This content will help you learn more about Maine bike and e-bike laws, whether you’re a novice or a professional cyclist.
The good news: as a bike rider in Maine, generally speaking, you’re afforded the same rights as a motor vehicle while on the road.
However, these rights come with rider responsibilities. For the safety of everyone, it is critically important that you know both sides of the coin if you’re out on a bike.
While bikes have the right to use the designated bike lanes and bike paths, you are not actually required to do so. Use of these designated areas are not required even when lanes or paths are in parallel to the road alongside them. For your safety, using these bike-designated spaces may be helpful but you must choose to use your best judgement.
You as a rider have a right to not ride in the shoulder of the roads. While bikes must ride with traffic, not against traffic, you do have the right to ride in the road. According to Maine.gov are you “are expected to ride on the right as far as is ‘practicable,’ but there is a variety of situations in which a rider may legally take a larger share of the travel lane, including setting up for a left turn, proceeding straight where a right turn is also permitted, passing other vehicles, and to avoid obstacles or other safe situations.”
When you’re turning left you have the right of way, and a motorist intending to go straight must grant you the right of way. You may also take up a larger portion of the road, i.e. you do not have to ride as far right as possible, when setting up to take a left turn.
You have the right to ride on sidewalks. However, some municipalities, like Ogunquit, Maine for example which may experience a higher volume of sidewalk foot-traffic during summer month tourist seasons, may have more restrictions. It is important you check with your local municipalities.
As a bike rider, you must ride with traffic. You are prohibited from riding against traffic while on your bike.
You must obey standard traffic laws. These standard traffic laws are what you learn if you’ve received a driver’s license. This includes but is not limited to stopping at red lights, stopping at stop signs, yielding to traffic when entering a road from a driveway, and yielding to pedestrians.
You are required to use arm/hand signals when turning and also when stopping. You are allowed to return your signaling arm/hand to the handle bars during the turn.
You must equip yourself and/or your bike with the proper lighting and rear reflectors for night riding. Night riding is defined as anytime that is not daylight which is ½ hour after sunset and ½ hour before sunrise. Read below in “Lighting Requirements” for more detailed information.
You are required to have functional brakes. Read more below.
A uniformed cop has the right to stop you at any time to inspect your bike if the police officer has a reasonable cause that your bike is not equipped or is unsafe as required by the law.
You must equip yourself and/or your bike with the proper lighting and rear reflectors for night riding. Night riding is defined as anytime that is not daylight which is ½ hour after sunset and ½ hour before sunrise. As a night rider you must have an illuminated front light-emitting white light that is visible at a distance of at least 200 feet from the front of the light. Additionally, you must have a reflector or an amber or red light in the rear, the illuminating light of which is visible at a distance of 200 feet from the rear. Lastly, your bike pedals must be adorned with reflective material. This is null if your own attire includes reflective material on the ankles or feet.
As a cyclist or bike rider you are required to have working breaks that allow you to stop your bike within a reasonable distance from a vehicle, pedestrian, stop sign, traffic lights, etc.
Although the Maine Motor Vehicle and Traffic code does not outline specific restrictions on riding abreast in groups of two or more, it is important to note that some local ordinances have different regulations. Some local ordinances won’t allow you and another rider or more to ride alongside one another on the public travel space. Check your local ordinances for more.
If you need to pass a motor vehicle on the right while riding on the road, you may do so at your own risk. Should this choice to pass on the right result in harm to you, something called comparative negligence will apply. This means that although you chose to take this risk, the other party involved, in this case the driver, may be at fault.
A motorist passing you on the road in the same direction must leave a distance between you, the bike rider, and the motor vehicle. According to the Maine Motor Vehicle and Traffic Code, ‘Passing another vehicle,’ “An operator of a motor vehicle that is passing a bicycle [or roller skier] proceeding in the same direction shall exercise due care by leaving a distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle [or roller skier] of not less than 3 feet while the motor vehicle is passing the bicycle [or roller skier]. A motor vehicle operator may pass a bicycle [or roller skier] traveling in the same direction in a no-passing zone only when it is safe to do so.”
As stated above it is unlawful for a motorist to come within 3 feet of you while you’re riding. It is also unlawful for a motorist to brake suddenly in front of you such that you are not afforded the sufficient time to react to or perceive the danger. Additionally, any forms of additional harassment to you or a group of riders is illegal. Any of the above behavior as outlined may violate Maine’s Safe Passing Statute, Maine’s Driving to Endanger Statute, Maine’s Terrorizing Statute, and Maine’s Criminal Threatening Statute.
While Maine law prohibits operating under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances, the law applies to motor vehicle operators and not directly to bicycle operators. However, the state’s open container law does not appear to apply to bike riders. Keep in mind that should there be any admissible evidence of impairment while cycling, the comparative negligence analysis may apply.
Cyclist children under sixteen years of age are required by law in the state of Maine to wear a helmet while riding a bike in public. There is no statewide helmet law for adults in Maine.
However, not wearing a helmet as an adult, while riding or as a bike passenger, is not an admissible piece of evidence in a civil or criminal trial.
While you may see a lot of ambiguity around where you as a bicyclist are and are not allowed to ride on the road, Maine law does require that while on your bike you ride as far right as possible in many situations. (Maine law does allow you to travel on the paved shoulders of roadways.) However, this law does not apply to you when:
You have made a sound choice to avoid unavoidable or anticipated hazards such as but not limited to snow or sand piles, garbage, debris, pedestrians such as joggers or walkers, parked cars, potholes, ice patches, etc.
‘Riding with traffic’ i.e you’re riding at the normal speed of traffic for a given place and time
When the travel lane is deemed too narrow for you to ride safely alongside a motor vehicle
When you deem it unsafe to ride on the far portion of the road
When you’re preparing for a left turn
When you are in the process of passing another cyclist or overtaking
When you’re traveling straight through an intersection at a place where right-hand turns are permitted
A vehicle door is not allowed to be opened on the side of moving traffic (that includes vehicle, pedestrian and bike traffic), unless the individual opening the door has deemed it reasonably safe to and does so without interfering with the flow of traffic.
In the summer of 2019, Governor Janet Mills signed into law, LD 1222, An Act Regarding Electric Bikes.
Maine’s Motor Vehicle and Traffic Code was updated by the Maine Legislature to ensure the Code addressed the following:
(1) Properly and adequately defined e-bikes and other types of conveyances on our roadways
(2) Set forth clear guidelines on where e-bikes are legally permitted to travel
(3) Provided for consumer protections
(4) Contained safety protections for children
(5) Enhanced the ability of law enforcement officers, insurers, judicial officers and jurors to properly perform their duties.
The state of Maine defines an e-bike as a bicycle with a motor of not more than 20pmh as the maximum speed on flat surfaces and not more than 750W, with fully operational pedals. Your e-bike must be equipped with white front light and red tail light visible at least 500 feet in each direction.
Class 1: Electric bikes equipped with motors that provide assistance only when riders are pedaling and cease to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour
Class 2: Electric bicycles equipped with motors that may be used to exclusively propel the bike but are not capable of providing assistance when the bike reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour
Class 3: Electric bicycles equipped with motors that provide assistance only when the riders are pedaling and that cease to provide assistance when the bike reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour
Maine law does not require licensing or registration for e-bikes.
Speaking with an attorney to better understand the e-bike insurance claims, and the nuances of the Maine e-bike laws can be greatly beneficial. Call or contact a personal injury lawyer like Mann Law today for a free consultation.
Read More about Maine e-bike laws via the Maine State Legislature.