Sharing the Road Takes on New Meaning for Bicyclists and Drivers

New Bicycle Laws Take Effect Friday, October 1

BALTIMORE (October 1, 2010)—Have you ever driven along a road and encountered a bicyclist? Did you know what to do? Did you know how to pass safely? Did you know what the law requires?

Several new Maryland laws are taking effect today to help clear up any confusion and make sure everyone shares the road safely. Bicycles are considered vehicles in Maryland, but bicyclists typically travel at much lower speeds than automobiles.

“People often bike as an alternative to driving, which is better for their health, traffic congestion and the environment,” said SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen. “By respecting each other, following traffic laws and using common sense, we can all share the road safely.”

The new laws, passed during the 2010 Legislative Session and signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley, require motorists to pass bicyclists at a safe distance of at least three feet, except in certain circumstances. Additionally, bicyclists are allowed to use crosswalks in areas where bicycling on sidewalks is permitted. A previous law that required bicyclists to travel on roadway shoulders was repealed.

“These bills modernize Maryland law,” said Senator Brian Frosh, who sponsored one of the measures. “They’ll increase bicycle safety and help all of us by encouraging people to leave their cars at home.”

On average, from 2005 through 2008, seven bicyclists were killed and more than 650 were injured in traffic crashes annually in Maryland. According to preliminary data from the Maryland State Police, 10 bicyclists died in traffic collisions in 2009.

Information on all of the Maryland laws pertaining to bicycling, as well as tips for bicyclists and drivers are available at


Senate Bill 51 requires a driver of a vehicle to safely overtake a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device (EPAMD), or a motor scooter at a distance of at least three feet, unless at the time, the bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter rider fails to ride to the right side of the roadway, comply with a requirement to ride in a bike lane or shoulder, or maintain a steady course. The passing rule under the bill also does not apply if the highway on which the vehicle is being driven is not wide enough to lawfully pass the bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter at a distance of at least three feet.

Senate Bill 624 repeals the general requirement that a bicyclist use the shoulder if it is a paved smooth surface. Senate Bill 624 also specifies that, in a place where a person may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, a person may ride from the curb or edge of the roadway in or through a crosswalk to the opposite curb or edge. The bill alters the definition of “bicycle” by repealing provisions that specify that a bicycle must have a rear drive and a specified wheel configuration and establishes instead that a bicycle is a vehicle that (1) is designed to be operated by human power; (2) has two or three wheels, with one being more than 14 inches in diameter; and (3) has a drive mechanism other than by pedals directly attached to a drive wheel. The definition of “crosswalk” is expanded to mean the connection of lateral lines of a bicycle way where a bicycle way and roadway of any type meet as measured from the curbs or the edges of the roadway. The law also requires vehicle operators to yield the right-of-way to bicyclists riding in bike lanes and shoulders when these vehicle operators are entering or crossing the occupied bike lanes or shoulder.

Source: Maryland State Highway Administration

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