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Old 04-28-08, 09:38 AM   #1
JohnBrooking
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Bikes in construction zones?

I was reminded of this by another thread in which some of you told about having positive experiences riding through construction zones. My experience is kind of the opposite. Two or three times last summer, and just last week for the first time this year, I've been riding through a construction zone in the general travel lane, not holding up traffic, and have been instructed by a flag person to ride in the sidewalk. I always refuse. This last time, I yelled as I went by "I have a right to be in the road", and they yelled back "Not in a construction zone". I've had the same response at least once or twice before.

Now, aside from the fact that it's probably illegal to disobey a flagger, which I'm willing to accept (but will likely keep disobeying anyway), I'm wondering where the flagger gets this idea that bikes should be directed to sidewalks. In none of these cases was the flagger holding up traffic in general, say to let a construction vehicle cross the road. In that case of course I would have followed their instruction and stopped. No, traffic flow was fairly normal; I was simply singled out. And in all cases, either there was no car traffic around me anyway, or we were all going fairly slowly.

It seems unlikely that this would be state or municipal law, although that's possible. I haven't turned up anything searching my own state's online statutes (Maine). Do you know if your state or municipality has any laws about this?

It seems more likely that either it's the policy of that particular construction company, or maybe just the personal decision of the flagger. I'm mainly interested in finding out who I would inquire of, if I ever decide to pursue this. Any others have experience with this?

Maybe I'll email Bob Mionske...
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Old 04-28-08, 11:20 AM   #2
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Sounds like he doesn't know the rules very well. They usually smile or nod, occasionally wave, as I ride by. I even had one wave me on through, while keeping the cars stopped. I'd just ignore him, unless he wants to push it, in which case I'd push back. Remember, though, I'm a cranky old dude, and my tolerance for fools is very low!
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Old 04-28-08, 11:24 AM   #3
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Generally, you should treat any construction zone as your own personal slalom course. This works better when the workzone is marked off with orange cones, less well when they're using concrete barriers. The flaggers like this and will show their appreciation by making all kinds of energetic waving and hand signals.
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Old 04-28-08, 11:59 AM   #4
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Flaggers don't know jack...or the laws either. Most flaggers are the lowest paid people on the crew. I work in heavy construction for a living, I know how to properly set up, barricade and provide flagging for almost any construction situation (and if I don't I will damn well research the laws and get it right!) I would guess that close to 75% of all road construction sites I drive/ride thru are not set up properly. Your particular flagger is just being a wise ass. Ignore him and continue on as a vehicle. If wants to make a scene ask for the DOT engineer in charge or his safety officer.

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Old 04-28-08, 12:06 PM   #5
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I can't recall ever having problems like that. I usually get waves and even preferential treatment, like they feel they need to look out for me.
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Old 04-28-08, 12:16 PM   #6
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I can't recall ever having problems like that. I usually get waves and even preferential treatment, like they feel they need to look out for me.
Same thing I have had typically happen... road crews looked to cyclists as a diversion on the local hiway site.

Perhaps you need to set the flagger straight by asking him to call a cop and get a "ruling."
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Old 04-28-08, 12:27 PM   #7
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I had a flagger last year ask me to get on the sidewalk. This was on a 2 lane road reduced down to one. The sidewalk in this area was 1 block in length and covered in glass and dirt. My response was no thank you and I went on my way.
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Old 04-28-08, 01:47 PM   #8
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I've never had trouble with flaggers. I will occasionally choose to walk my bike if walking my bike makes the zone easier for me to navigate. I will also walk my bike if they've laid out the construction zone in a dangerous way. Last summer, several different blocks of Park St in Madison had the bike lane, a travel lane and the sidewalk closed as part of construction. That left a single narrow travel lane open. Since the bike lane is also a shared bus lane, I classed that as dangerous construction and walked. Too many vehicles trying to do too many different things in a tiny space.

For a more normal construction situation, I bike through.
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Old 04-28-08, 02:56 PM   #9
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Not only have I never had any trouble with flaggers, but when one of my roads was closed at the railroad crossing for a whole week while under repair, the crew let me carry my bike through every day.
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Old 04-28-08, 05:49 PM   #10
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Yesterday, a flagman motioned me to slow down, then laughed and gave me a big grin! It was pretty funny.
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Old 04-28-08, 06:13 PM   #11
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Flaggers don't know jack...or the laws either. Most flaggers are the lowest paid people on the crew. I work in heavy construction for a living, I know how to properly set up, barricade and provide flagging for almost any construction situation (and if I don't I will damn well research the laws and get it right!) I would guess that close to 75% of all road construction sites I drive/ride thru are not set up properly. Your particular flagger is just being a wise ass. Ignore him and continue on as a vehicle. If wants to make a scene ask for the DOT engineer in charge or his safety officer.

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Old 04-28-08, 07:17 PM   #12
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I used this question as a chance to experiment with the NHTSA's resource guide that I downloaded a couple of weeks ago. It covers bicycle and pedestrian laws and can be downloaded as a self-extracting zip file that creates a compiled HTML help file (it's - also available on CD). It's kind of a pain to use.

I searched for the following words: construction, work, flagman, flagger, flagperson.

I found no mention of bicycles not being allowed in construction zones.

The section of the Uniform Vehicle code that applies is:

UVC 11- 103(a) Obedience to authorized persons directing traffic
No person shall willfully fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of any police officer, firefighter, flagger at highway construction or maintenance site, or uniformed adult school crossing guard invested by law with authority to direct, control or regulate traffic.


Utah has an equivalent law.

Most other states have variations. Some omit the word "willfully." Most make other changes.

Alaska and Wyoming use the term "authorized flagman" instead of "flagger."

New York uses the word "flagperson."

Pennsylvania uses the words "any appropriately attired person." Is that vague enough?

There is no mention of a flagger, flagman or flagperson in the corresponding laws of the following states:
Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin,

No similar law was located for Maine, Missouri, Ohio or South Carolina.

California has #21367 "Restricting use [restricting use of and regulating traffic through and around work areas]" which probably applies.

Florida, Kentucky, Oregon, Washington and West Virgina have other laws which also probably apply but I didn't read those laws in their entirety.

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Old 04-28-08, 07:39 PM   #13
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Yesterday, a flagman motioned me to slow down, then laughed and gave me a big grin! It was pretty funny.
Yea, I've had that, too. That's fine. And one guy last fall made it a practice to wave and smile to everyone. A reporter must have passed through at one point because the local newspaper did a little human interest story on him, and he said that he wanted to brighten up peoples' day because he knows it's not fun going through a construction zone, especially when traffic is backed up.
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Old 04-28-08, 07:41 PM   #14
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I think it is pretty arrogant to ignore the flagger. What do you know of the safety/condition of the contruction zone? It's likely changing from day to day. Maybe the flagger doesn't know jack, but likely more than you.
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Old 04-28-08, 07:45 PM   #15
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Thanks, JRA. It sounds like I'm not even breaking the law if I disobey; that's good news!

A very brief search turned up only one document specifically mentioning directing cyclists to sidewalks during construction zones, and that was from Cambridge, MA, which said that it is to be avoided if possible! (Good ol' Cambridge!)

I've just written an email to Bob Mionske about it, in case he considers it interesting enough to reply personally or use in his column. By coincidence, I just received his book in the mail today, but I don't think it covers this situation. (The first thing I did was search for the word "construction" in the index, but it doesn't appear.)

Now to bed, to read it!!
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Old 04-28-08, 07:54 PM   #16
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I think it is pretty arrogant to ignore the flagger. What do you know of the safety/condition of the contruction zone? It's likely changing from day to day. Maybe the flagger doesn't know jack, but likely more than you.
He certainly knows more than I do about the construction zone, but I'm betting I know more than he does about my ability to handle myself in traffic. (Call me arrogant.) In the most recent case, the construction was about a block long, ending in a functioning traffic light, and there weren't even any cars in the zone at the time. He didn't say the road was closed, nor was it blocked off, he said bikes need to use the sidewalk.

I would never ignore a flagger who was giving me a stop signal, but if he is simply verbally telling me to use the sidewalk when there is obviously a passable road in front of me, I don't see why that is necessary. If a car can go through, I certainly can, and believe I have a right to.
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Old 04-28-08, 08:08 PM   #17
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I can't recall a flagger giving me any kind of grief but I have had two negative encounters with Boston Police officers directing traffic around construction in Kenmore Square and on Dartmouth Street.

One police officer saw me moving through the zone right along with the traffic, I was the last in line but moving at the speed of the traffic and keeping a safe distance from the car in front of me, he looked at me and then waved the traffic from my right to cut me right off as I entered the intersection- it was bizarre. I had to veer hard left to move around the officer, the orange cones and the oncoming traffic.

I twice had negative encounters with the same cop on Dartmouth Street, who voiced displeasure to a construction worker about "the guy on the bike" who he had to hold traffic up for an extra second as I came through.
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Old 04-28-08, 08:16 PM   #18
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I might be wrong, but my assessment of road crew personnel with flags or signs is that they have no special authority beyond telling traffic when to stop and when to go, and which lane is open.
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Old 04-28-08, 08:38 PM   #19
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Indiana's law:

IC 9-21-8-41
Traffic control devices; obeyance of instructions; highway worksites; extraordinary care; safety controls
Sec. 41. (a) A person who drives a vehicle or street car may not disobey the instructions of an official traffic control device placed in accordance with this article unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
(b) When a traffic control device or flagman is utilized at a worksite on a highway for traffic control, a person who drives a vehicle shall exercise extraordinary care to secure the mutual safety of all persons and vehicles at the worksite.
(c) All traffic shall observe and obey traffic control devices including signals, signs, and warnings, and all directions, signs, or warning devices that may be given or displayed by a police officer or flagman to safely control traffic movement at a worksite and promote safety at a worksite.
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Old 04-28-08, 08:59 PM   #20
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here in s nj there was road repair/repave going on. traffic was diverted one way. i went through with flaggers okay while traffic was able to safely pass in the same direction. soon, they all got ahead of me and the road was briefly quiet.
until traffic started from the other way! the flagperson let other drivers go while i was still in the one-way path. they stated no knowledge that i was there, on the road, and i did not ride back to the starting point of this bs and marked it up to car driven mentality...
be carefull and remember the person caged has better armer than you...!
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Old 04-28-08, 09:27 PM   #21
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No problems with flaggers. But, I cut through a construction site recently and it seemed to really annoy a supervisor type, although the actual workers smiled and waved. They had closed the sidewalks on either side of the street and left a very narrow (like less than a Humer width) travel lane open in the opposite direction I was going. In addition even though they had blocked what ammounted to three trafic lanes and two wide sidewalks they were only actively digging in a small portion of one of the travel lanes. I was tired and didn't want to go around (about a mile all told), not one of my prouder moments.

In terms of your flaggers I'd just ignore them, unless it looks like a long term project and is on your regular route, in which case I'd try and make friends. I would watch out for traffic in construction zones, humans enter their fight or flight stage in stressful situations like driving in construction
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Old 04-28-08, 10:50 PM   #22
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Ignore flaggers?

Heck... I like chatting 'em up.
Ya know, ask them about the dig. Whether or not they ever make a mistake and turn the Slow/Stop sign the wrong way. What they do when nature calls... ya know... the edge of wiseassness without actually being a wiseass.

(Here in canuckistan, they all seem to be ladies)
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Old 04-29-08, 05:49 AM   #23
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I think it is pretty arrogant to ignore the flagger. What do you know of the safety/condition of the contruction zone? It's likely changing from day to day. Maybe the flagger doesn't know jack, but likely more than you.
Nobody is ignoring the flagger..per se. You are to follow his LAWFUL directive. Riding/driving on the sidewalk IS NOT a lawful directive in most cases. Around here you are lucky to find one that even speaks english to begin with.

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Old 04-29-08, 07:59 AM   #24
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Well, perhaps the best way to defuse the situation is to do as the flagger says, and then politely inquire with the construction company. The companies usually proudly post signs around the worksite announcing how they are doing such a great job, with phone numbers and such. If not, a call to your local DOT can quickly get you the contact info for the contractor.
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Old 04-29-08, 08:12 AM   #25
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I was reminded of this by another thread in which some of you told about having positive experiences riding through construction zones. My experience is kind of the opposite. Two or three times last summer, and just last week for the first time this year, I've been riding through a construction zone in the general travel lane, not holding up traffic, and have been instructed by a flag person to ride in the sidewalk. I always refuse. This last time, I yelled as I went by "I have a right to be in the road", and they yelled back "Not in a construction zone". I've had the same response at least once or twice before.
You know, maybe he was just concerned about your safety. Sure, us big bad cyclists think we're the equivalent of a car, but on a dusty, busy construction site we can quickly become a bug smear on the windshield of a moving front end loader.

I generally avoid active construction areas.
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