Maryland is experiencing a rise in the number of crashes involving bicycles. From 2011 to 2015, the state averaged approximately 780 such accidents per year. In the last five years, the increase is about 20%, with 80% of them resulting in injuries or fatalities.
The larger metropolitan areas are the regions with the most incidents, as Baltimore and Washington D.C. account for over 80% of the overall volume. These crashes are most likely in the warmer months between May and October. In 2016, Maryland implemented a “Look Up, Look Out” program to increase bicycle and pedestrian-related safety on and near roadways.
Bicycles are classified as vehicles according to Maryland law. As authorized operators upon the roadways, they have the same responsibilities as motorists such as regarding rights-of-way and recognizing traffic signals. Those on bicycles, like those on motorcycles, are very susceptible to severe consequences in even lower-speed collisions.
Lane changes are a common cause of motorist and bicycle collisions. Drivers often have difficulty seeing a bicycle traveling in an adjacent lane, particularly when positioned slightly to their rear. A bicycle has the right-of-way when a motorist is turning, thus they should yield. Motorists should avoid traveling in designated bike lanes that are increasingly being added.
Motorists operating in Maryland who cause accidents from failing to yield to a bicycle may be subject to a fine of $1,000 and have three points added to their driving record. In areas where bicycles are permitted to be operated on the sidewalk, they may continue through crosswalks along their route. Motorists are to yield when they notice a bicycle operating in the crosswalk.
Motorist and bicycle “dooring” accidents have increased in recent years. This occurs when a vehicle that is parked or against the curb preparing to load or unload occupants suddenly opens a door in front of an approaching bicyclist either in a lane of travel or on the sidewalk. Bicycles are not permitted on roads with speed limits of 50 mph or more and are not permitted to wear headsets or ear buds when riding. Those under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet when riding.
Bicycle Safety Tips
- Adhere to all signals and ride single file when cycling with others
- Use a signal prior to making a turn—remaining predictable is key
- If the surface is wet, allow for extra distance when braking, as it will likely take longer to stop
- Keep both your body and bicycle highly visible
- Use the required front facing light and rear red reflector after dark
- Wear bright or reflective clothing
- Take responsibility for regular maintenance of the bicycle like you would for other vehicles
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