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Cyclists in MD are NOT required to use bike paths (paths that are separate from the road, such as the paths along River or Falls Rd in Potomac, Sligo Creek Path, etc.). Cyclists also do NOT have to ride on shoulders as of last October, though the asinine requirement to ride in bike lanes remains, even though MD doesn't know how to construct safe bike lanes. It's nice that the police are too lazy, uh, busy, to enforce that law, though.
And, what I said previously about the misstatements and misunderstanding about what a speed limit is and what impeding traffic is...
Thanks to all the cyclists who attended, BTW!

thanks nancy for stressing this!

Can Officer Trybus cite to the code where it says that anything less than the speed limit is against the law?

The specific law on impeding traffic on a bicycle appears to be Maryland Code 21-1205(b) which states: "Riding two abreast.- Each person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter on a roadway may ride two abreast only if the flow of traffic is unimpeded."

Thus, you can only be impeding traffic if you are riding two abreast. If you are single file, even if you are in the middle of the lane going 5 mph, then you are not impeding traffic. See however 21-1205(a) which requires you to ride on the right side of the road unless certain exceptions apply.

According to Michie Legal Resources, http://www.michie.com/maryland/ , the full text of Maryland Code 21-1205 is:

21-1205. Riding on roadways or on highway.
(a) Riding to right side of roadway.- Each person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter at a speed less than the speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing on a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe, except when:
(1) Making or attempting to make a left turn;
(2) Operating on a one-way street;
(3) Passing a stopped or slower moving vehicle;
(4) Avoiding pedestrians or road hazards;
(5) The right lane is a right turn only lane; or
(6) Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motor scooter and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
(b) Riding two abreast.- Each person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter on a roadway may ride two abreast only if the flow of traffic is unimpeded.
(c) Passing.- Each person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter on a roadway shall exercise due care when passing a vehicle.
(d) Walking bicycles on right side of highway.- Each person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter on a roadway may walk the bicycle or motor scooter on the right side of a highway if there is no sidewalk.

Another important section to note is:

§ 21-1205.1. Bicycles, motor scooters, and EPAMDs prohibited on certain roadways and highways; speed limit.
(a) In general.- Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, a person may not ride a bicycle or a motor scooter:
(1) On any roadway where the posted maximum speed limit is more than 50 miles an hour; or
(2) On any expressway, except on an adjacent bicycle path or way approved by the State Highway Administration, or on any other controlled access highway signed in accordance with § 21-313 of this title.
(b) Roadway with bike lane or shoulder paved to smooth surface.-
(1) Where there is not a bike lane paved to a smooth surface, a person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter may use the roadway or the shoulder.
(2) Where there is a bike lane paved to a smooth surface, a person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter shall use the bike lane and may not ride on the roadway, except in the following situations:
(i) When overtaking and passing another bicycle, motor scooter, pedestrian, or other vehicle within the bike lane if the overtaking and passing cannot be done safely within the bike lane;
(ii) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway;
(iii) When reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane to avoid debris or other hazardous condition; or
(iv) When reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane because the bike lane is overlaid with a right turn lane, merge lane, or other marking that breaks the continuity of the bike lane.
(3) A person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter may not leave a bike lane until the movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after giving an appropriate signal.
(4) The Department shall adopt regulations pertaining to this subsection, including a definition of "smooth surface".

See also:

21-1202. Traffic laws apply to bicycles and motor scooters.
Every person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter in a public bicycle area has all the rights granted to and is subject to all the duties required of the driver of a vehicle by this title, including the duties set forth in § 21-504 of this title, except:
(1) As otherwise provided in this subtitle; and
(2) For those provisions of this title that by their very nature cannot apply.

My summary of the pertinent Maryland bicycle traffic laws:

- Where there is a bike lane, you must ride in it except when reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane to avoid debris or other hazardous condition. 21-1205.1(2)

- If there is no bike lane, you may ride on the street or shoulder. 21-1205.1(1)

- When riding on the street, you must ride single file on the right side of the road unless it is unsafe to do so (passing another bike or vehicle, the road is too narrow for a bicycle and car to travel safely side by side within the lane, hazard in road, etc). 21-1205(a)

- You may ride two abreast only if it does not impede traffic. 21-1205(b)

The "impeding traffic" element may be impermissibly vague. Unless there is a minimum speed, no user is required to go any particular speed. In jurisdictions where "impeding traffic" ordinances have been enforced against cyclists, courts have tossed these charges on the grounds that, having permitted a class of users on the road, one cannot expect them to operate their vehicle at a speed they cannot reasonably attain. In essence, the required minimum speed for cyclists becomes the speed at which they can comfortably operate.

@Crickey7: The issue is not whether you are allowed on the road, it is whether you are allowed to ride two abreast rather than single file keeping to the right. In the context of that specific law, I think the police's interpretation is reasonable: you can only ride two abreast if there are no cars behind you or if you are going the speed limit.

We all know what is intended. The problem is that there is no yardstick the police can use to enforce it. If they were to ticket a cyclist for impeding traffic, the ticket is likely to be tossed for that reason.

The yardstick cannot be either of the ones you mention. There are frequently going to be cars behind two cyclists, and it cannot be the law that a cyclist (or any other road user) must drive at or near the speed limit. "Impeding" has a vehicle-dependent speed component to it. And for cyclists, that is the speed at which you can confortably operate a bike.

I think a "no impeding law" has to go to intent. Are you trying to get where you're going and going as fast as you think you can safely go? Then you're not impeding. Are you standing in the road intentionally trying to stop traffic? Then you're impeding.

@Crickey7: You are still not getting it. You do not have to go the speed limit. You have to either

(a) stay single file on the right side of the road unless the road conditions do not permit you to stay on the right side; or

(b) ride two abreast at the speed limit; or

(c) ride two abreast at less than the speed limit and move out of the way of cars that want to pass you.

The only thing that is prohibited is riding two abreast AND going less than the speed limit AND not moving out of the way of cars who want to pass.

If you ride two abreast at less than the speed limit and do not move to allow cars to pass, and if a police officer wants to give you a ticket, then your arguments may work in court, and then again, they may not, depending mostly I think on the mood of the judge and whether you come across as reasonable and likeable.

@washcycle: I think you are wrong. I don't think intent matters at all. I think what matters is whether you are riding two abreast, going slower than the speed limit, and not moving over for cars that want to pass.

Because the law uses the concept of "impeding traffic", the state is forced into the legal analysis of measuring that by reference to the speed at which that vehicle can travel. There are laws that specify, for OTHER classes of vehicles, a speed within x mph of a target speed, but those do not apply to bicycles. The fact that an officer can give a ticket is not relevant. The ticket must be upheld, and the case law is nearly every jurisdiction that has faced this issues follows what I've said. And again, the speed limit is completely irrelevant.

I do agree intent does not matter. The speed characteristics of the vehicle do.

If you are riding at a normal speed for a bicycle and are otherwise obeying the law, then you are not impeding other traffic. Someone posted a helpful link on this yesterday (thanks!). Here is is again: http://flbikelaw.org/2010/05/bicycles-impeding-traffic/

IMO, the emphasis on the letter of the law isn't helpful at all for the MacArthur issue. It makes more sense for the cyclists to break up large groups into smaller ones when cars are trying to pass, so that the cars have a better chance to do so. It also would make sense for the motorists to be expected to return this politeness with additional care.

Alan, you're talking about what the law is and I agree. I'm talking about what the law should be.

@Crickey7: The Maryland Code references "impeding traffic" only in a statute that permits riding two abreast. IMO, caselaw that deals only with impeding traffic, and not with impeding traffic while riding two abreast, is irrelevant. If you know of a similar statute in another jurisdiction (that specifically deals with riding two abreast) and authorities that interpret that statutes, please post the relevant citations (Bluebook format, please).

@washcycle: Gotcha.

BTW, I'm probably the only person following this conversation who once got a ticket for "impeding traffic". I got the ticket in Massachusetts for refusing to back up my car to allow an on coming truck to crossover the yellow center line and use my lane. Yes, the police officer was a jerk and I fought the ticket in court and it was tossed. But if you're riding your bicycle two abreast in Maryland and get a ticket, I don't think the law will be on your side.

@Jonathan Krall:

The website you referenced regarding Florida law also has a post about riding two abreast and impeding traffic:

http://flbikelaw.org/2009/07/cyclists-riding-two-abreast/

The Florida statute is pretty much that same as the Maryland statute, and the website you referenced interprets the Florida law pretty much the same way I interpret the Maryland law. To quote:

"The only situation in which the 'impeding traffic' part of this statute is truly violated when cyclists are riding two-abreast is when:
- they are in a lane which is 14 feet wide, and
- traveling slower than the 'normal speed of traffic', and
- there is no means of easily overtaking and passing by changing lanes."

The word "impede" must have reference to some objective standard--the Code does not provide it with respect to bicycles. If it's not x mph under a target speed (and the statute does not say it is), then what is it? It cannot be the speed limit, and it is very unlikely to be the fact that other vehicles are behind it, for two reasons. First, those vehicles could be exceeding the speed limit; second, are we talking one car? Five? Ten? There's no statutory guidance. The standard that has been recognized in case law in other jurisdictions (it hasn't been litigated in Maryland) is as I describe.

As with your experience, even with cars such citations are almost always dismissed. It's a subjective standard, and judges don't like mixing something capable of being treated objectively with a subjective standard. If the legislature wanted, they could easily impose hard guidelines.

@Crickey7:

(A) I don't see any authorities that you have cited there in Bluebook format, and I don't see any mention in your post of the most relevant fact: the law as it applies when you are riding a bicycle on the road two abreast.

(B) I find your reasoning completely unpersuasive. The law permits riding two abreast only if you do not impede traffic. As you posted earlier, "We all know what is intended." I agree with that. Not only do we all know is intended, we all know when we are impeding traffic.

If you are riding your bicycle two abreast on a road in Maryland, going less than the speed limit, and there are cars behind you that cannot pass unless you move over, and if you could safely move over and do not do so, and a police officers sees you and writes you get a ticket for violating 21-1205(b), I think you will lose in court.

More generally, anytime you are riding your bicycle two abreast on a road that has cars behind you, you are taking your chances of getting a ticket and losing in court. That's the simple fact, and no amount of arguing is going to change that.

You still haven't said what "impede" means. Teh Maryland Code provides zero guidance. That's the basic problem with your argument, and the law itself as written. That leaves it to the court to apply a standard. At this point, that has not been done (probably because no officer has been foolish enough to try to write a ticket for it). Ergo, nothing Bluebookable.

You say it's citable. I say it isn't.

Provided you are travelling at cycling speeds.

Seriously......

If you're riding two abreast and going slower then the normal traffic flow and a car wants to pass....

RIDE SINGLE FILE!!

Simple...
Why take the chance in the first place..
The only reason I see, is to try to force your will on others..
Is it so difficult to move into single file for a minute or longer?
Give it a rest..

(A) There is no "basic problem with the law as written". The law does not need to define impede or provide guidance because it can be understood according to its common use: "to interfere with or slow the progress of"

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impede

As you said yourself, "We all know what is intended."

(B) Nonetheless, I did carefully and in detail explain what impede means in this context: "If you are riding your bicycle two abreast on a road in Maryland, going less than the speed limit, and there are cars behind you that cannot pass unless you move over, and if you could safely move over and do not do so," then you are impeding traffic. If a police officers sees you and writes you a ticket for violating 21-1205(b), I think you will lose in court. More generally, if you are riding two abreast, you are taking your chances. That's the bottom line.

Where does the Code say "normal traffic flow"? The speed limit? A court might go with the first, never with the second. But again, that's a squishy standard. And court are reluctant to impose penalties on the basis of a legal standard that boils down to "because I said so".

Here is the edge case as I see it:
Two cyclists riding abreast on Macarthur (or any narrow road).

If a car is behind them and cannot safely enter the opposing traffic lane, the car cannot safely pass regardless of whether they are two abreast or not. So is riding two abreast legal or not in this case? I think the strict reading says no.

(note that riding two abreast can prevent another cyclist or motorcyclist from safely passing in the same lane, so it may matter what type of vehicle is waiting to pass)

@Ron Alford: you could argue that situation is not a violation of 21-1205(b). You still might get a ticket and lose if you challenge it, so you'll have to decide what it's worth to you.

@Alan - I'm saying that it is a violation (and it shouldn't be). 1205(b) does not say you can't ride abreast if it causes traffic to be impeded, it states that you can't ride abreast if it is impeded.

Next edge case: If a car pulls up behind this couple, are they in violation of 21-1205(b)?

1. Basically the law against riding two abreast/impeding traffic has nothing to do with safety. It is a law about courtesy. Now safety is a matter of fact, even if we don't always know the facts, whereas courtesy is a matter of custom, tradition and opinion - which is why we have Ms. Manners and other such news columns. I'm not sure we should be in the business of legislating courtesy, and off the top of my head, I can't think of any other examples. This is not to say that I'm against being courteous, I just like the feeling of doing something nice without feeling obligated.

2. Under the law, riding two abreast with a car behind you, even when a car can't safely pass, probably is against the law (as Ron said) but shouldn't be in my opinion.

3. Frank, other than exerting your will, you could ride two abreast for the same reason you were riding two abreast before the car came up from behind you. I don't even have to come up with what that reason is. Unless you think two cyclist riding abreast on an otherwise empty road are exerting their will, you'll see the falacy in your logic. If a driver can't safely pass anyway, what is gained by changing position. Might as well have a law requiring you to unzip your jersey when a car is behind you. It will do just as much good.

In Maryland, it is illegal to cross a double-yellow to pass. It is not illegal, however, to pass without crossing the double-yellow, as long as it is safe to do so. You can't have a duty to permit others to conduct illegal acts, so there are basically two sets of rules, depending on whether the lane is wide enough to be safely shared. If the lane is wide enough:
* Passing is permitted
* Cyclists must keep to the right
* Cyclists must ride single file if there is traffic wanting to pass

If the lane is not wide enough to share safely:
* Passing is not permitted
* Cyclists do not need to keep right
* Riding two abreast is permitted

The problem is that there is no guidance given as to what exactly it means for a lane to be wide enough to share safely. In particular, the new 3-foot passing law has an explicit exemption for cases where it would otherwise be legal to pass but the roadway is too narrow to allow passers to leave three feet.

My takeaway is that the police are taking the position that everywhere on MacArthur is wide enough to permit safe passing.

Another overly broad interpretation by the police is specifying the speed limit as the minimum speed at which a bicycle is not impeding traffic. What the statute actually says is operating at a "speed less than the speed [of] traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing on a roadway."

Bicycles are traffic. If you're riding in a group of cyclists, as long as you're not slowing the group you're not impeding traffic.

Of course, tell it to the judge.

I'm not sure we should be in the business of legislating courtesy, and off the top of my head, I can't think of any other examples.

Well, the laws regarding slow-moving motor vehicles are much more stringent that those for bicycles. And yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks is about courtesy, not safety, because only a foolhardy pedestrian would actually take his life in his hands and enter a crosswalk solely on the belief that he legally has right-of-way.

I disagree with your contention that it's just courtesty anyway. Having traffic flow is a legitimate public interest, and there are plenty of laws that have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with traffic flow -- left turn bans, lanes that are closed to trucks and buses, don't block the box.

Unfortunately for the MCPD I think they lost a lot of credibility with their over simplification statement about impeding traffic.

If impeding traffic were simply traveling at lower than the posted speed limit, then 355 through Rockville should be a much bigger issue for drivers. There is lots of motorized traffic impeding going on there every day.

Does MCPD think you are impeding if you are below the speed limit and the only one on the road? I doubt it.

Based on what MCPD was quoted at saying, you are impeding if you are below the speed limit, and breaking the law if you are above it. They are implying that you should always be traveling at exactly the speed limit. This violate the basic speed law.

Since the police don't seem to consider speeding a violation unless you are 12mph over the posted limit (ie. speed cameras), can we imply you are not impeding until you are 12mph below the speed limit?

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