This article discusses actions motorists must take when they interact with bicycles.

Rules Of The Road That Apply To Motorists Interacting With Bicycles

In Maryland, these are the laws that govern a motorist interacting with a bicycle. (As you go through these, remember that a bicycle is considered a “vehicle.”)

  • A driver overtaking another vehicle going in the same direction must pass to the left and at a safe distance.
  • The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle which is going in the same direction may not drive any part of his vehicle directly in front of the overtaken vehicle until safely past it.
  • A driver must not pass any closer than three (3) feet from a bicycle which is being operated lawfully.
  • After passing a bicycle, a driver must make sure s/he is clear of the bicyclist before making any turns. The bike has the right of way, and the driver must yield to the bike when turning.
  • Bicycles have the right-of-way in bike lanes and on shoulders.
  • Motorists must yield the right of way to a bicyclist operating lawfully in a crosswalk at a signalized intersection. (If a bicycle is lawfully riding on a sidewalk, it can use a crosswalk.)
  • A person may not throw any object at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle.
  • A person may not open the door of a motor vehicle with intent to strike, injure, or interfere with any person riding a bicycle.

In a nutshell, motorists must pass bicycles carefully (with at least 3 feet of clearance), not cut them off and yield to them in bicycle lanes, on shoulders and when turning in front of them. Oh yea, and you can’t throw things at them or try to knock riders senseless with your car door!

Example of How The Rules Of The Road Are Applied

This is an actual discussion that I had with a caller recently . . .

A man told me that he was riding his bicycle in Baltimore City after dark, when a car door was opened into his path causing him to ram into the driver’s door. His bicycle was damaged and he was injured. The bicyclist was riding at a safe speed and watching where he was going. His bicycle did not have a headlight, but this incident occurred in a well-lit area of downtown Baltimore.

The bicyclist wanted to know if he had a legitimate claim against the driver of the car for his injuries and for repair of his bicycle. What do you think? How strong is the bicyclist’s case?

My opinion was that the vehicle driver was probably negligent for opening her door without looking for oncoming traffic and for not seeing the bicyclist. However, it was also my opinion that the bicyclist was probably contributorily negligent for riding a bicycle that did not have the required headlight. If he had a headlight, there would have been a much better chance that he would have been seen. As you may recall, in Maryland any contributory negligence — no matter how slight — is a complete defense to a negligence claim. That’s why I did not think this man could recover. I thanked him for calling, answered all his questions but declined his case.

If you have been seriously injured in a Maryland bicycle accident, contact us.

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