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For the Fun of Fit: Rules of the Road

Another cyclist was killed in Maryland last month. But instead of mourning the passing of a woman - a wife, a mother of three, a high school track coach, a beloved member of her community - social media message boards were flooded with people pointing cyber fingers of blame.

One person complained that though some roads have no shoulders, "cyclists insist on riding on them."

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Another wrote, "These cyclists ride two and three deep on these tiny roads and put other people in jeopardy while doing it without a care in the world for the other people on the road. ... In my opinion, stick to trails or stay off the roads without any shoulders!"

These posts were not only alarming, but revealing as to the level of animosity that still exists between motorists and cyclists and lack of understanding and respect for the laws regarding cyclists. According to State Highway Administration (SHA), "Bicycles are considered vehicles in Maryland, and as such, cyclists must devote as much attention to riding a bike as they would when operating an automobile. Equally as important, motorists must allow cyclists the same respect and caution they would allow another automobile."

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By law, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. However, as noted on the SHA website, bicycles are less visible, quieter, and don't have a protective barrier around them. Therefore, motorists should drive carefully around a bicyclist as the slightest mistake can result in serious injury or death. In some jurisdictions, it is illegal for cyclists to ride on sidewalks or paths.

"Bicyclists fare best when they act like and are treated as drivers of vehicles," notes the SHA.

Cyclists, therefore, must obey all traffic laws, and ride as far to the right as is safe and comfortable. In addition, cyclists should avoid making sudden changes in direction, ride in straight and predictable lines, use hand signals to alert motorists of stops, turns and lane changes, and be positive ambassadors for the sport.

Motorists, in addition to obeying all traffic laws, using turn signals and giving the right of way to more vulnerable users, must, by law, slow to a safe speed and give at least 3 feet of room

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when passing or overtaking a cyclist. According to roadid.com, motorists also should not speed past a cyclist in an effort to make an upcoming turn as it is "easy to misjudge how fast cyclists are traveling and you may violate their right of way and injure them."

Finally, it is important for motorists to understand cyclists are permitted to ride side-by-side and to move into the traffic lane to avoid hazards such as glass and potholes. Harassing cyclists and texting while driving are both illegal and unsafe.

With a little patience, respect and understanding the roads can be safer for everyone. For information on Rules of the Road and Maryland's laws, visit http://www.roadid.com/roadrules/ and sha.md.gov/. To help protect the rights of cyclists, contact a bicycle advocacy organization such as the League of American Bicyclists, People For Bikes, or Bike Maryland.

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