Bicyclist riding in traffic
Photo by Keso
It has been 90 days since the end of the 2007 legislative session in Maine, which means that a slurry of new laws take effect today.

Some of those laws will make the streets safer for cyclists (and to a lesser extent, runners) who ride in traffic.

  • Motor vehicles must give at least 3 feet of clearance to any cyclist that they pass.
  • Motor vehicles are now allowed to cross a solid center line to pass a cyclist when it is safe to do so.
  • Teenagers are no longer allowed to talk on cell phones or use other hand held devices while driving.

These laws are not going to make it instantly safe for cyclists, so if you ride your bicycle in traffic do not magically expect to have the road to yourself. Here are 3 specific points to bear in mind before your next ride:

  1. You still need to follow the rules of the road.
    • Do not speed.
    • Do not pass stopped or slow vehicles on the right.
    • Ride your bike with traffic.
    • Respect all traffic control devices such as stop signs and traffic lights.
    • Use a designated bike lane where available.
    • Keep to the right when it is safe to do so.
    • Do not ride after dark without a headlight and tail light.

    If you ride your bike like an idiot, then do not be surprised when somebody near you drives like an idiot.

  2. Only teenagers under 18 are prohibited from using their cell phones, so you still need to worry about the ones that ignore the law (not that a teenager would ever do that!) and the ones that are over 18.
  3. Existence of a law does not automatically provide safety from the law. Specifically, there are two major contributing factos that will contribute to how effective these laws are:
    • The awareness of drivers of these new laws.
    • The enforcement of the laws through tickets and fines.

    It remains to be seen how well publicized these laws are, and whether they are actually enforced or not. I think it is safe to assume that you should still ride with the assumption that people may not follow the rules.