Are Bicycles Vehicles?

Washington DC Councilmember Phil Mendelsohn commented on bicycles and traffic rules, as quoted in P.J. Orvetti’s blog post:

It’s already illegal to hit somebody, so we can’t pass a second law to make it more illegal to hit somebody. Instead, it comes down to what’s going on with enforcement.

Mendelson was commenting on the garbage truck driver exonerated in the 2008 killing of DC cyclist Alice Swanson. Of course there have been other cyclist/motor vehicle collisions in DC since then.  He’s getting ready to hold a public hearing on rules for bicyclists in DC.

Does applying to bicycles the traffic laws developed for cars – as New York City is doing – make the streets safer? 

 A close read of Maryland’s bicycle laws  shows that bikes are defined as “vehicles” and yet  that a number of special rules apply to cyclists that don’t apply to cars, and vice versa. 

For example:


Ok – common sense. These are 3 rules that recognize that a bicycle as a vehicle is unlike a car.

So, should we be distinguishing among traffic laws that motor vehicle drives must follow and ones that make sense for human powered vehicles? Which ones should be the same? Which should not?




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