Passing laws: Maryland requires that in the event a motor vehicle passes a bicycle it shall leave a safe distance, not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle. There are three exceptions, which are:
- If the bicycle rider fails to stay to the right side of the road or is using a paved bike path or lane;
- Clearance of less than 3 feet is caused solely by the bicyclist; and
- The road the bicycle is on is not wide enough for a motor vehicle to have a 3 feet clearance.
Helmet law: Maryland requires that an operator of a bicycle under the age of 16 must wear a helmet.
Laws to Protect the Bicyclist: There are certain laws entitled “vulnerable user laws.” These laws in essence require the vehicle least at risk to yield to the vehicle most at risk. For example, a motor vehicle would have to yield to a bicycle and a bicycle would have to yield to a pedestrian. Maryland does not have any specific vulnerable laws, but has laws that protect bicyclists such as:
- It is unlawful to throw an object at someone riding a bicycle; and
- It is unlawful to open a car door with the intent to strike, interfere or injure a cyclist.
Distracted Driving Laws: As almost every bicyclist knows, distracted driving creates one of the most dangerous risks to a bicycle on a public road way. Every state has varying laws to attempt to reduce the amount of distracted driving that exist. Nonetheless, it still presents a serious problem.
In Maryland there have been laws passed to attempt to reduce distracted driving by punishing violators. Here is a summary of the present laws. There will be links at the end of this article to the specific laws in full detail.
- A person under the age of 18 years may not use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle;
- A driver on a learner’s permit shall not be allowed to use a handheld telephone while operating the motor vehicle;
- A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to read, write or send a text message;
- A school bus driver may never operate a school bus while using his/her cell phone; and
- A person is not allowed to drive a motor vehicle if there is a television type of equipment that is displaying an image to the driver, in other words you are not allowed to watch a movie while you drive!
Lane Position Laws for a Bicyclist: Generally speaking Maryland law requires the bicyclist to be as close to the right hand edge of the road as possible. However there are some important exceptions that I will outline below:
- When passing a slower or stopped vehicle;
- When preparing to take a left turn;
- When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions such as riding in a lane that is too narrow;
- When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized;
- On a one-way street; and
- When needed to avoid pedestrians or a hazard.
Sidewalk Riding: The general rule in Maryland is that you are not permitted to ride on sidewalks. However, if there is a specific ordinance that allows you to ride on a sidewalk, then you will also be allowed to ride through a crosswalk.
If there is a specific paved bicycle path or lane, then you are REQUIRED to use that lane and not use the normal vehicle traffic lanes. Unless:
- You need to overtake another bicycle or pedestrian;
- When preparing to make a left hand turn at an intersection;
- When necessary to avoid debris or other hazardous condition;
- When necessary because the bike lane is overlaid with a right turn lane, merge lane or other markings that break up the continuity of the lane.
Riding a Bike under the Influence: In Maryland, bicycles are defined as vehicles. Maryland’s law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to vehicles, therefore applies directly to bicyclists.
Stop Sign Laws: Maryland bicycles have to follow the same rules as motor vehicles regarding the requirement to come to a complete stop when directed to stop by traffic control devices and Maryland does not authorize bicyclists to disobey traffic lights that fail to detect bicyclists.
Important Resources and Links