AUGUSTA – Now that spring is here, the roads around Maine are going to be getting busier with bicycles and pedestrians as well as cars.

At the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, we felt it might be useful to review, in the spirit of shared use of our common roads, some of the rules and practices that apply to situations where bikes, cars, and walkers meet.

Walkers: On streets where no sidewalk exists, pedestrians should always walk facing traffic. Where sidewalks and crosswalks exist, walkers should use them. Maine state law requires that vehicles stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, which is an excellent reason to use them. Where crosswalks exist at traffic lights, pedestrians should cross in the same direction as the traffic moving with the green light rather than cutting across the flow, or follow the directions of the pedestrian signals.

And walkers, although Maine state law requires drivers to stop for you in crosswalks, please try to be considerate of the whole traffic system as you exercise your ability to stop traffic.

Especially in urban situations, walking against a light can cause traffic to back up and idle more than necessary. Please use crosswalks when crossing streets. And don’t forget what it is like to drive a car while you’re walking.

Bicyclists: They 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 taking more of the lane may be necessary, such as when passing parked cars, avoiding obstacles or preventing unsafe passing, especially in narrow lanes.

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, parked cars, or other obstacles.

Bicyclists should stop at all stop signs and red lights, and they should not go out of turn at intersections. Passing stopped cars on the right is dangerous, but legal at a cyclist’s own risk. Bicyclists should expect treatment no different from that of other vehicles.

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. 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: virtue of the number, size and power of their vehicles, motorists carry a special responsibility for creating safety on the roads.

Please try 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 to slow down and wait for other vehicles.

Motorists should expect other users on the roads. 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) when they are encountered. Motorists should stay behind such traffic until it is safe to pass.

Maine state law, bicyclists 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.

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


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