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Wednesday, November 26 2014 @ 06:27 PM UTC

Court outcome in St Mary's fatality

Biking in Maryland[From our mail box:]

I spent the morning in District Court in Leonardtown to see the trial for the person responsible for the fatal bike / car collision on Clarke’s Landing Rd. in St. Mary’s County last month.

After the collision, the driver made a statement to Maryland State Police that she had just left home and had cleared a portion of the left windshield of morning dew but left the fogged up right side to be cleared by the car’s heater. The windshield had not yet cleared and she was busy searching for a cigarette lighter in her purse (the car’s lighter didn’t work) when she ran into the cyclist. “I just didn’t see him”.

The investigating officer claimed that the cyclist was at fault for not riding as close as possible to the right side of the road but the driver contributed to the collision through negligent driving (Maryland Transportation Code Article 21-901.1 (b)).

The judge found her guilty of negligent driving. When the driver asked for a reduction in the amount of the fine because of lack of personal funds, the judge rolled his eyes and said “Your negligence has caused the death of a human being. I’m going to require the maximum fine plus costs”.

Maximum fine $287.50 plus $25.50 court costs for a total of $313.00 due on January 4, 2010. And that was it.

While walking out of court, I approached the investigating officer and mentioned that the law actually states that a cyclist must stay as far to the right as safe and practicable not as far to the right as possible. He replied with a grin “Practicable, possible, it’s all the same thing and that’s the law. If you don’t like it, try to get it changed.”

-JS

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7 comments

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Authored by: lee.watkins on Friday, December 04 2009 @ 06:50 AM UTC Court outcome in St Mary's fatality
okay, if a cyclist can contribute to an accident by not staying to the right, than how come when a motorist is rear-ended we never hear that the motorist contributed to the accident by not staying far enough to the right? I'm pretty sure cars are also required to stay as far to the right as practicable, no?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, December 04 2009 @ 12:00 PM UTC Court outcome in St Mary's fatality
I'm sure that police officer does not ride a bike!!!
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 29 2009 @ 02:46 AM UTC Court outcome in St Mary's fatality
The police officer was mistaken, of course, about the meaning of "practicable and safe".

Evidently, this bicyclist was hit because he was riding only in the right tire track position. If he were riding farther left, he would have been more visible through the left (cleared) half of the driver's windshield and thus might not have been hit.

The police officer is correct about the need to change Maryland law regarding its mandatory shoulder bicycling requirement. If this anti-cyclist statute were repealed, bicyclists would not be required to ride on the left side of a shoulder fog line.

Allen Muchnick
Arlington VA
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 29 2009 @ 02:50 AM UTC Court outcome in St Mary's fatality
I meant *right* side of the shoulder fog line.

Allen Muchnick
I just ran across this blog:

Maryland sets a price on bicyclists: $313
A Maryland motorist, Kathy May Lee, who killed a bicyclist, has been fined $287.50, plus $25.50 in court fees. This is an amount that the average motorist could probably budget for; you wouldn’t want to kill a bicyclist every day, certainly, but for an annual, or even monthly, cost of operating your vehicle, it’s certainly reasonable. I’m sure it can’t be much more than a Hummer driver spends on fuel in a month.
...
http://michael-hartford.com/blog/?p=789
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 30 2009 @ 02:29 PM UTC MD21 1205allowsBikesIntheLANE
Maryland transportation code section 21 1205 (a) 6. specifies bikes are to ride at the right most position "..as practicable AND SAFE, EXCEPT when...in a lane too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane."

Also Section 21 1205.1 (b) 1. iii specifies that bikes are to use bike lanes or smooth shoulders "EXCEPT...when reasonably necessary to leave the should to avoid debris or other hazardous condition."

The Maryland state highway administration follows the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) guidelines, and AASHTO guidelines stipulate that bicyclists need 4ft of designated road width for safe driving, and when there is a mix of truck and or bus traffic, it should be increased to 5ft.

Thus for a 5-6 ft wide car to pass a bike safely there needs to be 10 feet minimum of lane and smooth shoulder width (not accounting for safe operation of the car).

The Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee (staffed with law enforcement, transportation, and governors officials) has previously pointed out to state law enforcement officials that it is unsafe for bicyclist to occupy the right most position in narrow roadways as this encourages unsafe passing by motorists.

In fact MDOT's Safe Bicycling in MD guide book (pg 15) encourages bicyclists to occupy the center of the lane when the road is narrow, as does their safety video (Competence and Confidence).

I feel since we cannot reasonable anticipate the exact width of vehicle approaching us from behind, we can reasonable anticipate a worst case scenario (ie tractor trailor = 8'6" w/o mirrors + 10" on bicyclist's side for the mirror = 9'4") or about 15 feet of lane and shoulder.

If I don't see 15 ft of lane and shoulder, expect me in the center of the lane.

Trouble is, once I am dead, who is going to ask me if there was enough lane!
As you noted Maryland follows AASHTO which I quote for the minimum width for a lane that can be safely shared by bike and car side by side:

In general, 4.2 m (14 feet) of usable lane width is the recommended width for shared use in a wide curb lane. Usable width normally would be from edge stripe to lane stripe or from the longitudinal joint of the gutter pan to lane stripe (the gutter pan should not be included as usable width). On stretches of roadway with steep grades where bicyclists need more maneuvering space, the wide curb lane should be slightly wider where practicable [4.5 m (15 feet) is preferred]. The 4.5-m (15-foot) width may also be necessary in areas where drainage grates, raised reflectors on the right-hand side of the road, or on-street parking effectively reduce the usable width. With these exceptions in mind, widths greater than 4.2 m (14 feet) that extend continuously along a stretch of roadway may encourage the undesirable operation of two motor vehicles in one lane, especially in urban areas, and therefore are not recommended. In situations where more than 4.5 m (15 feet) of pavement width exists, consideration should be given to striping bike lanes or shoulders.

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