Mandatory Use Poll

Maryland statute requires that if a shoulder (wide enough to park a car or drive an ambulance) or a bike lane is present, then cyclists must use that shoulder or bike lane instead of the roadway, except for when passing, making a left turn, crossing a right turn lane or merge lane, or when it is reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane to avoid debris or another hazardous condition.

There are two legal consequences of the statute. First, the police can give you a ticket if you ride in the roadway and none of the exceptions apply. Second, if a negligent driver collides with you while you are in the roadway, then the courts will deny you (or your estate) damages unless you can prove that one of the exceptions apply, under the doctrine of contributory negligence.

There are a number of symbolic consequences. More than 40 states allow cyclists in the roadway, leaving it to the discretion of the cyclist whether to ride in the shoulder or bike lane. Some people believe that this statute makes Maryland look less friendly to bikes than other states, or that cyclists have fewer rights than drivers.

MDOT and others argue that this law helps them to justify construction of bike lanes and shoulders to the automobile-driving public. Some also argue that the law simply codifies what good cyclists do anyway.

Please take the time to vote in all five poll questions on the right side of the page (after casting one vote click on the "Next question" link in the comment,) your input does help shape Maryland

by B' Spokes

Like most people I live a hectic life and who has the time for much exercise? Thanks to xtracycle now I do. By using my bike for daily activities I can get things done and get an hour plus work out in 15 minutes extra of my time, not a bad deal and beats taking the extra time going to the gym. In case you are still having trouble being motivated; the National Center of Disease Control says that inactivity is the #2 killer in the United States just behind smoking. ( ) Get out there and start living life! I can carry home a full shopping cart of groceries, car pool two kids or just get lost in the great outdoors camping for a week. Well I got go, another outing this weekend.
  • Currently 0.00/5
Rating: 0.00/5 (0 votes cast)

Share It!

Login required to comment
From Allen Muchnick: QUOTE: "Maryland statute requires that if a shoulder (wide enough to park a car or drive an ambulance) present, then cyclists must use that shoulder...instead of the roadway,..." Where does Maryland traffic code say anything about the minimum width of the paved shoulder, much less cite a width for parking cars or driving an ambulance? > Poll questions: > What is the *best* reason to keep this law? > What is the *second* best reason to keep this law? There is NO valid reason to keep this unnecessary and discriminatory law, so NONE of the alternative answers stated are suitable. When a paved shoulder or bike lane is actually safer for bicycling, no law is needed to compel cyclists to ride there. MDOT should understand that repeal of this law would reduce OPPOSITION to bike lanes and paved shoulders from true cycling advocacy organizations. Maryland's unnecessary and discriminatory requirement to bicycle on paved shoulders and bike lanes merely serves to compromise cyclist safety for the convenience of motorists. The requirement only makes sense for high-speed roadways where bicycling might otherwise be banned entirely. Allen Muchnick Arlington VA --- . . .o . . /L =()>()

As always I really appreciate your comments and I hope you don
Another comment: I'm ok with the law as it is for the reasons cited, most cyclist already do this and it justifies the cost of builiding such lanes / shoulders. I am concerned that there is often debris / glass / loose gravel present, that creates a hazard to the cyclist. I would like to see language addressing this and providing the cyclist with an option to use the roadway if such hazards exist on shoulder / lane. It would really be great if the shoulder would get swept on a regualr basis, but I guess you cannot legislate maintenance. Thanks, Randall Buxbaum Middletown, MD --- . . .o . . /L =()>()
Another comment: I'm not happy with this "poll" because like most polls it won't allow me my true response. I disagree with any of the items your poll allows me to check! My comments are that a bicyle has in the past had all rights of a motor vehicle with respect to access of the roadways, although usually codified by staying as practically to the right as possible. The mandatory bike lane/shoulder lane negates that right. Bike lane studies in the past have noted that the absence of automobile traffic in a breakdown lane/shoulder or bike lane separated by only a painted line tends to allow cinders, broken glass and other tire puncturing material to collect. These agencies tend to ignore or don't care that this represents a hazard to bicyclists. Another problem of having materials collect in these lanes, a rider avoiding the detritus may be forced to veer into a motor lane, something that riders have been or should have been taught not to do. Proper riding habits include riding predictably in a straight line far enough away from hazards, inlets, potential opening car doors, etc. to be seen more clearly, in order to allow a driver to manuever around the bicyclist more easily. I do believe that bike lanes are an excellent choice for people afraid of riding in traffic, and should be more than just a place to get a mile or two in. Designated bike lanes should provide a reasonable way to get from one location to another, not just for pleasure, but for commuting and possibly traveling to and from the day to day places that people would otherwise use a car for in town. Only then would people be more encouraged to really provide the benefit of health, using less gas, easy parking, and maybe even getting around more easily in the city. If the police start to ticket people for not staying in a bike lane, that would encourage riding on streets without bike lanes, and create the same kind of traffic problems the madatory statute is trying to avoid. Just my two cents. Dan Artley in Parkton, who hasn't regularly commuted by bike in years, but used to often in Baltimore City. --- . . .o . . /L =()>()
hello everyone, well as some of you know i road my bike from new york city to baltimore this past spring and i dont know how i could have done it without the bike lane and sholder i wish all states would have it i know that in new jersey on route 1 just past edison they have a very nice sholder and route 130 also has a bike lane sholder please fight for it and keep them in place so that bike riders across the country can ride interstate, this is my view david new york city --- . . .o . . /L =()>()
I favor repeal of the law but not for any of the reasons given in question 2. I don't care so much about being ticketed or being able to sue someone, I just want Maryland to realize that shoulders [and the pathetic so-called bike lanes currently existing] are not necessarily safe places to ride and that although it is okay to ALLOW bikers to use them AT THEIR OWN RISK, it is criminal to REQUIRE cyclists to ride on the LEFTOVER part of the road which doesn't even have adequate traffic controls, striping, signing or any other amenity required for a true travel lane.

I strongly support the repeal of the mandatory shoulder/bike lane law that requires bicyclists to use the shoulder or bike lane except when passing if one is present. Unless the road is a highway or other restricted use roadway, bicyclists should have full rights as tax paying members of the public to use the roadway. In fact, bicyclists should have the same rights to the use of the roads as automobiles or motorcycles. There are also safety reasons for the bicyclist to be allowed to use the roadway and not be restricted to the shoulder or bike lane. Travelling on the shoulder or riding in the bike lane can be much slower and sometimes more dangerous for the bicyclist due to the condition of the bike lane surface or the shoulder. Bike lanes and shoulders often are not maintained properly and do not have the same quality of pavement as the roadway. 40 other states provide bicylists the same rights as automobiles. Maryland should not discriminate against cyclists. As a tax paying and voting Maryland citizen, I deserve equal treatment as a bicyclist.

Robert Goo
Takoma Park, MD

I too am confused. It makes no sense. I agree with the concerns and snetiments of the others who have been posting.

I will also add the following observation. I walking around Paris this weekend, I noticed the bike paths. Why do they work? First, most are raised by about 5 inches (and separated from road by a curb). They have gutters on both sides (or dents for drainage of sand, trash, etc). They are in a much nicer, smoother pavement than roads. And except at intersections, they are not crossed by cars to park, turn, etc. They are designed into the road as part of Paris' bike initiatives, not an afterthought. As a result of them being raised, etc, they were glass and trash free. Comapre that to the "bike path" on Roland Avenue. Or the "bike lane" on Rte 140 where the broken glass, metal and other dangerous things have taken over. We don't need rules encouraging or mandating use of our current types of "bike lanes". NB - even in Paris the law permits bikes in the road and you can see faster riders in the road for a segment to pass.

Kristin H.R. Franceschi

There are many good guidelines for where to bike, but no hard-and-fast rules. Some bike lanes are everything they should be, while others are just car door opening lanes that save drivers the trouble of checking their rear view mirror. Some shoulders are fine, others are effectively unpaved. Laws that dictate that bicyclist should drive "as far to the right as is reasonable" acknowledge the vagaries of real situations, and leave the question of what is reasonable to the person who is most at risk and most able to evaluate the situation at hand. Any purported safety rule that overrides the judgement of the bicyclist navigating hazards is going to put that bicyclist at risk in some situations.
Another comment I recived:

If MDOT made (and maintained) bike lanes that cyclists actually want to use - then there would be no need to make them mandatory. MD needs to drop the "mandatory" clause so that MDTO has an incentive to build bike lanes that will attract cyclists. Otherwise, they do cyclists a disfavor, and waste our taxpayer $$$.

And another:

Cyclists who don't want to use shoulders or bike lanes always complain about this. It's a bogus issue, in my opinion, compared to other problems cyclists have. How many tickets have been issued in the last year (5 years, 10 years) to cyclists for riding in a traffic lane when a shoulder existed? Also, I think the law provides that the shoulder must be smooth, so using a sloppily paved shoulder (which we see sometimes when shoulders are added as an afterthought) is not mandatory. As for the "contributory negligence" issue, I wonder why people never mention that a car has the same problem if it hits a cyclist in a bike lane or shoulder (and motorists who use a shoulder or bike lane to get around left-turning vehicles are a real menace in some places). There is a segment of the cycling population that uses "vehicular cycling" as an excuse/dogma to explain away their unnecessary inconsideration towards motorists - it's gotten to be a political and idealogical position far removed from logic. As a result they have pushed Maryland to adopt laws such that bicyclists can ride in any part of a traffic lane regardless of its width and ability to support parallel car and bike traffic. They may claim an equal right to the road, but they have no plans to equip their bikes with brake lights or turn signals, and no way to signal their intentions without compromising their ability to stop (except the fixees) and turn quickly. I am far more concerned that Maryland law does not specify a distance that cars must keep away from bikes - what a motorist considers a "safe distance" is often way too close. Oregon's law is a good model, and Virginia's is terrible (it calls 2 feet adequate - so if a car comes that close, the motorist still is Ok regardless of its speed).

My reply:
Thanks for your note, in case you are note aware we did try to pass a bicycle safety envelope bill last year. I
Another response

I'm not crazy about the poll either. Anything that legitimizes the public's already bad and incorrect perception that cyclists are second class citizens with no rights to the roads is wrong. I just don't understand the logic behind such "mandatory use" legislation. If such legislation was considered for a pedestrian, there would be a outrage! Current laws are structured so that a pedestrian who has the greatest risk of life and limb has the greatest protection under the law. Meanwhile a cyclist who has near similar risks, has limited legal rights with more being lost with such proposed legislation. It is beyond me why planners and elected officials don't investigate what other successful regions (Denver, Phoenix, Tucson, Portland and many European cities) have done instead of taking advantage of the influx of "cycling dollars" to further THEIR own preferences and remove whatever few commuters and cycling advocates there are by moving them off the roads and onto substandard, no maintained, low speed, high risk, pathways that do not provide what the cycling public need or demand. Show me ONE bike path network in the region where I can average 20+ mph without increased risk of injury to my person. "Bike paths" this day in age are thought of as what Columbia has, which are useless to anyone going over 12 mph due to higher risks of injury due to crime, pedestrian usage etc. This just appears to be yet another opportunity by legislators to appease the majority by squelching the needs of people which these dollars were SUPPOSED to benefit. For too long in recent history, the non cycling public perceive cyclists as either children that would be better served by riding on driveways / sidewalks or commuters breaking the law by riding on THEIR arterial roads.

Maryland has an opportunity to make it's cycling public safer while attracting recreational dollars, reducing traffic congestion, lower gas usage and improve Maryland's perception outside the state by using the funds provided to add a network of cycling friendly roadways onto our existing transportation network. No one will be served by funneling these same dollars onto an unwanted, unmaintained, disjointed separate pathway system that will end up not being used by the very people they were meant to help.

-Terry Harrigan