CUMBERLAND — Bicycling safely while riding on the road means sharing the pavement with cars, trucks, motorcycles and sometimes pedestrians. Bicyclists need to follow traffic laws that apply to all vehicles such as stopping at stop signs and using hand signals when turning.
According to the 2018 Maryland Bicycle Safety Program Area Brief, bike crashes have increased. The Western Maryland Wheelmen, a local bike club, would like to to see that reversed. Treasurer Kate Kidwell noted that both bike riders and motorists can improve their awareness of each other. “Since more bikes are on the road during warmer weather, we ask drivers to be careful when passing cyclists, remembering the 3-foot rule, giving bikers at least 3 feet of clearance. It’s nice to slow up as well.”
As a new Bike Maryland member, Valerie Van Hollen, Wheelmen vice president, is looking forward to getting new license plates for her car. “They not only identify the 3-foot rule, they state, ‘My other vehicle is a bicycle!’ Bike Maryland is an advocacy group that lobbies the General Assembly to improve bike safety and increase awareness.
Because people are more vulnerable on a bike than in a car, bicyclists need to be watchful for motorists, especially for turning vehicles. Bikes have the right of way and vehicles, when turning, should yield to bikes, but they must know they are there. Bicyclists can improve their visibility by using headlights and tail-lights and wearing bright clothing. It is also OK to use a bell or your voice to announce your presence, Van Hollen said. Cyclists should use bike lanes when they are available. If there is no bike lane, bicyclists should stay to the right on the road. It is not OK to ride a bike on the sidewalk.
“Most bike riders are motorists as well. We know we share the road and so want to show courtesy and respect for drivers,” said Wheelmen secretary Susan Scarpelli. “We should ride single file and stay to the right of the road. But we would ask drivers to understand that it is not always safe to ride on the shoulder of the road.” For instance, uneven surfaces or rumble strips keep bikes off shoulders.
Maryland’s “Look up, Look Out” campaign includes efforts to increase law enforcement and to improve bicycle safety. The Maryland Department of Transportation has developed a training video specific to bicycle safety for law enforcement agencies. The bottom line is that both motorists and cyclists have responsibilities when on the road. Motorists should expect bicyclists on the road, pass with care and be especially careful at intersections. Bicyclists should know the rules of the road, wear a helmet, signal all turns, be visible and maintain their bikes.
For more information, contact the Motor Vehicle Administration at 410-762-5188 or visit www.bikemaryland.org. Information about the Western Maryland Wheelmen club can be found on Facebook or by calling Van Hollen at 240-727-3533.