Understanding Your Rights as a Bicyclist

Understanding Your Rights as a Bicyclist

Guy riding bicycle on road

Being a bicyclist in Maryland comes with a unique set of risks. At least 864 bicycle crashes happened in Maryland between 2013 and 2017. That’s about 15 accidents in a month. However, as much as cyclists are vulnerable to being hit by a car, they also face the possibility of criminal and civil liability if they are involved in a bicycle accident.

Understanding bicycle rights is important to prevent Maryland cyclists from being wrongfully accused or convicted of a crime. We can help you assert your rights if you are the victim of a hit-and-run or if you’re injured in a bicycle accident. Here’s a guide on the Maryland laws protecting the rights of bicyclists.

Bicycles Are Vehicles: Cyclists Have the Right to the Road

Maryland considers bicycles “vehicles” under the law. That means that cyclists have the same rights to use Maryland roads as motorists do. Because they have the same right-of-way as motorists, they have the same duties to obey traffic signals meant for motorists.

There are traffic laws that motorists must follow that are meant for the safety of bicyclists. These traffic laws include:

  • Drivers passing another vehicle (including bicycles) must leave plenty of space for the other vehicle to pass at a safe distance. They must not pass any closer than three feet.
  • Drivers must see vehicles in the rear-view mirror before returning to their lane. They must also ensure that they are clear of passing bicyclists before turning.
  • Drivers must exercise due care to avoid crashing with bicyclists, motorcyclists, or Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device (EPAMD) riders.
  • Drivers or vehicle passengers must not open their car doors to strike a bicyclist.
  • Drivers must yield the right-of-way to bicyclists when motorists are turning. Motorists must also yield to cyclists riding in bike lanes when they intend to enter or cross occupied bike lanes.
  • Drivers who fail to yield to the bicyclist and cause a crash where the cyclist is injured may receive a $1,000 fine and three points on their driving record.

Bicyclist Traffic Laws

Bicycles are smaller and less visible than cars. They are also quieter than motorcycles. Thus, Maryland law requires cyclists to follow certain rules of the road. In particular, Maryland law requires cyclists to:

  • Ride in the Right-hand Lane: On roads without designated bicycle lanes, cyclists must ride as close to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway as they practicably and safely can. Exceptions include making a left turn, riding on a one-way street, avoiding pedestrians, or escaping a dangerous animal that the local animal control officer failed to restrain.
  • Avoid Carrying Passengers: Bicycles that are not specifically designed for and equipped with seats for each extra person are not allowed to carry a passenger.
  • Ride on Specified Roads Only: Bicyclists, motorized scooter riders, and EPAMD users are not allowed on any roads with speed limits that go over 50 miles per hour.
  • Keep Both Hands on the Handlebars: Bicyclists must not carry anything that prevents them from keeping both hands on the handlebars.
  • Avoid Clinging Onto Another Vehicle: Bikers may not cling to another vehicle on the road in an attempt to be towed.

Bicycle Equipment and Gear

All Maryland cyclists must have the appropriate gear and bicycle equipment to ensure their safety while riding. Maryland law states that everyone under 16 years old (including passengers) who ride their bikes or scooters on the road, bicycle paths, or public property must wear a helmet.

Helmets must meet or exceed the safety standards that the American National Standards Institute, Snell Memorial Foundation, or the American Society for Testing and Materials have established.

Meanwhile, bicycles or motorized scooters require certain equipment if riders intend to use them on highways where people and other vehicles are not clearly visible at 1,000 feet. Such equipment includes:

  • Lamps
  • Red reflectors on the rear
  • Bells or audible devices (except sirens or whistles)
  • Brakes

Get a Maryland Bicycle Accident Lawyer To Champion Your Bicyclist Rights

Understanding one’s rights as a bicyclist protects riders from the risks associated with Maryland roads. However, even with the best safety gear and following all the traffic rules, bicyclists can still get hit by a careless driver.

Moreover, these drivers may disregard bicyclist rights even when they clearly have criminal liability for the accident. In these cases, having an experienced bicycle accident lawyer on the cyclist’s side is critical.

DT&F Law has the right bicycle accident lawyers who understand Maryland law and will fight for injured bicyclists. If you or a loved one has been in a Maryland bicycle accident, schedule a free consultation with us.