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Thanks to Shane for calling out the importance of finishing the CCT.
But did we drop the ball in the discussion of using a "perfectly good bike path" on River Road. One of the commenters (Shane?) responded about why many cyclists find the bike path to be not suitable, but also stated that MD law is different from D.C. and VA and requires cyclists to use the bike path. Leter Eric Gililand clarified there was an "excption" to this that allows cyclists to use the road on MacArther Blvd. Am I wrong to believe MD. law does NOT require cyclists to use a cycling path where available??

Wayne, I believe the law in MD is that you must use a sidepath or bike lane if one is available. The one exeception to that is MacArthur.

MD law requires a bicyclist to use a bike lane or paved shoulder when one is present. There is no requirement to use an adjacent, off-road path. See Transportation Article § 21-1205.1(b)(2).

(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...

Wayne, I think you're right. I wasn't sure last night, and it was getting late, so I didn't look it up. But the law says you have to use a bike lane or shoulder when one is available. It does not require you to use a trail.


§ 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.

My understanding in MD is that a cyclist *must* use a bike lane or smooth shoulder if available.

http://www.mva.maryland.gov/Driver-Safety/Bicycle/default.htm

But I don't think a separated side path (really a glorified sidewalk) qualifies as a bike lane.

Maryland had a law requiring cyclists to use sidepaths, but it was repealed over a decade ago. I doubt that it was in force for very long, but it is one of the best-remembered laws in Montgomery County, it seems.

The MoBike list serve regularly reports on drivers who still seem that the law is in effect. Perhaps the intuitive appeal of the law to most drivers caused it to immediately enter their long-term memory; and the repeal of the law just never set in. The efforts to remove the requirement to ride in shoulders and bike lanes was often mischaracterized as an effort to remove the requirement to ride in bike paths.

@Washcycle: The requirement to ride in a shoulder was repealed in 2010, but the requirement to use a bike lane remains, unless there is a valid safety reason for not being in the bike lane.

In Montgomery County, the correct answer to the question: "Doesn't the law require you to be on the bike path?" is "No. Bicycles are allowed on all roads other than expressways. And it is safer to ride in the road because that is a multiuse trail, not a bike path, with pedestrians, children, and dogs. In fact, some of the trails have a speed limit of 15 mph in which case it might actually be illegal for me to ride in that trail."

i've been wondering about safety and CaBi - does anyone know anything about how serious or not serious the 6 reported crashes were?

Wayne, I think you're right. I wasn't sure last night, and it was getting late, so I didn't look it up. But the law says you have to use a bike lane or shoulder when one is available. It does not require you to use a trail.

If this is true, it's hard to know what to make of the idea that MacArthur Boulevard is an exception. Exception to what?

The old law? Is it, in fact, an exception?

I take my bike on the bus going up Georgia Avenue semi-frequently, and I've often wondered how many bikes have been stolen from bus racks. I find the fact that the Kojo calle's storyr was the first incident of this kind that you've heard of comforting.

Part of MacArthur Blvd. was determined by the Md. Attorney General to not be subject to the law (now repealed) that said you had to ride in the shoulder if one was available. The issue was that the separated path becomes contiguous with the roadway for that section of eastbound MacArthur. For that section, the shoulder law could be construed as requiring cyclists to use the path, because it looks exactly like a shoulder. The AG advised that the path is not a shoulder, thereby allowing cyclists to ride in the roadway rather than on the shoulder-like path. Now that the requirement to ride on the shoulder has been repealed, this is largely moot (though the still-in-effect requirement to ride as far right as practicable might be construed by some to apply to this location, were it not for the AG determination).

Regardless, the MacArthur path there is dangerous, because you have two way pedestrians and cyclists using it as if it's a path, and some eastbound cyclists using it as if it were a shoulder. You can imagine the conflicts.

Jim T is correct. You can ride in the roadway (including shoulder), whether or not there's a path alongside the road, except on roads where bikes are prohibited. Bikes are prohibited in the travel lanes on roads with speed limits of 51 mph or higher (but may use the shoulder) and are prohibited on expressways (which are defined in the law) unless otherwise signed. Bicyclists are no longer required to ride in the shoulder (except on high speed roads as noted above) thanks to legislation passed in 2010. Bicyclists are still required to use bike lanes if they are present, with several exceptions which washcycle identifies above. One of the exceptions is "to avoid debris or other hazardous condition", which I interpret very generously to include things like the *possibility* of debris, right hook risk, and the parked car door zone. Jim, do you have anything to add?
Jack Cochrane
Chair, MoBike

Just to add to my previous comment... Bicyclists in Maryland are also required to ride as far to the right as "practicable" with several exceptions (preparing to turn left, hazards, passing, right lane must turn right, etc.). One notable exception is that if the lane is not wide enough to share side by side with a car, you don't have to stay right. So you can "take the lane" if the lane is not wide enough to share. That is a recent change to the law. Whether riding as far to the right as practicable means you have to ride in the shoulder when one is present, well, that's up for debate.

It was easy to verify that the mandatory bicycle path law was repealed before 1996 on the General Assembly web site, but I still do not know when.

I think there is some ambiguity about whether one has to ride in a bike lane that is narrower than the AASHTO (or possibly even the SHA) standard. An AASHTO bike lane is 5 feet stripe to curb; SHA requires 5 feet stripe to gutter. People on this web site have previously pointed out some absurdly narrow bike lanes. One could make the arguments (a) that it was not really a bike lane; and (b) that they were avoiding a hazardous condition with the lane being too narrow.

The requirement to ride as far to the right as practicable has an exception for lanes too narrow to share side-by-side. Combined with the 3-foot passing requirement and general advice to stay 3-4 feet from the right side, you can take the lane if narrower than 14 feet--maybe 15 feet if there is no shoulder. If there is a shoulder with no hazards, as far to the right as practicable probably means pretty far to the right unless the lane is narrower than 11-12 feet. I think it's a close call whether you are allowed to take the lane on a state highway with 12 foot lanes and a wide open shoulder while going >10 mph below the speed of traffic.

In Prince Georges County, the M-NCPPC trails have a speed limit of 12 mph so the suggestion that a cyclist must be on the trail is sometimes laughable. But in Montgomery, I forget: Do all M-NCPPC trails have a 15 mph speed limit of just the CCT?

Ok I found it. The requirement to ride in a side path was repealed in 1977. This piques my curiosity just a bit.

..oh what the heck. This is morphing into a blog post.

Thanks for going through the trouble of digging all this up. I'm in a bit of shock that there was a time they forced bicycles of the roads in MD. So much for the "Free State".

Joe, I suspect if you were to poll people about whether cyclists are required to use a sidepath, the most popular answer would be yes, and the second answer would be no, but they should be.

Ron Schaffer, the old Dr. Gridlock, used to regularly run letters from people asking why the police never enforce the sidepath laws. He never mentioned that such laws didn't in fact exist, instead he would say that the police just don't want to enforce them.

I like to believe that's part of the reason he was forced into early retirement in 2006.

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