Six people have been struck and killed so far this year in Maine while out walking or biking — a statistic that’s even more chilling given that the combined total of pedestrian and cyclist deaths here averages 11 a year. So as Memorial Day weekend approaches, heralding the unofficial start of summer and the annual surge of seasonal traffic, it’s critical that we all take time away from digging out the beach towels and cleaning the grill to educate ourselves about the rules of the road.

The first pedestrian fatality of 2016 occurred Jan. 1, and there have been four more since, while a cyclist was killed at the end of March. This follows a year in which 19 pedestrians were killed — the highest annual toll in Maine in over two decades. And of course, hundreds of other people on foot or bicycle are injured every year — like Mattie Daughtry, a state legislator from Brunswick who was hit by a car earlier this month while riding her bike.

Car-pedestrian and car-cyclist accidents are largely preventable. But this, of course, requires knowing the regulations that allow all of us to share the road safely. Changes to state law took effect last fall that clarify cyclists’ responsibilities, making it easier for police to ticket pedalers for such offenses as running stop signs or operating against traffic.

The advocacy group that helped develop the new regulations, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, wants cyclists to follow the rules. They’re not any happier than motorists to see scofflaws on two wheels fly through a red light.

However, drivers have to be more aware as well: They’re required to give pedestrians and cyclists at least 3 feet of clearance when passing. That may mean spending a few extra seconds behind someone who’s walking or biking instead of blowing by them and sending them into the path of another oncoming motor vehicle. But it’s the right – and lawful – thing to do.

When it comes to road safety awareness, many of us are probably drawing on our memories of parental lectures or driver’s education lessons. There are resources, though, that can bring those interested up to speed, such as the Maine Department of Transportation website, and the guide offered by the bike coalition.

The more that we all know about our rights and responsibilities as pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, the greater the chance that we’ll be able to enjoy the summer months without being injured or worse. See you on the road.


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