Road rage, riding and respect

Road rage, riding and respect

A traffic incident a few years back brought to light the inherent conflicts between bicyclists riding the roads and drivers. The incident involved a cyclist crossing the bridge through a construction site that had no shoulder or bike lane. The cyclist claimed a driver nearly forced him to go over the bridge railing to avoid serious injury. The driver said he yielded to the cyclist. The confrontation that followed further inflamed the matter but brought much needed awareness about the relationship of bicyclists and drivers under Maine law.

Though construction makes it all the more challenging to safely navigate traffic, Maine law requires motorists to give way to bicycles, scooters, roller skis and toy vehicles. The law also opens the door to claims of liability and potential litigation from either perspective. Why? The cost of medical bills and rehab costs associated with bodily injuries makes it all the more compelling to find third party coverage if you’re the injured party. Therefore, adherence to this law and the use of common sense makes safety awareness all the more important.

Let’s look at the law.

The following is a summary from the State of Maine web site:

Maine Bicycle Laws

  • Maine bicycling laws generally give bicyclists the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. Bicyclists may use public roads, and they must obey traffic laws such as stopping at red lights and stop signs, yielding to pedestrians at cross walks and yielding to traffic when entering a road from a driveway.
  • Bicyclists must ride with traffic, not against it.
  • Bicycles are expected to ride on the right as far as is “practicable,” but there are a variety of situations in which a rider may legally take a larger share of the travel lane, including: setting up for a left turn, proceeding straight where a right turn is also permitted, passing other vehicles, and to avoid obstacles or other unsafe situations.
  • Bicyclists MAY ride on designated bike paths and in bike lanes, but they are NOT required to do so, even when such paths or lanes parallel a road. Bicycles have a right to be on most roads in Maine, but may be prohibited from riding on divided highways and other roads as per local ordinances. Bicycles are not required to ride in shoulders or bike lanes in Maine.
  • Bicyclists must have and use headlights at night, as well as rear reflectors and foot/ankle/pedal reflectors. They also must have functional brakes on their bikes.
  • Cyclists under 16 must wear bike helmets.
  • The Maine Operating Under the Influence law does not apply to cyclists, but they can be arrested for drinking and/or possession of an alcoholic beverage. They also can be arrested for disorderly conduct.
  • Sidewalk riding is not prohibited by state law, only by local ordinance if it exists.

Maine Motor Vehicle Laws Related to Biking:

  • Motorists must give at least three feet of clearance when passing bicyclists.
  • Motorists who are passing bicyclists proceeding in the same direction may not make a right turn unless they can do so with reasonable safety.
  • Motorists may cross the center line in a no-passing zone in order to pass a bicyclist if it is safe to do so.
  • Motorists may not unnecessarily sound a horn.
  • Motorists may open car doors only after checking to see that it can be done safely, without interfering with traffic.

Whether one or thousands of people use the road for cycling, the law and common sense should be used to ensure the safety of all. Share the road whether you’re on your bike or driving a vehicle – it’s the law.

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