Bicycles and traffic on Wildewood Parkway -- Gazette.Net


I am one of the bicyclists who tries your patience on Wildewood Parkway by not using the portion of the commonly called “bike and pedestrian” lane between the Wildewood pool and St. Andrew’s Church Road. At some point, either going out or coming into Wildewood, remaining in that lane compels bicyclists to ride against the flow of traffic. I would like to explain why I choose to always ride with the flow of traffic and apologize for delaying your travel.

I ride the same direction as motorized traffic to obey Maryland law. Full-size bicycles are defined as vehicles by Maryland Transportation Code and must obey all traffic laws, especially the law which requires vehicles to stay to the right side of the roadway. If I were to ride in the bike and pedestrian lane against traffic and had a mishap involving a motorized vehicle, another bicycle, a runner or stroller, not only would I lose physically but I’d be liable for damages incurred.

The Maryland Transportation Code does state “Where there is a bike lane paved to a smooth surface, a person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter shall use the bike lane and may not ride on the roadway, except in the following situations…” However, one needs to look further as bike lanes are defined in the transportation code. “Bike lane” means any portion of a roadway or shoulder designated for single directional bicycle flow. The Wildewood “bike and pedestrian” lanes are therefore are not bike lanes as defined by Maryland state law as they require bicycles riding in opposing directions to share the same path.

Two-way bicycle paths are defined in the transportation code as any travel way designed and designated by signing or signing and 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, or other similar device.

The one-side-of-the-road bike lanes on Wildewood Parkway are neither physically separated from motor vehicle traffic nor located within its own right-of-way. Wildewood Parkway is not a two-way bicycle path.

Bottom line is that bicyclist should ride the same direction as cars and further, that bicycles should not ride in the bike and pedestrian lane.

Riding bicycles with the flow of traffic is safer than riding against traffic. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies show that the rate of fatality of pedestrians and cyclists increases sharply with the relative speed of impact: 20 mph relative speed at impact results in 5 percent fatalities while 30 mph results in 40 percent and 50 mph yields a 100 percent chance of fatal injury. So a cyclist travelling at 15 mph against 35 mph traffic will almost certainly be fatally injured in a head-on crash whereas the cyclist travelling at 15 mph with 35 mph traffic may have a good chance of surviving a rear-end collision.

Further, riding in a lane with pedestrians, regardless of traffic direction, poses risks for bicyclists and pedestrians. This situation is worsened when I approach a pedestrian from behind who is wearing ear buds listening to music as they walk. Seems that no matter how loud I call they can’t hear me. Often I’ve had joggers make abrupt turns into my path as I’m attempting to pass even when I’m riding on the shoulder of the parkway. The next time you see me riding in the middle of the traffic lane, instead of the edge, I’ll give you odds there’s a pedestrian far to my right to whom I’m giving a wide berth. It will be even further if the person is walking a dog.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity both to ride safely in our community and for the chance yo explain the bicycle side of the story. You’ve been very patient and kind and in the many years of riding Wildewood Parkway, I’ve never once felt threatened or insulted as you passed me in your vehicle. It’s truly due to your tolerance and patience that “share the road” is more than a road sign or bumper sticker in our neighborhood.

Dean Newman, California