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Maine Voices: Clash between driver, cyclist spotlights need to review rules of the road (PPH)

This article originally appeared in the Portland Press Herald.

Posted: June 09. 2013 10:31PM

Maine Voices: Clash between driver, cyclist spotlights need to review rules of the road

We can all share Maine’s roadways, but it takes courtesy and respect to do so peacefully.


James Tasse is education director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and director of the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education Program.

PORTLAND — Last week’s incident between a driver and cyclist on the Martin’s Point Bridge in Portland has raised everyone’s awareness about bikes and motorists sharing Maine’s roadways. Thankfully, incidents like the one on the bridge are relatively rare in Maine, but while everyone is thinking about bikes and cars right now, we have a a good opportunity to review the laws and best practices that apply to situations where bikes and cars meet.


By state law, bicyclists should ride with traffic, in the street, “as far to the right as practicable.” In most cases, that will put bicycles in the right-hand third of a travel lane, or on a shoulder if it is safe to use, but there are situations when taking more of the road may be necessary.

Bikes may legally use more of a travel lane when passing parked cars, avoiding obstacles or when the lane is too narrow for a car and a bike to share (as is the case with the Martin’s Point Bridge, which is marked with “shared lane markings” and “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs during construction). Even on roads where bicycle lanes exist, it may be necessary to move into the travel lane to avoid opened doors, parked cars or other obstacles.

Riding on the sidewalks is not recommended for persons over the age of 12 and is illegal in some communities in Maine. If you must ride on the sidewalk, you must yield to pedestrians and alert them before passing.

Passing cars on the right can be dangerous, but it is legal under state law at a cyclist’s own risk.

Bicyclists should expect treatment no different from that of other users of the roads. Bicyclists should stop at all stop signs and red lights, and they should not go out of turn at intersections. A bicyclist’s actions should never force another user who had the right of way to have to stop.

Wearing a helmet and following the law not only protects you from crashes, it also preserves your legal rights if a crash does occur.

And bicyclists, although you have every right to the road, please try to be considerate of the whole traffic system as you drive your bike. Don’t forget what it is like to drive a car while you’re on your bicycle. You have a right to the full travel lane in some cases, but be judicious where and when you take it.

When you stop, please step completely off the pavement. Respect private property. Obey the principles of traffic law. Yield to pedestrians.


By virtue of the number, size and power of their vehicles, motorists carry a special responsibility for creating safety on the roads. Please be considerate of other users on the road. It is terrifying to a cyclist or pedestrian when a car passes them fast and close.

Remember that a car can be lethal to vulnerable users like bicyclists and walkers! Follow posted speed limits and obey traffic signs and lights. Avoid using cellphones and other electronic devices while driving.

Remember that “Yield” means to slow down and wait for other vehicles. Motorists should expect other users, including walkers and bicyclists, on the roadways.

Motorists should also remember that bicyclists have a right to the road and should be treated like any other slow-moving traffic (such as farm tractors) when they are encountered. Motorists should slow and stay behind such traffic until it is safe to pass.

By Maine state law, bicyclists (and pedestrians) must be passed with at least 3 feet of space. If you can’t give them at least 3 feet, you should slow down and wait for a safer place to pass.

Maine is a great place to enjoy summer, whether on foot, on a bike or on the road to the beach. All users should remember that we’re all going to be out there on the roads together, and that we should try to be courteous and respectful of other users’ rights to our public ways. Let’s have a safe and calm summer season on the roads this year!

— Special to the Press Herald