Maine Bicycling Laws

Tue, 08/29/2023 - 9:00am

Summer means more traffic moving through town. There are also more folks out walking, running, and cycling. Boothbay Harbor can be confusing to tourists and out-of-town drivers. It can also be a challenging place to walk or ride a bike.

One-way streets and streets that change from one-way to two-way are numerous. One may see cyclists and scooters riding the wrong way down Townsend Avenue or across the Footbridge despite the signposting asking them not to. One also sees motorists failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and speeding down Atlantic Avenue despite the 25mph signs telling them not to. 

Like the Boothbay Fire Department sign reminds us all driving into town, let’s slow down, relax and enjoy the remaining days of summer together. 

There are a lot of reasons people choose to ride a bike but no matter the reason, all people have a right to be on the road and deserve to arrive at their destination safely. Therefore, it is important to learn how to safely share the road. The following Maine Bicycling Laws can be found on the MaineDOT website:

Maine bicycling laws generally give bicyclists the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. Bicyclists may use public roads, and they must obey traffic laws such as stopping at red lights and stop signs, yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks and yielding to traffic when entering a road from a driveway. Bicyclists must ride with traffic, not against it.

Bicycles are expected to ride on the right as far as is “practicable,” but there are a variety of situations in which a rider may legally take a larger share of the travel lane, including: setting up for a left turn, proceeding straight where a right turn is also permitted, passing other vehicles, and to avoid obstacles or other unsafe situations.

Bicyclists MAY ride on designated bike paths and in bike lanes, but they are NOT required to do so, even when such paths or lanes parallel a road. Bicycles have a right to be on most roads in Maine, but may be prohibited from riding on divided highways and other roads as per local and state ordinances and rules. Bicycles are not required to ride on shoulders or bike lanes in Maine.

Maine law allows cyclists to operate on sidewalks, but bikes must yield to pedestrians and reduce speed to pedestrian speed when present.

Bicyclists must have and use headlights at night, as well as rear reflectors and foot/ankle/pedal reflectors. They also must have functional brakes on their bikes.

Cyclists under 16 must wear bike helmets.

According to Maine motor vehicle laws related to biking, motorists must give at least three feet of clearance when passing bicyclists.

Motorists who are passing bicyclists proceeding in the same direction may not make a right turn unless they can do so with reasonable safety.

Motorists may cross the centerline in a no-passing zone in order to pass a bicyclist if it is safe to do so.

Motorists should not unnecessarily sound a horn. Honking your horn when approaching a bicyclist could startle them and cause a crash. Maine law states "a person may not unnecessarily sound a signaling device or horn". (Title 29A, Chapter 17, Section 1903)

Motorists may open car doors only after checking to see that it can be done safely, without interfering with traffic.

Together, we can make Boothbay a safer place to walk and roll.