‘Bridging the Gap’ between Cars, Drivers and Cyclists
The question of who owns the road—cyclists or motorists—has always been a touchy topic. Cars whiz by cyclists without a thought to the riders’ safety. Meanwhile, drivers attempt to pass on curvy roads with treacherous blind spots, risking head-on collision to get around the bikers.
Each cursing the other.
Bridging the Gap in cycling is when a lone or small group of cyclists catch up with another group, or the lead. Bridging the Gap applies here because the road belongs to everyone. Maybe we just need to catch up on our thinking about sharing the road
According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA)
“bicycles are vehicles and are authorized users of the roadway and have rights-of-way and the same duty to obey all traffic signals as motorists. However, bicyclists are less visible and don’t have protective barrier around them and motorists should drive carefully near cyclists.”
Since 2010, it is Maryland law that motorists give cyclists three feet of clearance when passing.
The recent weekend accident at the intersection of Route 2 and Mill Swamp Road in Harwood that injured three cyclists gives us an opportunity to revisit the rules of the road.
Local Cyclists Speak Out
Like so many South County residents, Melissa Chick is an avid cyclist. Each week, she gets an early start to log long hours in the saddle. She is a regular on Solomons Island Road, Sands Road, Harwood Road and Polling House Road. Chick has been hit by a truck, had bottles thrown at her, and even had guys try to pull her off her bike. But still, she loves to ride.
She recognizes the dangers of cycling and always sticks to the rules of the road.
“I stop at every light and stop sign,” Chick said. “My friends think I am crazy, but I am a freak about road safety. I ride with traffic and stay as close to the shoulder as possible.”
Further, Chick said that she also always wears brightly-colored clothes, rides with friends and carries a phone and identification bracelet in case she is hurt.
She said she believes motorists have become more hostile towards cyclists.
“People don’t like us on the road. You’re making them slow down and are taking up their space.”
“Motorists fail to recognize that cyclists have a right to be on the road,” he said.
Even though Waring is emphatic about cyclists’ road rights, he tries to select routes with ample shoulder and less traffic in order to avoid incidents with motorists.
In addition, Waring said he offers recommendations to fellow cyclists on how to approach dangerous intersections.
Waring said often there are misconceptions about cyclists road methods. For instance, why they “pack up” instead of riding single file.
“If there are 40 cyclists riding single file it will take the motorist forever to pass them,” said Warinz. “We tend to ride in a group so cars can get by us quicker,” said Warinz.
As with Chick, Warinz uses a lot of hand signals to signify when a car is approaching. He is often well aware of a car approaching long before the motorist sees him and thus acts accordingly.
Waring said everyone is in a hurry these days and need to slow down and be patient with cyclists
“I get brushed, clipped and ‘dieseled’ on rides,” Waring said. “The law says we have the right to be on the road and motorists need to respect that.”
Sue Dzeidec is a cyclist on South County Roads. She said that sometimes cars will pass her and then make a left turn, not realizing that as they were passing, she was also gaining ground.
“Some don’t understand that even though you got around, the bike is still moving at 15 miles an hour. Cars and bicycles use the same rules. In a car, you wouldn’t pass another car and then turn left in front of it,” she said.
Over the years she has seen and heard it all. She said that a guy she was recently riding with told her about a truck that pulled up along side on a back road. Then, the driver screamed at the cyclist that “bikes don’t belong on roads,” opining that roads are only meant for motorized vehicles
That driver is wrong. The road is meant to be shared. Laws are written to help us all share the road.
In fact, the state of Maryland law requires that cars and bicyclists share the road. Here are the “Maryland Rules for Drivers and Cyclists,” from the Motor Vehicle Administrationwebsite:
- The driver of a vehicle passing another vehicle, including a bicycle, must pass at a safe distance and leave plenty of space. The driver should be able to see the passed vehicle in the rear view mirror before returning to the original lane. After passing you must make sure you are clear of the bicyclist before making any turns.
- Drivers shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle, Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device (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.
- The bicycle has the right of way when the motor vehicle is making a turn, and you must yield to bicycle.
- 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 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. So, look for bicycles coming from both directions.
- A person may not throw any object at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle.
- A person may not open the door of any motor vehicle with intent to strike, injure, or interfere with any person riding a bicycle.
- 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.
Maryland Traffic Laws for Bicyclist
- Maryland’s traffic laws apply to bicycles
- Bicycles are not permitted on any roads where the speed limit is more than 50 miles per hour or higher.
- A person riding a bicycle shall ride as close to the right side of the road as practicable and safe, except when:
- Making or attempting to make a left turn;
- Operating on a one-way street;
- Passing a stopped or slower moving vehicle;
- Avoiding pedestrians or road hazards;
- The right lane is a right turn only lane; or
- Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane
- Where there is a bike lane, a person must use those and not ride a bicycle in the roadway except:
- If passing safely cannot be done within the bike lane or shoulder;
- When preparing for a left turn;
- o To avoid hazards;
- When the bike lane is also a right turn or merge lane.
- A person riding a bicycle may not cling to any vehicle on the roadway.
- A person may not ride a bicycle while wearing a headset or earplugs that cover both ears.