Facts About Bicycle Riding in Maine
I read with interest the notification in the OCSD Patrol Log in last week’s Citizen that a deputy sheriff had “dealt with a bicyclist on Mason Street in Bethel causing traffic problems with school buses.” I was not there to witness the event, nor does this report explain the circumstances, but I thought that this might be a useful opportunity to point out a few facts about bicycle riding in Maine.
In Maine, cyclists have the legal right to ride their bicycles on the road at any time of year, in all kinds of weather, towing or not towing bike trailers transporting kids or groceries, as long as they obey the rules of the road that govern vehicular traffic. Maine law (Title 29-A, Section 2063), states that cyclists should ride as far to the right as is practicable. However, if on a narrow road, or a road where there is debris, ice or potholes on the right, the cyclist may ride anywhere in the travel lane for his/her own safety. Motorists who pass the cyclist must give the cyclist at least three feet of passing clearance. Everywhere on the road, bikes are to be treated just like any other slow-moving vehicle, and the responsibility is always on the overtaking driver to wait behind until it is safe to pass.
Cyclists have responsibilities, too. They need to ride predictably, always with traffic, to be visible and to use hand signals in addition to obeying traffic signs and rules.
On narrow roads or when ice and slush are impeding the cyclist's ability to safely ride on the far right, a cyclist may be in the middle of the travel lane. This can be frustrating for motorists. But slowing down to allow the cyclist to get to a portion of the road where it is safe to pass is not a bad thing, particularly in an in-town neighborhood close to a school zone. It just takes a little patience.
More and more frequently people are taking to the roads on bicycles. They ride because bicycles are a practical and inexpensive means of transportation, because cycling is good for health, and often because riding a bike is just plain fun. I suspect that this cyclist had to be "dealt with" because we are not used to sharing the road with bicycles in winter weather, and perhaps a perceived safety concern and/or impatience triggered the call to the deputy. Nevertheless, it is important to note that as long as the cyclist was obeying the rules of the road, he/she had a right to be there.
It is my hope that with a little more knowledge of both cyclists’ and motorists’ rights, a dose of patience, good judgment and some mutual willingness to get along, we can all safely and amicably share the road.
Nancy Stowell White
Board Member, Bicycle Coalition of Maine (BikeMaine.org)