Ceremonial signing on bike bill next week

Maine bicyclists are pleased with a new law that assures them of a share of the road but also imposes new safety responsibilities for the two-wheelers, the leader of an advocates' group said Friday.

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Published July 20, 2007 by The Boston Globe
By Glenn Adams

AUGUSTA, Maine —Maine bicyclists are pleased with a new law that assures them of a share of the road but also imposes new safety responsibilities for the two-wheelers, the leader of an advocates' group said Friday.

"We're getting a lot of feedback from bicyclists that they're delighted that this passed," said Jeff Miller, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

On Tuesday, Gov. John Baldacci will ceremonially sign the legislation, which was actually adopted by the Legislature last month and signed into law June 22.

The law raises the awareness of motorists that bicyclists are out there, and in increasing numbers, said Miller. It underscores the fact that cyclists as well as motor vehicles have a right to the public ways.

The final law doesn't include everything that was initially proposed, but the coalition is happy with what remains, said Miller.

It requires motorists to give cyclists 3 feet of clearance when passing, making Maine the 10th state to do so. It also clarifies that motorists may cross the center line in no-passing zones in order to pass bicyclists when it's safe to do so.

In addition, the law strengthens Maine's youth bicycle helmet law by creating a $25 fine for those 15 and under who fail to wear a helmet. Youths can be fined after the second or subsequent offense, but the fine can be waived by showing proof that a helmet has been purchased.

The law addresses concerns by bicyclists that they are denied service at drive-in windows because of liability issues. It extends liability waivers to businesses with drive-up windows, such as banks, restaurants and pharmacies, to ensure equal access for bicyclists.

The law also creates a distinction between bicyclists and other classes of "toy vehicles" such as wagons, skateboards and roller skates.

However, lawmakers deleted a provision in an earlier version of the bill that would have made it illegal to operate a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol.

The law was sponsored by Sen. Dennis Damon, D-Trenton, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee.

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On the Net:

Bicycle Coalition of Maine: http://www.BikeMaine.org