With black armbands contrasting against their brightly colored shirts and jackets, about 40 cyclists rode silently through the streets of Westminster on Wednesday evening, in memory of fellow riders who lost their lives.
The Ride of Silence is a national event held by bicyclists every year to memorialize those who have been killed on the streets, and to raise awareness of cycling safety and the rules of the road intended to keep both drivers and riders safe.
This is the first year Carroll has hosted a Ride of Silence, and the event was put together in memory of Arthur "John" Martin, a cyclist who was killed five years ago on Shepherds Mill Road at Md. 75 in Union Bridge, where a truck driver failed to yield the right of way to the cyclist while turning.
Riding in silence was Martin's son-in-law Nathan Eyler, who said this will be his first time on a bike in years. He said he wanted to join the riders to honor Martin.
"He was a cop and an honorable guy," Eyler said. "He was great to be around, and I've always considered him a father figure."
Emily Ranson, endorser of the Westminster Ride of Silence and a member of Bike Maryland, said the event is a good way to get people talking about rider safety.
"One of the reasons Rides of Silence are popular are because it's a very noticeable demonstration," Ranson said. "We're riding silently. We have the black armbands and we're behaving like a bicycle funeral procession. By being noticeable, we're making people ask questions about us and bringing up the issue of bicycle safety."
Ranson said collisions can occur anywhere and the crash that took Martin's life was along a designated bike route.
"There were signs everywhere. It's supposed to be a good road, with wide shoulders and not all that much traffic," Ranson said. "There is an intersection with a fair amount of truck traffic, and trucks don't have great visibility, particularly for bikes. We're trying to draw awareness to this intersection."
Since Martin's death, his widow, Rosemarie Martin, has been advocating for bike safety in the county.
"There's a need for motorists in Carroll County to pay attention to cyclists. Things drivers can do is watch their speeds on roads and keep an appropriate distance," Rosemarie Martin said. "More importantly, though, it's up to the state and county to create a safe environment for everybody on the roads."
Ranson said the biggest danger to cyclists is when a motorist either cannot see them or is too distracted to see them.
"Maryland law says cyclists should ride to the right as far as safe and practical. That does not mean they have to ride in the gutter," Ranson said. "Sometimes it's safest to get out in front and into the sight line of the vehicle. The center of the lane is where drivers are looking for motion, and it's often safest to be there."
Nate Evans, executive director of Bike Maryland, said he's seen a trend nationwide toward increased awareness of cyclists and provisions for riders and motorists to both travel safely.
"I've had a few close calls, but it seems like they're getting further and further apart," Evans said. "The biggest struggle we face is with misconceptions. People may think they know what to do, but the laws are always changing. It's important that motorists and cyclists know their rights and their responsibilities to each other and to safety."
Maryland Bicycle Safety Laws
Maryland Laws for Drivers
The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle, including a bicycle, that is going in the same direction shall pass to the left of the overtaken vehicle at a safe distance.
The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle that is going in the same direction, until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle, may not drive any part of his vehicle directly in front of the overtaken vehicle.
Drivers shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle being ridden by a person. The driver of a vehicle must not pass any closer than three feet to a bicycle if the bicycle is operated in a lawful manner. It is not lawful to ride against traffic.
After passing, you must make sure you are clear of the bicyclist before making any turns. The bike has the right of way, and you must yield to bikes when you are turning. Failing to yield the right of way to a bicyclist, resulting in a crash in which the bicyclist is seriously injured, can result in a $1,000 fine and three points on your driving record.
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.
When riding on a sidewalk where such riding is permitted, or a bike path, a bicyclist may ride in a crosswalk to continue on their route. Motorists are required to yield the right of way to a bicyclist operating lawfully in a crosswalk at a signalized intersection.
A person may not throw any object at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle, an electronic personal assistive mobility device, or a motor scooter.
A person may not open the door of any motor vehicle with intent to strike, injure or interfere with any person riding a bicycle. Don't open door into traffic.
Maryland Laws for Cyclists
A bicyclist riding slower than the speed of traffic is confined to the right-hand through lane (much the same way as a slow moving vehicle is) and as close to the right side of the road as is safe. A bicyclist can move further left to:
Make or attempt to make a vehicular style left turn; pass a stopped or slower moving vehicle; or avoid pedestrians or road hazards.
This ride-to-the-right provision does not apply when operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle to travel safely side-by-side with another vehicle within the lane. The provision also does not apply where the right-hand lane is a turn lane or the bicyclist is operating on a one-way street.
A bicyclist riding at the speed of traffic can operate in any lane, just as any other vehicle can. Where there is not a bike lane, a bicyclist may also use the shoulder of the roadway.
Bicycles may not be ridden in the travel lanes of any roadway where the posted maximum speed limit is more than 50 miles an hour; however, bicycles may be operated on the shoulder of these roadways.
Bicycles may not be operated on expressways, except on an adjacent path or facility approved by the State Highway Administration.
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Information provided by the State Highway Administration.