BEL AIR – Accidents between cars and bicyclists in Maryland increased sharply over the last five years, according to a Capital News Service analysis of crash data.
There were 841 accidents between cars and bikes in Maryland in 2012, according to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, a 5 percent increase over the 799 bike-car accidents in 2008.
Harford County resident Pam Moore never worried about sharing the road with cars until she was struck by one while riding her bike in August. She lost consciousness and suffered a collapsed lung, broken ribs, abrasions and a concussion from the accident, she said.
“There was nothing I could do different,” Moore said. “I was following the laws. I was where I was supposed to be.”
In 2012, five people in Maryland died from bike-car crashes and 689 people were injured.
Many motorists do not view bicycles as vehicles that have an equal right to use the road, said Neil Buchness, president of Chesapeake Spokes, a bicycle group in Harford County.
“We’re actually people. We aren’t just something to contend with in the road or go around,” he said. “Give us a little more respect out on the road.”
Buchness said the state needs to ensure motorists know the law.
“I think the biggest thing that will help us is education. Getting it out there. The more people that realize that we are cyclists and we do have a right to the road,” the better, Buchness said.
According to the law, drivers must leave three feet between their car and bicyclists when passing them on the road.
“I think a lot of motorists feel that bicyclists are trespassing on the public roadways and that leads to resentment,” said Michael Jackson, director of bicycle and pedestrian access for the Maryland Department of Transportation.
Still, responsibility on the roadways doesn’t just lay with drivers, said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists.
“It starts with following the rules of the road,” Clarke said of bicyclists. “Behaving responsibly and predictably and making sure you’re visible. Making sure people know what you are going to do.”
Pam Moore thinks Maryland needs to increase the passing distance between bikes and cars and do a better job enforcing existing laws.
“You’re going to have people that don’t like cyclists, people who don’t like runners, people who don’t like that because they don’t want to share the road,” Moore said. “I think you have to have stricter laws.”
Even if the law does change, Moore said doesn’t know if she’ll return to the hobby she once loved.
“I’m not sure if I will get back on a bike. I want to because I don’t want to let this accident define something I really, really enjoyed,” Moore said.