AUGUSTA — As the education director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, I must respond to Ken Allen’s column from Aug. 7’s Outdoors section, “Top 10 tips for staying safe on your bike.”

While I appreciated Mr. Allen’s interest in promoting safe cycling, the Bicycle Coalition has a responsibility to make sure that information shared with the public on bicycling is consistent with national standards and best practices.

Mr. Allen offered some interesting solutions to the challenges of riding in traffic, but his advice overlooks some proven recommendations and tips for safe riding.

Here is a quick review of how bicyclists and motorists should share the road:

Bicyclists should ride with traffic, in the street, “as far to the right as practicable,” according to state law.

In most cases, that will put bicycles in the right-hand third of a travel lane, but there are situations when taking more of the lane may be necessary.

They include such circumstances as passing parked cars, avoiding obstacles or preventing unsafe passing, especially in narrow lanes.

Bicyclists should stop at all stop signs and red lights, and they should not go out of turn at intersections.

Bicyclists are not required to use shoulders, which may contain rough pavement or debris. Riding on the sidewalks is not recommended, and is illegal in some towns in Maine.

Bicyclists are not required by law to stay within bicycle lanes, which are little more than suggestions regarding where bicyclists should ride.

Even where bicycle lanes exist, it may be necessary to move into the travel lane to avoid opening doors from parked cars or other obstacles.

Passing stopped cars on the right is frequently dangerous, and is legal only at the bicyclist’s own risk.

Bicyclists should expect treatment no different from that of other vehicles.

Wearing a helmet is recommended, and required by law for kids under 16.

And bicyclists, although you have a right to the road, please try to be considerate of the whole traffic system as you ride.

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 considerate about where and when you take it.

While there is no law requiring cyclists to ride single file, exercise your right to ride two abreast on quieter roads where drivers have ample room to pass you.

When you stop, please step completely off the pavement.

Respect private property.

Obey the principles of traffic law.

Yield to pedestrians.

Motorists carry a special responsibility for creating safety on the roads by virtue of the number, size and power of their vehicles. Motorists need to be considerate of other users on the road.

Follow posted speed limits and obey traffic signs and lights. Avoid using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.

Remember that “Yield” means “slow down and wait for other vehicles.”

Expect other users on the roadways. Give pedestrians extra space when you pass them.

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

By Maine state law, bicyclists, pedestrians and roller skiers must be passed with at least 3 feet of space – if you can’t give them at least 3 feet, you should wait for a safer place to pass.

If we all follow the common rules of the road and treat each other with courtesy, bicycles and motor vehicles can safely share the road.


– Special to the Press Herald