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Is it OK to ride the opposite way on a designated bike lane? I'm in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. The reason I ask is because most of the lanes near me are only on one side of the road. The picture below is an example of the type of lane.

bike lane

The law where I live allows me to ride on the road, bike lane or not.

Is it better to ride the opposite way or ride on the roadway as you would if there wasn't a bike lane?

Edit: I added a different picture that better represents the bike lane. It is actually a two way street with one bike lane in one direction.

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    Is that a two-way road? It's not clear from the pic whether it's two lanes one direction or one lane each way. Also, normally that would be called a bike lane, not a bike path. – Móż Nov 8 '16 at 5:09
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    It is a bad idea to ride counter to traffic. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 8 '16 at 12:48
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    The law where I live allows me to ride on the road, bike path or not. - I'm also from Louisville, and this is a bit misleading. You are not allowed to ride in the road, rather, you are required by law to do so. Bike lane or not, you must ride your bike in the road, and with the appropriate flow of traffic. – Siyual Nov 8 '16 at 15:02
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    Contraflow bike lanes exist in the UK and generally work well: cyclinguk.org/campaigning/views-and-briefings/… But using a normal lane in the wrong direction is very different from using a designated contraflow lane. – armb Nov 8 '16 at 17:45
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    Not really fit for an answer, so let me write it here. DON'T RIDE IN BIKE LANES UPSTREAM. This happens horrifyingly often in Poland and gives me a small heart attack everytime. Bike lanes tend to be narrow and going against the current is very dangerous for you as well as the people going in the right direction. – user622505 Nov 8 '16 at 19:48
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In general, if a bike path (lane) is on a road, follow the direction of traffic on that road. If there isn't a bike path on the other side, then bike carefully in the road if permitted, or find a different route.

If a bike path is separated from the road and there aren't directional signs, stay to the appropriate side of the bike path depending on where in the world you are (right for most of the world, left for fans of the queen typically). If there are bike paths on both sides of a road, use the direction of the closest bit of road.

Do not go the opposite direction of what is marked!

(*) In the original post, there was an arrow indicating what direction traffic on the bike path was to go; in this case, it should be obvious -- follow the marked direction.

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    bike lane/parking lane/breakdown lane... motorists won't care, they'll pull into it if they need to. – Móż Nov 8 '16 at 5:09
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    Note that while I am not a lawyer, every jurisdiction that I have ridden (and been hit) in treats cyclists like motorists with very few exceptions. Obeying the law is, in my experience, the last resort against a neglectful or malicious driver. – bright-star Nov 8 '16 at 8:01
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    +1 for find a different route. It's always better to take a longer, safer route. On roads I've seen that have a bike lane on one side, there's often a good reason for not having a lane on the other side, like heavier traffic flow or less room. In most cases I don't want to be over there anyway. – Scribblemacher Nov 8 '16 at 14:01
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    I live in a left-driving country but am not a fan of the Queen, which side do I ride on? – nekomatic Nov 9 '16 at 9:03
  • @nekomatic - I guess you have to stay home =) – Kevin Fegan Nov 13 '16 at 19:42
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This is not a bike path, as you first called it, it's a bike lane; the difference being that it's a part of the road. The bike lane just designates part of the road for bikes.

You're supposed to drive / ride on the right side of the road. If your side of the road happens to have a bike lane, use it.

But if you were to cross the street to ride on the bike lane, you would be going against traffic.
Don't do that. It's forbidden for good reasons: it's dangerous.


‡: In the USA: not left. In general: not wrong.

  • 1
    I only clarify this out because you emphasize the point with a footnote: In the US you drive/ride on the right side of the road. Other countries may have different standards. – R.M. Nov 8 '16 at 14:28
  • See Batman's "fans of the queen" comment. – FreeMan Nov 8 '16 at 14:44
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    @R.M. even if you drive on the left, that's still the right side. – njzk2 Nov 8 '16 at 21:30
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    If it isn't compulsory for cyclists to use a bike lane if it exists under the law where you are, maybe this should be 'If your side of the road happens to have a bike lane, use it if it's appropriate and safe to do so' - it isn't always. – nekomatic Nov 9 '16 at 9:11
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    You should mention why it's dangerous. In addition to creating a hazard for cyclists riding the correct way, motorists crossing or turning onto the road are less likely to notice a vehicle traveling the wrong way. – Kevin Krumwiede Nov 12 '16 at 7:12
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NO!!!

Of course you can't. Why do you even need to ask? You're in a country where traffic moves on the right. You're asking if it's OK to move on the left. It isn't.

Specifically, Section 70.03(C) of the Louisville Traffic Code states

Every person riding a bicycle or an animal on any roadway, and every person driving any animal on any roadway, and every person driving any animal-drawn vehicle shall be subject to the provisions of this traffic code applicable to the driver of any vehicle, except those provisions of this traffic code which by their very nature can have no application.

While you're in the cycle lane, you're on the roadway. The provision that you move on the right is not something "which by its very nature can have no application", so it applies to cyclists just as much as it applies to motorists.

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    There are actually bi-directional bike lanes on roads in some cities, so it's not entirely a stupid question. However, this isn't one of them. – rob Nov 9 '16 at 20:03
  • @RobSkelly Any such insanity would have to be clearly signed. – David Richerby Nov 9 '16 at 20:25
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    They always are, but I still don't really like the idea. The ones I've used just create chaos at intersections -- people keep trying to shoe-horn bike infrastructure into car infrastructure that is fundamentally broken. Best start over from scratch! – rob Nov 9 '16 at 21:30
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Riding in the wrong direction on a bike path risks head on collision with other bikes and cars, among other things. Do not do it.

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What will happen when you encounter one or more riders coming the opposite (i.e. correct) way on the path? Will there be plenty of room for you to pass each other without either of you coming uncomfortably close to fast-moving traffic? Bear in mind the other rider may not be as experienced or confident as you.

If the answer to that question is no, you'd be putting others at risk by riding this path in the wrong direction.

5

Is it OK to ride the opposite way on a designated bike lane?

The general rule of thumb is ride with traffic, walk against traffic. That is in place for safety reasons.

What would happen if you met a biker riding the correct direction while you were going the opposite direction? One of you would be forced in to traffic. That would be very unsafe.

Please do not ride against traffic. It's there for your safety, for the safety of other bicyclists, and the safety of motorists.

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Bike lanes on roads often create confusion for cyclists and drivers alike. 1. As a cyclist, it is your choice whether you ride in the bicycle lane or on the side of the traffic lane. In other words, if there are compelling reasons for you to not ride in the bicycle lane, e.g., vehicles in the way, rain puddles (which might obscure potholes or other dangers, broken pavement, glass or storm grates, you have the right to ride in the road, as if there were no bike lane. Unfortunately, many motor vehicle operators do not know this. 2. Do not ride opposite traffic and do not ride in the bike lane opposite to the designated flow of bicycle traffic - see above.

  • I agree with many of your points, but bike lanes shouldn't be confusing for any roadway users. If they are, then they're poorly designed or badly implemented. – Criggie Apr 26 '17 at 8:30
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No, never!

In the Netherlands it is forbidden by law to ride against the general direction. We have a lot of separate bike paths, on both sides of the road. It was quite normal for bicyclists to keep to the right (i.e. not left) side of the road. But lately it has become a custom for about 10% of the bicyclists to ride against the current. The chance to be apprehended by the police is even less than getting wet by rain in Death Valley in July. And it seems to be a deep wish of people to do something absolutely stupid and risk collision with other cyclists. So indeed No, never ride in the wrong direction.

It is called wrong for a reason!

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Short answer, don't do it.

Long answer - not that straightforward. In Zagreb, Croatia, for example, cycling infrastructure is rare (about 100km of streets have any kind of cycling infrastructure in a city of 900.00 people) and really low quality. Main city avenues typically have at best a single-direction cycling path on the footway/pavement and cyclists often use these paths in the opposite direction, e.g. to avoid having to cross an avenue twice just to travel a kilometre down the side they're already on.

While such cyclists have to enter crossroads carefully (i.e. at pedestrian speeds) because cars don't expect cyclists from the opposite direction (although they often don't seem to expect them from any direction...), this practice of driving in the opposite direction on a cycling path is typically not at all dangerous because most such footways see little pedestrian traffic so the offending cyclist temporarily moves off of the cycling path when someone in the right direction approaches.

Riding in the opposite direction is of course illegal, but I personally don't mind when I see such a cyclist approaching because they typically move out of the way and because bicycle traffic is ignored by local planners to such an absurd degree that I'd much rather see people cycle illegally as long as it's safe, than not cycle at all.

That said, doing this in a cycling lane is typically much more dangerous and should as a rule be avoided, for a number of reasons people highlighted in other answers.

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