Bikes are back so share the road – again

Bikes are back so share the road – again

Bikes are back on the road in greater numbers with some of the worst road surface conditions in recent memory due to our hard winter. Swerving around potholes and debris, cyclists and drivers are likely to be in dangerous conflict but the law is on the side of the two-wheelers. That said, everyone wishing to proceed safely on our highways and byways in Maine and New Hampshire need to exercise caution and courtesy.

There is nothing more irritating to a driver than packs of cyclists riding two or three abreast. Such behavior makes for poor decisions by both cyclists and drivers.

There also is nothing more dangerous and frustrating than having a driver ignore the law by zipping past a biker leaving less than the three feet required by law.

So let’s look again at the laws that protect drivers and cyclists, scooters, roller skiers and toy vehicles:

Cyclists must obey the same traffic laws as vehicles: stop at stop signs and red lights, yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and yield to traffic when entering the road.

  • Drivers must provide a minimum of three feet between the vehicle and the cyclist when passing and may not make a right hand turn in front of a cyclist unless it can be done with reasonable safety.
  • Cyclists must ride with traffic, not against it.
  • When passing a cyclist, drivers may cross the center line in a no-passing zone if it is safe to do so in order to provide the three-foot buffer.
  • Cyclists are expected to ride on the right side of the road as is “practicable” but may legally take more or all of the travel lane including setting up for a left turn, passing other vehicles or avoiding unsafe road conditions.
  • Drivers “may not unnecessarily sound a signaling device or horn” as it could startle a cyclist and cause a crash.
  • Cyclists must have and use headlights at night as well as rear reflectors and foot/ankle/pedal reflectors.
  • Drivers may open car doors only after checking to see that it can be done safely.
  • Cyclists under age 16 MUST wear a helmet – and we encourage all cyclists to do so, as well.

Riding bikes on the sidewalk is not prohibited by state law but some municipalities may ban the practice.

One of the additional hazards this summer will be road construction and repair projects. When cyclists find themselves at a construction site with alternating traffic on a single lane road, the cyclist really needs to proceed in the center of the road unless there is ample shoulder space. Despite their slower pace, cyclists are people at a distinct disadvantage in terms of speed, weight and safety. We all need to obey the law whether we are pedaling or driving. The roads of Maine and New Hampshire can accommodate everyone with a little common sense and a lot of common courtesy.

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