Our story goes back to when Anne Arundel County introduced the "Bikes May use the Full Lane" sign and MDOT erroneously added that only cyclists traveling near the speed limit can "take the lane" slower cyclists on the other hand "must" ride far right as possible/practicable. Because basically MDOT said "Oh look, here is a way of looking at the law no one has thought of before," - Well that should have been a warning sign right there, but they decided to defend their position in my conversations with them, so I had to look for other solutions.
This was not the first time MDOT decided to go outside of what I'll call the canon of bicycle safety advice, which I outlined in this story: The best of MDOT's WTF
To demonstrate why MDOT's position was so grievous, let's say the ride side of the road has some issue that is covered by one of the exceptions to our ride right law, like debris or uneven pavement. Bicycle law says we can legally ride further left to avoid these kind of issues but slow moving vehicle law as interpreted by MDOT says we can't. Let me stress it is their interpretation at issue here, I see no conflict between the two per the letter of the law.
So for me it came down to: Does bicycle law clarify the slow moving vehicle law for cyclists or does slow moving vehicle law negate bicycle law and does MDOT have the legal authority to issue an interpretation of law? Or even more grievous does MDOT have the authority to say we are the only state where the Uniform Vehicle Code says something different then other states with the Uniform Vehicle Code?
I hope you can see when put in those terms, the issue is outrageous. But when talking about cyclists riding right when bicycle law says they may use the full lane even Vehicular Cyclists says there is a time we can be safe and polite and not put our safety at risk by riding to the right even though the law does not say you have to, this is called "Control & Release" as demonstrated in the following video:
The problem is the law does not spell this out (nor should it) so it becomes very hard to get MDOT to put this safety information out to cyclists as they primarily deal with summarizing the law and not safety advice that goes beyond the scope of the law. Additionally do I need to point out ANY summary of the law that is done by dropping words is inaccurate?
Or let me state it this way: I understand the desire of motorists that cyclists should assist in easier passing but it comes down to should MDOT stress (poor/inaccurate) summaries of the law or draw upon known good safety advice? My stance is leave the nitty-gritty of the law to the police and the courts and have MDOT stress the safety side of things.
To that end the last response I got from Secretary James T. Smith seems to be very encouraging. And special thanks to Brian Frosh (who is running for Attorney General and please consider contributing to his campaign) for his help and understanding on this issue. I will note one thing I learned from this, when dealing with MDOT about bicycles it would probably be best to get an elected official involved after the first "We are MDOT and we defend our position" response.
The PDF of the letter.
From Maryland Department of Transportation - The Secretary's Office
Dear Chairman Frosh:
Thank you for your August 12, 2014 letter regarding whether bicycles are considered "slow moving vehicles." I appreciate you alerting me to the public statements made by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT)on this matter that may have been confusing, and I am happy we were able to clarify the issue for your constituent.
As noted in the email response, there is no hard and fast standard for requiring bicycles to move or stay right on the road. This allows for flexibility and accommodation for real-life circumstances that occur and may not neatly fall under statutory provisions. I am copying State Highway Administrator Melinda Peters as well as Motor Vehicle Administrator Milton Chaffee, who is also the Governor's Highway Safety Representative, on this response so they are aware of this clarification of the rules of the road as they pertain to bicycles. MDOT strives to provide accurate and timely information to Maryland's citizens and will make sure this issue is understood when communicating with the public.
... [Contact information for further clarification if needed]
James T. Smith, Jr.