Bike Week: a look back

As many of you know, Bike Week was April 5-9. We here at bikeUMD organized to use the week to spread the news that cyclists were welcome here on campus and to educate current and potential cyclists about safe cycling practices on a campus visited by many forms of transportation. The diehard cyclists among us also hoped that the Week would bring attention to the many pitfalls of biking in the College Park area with the aim of making improvements down the line.

The Diamondback focused in on Bike Week with this article:
http://www.diamondbackonline.com/news/campus-cyclists-get-more-police-notice-1.1427689

In a way, they goofed.  The article focuses more on the negative attention from police that cyclists received during the week than on the educational tips both that both police and bikeUMD advocates were giving out. I think they were selling us short.

The campus police have to pick their battles. Ideally cyclists on campus would ride in the roads and behave like law-abiding vehicles. In Maryland a bicycle is considered a vehicle, and while we would shout from the mountaintops that our right to the road needs to be respected, we have to remember that right comes with responsibilities. To often I have heard cyclists complain that the reason they weave, run lights (etc) is because they are forced to operate in an infrastructure that isn’t suited to them. This argument doesn’t work for two reasons: (1) it irritates drivers, and drivers have day jobs that may involve funding road widening and signage for cyclists. By cycling illegally you give all cyclists a bad name, and the cycling community becomes a group that no one wants to help. (2) It’s dangerous. Period. No matter how snappy you are on your bike, if you encounter a car, you lose.

The message of Bike Week, then, should not be lost among complaints about large police fines and bad intersections.  Like the police, I must pick my battles when writing this article – for the sake of brevity.   The community as a whole needs to grow to accept bikes lawfully riding in the street. The police absolutely should be ticketing people for riding dangerously. Getting folks off the sidewalk is a second step requiring that the cyclists feel safe in the streets.  This is all a work in progress.  For now, my one sentence crash course in cycling is this:

Be Predictable.

This applies just as much to cycling through crosswalks as it does to running lights and riding in drivers’ blind spots.

Remember, riding your bike is fun. It is my hope that as the campus continues to grow, it will become better suited to cyclists. The fact that Bike Week even happened is a huge step in the right direction.  Enjoy the warm weather and get out and ride!

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About alexcurtin

As a graduate student in physics at the University of Maryland, I serve as the student liason for bikeUMD. bikeUMD was organized by DOTS to
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3 Responses to Bike Week: a look back

  1. Michael says:

    “In Maryland a bicycle is considered a vehicle,”

    That statement is incorrect. Maryland does not consider a bicycle to be a vehicle. They DO consider a cyclist to be a vehicle operator though.

    • serdogan says:

      In fact, that statement is correct. The definition of bicycle as a vehicle is stated in MD State laws as follows (Source:http://www.sha.state.md.us/OPPEN/acom_bike_laws1.pdf , page 2)

      § 11-104. Bicycle.
      “Bicycle” means a vehicle that:
      (1) Is designed to be operated by human power;
      (2) Has two or three wheels, of which one is more than 14 inches in diameter;
      (3) Has a rear drive; and
      (4) Has a wheel configuration as follows:
      (i) If the vehicle has two wheels, with both wheels in tandem; or
      (ii) If the vehicle has three wheels, with one front wheel and with two rear wheels that are spaced equidistant from the center of the vehicle.

  2. alex.curtin says:

    The sources I have been to – the College Park Area Bike Coalition and the State Highway Administration – both describe the bike laws for the state. In both cases, bicycles are classified as vehicles:

    http://www.sha.maryland.gov/Index.aspx?PageId=358

    “Bicycles are vehicles and as such must obey all the same traffic laws, including stopping at red lights, stop signs, etc. (TR § 21-1202) “

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