By: Elizabeth Hays
Recently, Maryland Avenue has undergone a dramatic change-it’s not additional parking, it’s not a wider road, and it’s not the food truck I keep hoping for-it’s a bike lane. It’s not just some extra space for a bike to get around cars, but an actual protected lane carved out of the already narrow two-lane road. To many bikers, this is probably a welcomed change. To the rest of us, this is one more reason to buy a smart car. With the addition of this bike lane comes confusing new rules of the road, which have the potential to cause traffic jams and bike-car-pedestrian collisions.
Per Maryland law, these new bike lanes are classified as bicycle paths. A bicycle path means any travel-way designed or designated by signing or marking for bicycle use, located within its own right-of-way or in a shared right-of-way, and physically separated from motor vehicle traffic by berm, shoulder, curb, and other similar devices. In contrast, a bike lane means any portion of a roadway or shoulder designated for single directional bicycle flow. Maryland law requires bicyclists to use a bike lane if a safe one is available on the same street; however the law is silent as to bicycle paths. Therefore, bicyclists are not even technically required to use the new bicycle paths.
While the bicycle paths are meant to be a safe solution for bicyclists and drivers to share the road, some bicyclists have voiced concerns about the bicycle paths not being wide enough to pass slow bicyclists. Therefore, while they can legally move to the roadway to pass, it creates even more confusion on a road. A driver needs to keep an eye on pedestrians, traffic lights, construction, and now bicycle paths and rouge bicyclists passing. Are bicycle paths a good idea? Probably. However, the law either needs to be more clear or stricter about the enforcement and application of bicycle laws in Maryland to prevent major headaches for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike.
Elizabeth Hays is a third-year day student at the University of Baltimore. She serves as a Staff Editor of the UB Law Forum and is Co-president of University of Baltimore Students for Public Interest (UBSPI). Her legal interests include, administrative and military law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org