Dominated by landscapes like river, coastal, and mountain trails, Maine lends itself as a compelling destination for those fond of exploring places through cycling. It regularly holds bike events — like Trek Across Maine and BikeMaine — and has self-guided tours and bike rental businesses scattered statewide.
However, from being the second most bike-friendly state in the country, Maine fell to the 26th spot in 2022. A lack of consistent bicycle plans, program implementation, and federal fund spending contributed to its drop in ranking.
During the same year, Maine logged 175 bicycle crashes, translating to a 4.7% increase from 2021. To avoid similar instances in the future, the Maine Department of Transportation has been taking steps to promote bike safety on its roads.
With an average of 7.7 fatalities per 10,000 bike commuters in the state, it is important to learn about the basis for any potential legal action or insurance claim in case one figures in an accident. In line with this, this article discusses various laws, regulations, and relevant resources for the benefit of bike accident victims.
Bicycles’ Right to the Road in Maine
In Maine, a bicycle is classified as a vehicle operated by human power. Electric bikes, as well as motorized scooters and tricycles, all fall under this category. This means bike riders are bound by the same laws and protected by the same rights as motor vehicle operators.
Despite this, there are some rules of the road that only apply to cyclists, including the following:
Bike riders are prohibited from attaching to another moving vehicle while in traffic.
Operators of motorized bikes and scooters are not allowed to go beyond 20 mph.
Bike riders must yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the road.
Bikes riders must follow stop signs and traffic control devices unless a law enforcement officer instructs them to do otherwise.
Individuals 17 years old and above found to be in violation of these provisions must pay a fine ranging from $25 to $250.
Riding a Bike on the Right Side of the Road in Maine
When in regular traffic lanes, bike riders should be on the right side of the road, go below the normal speed of traffic, and go in the same direction as other vehicles.
Additionally, they are only allowed to move away from the right side of traffic in certain instances, like if they are:
Passing or overtaking another vehicle.
Preparing for or making a left turn at an intersection or a private road.
Avoiding traffic hazards.
Riding a Bike on Paved Shoulders and Sidewalks in Maine
In Maine, bicyclists are permitted on paved shoulders and are typically allowed on sidewalks. You may check local ordinances to confirm if riding a bike on sidewalks within a particular jurisdiction is legal.
Some areas also have specific rules for children below 13. Additionally, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine states that bike riders under 10 are safest in spaces with controlled or without traffic. These include empty parking lots, driveways, and multi-use paths.
Maine’s Three Feet Rule
According to Maine’s rules of the road, a motor vehicle operator is allowed to pass a cyclist as they would another slow-moving vehicle. However, to observe due care when passing a bike rider going in the same direction, they must ensure that the oncoming traffic is clear and a three-foot distance is maintained.
It must be noted that colliding with a bike rider can be used as sufficient evidence that a motor vehicle operator violated this law.
Rules on Bicycle Turning and Signals in Maine
In Maine, cyclists can use a mechanical signal device or a signal light to convey a change in direction or speed. However, in most cases, using the correct hand signals is enough:
When making a left turn, a bike rider should extend their hand and arm horizontally.
When making a right turn, a bike rider should either extend their hand and arm upward or extend their right hand and arm horizontally.
When stopping or slowing down, a bike rider should extend their hand and arm downward.
Right after making a hand signal, a cyclist should return their hand to the handlebars to regain better control of their bike.
Maine’s Bicycle Equipment Requirements
Various features must be installed in bikes so they can be legally operated on Maine’s roadways. These include the following night equipment:
A front white light that can be seen from at least 200 feet.
An amber or red light or reflector that can be seen from at least 200 feet from behind.
Bike pedal reflectors (if one isn’t wearing foot or ankle reflectors).
Although not required, other lighting equipment or reflective materials may be utilized to increase one’s safety on the road. Meanwhile, working brakes — also a compulsory bike accessory per state law — should allow an individual to stop their bike within a reasonable distance.
Maine’s Laws on Bicycle Helmets and Passenger Seat Use
In Maine, bike riders below 16 are required to wear a helmet on public roadways and bike lanes. They should wear one that fits properly, is positioned on the head correctly, and is secured through straps. Offenders of the state’s helmet use law may face up to $25 in fines.
The bicycle one uses must have a regular and permanently attached seat. Moreover, to minimize risks, a bike cannot carry more than the number of people it is designed for.
Obligation of Bike Rental Businesses in Maine
In line with state legislation, bicycle rental businesses in Maine are bound to certain rules:
They must display the provisions of the Bicycle and Roller Skis Safety Education Act through a written notice visible to their patrons.
They should make helmets available to cyclists 15 years old and below, whether for free or for a fee.
If a bike rental business is abiding by the regulations stated above, a customer who gets involved in a bicycle accident and incurs injuries for intentionally not wearing a helmet has no grounds to file a lawsuit against them.
Is Maine a No-fault State for Bike Accidents?
Maine is one of the states that follow at-fault rules. This means the party (or parties) liable in a bike accident should pay for the damages incurred by the plaintiff. Different kinds of proof — such as witness statements and physical evidence — can be used by insurance providers, investigators, and the police to accurately determine the at-fault party in a case.
In line with this, based on the modified comparative fault system observed in Maine, the amount of damages recoverable by a victim also hinges on the percentage of fault assigned to them. For instance, being deemed 30% liable for a bike accident decreases one’s total compensation by 30%. This translates to having final damages amounting to $70,000 if one is originally awarded $100,000.
It should be noted that according to the same system, a plaintiff is barred from recovering any compensation if their degree of fault exceeds 49%.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Maine?
In Maine, plaintiffs in personal injury cases — including those arising from bicycle accidents — may be entitled to different types of damages:
Economic damages pertain to the actual monetary losses a victim incurs. Things like property damage costs, lost wages, and present and future medical bills all contribute to the total amount of economic damages in a case.
Non-economic damages are not financial in nature. Pain and suffering, emotional stress, and mental anguish fall under this category.
Punitive damages, a type of award not applicable in most cases, are meant to punish the defendant for causing harm to the plaintiff due to intentional negligence and/or malicious conduct.
There are typically no caps in place for economic and non-economic damages, which a plaintiff in a lawsuit can receive through settlement or judgment. However, in cases involving wrongful death, a claimant can only obtain up to $750,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.
To ensure that you’re pursuing the right amount of compensation for the bike accident damages you have incurred, your best option is to contact a personal injury attorney with the knowledge and experience to help you.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents in Maine?
In Maine, a bicycle accident victim may only pursue legal action against the at-fault party within six years from the date of the incident. The same timeframe applies to claimants who are filing a lawsuit for property damage or wrongful death. Therefore, to avoid getting barred from obtaining damages, one must file a claim before the six-year period ends.
Legal Resources for Maine Bicycle Accident Victims
The Maine State Bar Association has been running a Lawyer Referral Service program since 1972. It matches clients, such as bike accident victims, with lawyers who can assist them with their specific legal concerns. One may contact the organization by calling 800-860-1460, sending an email to LRS@mainebar.org, or making a referral request online.
The Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project, a nonprofit that caters to both Northern and Southern Mainers, offers free legal solutions to eligible individuals and families from low-income households. It helps plaintiffs — including bike accident victims — in various ways. These include providing pro bono legal representation and running advice hotlines. One may fill out the intake request form linked on the website. For a swifter response, the organization recommends contacting it via email (email@example.com).
AccessMaine has a webpage showing the resources locals can use to learn more about their legal concerns. It also lists groups that bicycle accident victims can contact to guide them with their cases. AccessMaine’s confidential helpline can be reached by dialing 211 or 1-877-463-6207. For more information, one may also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This online legal advice clinic, helmed by the Maine State Bar Association and the American Bar Association, aims to answer the question of bicycle accident victims and other individuals with legal problems. It assists low-income adults who are not yet legally represented and whose concerns are not related to criminal law. For any inquiries, one may send a message through the Free Legal Answers website.
This online manual from the Maine Department of Transportation offers comprehensive bike-related information. It details the safety practices that cyclists are urged to observe, including those involving helmet, hand signal, and bike lane use. One may download the PDF document to have easy access to relevant bike and pedestrian laws and regulations in the state.
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