Monday, March 12 2012 @ 06:32 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
by By Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, LLC, Maryland Injury Lawyers Blog
Spring hasn't hit yet, but we have had some uncommonly good weather. It's only natural for thoughts to turn to warmer days. Some readers of this blog may be bicyclists, whether recreational or professional. Certainly, bike riding can be fun, healthy and environmentally-conscious. However, there are numerous safety concerns when sharing the road, and we encourage Maryland bike riders to be safe. Here's what you need to know about Maryland bicycle laws. Most Maryland laws on bicycle (and motor scooters) operation are found in the Transportation Code at §21-1201 to §21-1213.
Bicycle Rules of the Road
For most purposes, bicycles in Maryland are treated the same as motor vehicles. Here is an overview of key safety laws (there are some exceptions not covered here), with some important ones in bold:
- §21-1103: Driving on Sidewalk--bicyclists cannot ride on a sidewalk (except driveways) unless permitted by local ordinance. If permitted, bicyclists can also ride through crosswalks.
- §21-1205: Bicyclists shall ride as near to the right side of the road as possible when going below the speed of traffic, unless making a left turn, going down a one-way street, passing a vehicle, where the right lane is a turn-only lane, and where the lane is too narrow for a bicycle and motor vehicle to ride side-by-side.
- §21-1205.1: Bicyclists cannot ride on roads where the maximum speed limit is over 50 mph. Where there is a bike lane, it must be used in most circumstances.
- §21-1206: Bicyclists may not ride when carrying anything that prevents putting both hands on the handlebars (this may include cell phone use).
- §21-1207: Lighting--bikes must have lights and reflectors when the conditions are such that objects are not discernible at a distance of 1,000 feet.
- §21-1207.1: Helmets: Helmets are required for all bicyclists (except in Ocean City between the inlet and 27th street during certain hours).
- §21-1209: Drivers of motor vehicles must exercise care to avoid colliding with bicyclists, and must leave at least three feet when passing a bicyclist; a driver of a motor vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a bicyclist in a designated bike lane or on the shoulder when the driver is entering or crossing the bicyclists lane of travel.
- §21-1210: Headphones--bicyclists may not wear headphones or earplugs that cover both ears, with some exceptions.
We see two main types of Maryland bicycle accidents:
- The bicyclist is riding on a sidewalk or street against traffic, and a driver pulling out of a perpendicular driveway, parking lot or street does not see the bicyclist because he is looking at traffic coming in the other direction; and
- The bicyclist is riding on the road or sidewalk as allowed, and crosses an intersection when a motorist coming in the opposite direction makes a left turn and pulls in front of the bicyclist.
In each of these cases, the driver is negligent and has failed to pay attention. The first example is a harder case, because the bicyclist may be negligent for going the wrong way. However, our lawyers are experienced at arguing that the bicyclist's negligence, if any, was not a direct cause of the accident. It could have been a pedestrian, lawfully walking, that the driver hit.
Bicyclists should be especially aware of other cars in these situations. Extra caution may help bicyclists to avoid inattentive drivers.
As an aside, I'm proud to be a member and former past president of the Maryland Association for Justice. Every year since 2000 we team up with the Safe Kids Coalition to raise money and purchase bike helmets for elementary school students. We take a day every year to visit a school and properly fit the helmets on the children as part of a bike safety campaign. We have supplied over 6,500 helmets.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) for Bicyclists
Bicyclists are entitled to Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. PIP is no-fault insurance coverage that pays medical expenses, lost wages and other expenses, up to $10,000. The amount of PIP coverage depends on the insurance policy--the most common amount of PIP in Maryland is $2,500. When a bicyclist is injured in a Maryland car accident, he or she can usually go through the PIP insurance of the other vehicle, regardless of fault. One significant exception is where the other driver has waived PIP coverage, or where the other vehicle is a bus, taxicab or motorcycle (most insurance companies do not provide PIP for motorcyclists).
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance
In most cases, when a person is in an accident, and the at-fault driver is either (a) uninsured; or (b) has less insurance than the injured person, the injured person's UM/UIM insurance will apply. Uninsured and Underinsured motorist coverage are somewhat deceptive names. As drivers, part of our premiums go toward this insurance to make sure that we are protected when other driver does not carry enough insurance. Fortunately, this insurance is available to injured bicyclists. Because bicyclists are at higher risk for significant injuries when involved in a car collision, we recommend that they get the highest UM/UIM insurance that they can afford.
Like any Maryland automobile accident, the at-fault driver's insurance is responsible for the cost of repair or fair market value of any property damaged or lost in an accident. For bicyclists, this usually includes the bike, clothing, and any personal property they were carrying at the time. Importantly, the helmet is also covered, and should not be reused after a bicycle accident. Helmets that sustain any sort of impact may have unnoticeable defects that increase the risk of injury in a later accident. If you are involved in a bike accident, do your best to keep track of the cost of repairs and the cost to replace any lost items.
If you have been injured in a Maryland bike accident, and you have questions about insurance or a bike accident lawsuit, please contact us at 1.888.213.8140, or online. We would be pleased to discuss your concerns over the phone or at one of our convenient locations in Silver Spring, Reisterstown or Columbia.