Maine has some of the most bike-friendly traffic laws in the country. These laws are designed to make bicycling safe, fun and healthy for all riders. The more you know the law, the more confident you’ll feel and consequently the more you’ll enjoy your ride. More than any other single factor, riding in accordance with the law reduces risk of accident and injury to bicyclists. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine worked closely with legislators and organizations statewide in June of 2014 to pass LD 1460, A Bill to Revise Maine Bicycle Law in an effort to further improve safety and accessibility for all riders. These laws do however apply to both cyclists and motorists.
While the recent paving of River Road has facilitated a safer and smoother riding area with wider shoulders it is still an extremely busy road and staying as far right as possible will benefit both rider and motorist. While the law requires motorists to allow a three-foot buffer zone when passing a bicycle enabling bicyclists to travel safely and without intimidation, this is not always possible. On roads or major thorough fares such as Route 302 cyclists are allowed a travel lane giving cyclists the ability to safely prepare for turns, overtake slower moving vehicles, and to avoid obstacles and hazards such as opening car doors, potholes, sand, and glass. Bikes may legally operate anywhere within the travel lane. Taking advantage of this comes with responsibility by appropriately observing the same rules and courtesies of motorists. Bicyclists are expected to observe stop signs, red lights, one-way streets, yield right-of-way. To reiterate bikes should remain as far to the right as is safely possible.
In spite of all this, the main focus of riders should be to make sure they can be seen. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine warns “Being visible is by far the dominant cause of bike accidents because motorist claim they did not see the cyclist. All nighttime riders benefit from both headlights and taillights. Maine requires at least a light in front visible enough to 200 feet and a reflector in the rear when riding after dark. What the law does not include is left to the riders own sense of safety. A prime example is wearing the right clothing to be visible during the day and especially at night. Reflective clothing is highly recommended.
“It is also a good idea to wear clothing that fits snuggly. Wearing baggy jeans/pant for instance can get caught in the chain causing a spill. Such could happen also with shoe laces.” There is a valid reason the majority of cyclists seen on the road are wearing Lycra and footwear with Velcro closures.
Last but not least there is headgear. Have a helmet? Don’t leave home without it. There seems to be a bit of confusion about who should wear them. For adults it is of course always highly recommended but not mandatory by state law. However, children less than 16 years old are required by law to do so. There’s a reason for wearing this protection. Gravity dictates that the upper body will hit the ground first or a very close second. A helmet is designed to save a rider from a serious concussion in a fall.
For clarity and further information on how to get out there and ride safe there is a quick guide to your rights and responsibilities available from The Bicycle Coalition of Maine at www.bikemaine.org.