Maryland is extremely conscious of the importance of safety for cyclists and this is seen in much of the literature around traffic and their behaviour around bikes. There is a great deal of write up from the perspective of drivers behaving safely around cyclists which arguably makes Maryland one of the safer states to ride in. Still, it’s important to know how to be safe when riding on the road because cyclists aren’t protected by a cage of metal like drivers, although as far as the law is concerned, bikes are vehicles, meaning that cyclists have all the rights and duties as a driver. What else should you know about the bike laws in Maryland?
Where to Ride in Maryland?
Bikes are treated as vehicles, insofar as the law is concerned. Cyclists have the same rights-of-way and the same responsibility to follow all traffic signals. Maryland does not provide the Idaho Stop law, meaning that bikes cannot go through a stale red light. Maryland also phrases the ‘treatment as vehicles’ in such a way that it’s also illegal to ride while intoxicated or under the influence of other controlled substances with punishments for doing so.
Maryland has several laws in place that are meant to help protect cyclists. These include:
- Bikes must be ridden as close to the right side of the road as possible, unless making a left turn, riding on a one-way street, passing a halted/slowed vehicle, avoiding pedestrians or hazards, the right lane is a right turn only lane or the lane is too narrow for a bike to travel safely
- Maryland does observe a separation of facilities, meaning that if there’s a bike lane, bikes should stay on them unless the bike is turning left, avoiding hazards, if the bike lane is also a right turn or merge lane, or if passing safely is impossible
- Motorists must yield the right-of-way to cyclists in the bike lanes and shoulders when cars are entering or crossing these areas
- Bikes also have the right-of-way when cars are making a turn
- Cyclists can ride on sidewalks and even across crosswalks, assuming it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk in the first place (municipalities can enact their own bylaws around whether or not it’s legal to ride on sidewalks)
- Cars have to keep at least three feet of distance between themselves and the bike (or motor scooter), assuming the bike is being ridden in a legal way
- It is illegal to ride against traffic
Maryland is relatively fair when it comes to where cyclists can and cannot ride, but it’s still important to keep these in mind. It’s also important to check the municipal laws of wherever you are going to ride as cities can enact their own bylaws around bikes without the state interfering.
A few other things to keep in mind while riding include the fact that bikes may not have passengers unless they are equipped for it with proper seats and bikes are not permitted on any road with a posted speed limit of fifty miles per hour or faster. It’s also illegal to ride your bike hitched up to a car.
Safety Equipment While Riding in Maryland
Maryland is one of the few states which includes helmets as a law for riders. Riders under the age of sixteen are required to wear helmets when on any public property, such as roads, paths and parks. Riders over the age of sixteen may not be legally required to wear a helmet, but it’s certainly a good idea to wear
Bikes that are being ridden at night or under low visibility must have a white beam headlight that is visible from five hundred feet and a red reflector panel which is visible at six hundred feet. The alternative is to have a functioning lamp that can emit a red or flashing amber light at five hundred feet to the rear instead of the reflector. Bikes can also have a bell, but not a siren or a whistle and of course, must have brakes! These brakes must be able to stop the bike at a speed of ten miles per hours within fifteen feet
A couple of other things to keep in mind:
- Maryland prohibits the wearing of headsets or earplugs on both ears while riding
- You cannot ride with your hands full; both hands must be on the handlebars
It’s important to ride safe and stay safe while on the road! Remember, as a cyclist, you don’t really have any protection from getting harmed since it’s just you and the open air.
In turn, Maryland does a few things to further protect cyclists. Maryland offers share the road license plates. The state also protects cyclists by forbidding people from throwing objects at, or even in the same direction as, a cyclist and people cannot open the door of a car with the intent to injure or interfere with someone riding a bike. However, Maryland does not specifically define a vulnerable road user.
Electric Bikes in Maryland
Maryland does have definitions for electric bikes which are as follows:
- A bike with fully operational pedals
- A motor of no more than 500W
- Can go a maximum speed of 20mph on flat surfaces
Furthermore, Maryland law states that electric bike motors must disengage at 20mph. And Maryland also states that everyone riding an electric bike, regardless of age, must wear a helmet. Electric bikes can ride in the same places as regular bikes and must yield to pedestrians and roadway traffic. However, Maryland does not yet have any licensing or registration requirements.
Maryland has many of the same laws as other states, particularly around where to ride and the type of safety equipment that is required to make the bike legal. There are some differences though, mainly in the requirement to ride in bike lanes where available, and the fact that Maryland requires the wearing of helmets for riders under a certain age.
Bike laws in Maryland are basic but keep them in mind so that you can have a fun and safe cycle around the state!