Rules of the road apply to bicyclists, too

Traffic Talk

Unless you live in Sykesville, helmets are optional (but recommended) for adults in Maryland. In Howard County, riders 17 or younger must wear helmets.

April 17, 2005|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CARELESS bicyclists. The wonderful springtime weather has brought them out just as surely as the weeds in my front lawn have sprouted.

I marvel at the complete disregard for their well-being that some people demonstrate. Recently, I noticed a bicyclist casually riding along Route 103, just before the afternoon rush hour was to begin. Helmetless, he meandered through an intersection against the red, dodging oncoming cars that were proceeding according to Maryland's rules of the road.

Just where was that man's sense of self-preservation? Although most accidents involving adult bicyclists and motorists are caused by the motorist, why make it easier for drivers to hit you?

Unless you live in Sykesville, helmets are optional (but recommended) for adults in Maryland. In Howard County, riders 17 or younger must wear helmets. I generally follow the rule that, regardless of your age, if you want to live to be a year older, wear a helmet.

The bicyclist I observed was apparently unaware of two important facts: the Law of Tonnage (in a collision, the heavier vehicle wins) and Maryland's Traffic Code, which insists that bicyclists must follow the same traffic laws that apply to motorists.

I have seen other examples of stupid cycling, such as the young man, who was wearing spiffy riding gear - including a helmet - but was riding the wrong way on U.S. 40, near the intersection with St. Johns Lane. I don't know what happened to him, but when I heard ambulance sirens shortly afterward, I worried.

In case you bicyclists are not familiar with the rules of the road, I'll list the most important ones:

Ride on the right side of the road, to the right of the lane, except on one-way streets or when the bicyclist is about to make a left turn.

Obey traffic signals and signs, including stopping at red lights and stop signs.

You may ride two-abreast only if the flow of traffic is not impeded.

Stay off interstate and major highways, i.e., those with speed limits of 50 mph or more.

Bike-hating motorists who are chuckling in glee over my rant against careless bicyclists can stop now. Maryland's traffic code admonishes motorists to share the road with cyclists. And the Law of Tonnage also has a flip side: motorists have an added responsibility to drive carefully, courteously and safely, especially around bicyclists and pedestrians.

Parents should review bike safety rules with their children. Most automobile/bicycle accidents involving children are caused by the child. Young children may have difficulty understanding the rules of the road - and those who don't should not be allowed to ride. Many of these accidents can be avoided if parents take the time to teach their kids bike safety rules and perhaps be a little more vigilant in supervising their children.

Courtesy of the National Highway Safety Administration, here are rules for kids:

Wear a helmet that fits properly.

Never ride into a street without stopping first. Look both ways.

Obey stop signs.

Check behind you before swerving, turning or changing lanes.

Never follow another rider without applying the rules.

Wear bright-colored clothing and shoes or sneakers - not sandals, and don't go barefoot.

Children younger than age 9 should stay off roads.

Obey the rules of the road. These include traffic signs, signals and road markings.

Be courteous to pedestrians and other bicyclists on sidewalks. Ring your bell or honk your horn to let pedestrians or slower bicyclists know that you are about to overtake them.

Don't wear headphones while riding.

Only one rider per bike, unless you are riding a bicycle built for two.

Lane closures

Look for daytime lane closures on Interstate 70 westbound between Route 27 (Exit 68) and Route 97 (Exit 76) through May 4. Also look for daytime lane closures on Route 100 westbound at Interstate 95 through May 15 for bridge maintenance and camera installation.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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