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Bike-Vehicle Collisions On The Rise In Montgomery County

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Cyclists don't have to hug the rail — they are allowed to occupy the road just like cars.
Elliott Francis
Cyclists don't have to hug the rail — they are allowed to occupy the road just like cars.

Collisions between bicycles and vehicles are on the rise in Montgomery County. This comes as the county is preparing its own bikesharing program, similar to D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare.

County councilwoman Nancy Floreen says the rising number of crashes may be a sign the county isn't ready for bikesharing. Council president Roger Berliner disagrees.

"The accident rates for those are so much less, because by definition, the people are using them for shorter trips and for a different purpose," says Berliner.

In hopes of reducing such collisions along state maintained roads, new signs are beginning to pop up to remind drivers that bikers are allowed to use the whole lane of the road. This led to a heated discussion during a council hearing today.

"When you don't have room for a bike lane, a lot of drivers think that the biker doesn't have the right to be there," said Councilman Hans Riemer , who thinks the signs are a good idea. "They drive more quickly, they swerve, they react vindictively almost to the biker. And the purpose of the sign is to communicate that it is their right. And they're as much a user of the road as a vehicle. And just because a vehicle is going slow, it doesn't mean they don't have the right to be there."

Councilman Marc Elrich responded by saying the signs will encourage bikers to take the whole lane unnecessarily, which will lead to slower traffic and heavier congestion.

"It's an invitation to get [drivers] to cross double yellow lines," said Elrich. "I think there has to be some balance in this. To me, bike riders should stay to the right side, and not be riding down the center of the road and not be riding two and three across. To me, it's just making for mischief and making for trouble."

County transportation officials say they are still determining along which county maintained roads the signs will be placed.

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