Bicycle Accidents: Maryland Bike Laws

There are a lot of accidents involving bicyclists in Maryland. Many of these happen because either the biker or the driver has a poor understanding of the rules of the road. Unfortunately, in most of these cases, the results are devastating for the biker: Without a protective barrier between them and the car that hits them, bikers are left extremely vulnerable in these crashes, and frequently suffer life-altering or even fatal injuries.

Whether you are a driver who wants to make sure they are following the rules of the road or a biker who wants to stay as safe as possible, knowing how Maryland's traffic laws apply to bikers is absolutely critical. 

Maryland's Bike Laws

The laws that impact how bikes can move on the roads of Maryland are encapsulated in the state's statutes dealing with transportation. While this section of Maryland's statutes is among the largest and least interesting, the regulations that concern how people bike in the state are worth knowing.

Here are some of the most important.

The General Rule: Bikes are Usually Treated Like Cars

Perhaps the most important rule to remember when you are biking or driving in the state of Maryland is that bikes are treated like cars, the vast majority of the time. Maryland Code TR §21-1202(a) states that “every person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter in a public bicycle area has all the rights granted to and is subject to all the duties required of the driver of a vehicle.” However, there is an exception to this rule: When a bike is lawfully on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk, it is treated like a pedestrian, instead.

Cyclists are Supposed to Ride as Close as Practicable to the Right Curb

When they are on the road and are traveling less than the speed of traffic, bikers are legally required to ride “as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe” under Maryland Code TR §21-1205. There are, however, six exceptions:

  1. When the biker is about to make a left turn
  2. When the biker is on a one-way street
  3. When the biker is passing a vehicle that is moving slowly or is stopped
  4. When the biker is avoiding pedestrians or road hazards
  5. When the right lane is for right turns only
  6. When the road is too narrow for a bike and another vehicle to travel side by side

In the rare cases that bikers are pedaling at the speed of traffic, they can use any lane that they want.

Safe Passing Law

Maryland also has a law that dictates how motor vehicles can pass bikers on the road. Maryland Code TR §21-1209 states that cars must leave at least three feet of space to safely overtake a bike.

However, there are exceptions to this requirement. These are:

  • When the biker is not conforming to Maryland Code TR §21-1205, which requires the biker to ride as close to the right side as practicable
  • When the three-foot passing clearance is broken solely by the bike's failure to “maintain a steady course”
  • When the road is too narrow to provide three feet of distance while passing

When compared to the Safe Passing Laws of other states, Maryland's is towards the lower end of the safety spectrum for bikers: The majority of other states only require three feet of passing clearance, but increase it to four in certain circumstances, while also requiring cars to reduce speed while passing. Maryland's Safe Passing Law, on the other hand, has exceptions that reduce the necessary passing distance, while saying nothing about the speed of the passing vehicle.

Motor Vehicles Turning Right

Maryland Code TR §21-1209(d) requires drivers of motor vehicles to yield the right-of-way to any biker who is lawfully riding their bike on the road. This means that drivers who are about to take a right-hand turn need to look for and avoid all oncoming bikers who are on the right side of the road.

Failing to yield the right-of-way to a biker is a serious driving offense in Maryland, and comes with a fine of $1,000 as well as three points on your driving record if you are caught doing it.

Maryland's “Dooring” Law

One of the constant threats that bikers face while biking down residential streets is cars doors opening directly into their path. Drivers rarely think of oncoming cyclists when they enter or exit their vehicles, and so frequently swing their car doors open into their way, forcing bikers to veer into traffic – if they can – or slam into the open door.

However, Maryland Code TR §21-1209(c) only prohibits people from opening “the door or any motor vehicle with intent to strike, injure, or interfere with any person riding a bicycle.” This overlooks the fact that the vast majority of these crashes occur when the driver negligently opens their door into oncoming traffic.

Riding a Bike While Under the Influence

While some states have laws against driving under the influence (DUI) that only apply to “motor vehicles,” Maryland's statute against DUI, Maryland Code TR §21-902, outlaws driving “any vehicle” while under the influence of alcohol.

This means bikers can be pulled over, arrested, and charged for DUI if they are found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, or show signs of intoxication.

Bike Helmet Requirements

Anyone on a bike under the age of 16, including passengers on the bike, are required to wear an approved helmet if the bike is on the road, a bicycle path, or public property under Maryland Code TR§21-1207.1.

Maryland Bike Accident Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian

The personal injury attorneys at the Maryland law offices of Gilman & Bedigian represent bikers who have been involved in accidents throughout the state. Our bike accident attorneys strive to protect your rights while advancing your interests and getting you the compensation you most desperately need in this trying time. Contact us online if you or someone you love has been hurt in a bike accident in the Maryland region, and get the legal representation you need to get the compensation you deserve.

Let Us Help

If someone you are close to has been seriously injured or worse, you are naturally devastated not only by what has happened, but by the effect that the injury or loss has had on you and your family. At a time when you're vulnerable, traumatized and emotionally exhausted, you need a team that will support you through the often complex process that lies ahead.

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