With increasing bicycle-related crashes across the state and warmer weather, the State Highway Administration (SHA) has reminded drivers that bicycles belong on Maryland roadways. With the educational campaign “We’re on this Road Together: Expect and Respect,” the SHA urges bicyclists and drivers to look out for each other and follow the rules of the road.

SHA Director of Planning Greg Slater recently joined Bike Maryland Executive Director Nate Evans and Jerry Cunningham, whose wife Trish was a bicyclist killed in a traffic crash, to emphasize the need for the campaign. Along with Lt. Lonnie Ledford of the Baltimore County Fire Department, Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s Laura Van Wert and other bicycle advocates, they highlighted engineering enhancements along Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk, where SHA recently installed new bike lanes and turn pockets.

“Discussions of cyclists on Maryland roadways often devolve into ‘drivers vs. bikers,’ or ‘us vs. them’ arguments. The truth is that pretty much all cyclists are also drivers. It’s not about us vs. them at all; it’s about taking the time and care that are worthy of another human life,” said Jerry Cunningham. “Our family is asking that drivers simply look out for bicyclists and share the road.”

In the last five years, 3,100 people were injured and 30 were killed in more than 3,800 bicycle-related crashes in Maryland. Statistics show that most bicycle crashes happen in warmer months, May through September, and nearly half of all bicycle-involved crashes occur during “rush hour” between 3 and 8 p.m.

“The State Highway Administration supports bicycling as an alternative method [of] travel to ease traffic congestion, improve health and reduce environmental impacts,” said Slater. “Part of that commitment includes adding bike lanes where safe and feasible. Many drivers do not realize that bicycles are legal vehicles, and riders must obey the same traffic laws as automobiles. The sad reality is that in a collision there is no contest between a person riding a 20-pound bike and a 4,000 pound vehicle, so sharing the road is critical for everyone to make it home safely.”

When developing highway improvement projects, SHA engineers evaluate bicycle access, enhancements and signage as part of the state’s Complete Streets Policy, which requires accommodation of motorists, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. SHA improved more than 119 miles of roadways with bike lanes or wide shoulders between 2011 and 2013.

“More Marylanders are choosing to bike for both transportation and recreation, both short trips and long. With this increase in bicycle ridership, those driving need to be more aware of cyclists who are more vulnerable to injuries during collisions,” said Evans. “The message today is that bicycle safety is a two-way street, and we’re urging bicyclists and drivers to follow the rules of the road and expect to share the road with each other.”

Drivers should expect to encounter bicyclists in their travels. Here are several important tips for drivers:

  • Allow plenty of following distance.
  • Look for bicyclists before turning or opening car doors.
  • Slow down when approaching a cyclist.
  • Pass bicyclists carefully, giving at least three feet of space.
  • Do not honk your horn.

Here are some tips for cyclists on the road:

  • Follow all the same laws as the automobile drivers.
  • Use hand signals to indicate turns.
  • Wear protective gear, especially a helmet.
  • Be visible with bright clothes and reflective material at night.
  • Avoid distraction such as listening to music.

For more information about bicycle safety, visit the SHA’s web site at www.roads.maryland.gov/Index.aspx?PageId=357; visit Bike Maryland at www.bikemaryland.org.