Cyclists, motorists encouraged to ‘share the road’ after series of recent serious collisions

The latest in a spate of serious vehicle-bicycle collisions Sunday in Westminster, which resulted in the cyclist being flown to shock trauma, underscored the need for operators to keep roads safe no matter how many tires their mode of transportation uses, say the proprietors at two local bike shops.

“Bicyclists have to be more defensive and the motorists have to be more courteous. Share the road,” said Larry Black, founder of Mount Airy Bicycle Company and College Park Bicycles, in a Monday interview.


On Sunday, an SUV and cyclist collided at New Windsor Road and Stone Chapel Road in Westminster. After the cyclist was freed from under the SUV, the victim was flown to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore via Maryland State Police helicopter and was said to be in stable condition Sunday afternoon. The patient was still in shock trauma as of Monday afternoon, according to a staff member, but an update of their condition was not immediately available.

Another cyclist was struck Aug. 6 in Marriottsville and flown to University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. The victim, a 42-year-old Marriottsville man, was cycling south on Marriottsville Road No. 2 at Forest Hill Road and collided with a truck. Last month in neighboring Woodsboro, a 59-year-old Rockville woman cyclist was killed when her bike collided with an SUV during the Firefighter 50, which raises funds for the Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company.


Bicyclists are authorized users of the roadway, and bicyclists have rights-of-way and the same duty to obey all traffic signals as motorists, according to Maryland law. It is illegal for them to ride against traffic. But bicycles are less visible, quieter, and don’t have a protective barrier around them.

The law provides that operators of vehicles must not pass any closer than 3 feet to a bicycle or motor scooter. Additionally, the bicycle has the right-of-way when the motor vehicle is making a turn. And motorists must yield the right-of-way to bicyclists riding in bike lanes and shoulders when these vehicle operators are entering or crossing occupied bike lanes and shoulders.

According to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), there were 11 fatal bicycle/pedalcycle crashes in the state in 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Questions seeking comment on traffic laws and expectations of cyclists and motorists placed to county government were referred to the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. No one from the Sheriff’s Office responded Monday. But local cycling enthusiasts were happy to discuss the sometimes uneasy co-existence of bikes and cars on the road.

Black, who’s been cycling since 1961 and opened the Mount Airy business with his wife 29 years ago, said motorists and cyclists alike have a responsibility to look out for each other.

Black said he has seen motorists on their phones and eating while driving. He recommends cyclists mount lights on their bicycles, even if they don’t ride at night, because drivers are more likely to be distracted during the day when the world is lit up around them. “You have to suck the attention from the motorists," he said.

Black has a special trick he employs to encourage approaching vehicles to slow down.

When a car is about 100 yards back, he “wiggles” his bicycle. In his experience, after doing this maneuver he hears the vehicle’s engine slow down. Black says the wiggle makes the driver think the cyclist is inexperienced and then they give the bicycle a wider berth.

Black recently returned from a cycling trip through France and Germany and said drivers are much more courteous there than in the states, even though many of their roads are more narrow.

“We had no problem with the motorists,” Black said. “The people over there are less distracted.”

Nevertheless, Black said he enjoys cycling in Carroll County. He said he finds the scenery to be beautiful and most motorists are wary of cyclists.

While bicycles are considered vehicles in the state of Maryland, Black said it’s “always advisable” for cyclists to travel on wider roads or ones with a shoulder. “You have to go where it’s better sight lines and not curvy and bumpy," Black said.


However, if a car gets stuck behind a bicycle on a narrow back road and the driver can’t safely see around them to pass, Black said there’s only one thing for the driver to do.

“They gotta wait,” Black said. “You’ll get there. It’s not going to slow you down that much.”

Black strongly encourages people to buy bicycles from bicycle shops rather than from toy stores or department stores. At his shop, customers receive an education when they get a bike and know they’ve bought a vehicle that’s safe to ride, he said. His shop offers courtesy safety checks, even if they didn’t buy the bike from him.

Steve Bechtel, one of the store managers at Race Pace Bicycles in Westminster, says there’s a strong cycling community in Carroll County. He grew up in Silver Run and lives in Westminster now.

“I love riding around Carroll County,” Bechtel said. “For the most part, it’s very friendly.”

Race Pace Bicycles has been around for 41 years and opened its Westminster location in 1992, according to Bechtel.

Interacting with customers, Bechtel said, “the biggest concern is not being seen when they’re on the road.”

More cyclists are wearing bright-colored riding gear and putting lights and mirrors on their bicycles lately, according to Bechtel.

He said it’s “remarkable” to hear of two bicycle-versus-vehicle crashes within the same month in Carroll County.

“The cyclists need to be aware of the traffic … just as much as the car’s driver needs to be responsible and be aware of other vehicles around it," Bechtel said.

While some people believe cyclists should bike in parks and stay off the roads, Bechtel said that’s not always an option. Some cyclists ride between 30 and 60 miles in a day, which bike paths can’t accommodate, he said, and there’s an “incredibly small” amount of bicycle/multi-use trails available in the county.

Recognizing this, Carroll County government is seeking to expand the county’s bicycle trails and make existing paths safer. The Carroll County Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan has been in the works for about four years and strives to unite bike-pedestrian projects across the county.

Bechtel advises cyclists to obey the law like they do when they’re driving a car, and for motorists, “Be on the lookout for cyclists and just show a little patience.”


“It’s a shared responsibility,” Bechtel said.

Both Bechtel and Black said they are not in favor of regulating bicycles by requiring tags and licenses. Black suggested it would deter people from cycling. Bechtel thought the change would be an “incredible nightmare” and “monumental task” considering all the places one can purchase bicycles.

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