Several weeks ago we wrote about operating safety on Anne Arundel County’s Trail system during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the trails are often very crowded many cyclists have taken to the road to avoid the crowds. Like increased trail usage, we applaud all recreation and active transportation activities, pandemic or not, but we thought this would be a great opportunity to review safety rules on the road.
The basic rules for road cycling are pretty straight forward: follow traffic signs/lights, ride with traffic, not more than two abreast, to the right as far as practicable and perhaps most important be predictable. The word “practicable” in Maryland law requires some explanation. Counter to common understanding for less experienced riders, it does not mean “as far as possible”, rather as far as can be done safely. Often there are gratings, uneven pavement, debris or other obstructions on the right side of the road and this wording gives the cyclist the leeway to determine where in the lane she positions herself.
It’s always nice to ride right from your home rather than driving with your bikes on a rack. If your neighborhood streets have reasonably low traffic and speed, try riding locally but be sure to follow the road riding rules below. As you become more confident, try leaving your car home and bike to the store for curbside pickup or the pharmacy drive-thru. If your kids ride in the neighborhood, be sure they wear a properly-fitting helmet, know the rules and especially watch for cars turning and entering/leaving driveways.
We understand riding from home may not be practical for cyclists who live in areas that require transiting high stress roadways and no trails to get to typical recreational road routes. There are a number of park and ride lots in Southern Anne Arundel County that are wonderful starting locations with quick access to low stress country roads. These roads in rural areas typically do not have many riders so maintaining distance is not difficult. In the event you do encounter other riders in your same direction, ensure you have sufficient sight distance to pass, speed up as much as possible to pass and give as much room as possible. And as always wave!
If you have some experience with riding on the road but have not wanted to explore the county, with the weather turning warm and the trails crowded, this is a good time to give it another try. Here are some suggestions for people with at least a basic comfort level riding on the road:
- Rural start locations: Davidsonville Road/Route 50 lot (a common start location for local area clubs), Davidsonville Park (has porta-potty facilities) and the lot at Southern Maryland Boulevard and Lower Pindell Rd (access to Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary and Paris Glendenning Nature Preserve).
- Start times: Weekend mornings between 8-10am are popular ride times, so starting a little later avoids crowds at the lots and on the roads.
- When riding on the road, masks are not necessary, but if riding out of the city in denser neighborhoods where there are walkers and runners, bring a “buff” or other covering that can be raised while in these areas.
- Make sure to bring enough food and drink with you as places to stop are few. For experienced cyclists doing longer rides, consider “caching” extra water along your route (especially for an out and back) so you don’t have to carry it the entire ride.
- See the BikeAAA Ride With GPS route library for suggestions on routes. The library is searchable by area: https://ridewithgps.com/organizations/2485-bikeaaa
- Consult local area bike clubs for suggestions on which routes might be right for you: https://bikeaaa.org/resources/bike-clubs/
Detailed Safety Rules
Bicyclists on the road
- Stop at all red lights and stop signs.
- Ride defensively – expect the unexpected.
- Ride with traffic, never against it.
- Use hand signals when turning or stopping.
- Yield right-of-way to pedestrians.
- Pass on the left when overtaking a vehicle.
- Where there is street parking, stay out of the “door zone”.
- Use caution when crossing ramps.
- Never ride more than two abreast.
- Ride to the right as far as practicable.
- Stay visible and use lights when riding at night and during inclement weather.
- Wear a helmet correctly.
- Do not wear headphones.
Drivers near bicyclists
- Expect bicyclists on the road.
- Always keep a safe following distance.
- Allow at least three feet when passing when safe to do so.
- Yield the right-of-way to bicyclists when turning right.
- Look for bicyclists before opening a car door.
- Stay alert when pulling out of driveways or side streets.
- Keep your eyes on the road. It’s illegal to text and use hand held devices while driving.
- Stay alert – avoid all distractions.
- Never drive impaired or drowsy
Bicycle Riding on the road during COVID-19
- No group or meetup rides
- Wear a mouth/nose covering if in populated areas.
- Additional suggestions from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association: https://waba.org/blog/2020/04/biking-during-covid-19/