If you’ve been on the roads in Grand Rapids,

you’ve probably noticed some changes in the past few years. New bike lanes have been added to many streets in an effort to improve safety for bicyclists and predictability of all road users.

The introduction of more than 70 miles of new bike lanes has led to a lot of discussion and often confusion about how motorists and bicyclists should interact with each other.

Below are a few rules to help you Drive Change in Grand Rapids and know more about your responsibilities on the road, whether you are a motorist or a bicyclist. You can also see what bicyclists are doing to help.

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Motorists must leave 5 feet when passing a bicyclist.

Vehicles passing a bicyclist must give the bicyclist at least a 5-foot separation between the vehicle’s right side, including all mirrors or other projections, and the bicyclist’s left side. Even if you have to slow down and wait for enough room to pass the bicyclist, you are required to leave 5 feet of space.


Motorists do not open vehicle doors in a way that blocks bicycles.

Watch for approaching bicyclists before you open your door.


Motorists watch out for bicyclists, especially when making a right-hand turn.

When turning and at intersections:

  • Watch for bicyclists coming from behind your vehicle at intersections. The smaller size of bicycles can make it difficult to judge their distance and speed.
  • At intersections, treat bicyclists the same as any other vehicle. If a bicyclist is riding ahead of you in the road and stops to complete a left turn, motorists must yield to the bicyclist just like you would for another car. 
  • Before turning right at an intersection, into a driveway or off the road, check for bicyclists coming up from behind your vehicle. As appropriate, yield and allow them to pass before turning. Do not pass bicyclists and turn right in front of them unless it is safe to do so.
  • Do not use a bicycle lane as a passing or turning lane.

Motorists do not park or drive

in the bike lane.

Except when making a right-hand turn, and after checking to make sure you are clear of bicycles, driving in the bike lane is not permitted. Parking in the bike lane is never allowed.


Bicyclists are safer when they ride

on the road.

Bicyclists are allowed – and encouraged – to ride on road in either the bike lane (when available) or in the lane like a vehicle. Riding in the road increases the visibility of bicyclists, leading to fewer crashes. Additionally, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is prohibited in certain areas, including downtown Grand Rapids.


Learn more about why riding on the sidewalk can be less safe than the road with this video.


What is a sharrow?  

A shared lane marking, or “sharrow,” is a symbol painted on the pavement to indicate proper lane position for bicyclists to make them more visible to drivers as well as assist bicyclists in avoiding hazards such as car doors swinging open.


Sharrows also remind motorists that they might encounter bicyclists in the lane where the symbol is located, and they provide wayfinding guidance to bicyclists on designated routes.


How should motorists navigate through an intersection with a bike lane?

When approaching an intersection, all road users should pay attention.

  • If the intersection has a right-hand turn lane, motorists turning right should wait to move into the right-hand turn lane until the bike lane becomes a dashed line. Carefully check the bike lane for bicyclists before merging into the right-hand turn lane. Motorists who are turning right are required to yield to a bicyclist before crossing the bike lane.
  • At some intersections, the bike lane is eliminated to provide room for added vehicle lanes. At these locations, be aware that a bicyclist could be looking to merge into the appropriate vehicle lane.
  • If the intersection has a bike lane and no added right-turn lanes, be aware that bicyclists may be passing on the right. Allow the bicyclist to continue straight before completing your turn.


Learn more about bike lanes with this video and intersections with this video.


Whether you’re in a car or on a bicycle, we are all drivers on our roads.
Together, we can work to improve our road relationships and drive change in Grand Rapids.


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