Ask Maxine

Katie Thomas  |   Saturday Jun. 1st, 2024

Dear Maxine:
What is the protocol for bike riders in Bozeman? I drive down South Willson to and from work on Main Street every day, and lately I’ve been noticing cyclists riding in the middle of the lane, literally in front of my car. Besides slowing me down, this just seems unsafe and unwise. Don’t bikes have to ride on the shoulder of the road, unless there’s a marked bike lane? They should have to share the road too.

​​​​​​​​~ Peddling Against Pedalers

Dear Peddling:
You ask about the protocol, which is different from the law. Let’s look at both.

As far as protocol, Bozeman used to be a small town, where it wasn’t so congested that a car and a bike would be smooshed together. But with the growth we’ve had, this is becoming more of an issue. Drivers should also recognize that roads with rumble strips make it difficult to ride on the shoulder. As the driver of a car, you’re less vulnerable than a cyclist, so protocol is that you need to look around and stay alert — you don’t want to be responsible for injuring anyone.

Legally, bikes are cars in Bozeman. Pursuant to Code 1982, § 10.48.120, “Every person riding a bicycle upon a street or roadway shall be granted all of the rights, and shall be subject to all of the duties, applicable to the driver of a vehicle by the laws of this state declaring rules of the road applicable to vehicles.” Translation: cyclists have the right to ride in the road, and they are expected to follow the same traffic laws, including signaling (in advance please — I’m looking at both of you, cars and bikes), stopping at stop signs, and yielding to pedestrians.

Conversely, it’s illegal for cyclists to ride on sidewalks. Maybe back in the day you could get away with cruising down the sidewalk without plowing over your elderly neighbor walking his or her dogs, but not so much now. Ideally, a road will have a designated bike lane, such as Durston Road, but if not, cyclists must ride somewhere in the actual street. Particularly when a road has debris, parked cars, plowed snow, or other junk in the shoulder, cyclists need the lane too.

Finally, keep in mind that when a cyclist is stopped at a stop sign while sitting on their bike, they are a vehicle. You do not have to stop in the middle of a right-of-way street like South Willson and let them in – in fact, you aren’t supposed to, and you’ll annoy everyone behind you who knows this. Don’t do it to be “nice;” go with the flow – unless the flow is led by a Hummer whose driver appears to think they’re alone and flying through Doc Brown’s space-time continuum.

Maxine is a lifelong Montanan with a background in both language and unsolicited advice-giving. She spends her free time doing field research and writing critiques on American culture, ideologies, psychology, and relationships, and is happy to provide solicited advice to our community’s questions. To submit your question to our advice column, put “MAXINE” in the subject line and send your email to

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