Bike Laws in Maine

Maine doesn’t have anything too strange when it comes to bike laws, so there shouldn’t be too much that will cause you problems when cycling around. Still, it’s worth keeping some things in mind so that you don’t have accidents or any problems with other traffic.

It’s important to note before going any further, that bikes are considered to have the same duties and rights as vehicles on the road. However, bikes themselves are not considered to be the same thing as other vehicles.

This means that they have the right to the road, but it’s still important to understand where and how to ride to prevent conflict with other vehicles. Maine is very bicycle friendly overall.

Where Bikes Can Be Ridden

Bikes may enjoy the same rights and responsibilities, but there is a lot of competition for space and with this in mind, cyclists must be careful of where and how they ride.

Bikes must be ridden as far to the right as possible unless it is unsafe to do that or under the following circumstances:

  • • When passing a roller skier (yes, Maine makes this distinction), another bike, or another vehicle going the same way
  • • When getting ready to turn left at an intersection or into a private road/driveway
  • • When going straight to a place where right turns are allowed
  • • And if the road is just too dangerous to ride far to the right on-objects, hazards, opening doors, etc.
  • • Riders must always go in the same direction as the traffic
  • • Maine does not specifically authorize or prohibit riding a bike on a sidewalk. This is largely left up to municipalities
  • • Maine does not recognize the Idaho Stop, meaning that bikes cannot simply go through a stale red light
  • • Cyclists in Maine must obey all traffic laws and signals, just like vehicles
  • • Maine specifies that cyclists must stop for school buses when they are loading or unloading passengers or when the red lights are flashing
  • • There is no mandated separation of bike facilities; if there is a bike path, cyclists don’t have to use it in lieu of the road.
  • • Cyclists may be allowed to ride on sidewalks; however, you must dismount and walk your bike across crosswalks
  • • There is no mention of whether riders must ride single file or if they can ride many abreast. This would largely be left up to circumstance as a result, but if you’re traveling with traffic, you’re far safer traveling in single file.

Most of this is the same across the country, but Maine is one of the fewer states that has laws around school buses. Maine also specifies that bikes can be ridden on the shoulder and that they can pass slow moving traffic on the right, though that is considered to be at the cyclist’s risk.

Safety While Riding

Maine does have some safety regulations around the kind of gear your bike should be equipped with and how you can ride. Much like the rest of the country, you cannot have more people than proper seats on your bike and it is illegal to ‘hitch a ride’ on cars or other moving vehicles.

Bikes must also be equipped with specific safety gear, particularly when being ridden at night. These include a front light that emits a white light visible from at least 200 feet, a red or amber light or reflector in the rear that is visible from at least 200 feet, and reflector material on the pedals, or on the feet or ankles of the rider. (This 200 foot is very different from other states where it’s often five or six hundred feet).

Bikes also must have brakes that “enable the operator to stop the vehicle or device within a reasonable distance” (nothing about skidding, dry, or clean pavement. It’s vaguer than other states’ laws around brakes).

The big question, as always, is around helmets. In Maine, riders under the age of sixteen (or passengers) must wear a helmet while riding on a public roadway or bikeway. People over the age of sixteen don’t have to wear a helmet, though it’s still a good idea too. Maine also specifies that bicycle taxis are exempt from this-passengers under the age of sixteen in a bicycle taxi don’t have to wear a helmet.

Maine also may observe riding under the influence. While bikes aren’t considered vehicles (in this case anyway), if there is evidence of impaired cycling in an accident, there may be a careful look at negligence and that can cause problems for the cyclists. It’s just better to ride sober!

The same idea holds for ‘distracted’ riding; while it’s not illegal to ride while texting, cyclists are considered to have the responsibility to stay alert and attentive to what’s around them.

BiMaine and Electronic Bikes

Maine is still working on laws around e-bikes. They are ridden around the state, but they aren’t clearly defined yet and so it’s hard to get laws around them. Electronic bikes now are defined around things like class, category, specs, and how the bike is used or propelled. In this way, an e-bike could be a bike, a motorized bike, a moped, or a vehicle (though that isn’t terribly likely). It can even fall under a bunch of these at once!

Because of the uncertainty and jumble of definitions, Maine does not yet have laws around things like licensing or registration. Electronic bikes can go anywhere bikes can go, except on the sidewalks. And riders under the age of eighteen must wear a helmet.

By and large, Maine is one of the most cyclist-friendly states around with laws that are designed around allowing bikes passage all over the state. There are even regulations forbidding the harassment of cyclists and throwing things at them!

It’s still important to keep your safety in mind by staying visible, allowing for at least three feet of clearance between drivers and bikes, and using safety gear. Put together, Maine becomes a friendly place to take a bike ride, so enjoy!