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Bicycle Safety

Bicycle Safety

Riding a bicycle is environmentally-friendly, great exercise, and just plain fun. Unfortunately, it can also be dangerous. In Maryland, there were a total of 686 pedal cycle-involved crashes in 2009, leaving 10 people dead and 578 people injured. Bicycles are considered vehicles in Maryland, and as such, cyclists must devote as much attention to riding a bike as they would when operating an automobile. Equally as important, motorists must allow cyclists the same respect and caution they would allow another automobile.

Maryland Fast Facts:

  • Between 2007–2011, on average, 40% of all total crashes and 35% of all fatal crashes involving a bicycle or other pedacycle occurred between the hours of 4 pm and 8 pm.
  • During those same years, on average, 52% of all bicycle or other pedacycle involved crashes occurred between May and August. In these warmer months, 49% of the fatal crashes occurred.
  • The vast majority of all bicycle or other pedacycle involved crashes and bicycle or other pedacycle involved fatal crashes occurred in daylight; 77% and 71% respectively.
  • Of the 5 pedal cyclists killed in 2011, 3 were between 40-54 years old.
  • On average, there are 745 bicycle and pedalcycle involved crashes in Maryland, resulting in 617 injuries and 7 fatalities each year.
  • Bicyclist crashes, injuries and fatalities are clustered in the urban areas of the State in the Washington metropolitan and Baltimore metropolitan areas.
  • Nearly 75% of all bicyclist crashes and more than half of all bicyclist fatalities occur in urban jurisdictions.
  • Bicyclist crashes occur most frequently during warm weather months; more than 63% of all bicyclist crashes occur between the months of May to September. Bicyclist crashes overall are distributed fairly equally across the days of the week; however, Tuesday is the peak day for bicyclist fatalities, accounting for 30% of all riders killed, on average.
  • Young bicyclists are the most likely to be involved in a bicycle crash; more than 40% of bicycle crashes involve a person under the age of 18, on average.
  • Approximately 84% of all bicyclists involved in a crash, injured or killed while riding are male.

National Statistics:

  • Pedalcyclists under age 16 accounted for 13 percent of all pedalcyclists killed and 20 percent of all those injured in traffic crashes in 2009. By comparison, lcyclists under age 16 accounted for 28 percent of all those killed and 40 percent of those injured in 2000.
  • In 2010, 618 cyclists were killed and an additional 52,000 were injured in traffic crashes.
  • Alcohol involvement — either for the driver or the cyclist — was reported in more than one-third (34%) of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedal cyclist fatalities in 2010.
  • Most of the pedal cyclists killed or injured in 2010 were males (86% and 75%, respectively).

Bicycle Safety Maryland Laws

By Maryland law, bicycles are vehicles, and bicyclists have rights and responsibilities just as do drivers of motor vehicles – but bicycles are less visible, quieter, and don't have a protective barrier around them. Bicyclists fare best when they act like and are treated as drivers of vehicles.

Traffic Laws for Motorists

  • The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle, including a bicycle, which is going in the same direction, shall pass to the left of the overtaken vehicle at a safe distance.
  • The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle that is going in the same direction, until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle, may not drive any part of his vehicle directly in front of the overtaken vehicle.
  • Drivers shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter being ridden by a person the driver of a vehicle must not pass any closer than three (3) feet to a bicycle or motor scooter if the bicycle is operated in a lawful manner. It is not lawful to ride against traffic.
  • After passing you must make sure you are clear of the bicyclist before making any turns. The bike has the right of way, and you must yield to bike, when you are turning. Failing to yield right of way to a bicyclist, resulting in a crash in which the bicyclist is seriously injured can result in a $1,000 fine and three points on your driving record.
  • Motorists must yield the right-of-way to bicyclists riding in bike lanes and shoulders when these vehicle operators are entering or crossing occupied bike lanes and shoulders.
  • When riding on a sidewalk, where such riding is permitted, or a bike path, a bicyclist may made ride in a crosswalk to continue on their route. Motorists are required to yield right of way to a bicyclist operating lawfully in a crosswalk at a signalized intersection. (TR §21-101, §21-202, & §21-1103) look for bikes coming from both directions.
  • A person may not throw any object at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle, an EPAMD, or a motor scooter.
  • A person may not open the door of any motor vehicle with intent to strike, injure, or interfere with any person riding a bicycle, an EPAMD, or a motor scooter. Don't open door into traffic.

Traffic Laws for Bicyclists

Maryland law provides for the right-of-way of bicyclists, just as it does for the operators of motor vehicles. Bicyclists also have the duty to obey all traffic signals, signs and pavement markings, just as do drivers.

Riding in Traffic Lanes and on Shoulders

  • A bicyclist riding slower than the speed of traffic is confined to the right hand through lane (much the same way as a slow moving vehicle is) and as close to the right side of the road as is safe. A bicyclist can move further left to:
    • Make or attempt to make a vehicular style left turn
    • Pass a stopped or slower moving vehicle
    • Avoid pedestrians or road hazards.
  • This ride-to-the-right provision does not apply when operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle to travel safely side-by-side with another vehicle within the lane. The provision also does not apply where the right-hand lane is a turn lane, or the bicyclist is operating on a one-way street.
  • A bicyclist riding at the speed of traffic can operate in any lane, just as any other vehicle can..Where there is not a bike lane, a bicyclist may also use the shoulder of the roadway.
  • Bicycles may not be ridden in the travel lanes of any roadway where the posted maximum speed limit is more than 50 miles an hour; however, bicycles may be operated on the shoulder of these roadways.
  • Bicycles may not be operated on expressways (access-controlled freeways and interstate highways), except on an adjacent path or facility approved by the State Highway Administration.

Bicycle Safety Riding in Bike Lanes

Where there are marked bicycle lanes paved to a smooth surface, a person operating a bicycle must use the bike lane and may not ride on the roadway, except in the following situations:

  • When overtaking and passing another bicycle, motor scooter, pedestrian, or other vehicle within the bike lane if the overtaking and passing cannot be done safely within the bike lane;
  • When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway;
  • When reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane to avoid debris or other hazardous condition; or
  • When reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane because the bike lane is overlaid with a right turn lane, merge lane, or other marking that breaks the continuity of the bike lane.

Bicycle Safety Equipment Required

  • By law, all bicycles must be equipped with brakes capable of stopping from a speed of 10 miles per hour within 15 feet on dry, level, clean pavement.
  • If operated in low visibility conditions, bicycles must also be equipped with a white beam headlight visible at a distance of 500 feet, and a red rear reflector visible at a distance of 600 feet if night time or during unfavorable visibility conditions. Alternately, a bicyclist may be equipped with a functioning lamp that acts as a reflector and emits a red light or a flashing amber light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear instead of, or in addition to the red reflector above.
  • A bicycle or motor scooter may be equipped with a bell or other audible device, but not a siren or whistle.
  • Any rider under the age of 16 must also wear a helmet that meets or exceeds the standards of the American National Standards Institute, the Snell Memorial Foundation, or the American Society for Testing and Materials.


Street Smart Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety:

The Maryland highway safety program includes a comprehensive pedestrian and bicycle safety program that promotes safe pedestrian and bicycle practices, educates drivers to share the road safely with other road users, and encourages safe facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists through a combination of education and engineering strategies. In 2009 the Street Smart program was expanded to include the Baltimore metropolitan region. Managed through a grant with the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the Baltimore Street Smart campaign has successfully administered media and public outreach efforts.

Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety:

This campaign operates with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA), and continues to promote the Maryland Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Education Program in collaboration with the Maryland Safe Routes to School program. Bicycle and pedestrian safety training trailers are used to educate children on basic pedestrian safety issues and bicycle operation skills.

Maryland Highway Safety Office and its regional Traffic Safety Programs:

RTSP partners distributed more than 200,000 pieces of educational material in 2011, including Street Smart branded materials, school system electronic pedestrian safety alerts, pedestrian safety law cards, booklets for school aged children, copies of the Bicycling in Maryland booklet and the DVD Competence and Confidence: an Adults Guide to Safe Cycling, and other materials.

Bicycle Safety Law Enforcement Video Training:

The Maryland Department of Transportation, under a grant from MHSO, is developing a training video for law enforcement agencies and officers on traffic law enforcement for bicyclist safety.

Bicycle Safety Ambassadors Project:

BikeMaryland, under a grant from MHSO, is developing a bicycle safety outreach program for the Baltimore City area, targeting high risk areas and populations.


Bicycle SafetyFor Bicyclists:

  • Obey the Rules of the Road: Ride straight and single file in a predictable manner. Plan ahead and allow time to maneuver around road hazards and to negotiate with traffic and open car doors. Yield to pedestrians and obey all traffic signals and signs.
  • Ride with Traffic: Always ride on the right side. Use caution if passing other traffic on the right. When approaching an intersection, use the appropriate lane for the direction you intend to travel (left, straight, or right).
  • Signal All Turns: Look back before you make a lane change or turn. Signal safely in advance.
  • Make Left Hand Turns Safely: You may turn left as a vehicle by moving into the left side of the travel lane (or left turn lane) OR cross like a pedestrian by stopping, dismounting, and walking across crosswalks.
  • Be Prepared for Conditions: When braking in the rain or snow, allow extra distance to stop and look for pavement markings and utility covers which may become slippery.
  • Be Visible - Use Lights at Night: When riding at night, Maryland State Law requires a white headlight on front and a red reflector on the back visible from at least 600 feet. In addition, we recommend you wear bright clothing in the daytime and reflective clothing for night riding.
  • Maintain your Bike: Check your tires, chain, and brakes before every trip. Take your bicycle to a bike shop at least once a year for a professional inspection and tune-up. Make sure your reflectors and lights are in working condition.
  • Wear a Helmet Correctly: Helmets are required by law for anyone under 16, but everyone should wear a helmet to prevent a head injury. Your helmet should be level and snug and should not shift while riding.

Bicycle SafetyFor Motorists:

  • Expect Bicyclists on the Road: Always expect to encounter a bicyclist on the road: on all types of roads, in all types of weather and at all times of the day and night. Bicyclists may be riding out in the travel lane for their own safety due to narrow roads, obstacles, or pavement hazards which you may not see. Before opening your car door, check for bicyclists who may be approaching.
  • Pass with Care, Give Bikes at Least 3 Feet: Pass a bicyclist as you would any slow-moving vehicle. Slow down, wait until oncoming traffic is clear and allow at least 3 feet of clearance between your car and the bicyclist when passing. After passing a bicyclist, check over your shoulder to make sure you have allowed enough room before moving over. Experienced bicyclists often ride 20 to 25 mph and may be closer than you think.
  • Be Careful in Intersections: Always assume bicyclists are traveling through an intersection unless they signal otherwise, and yield to them as you would to any other vehicle. Do not turn left or right in front of bicyclists unless you can do so safely. You can be fined $1000 and receive 3 points if you injure a bicyclist by violating their right-of-way.
  • Watch for Children: Children on bicycles are often unpredictable – expect the unexpected. Strictly observe speed limits in school zones and in residential areas.
  • Use Extra Caution in Bad Conditions: In bad weather, give bicyclists extra trailing and passing room. When uncertain in any situation, slow down until it's safe to proceed.