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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Bicycle Safety Policy
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BA Policy #02-08
June 24, 2002

SUBJECT: Safe Bicycling at the Beltsville
Agricultural Research Center

The following establishes guidelines governing the safe use of bicycles at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC), including when biking to/from the George Washington Carver Center (GWCC), and National Agricultural Library (NAL).

The BARC has adopted the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), "A Safety Handbook for Bicycle and Moped Owners," which provides the relevant laws and regulations. Listed below are the regulations pertinent to BARC, provided in this handbook, along with some additional BARC requirements.

If you commute to BARC, GWCC, or NAL from offsite, then it is recommended that you obtain the complete Maryland Department of Transportation handbook for riding on public roads. It is available from Motor Vehicle Administration Full Service Offices, and from the MDOT Bicycle Affairs Coordinator (1-800-252-8776).

Every individual riding a bicycle in a public bicycle area has the same rights and duties as an operator of a motor vehicle. A public bicycle area is any street, highway, bicycle path, or other facility maintained by a public agency on which bicycle use is permitted.

Travel Restrictions:

Bicycles have the same legal requirements and restrictions as motor vehicles, with these exceptions:

  • Bicycles are prohibited from operating on the travel lanes of any highway with a posted speed limit greater than 50 mph, however, riding on the shoulder is permitted.
  • Along all other highways, bicyclists must use the shoulder area or bike lane if they are paved with a smooth surface and free of debris or other hazards; if no shoulder area or bike lane exists, the bicycle must be ridden on the rightmost portion of the outer travel lane as is practical.
  • Bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks unless permitted by local ordinance.

Operational Requirements:

Since a bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle in Maryland, cyclists have the same rights and duties as the driver of a motor vehicle. On all public highways where cycling is allowed, the operator must:

  • Obey all traffic signs, signals, and other traffic control devices.
  • Ride with vehicular traffic flow (as near to the right of the roadway as practical).
  • Use standard arm signals to alert others of his/her intentions.
  • Yield to all pedestrians.
  • Move to the right and stop for all emergency vehicles.
  • Maintain sufficient spacing behind vehicles for emergency stopping.
  • Make all passing maneuvers to the left (exceptions: passing left-turning vehicles and on one-way streets).
  • Remain at the scene of an accident to render aid and information

Under Maryland law it is specifically prohibited for a cyclist to:

  • Wear a headset or ear plugs in or covering both ears while riding on a public highway.
  • "Hitch a ride" by attaching to any other vehicle operating on a public highway.
  • Carry passengers unless the bicycle is equipped with a seat securely attached to it for each passenger.
  • Carry any package, bundle, or other article that prevents him/her from keeping both hands on the handlebars.

Bicycle Equipment:

By law, all bicycles must be equipped with:

  • Brakes that enable the operator to make the braked wheel skid on dry, level, or clean pavements.
  • An audible device (bell or horn) that can be heard for at least 100 feet, note that sirens and whistles are prohibited.
  • A white beam headlight visible at a distance of 500 feet and a red rear reflector visible at a distance of 600 feet, if ridden at night or during unfavorable light conditions.
  • A bicycle basket, rack, or bag if small articles are transported so that both hands may be kept on the handlebars.
  • Care of Your Bicycle:

    A bicycle requires periodic inspection and maintenance:

    • Lubricate the bicycle regularly with the correct type of lubricant recommended by the manufacturer.
    • Brakes should be checked and, if necessary, adjusted. Rim brakes should be adjusted so that each brake shoe is about 1/8 inch from the rim.
    • Keep tires inflated to pressure specified on sidewall.
    • Check lights and reflectors to be sure they are clean, securely fastened, working correctly, and properly directed.
    • Check the tension of the chain and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for chain slack.

    Guidelines Specific to BARC:

    • Obey the Maryland law while operating a bicycle on Sunnyside Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue, Research Road, Baltimore Avenue, Powder Mill Road, and all other roads throughout BARC. Avoid Beaver Dam Road because it is extremely narrow.
    • All roads and parking areas at BARC are considered Public Bicycle Areas.
    • Bicycles must be parked and locked in bike racks provided at various buildings at BARC.
    • Bike helmets must be worn while operating a bicycle on BARC property.
    • Bicycles must not be ridden inside any building at BARC.
    • Bicycles provided by the Government will be equipped and maintained as outlined above. The Research Leader is responsible for assuring that the Government-owned bicycles are safe and maintained properly. Baskets must be installed on these bicycles for carrying material or equipment as necessary.
    • Employees operating Government-owned bicycles must not use these bicycles to travel between the East and West Sides.

    Since bicycling is a physical exercise, it is suggested that employees operating the Government-owned bicycles participate in the Occupational Medical Surveillance Program or obtain certification from their private physician indicating the employee is medically fit to operate a bicycle.

    Means of communication (cell phones, etc.) should be provided to employees while operating Government-owned bicycles.


    Last Modified: 2/28/2014
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