, on non-rainy days, I like to ride my bike to work.  I do not live far from the office and I enjoy getting a little bit of activity on the days I primarily sit behind a desk. 

Bicycling Paths in Kalispell

There are places in Montana that are bicycle friendly, but I would not consider the City of Kalispell to be one of them.  Don’t get me wrong.  It is better than ten years ago.  There are now a few bike paths here most notably the Great Northern Historic Trail. Another one of the major activities people like to engage in at Glacier Park is riding bikes on the Going-to-The-Sun Road before it is open to vehicle traffic. 

People bike here.  What I mean when I say that Kalispell is not “bike friendly” is this: many drivers here do not understand how to share the road with a bicyclist

When biking to work, many, many times at 4-way stops, vehicles have waived me on.   I fumble around, getting going as fast as I can while awkwardly waiving thanks and steering at the same time.  That, I don’t mind. 

At least once last summer, though, I get honked at.  Yelled at too.  The one time I remember that I was riding toward the center of the road, putting my arm out to signal a left-hand turn when: “get off the *@#%* road, you @$&$%!” 

Being a lawyer, the getting honked and cussed at got me thinking…who was technically right?

Riding on Roadways Laws

Montana bicycling laws provide that cyclists who are operating at “less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride in the right-hand lane of the roadway, subject to the following provisions…”  MCA § 61-8-605 So, rude driver, as a bicyclist, I am not supposed to ride on the sidewalk.  But … I was not actually on the right side of the road.  So, was rude driver correct?  I was in the wrong?

Nope.  Reading the statute further, it provides: a “bicyclist may use a lane other than the right-hand lane when … preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway…”  MCA § 61-8-605.  I was within my rights to be riding toward the middle of the lane before making my left-hand turn.

Be that as it may, I took the swearing and cussing seriously.  A bicyclist can be technically right but also literally smashed.  In a fight between a vehicle and a bicycle, we all know who wins, regardless of who gets the ticket at the end of the day.  So, when taking a left-turn these days, if a vehicle is behind me, I go to the far right of the road, stop out of the way and wait for the coast to become completely clear.  It’s a pain.  It takes longer.  It isn’t right.  But, in this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a lot more than a pound of “well within my rights.”

If you’ve been hurt in a bike-car collision, the personal injury attorneys at GrizzlyLaw in Kalispell, MT, have the skills and experience to help you achieve justice. Since 1997, they’ve been fighting for the rights of accident victims throughout Flathead County and MT and they’ve helped thousands of clients. Visit their website for more information on their wide range of services, or call (406) 752-7122 today.

Rebecca J. Rutz
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