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Thursday, July 24 2014 @ 07:25 PM UTC

Recommended changes to the Drivers' Handbook

Biking in Maryland[B' Spokes: Just to give you a heads up this is what your Bicycle Advocacy groups have been up to. If there are any updates, I'll post them here.]
Statement of Purpose
The Maryland Driver’s Handbook should clarify how automobile drivers interact with bicycles. Goal 4 of Maryland’s Twenty Year Bicycle and Pedestrian Access Master Plan states. "Develop education and encouragement programs that will increase levels of bicycling and walking and foster a pro-bicycle and pro-pedestrian ethic in individuals, private sector organizations, and all levels of government." We strongly urge adopting the following language to clarify how drivers of automobiles should safely anticipate and interact with bicyclists.

The general public, including drivers, bicyclists, and police officers, use the Maryland Drivers' Handbook as the basis for learning how to use our roadways. However, experience over the past decades has shown the Handbook to be out of date. For example, bicyclists have been told to ride as far right as practical, but that has given motorists the mistaken impression that they can then easily pass a bicyclist within the same lane which has resulted in an astounding two-thirds of all bicyclist fatalities happening in non-intersection areas. We believe that we must bring the Drivers’ Handbook up to date to clarify everyone’s expectations, educate all parties, and foster a more positive cycling and driving experience. Simply put, we must get all rightful roadway users on the same page.

Guiding Principles
• Clarification of Maryland’s “dueling handbooks.” We consider Safe Bicycling in Maryland to be the de facto bicyclists’ roadway handbook. Thus, when MVA's Drivers' Handbook sets forth a rule for cyclists, there must be a reference explaining how to obtain a more complete set rules and guidelines. Also, both the Drivers’ Handbook and Safe Bicycling in Maryland must clarify and reconcile any conflicts between them.
• Clear Identification of Bicycling Rules. The Drivers’ Handbook is generally intended for new drivers, so to the extent that the Handbook sets forth general rules specifically for cyclists, we urge MVA to clearly and separately identify those rules.
• Continued Communication. We hope to see continued involvement with the bicycling community and we very much appreciate MVA's first draft and the respect it shows to bicyclists.

Signed:
Carol Silldorff - Bike Maryland Shane Farthing - Washington Area Bicycle Association
Jon Morrison - Montgomery Bicycle Advocates   Jack Guarneri - Bicycling Advocates of Howard County
Barry Childress - Baltimore Spokes Baltimore Bicycling Club


Our Recommendations: (Note the following has also been approved by MBPAC)
Markings for Bicyclists and Pedestrians
Bicycles share most of Maryland’s streets with motor vehicles without specific traffic signs or pavement markings. Some streets, mostly in urban areas, do have shared-use lane markings (see photo). These markings alert motorists that bicyclists may be on the road, indicate to bicyclists where to ride, and discourage bicycling in the wrong direction.

image
(Photo for example only; permission needed to reproduce.)

Some streets have pavement markings that show lanes specifically designated for the exclusive use of bicycles. Solid or broken white lines separate these bike lanes from motor vehicle travel lanes. You may see bike lanes marked with bike lane signs or by a combination of bicycle symbols and arrows. Where parallel parking is allowed, similar lines may separate the bicycle lanes from the parking lanes.

Pedestrians also use roads in areas without specific signs or pavement markings. By Maryland law, any intersection with a sidewalk has a crosswalk--whether it is marked or not. Marked crosswalks generally have two parallel, white, solid lines that define where pedestrians should cross the street. Some marked crosswalks also have lines between (or instead of) the two parallel lines. But most crosswalks in Maryland do not have pavement markings at all. (See photo of unmarked crosswalk). Drivers must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks whether they are marked or unmarked.



Sharing the Road with Bicyclists

Right-of-Way
Bicyclists are authorized users of the roadway. Bicyclists have the same rights-of-way and the same duty to obey all traffic signals as motorists. Violating a bicyclist’s right-of-way can result in a fine of $500 and 3 points on your driving record. Bicyclists are your family, friends and neighbors, so please share the road with care and consideration. Motorists must drive carefully near bicyclists: even a slight mistake can result in serious injury or even death.

Expect Bicyclists on the Road
Expect to find a bicyclist on all types of roads (except interstate highways and toll facilities), at all intersections and roundabouts, in all types of weather, and at all times of the day and night. Bicyclists may ride out in the travel lane for their own safety due to narrow roads, or to avoid obstacles or pavement hazards. On roads without shoulders, or with cars parked along the right side, often the safest place for a bicyclist to ride is in the center of the lane. In Maryland, a bicyclist may use the full lane even while traveling substantially below the speed of traffic if the lane is too narrow for a car to safely pass a bicycle within the lane (i.e. narrower than 14-15 feet). Before opening a car door, check for bicyclists who may be approaching from behind. Do not drive on a shoulder (to the right of the white 'fog' line) even to pass another vehicle.

Following a Bicyclist
As you approach a bicyclist, slow down. Avoid honking your horn. Bicyclists can usually hear an approaching vehicle and loud noises can startle bicyclists, causing a crash. Bicycles do not have turn signals so bicyclists use hand and arm signals to alert you of their intentions.

Do not follow a bicycle too closely. Remember that small holes, glass, and other hazards can be particularly dangerous to bicyclists. Bicycles can stop and maneuver quickly so a bicyclist may swerve or change speed to avoid a road hazard that a motorist cannot see.

Pass with Care -- Give Bikes at Least 3 Feet
Pass a bicyclist as you would any slowly moving vehicle. Be prepared to slow down, wait until oncoming traffic is clear and then allow at least 3 feet of clearance between your car and the bicyclist when passing. The same 3-foot clearance applies if you are passing a bicyclist in a bike lane, on the shoulder, or in the same lane as your car. After passing a bicyclist, check your mirror to ensure that you have completely passed the bicycle with enough room before you move back to the right.

Use Caution at Intersections, Bridges and Driveways Always assume that bicyclists are traveling straight through an intersection unless they signal otherwise, and yield to bicycles just as you would to any other vehicle. Bicyclists often ride on sidewalks and trails along highways, so look both ways before crossing a sidewalk or trail when turning into a driveway. A bicycle may come from an unexpected direction.

Never make a right turn from a through lane immediately after passing a bike on a shoulder or bike lane. Doing so is as dangerous as turning right from the left lane after passing a car on your right, so stay behind the bicycle. Try to avoid any chance that a bicycle will be to your right or in your right blind spot when you turn right. Before starting a right turn, move as far to the right as practicable within the bike lane, shoulder, or right turn lane.

Yield to bicycles as to any other vehicle proceeding straight. Do not turn left immediately in front of a bicycle. Experienced bicyclists often ride very fast (as fast as 35 mph!) and may be closer than you think. If you are passing a left-turning vehicle by moving right, first look closely for bicycles. Wherever a travel way narrows for a bridge, parked cars, or other obstructions on the right, be prepared for a bicyclist riding on the shoulder to merge left into the main traffic lane.

Driving at Night
If you see a dim reflective object at night do not assume that it is outside of the roadway. It could be a bicycle in the main travel lane. Bicyclists sometimes avoid shoulders at night when cars are not present because tree branches, potholes, debris, and even the edge of the pavement are difficult to see. Your headlights may provide enough light for the bicyclist to safely move into the shoulder for you to pass, but it takes longer at night. When approaching a bicycle, use your low beam headlights.

Watch for Children
Children on bicycles are sometimes unpredictable. Expect the unexpected and remember they are small in stature and may be hard to see. Young bicyclists are especially likely to make surprising changes in direction. Be aware of bicyclists entering the roadway from driveways or near parked cars. Strictly observe speed limits in school zones and in residential areas to allow time to see, and safely share the road with, young bicyclists.

The following remains largely unchanged except for the braking requirement and flashing rear light both of which was changed in recent years.
Rules and Tips for Bicyclists
Like motor vehicle operators, bicyclists have both rights and responsibilities for operating on the road safely. Do your part by being a safe and courteous bicyclist. Below are a few rules and suggestions for safe, enjoyable bicycling.

Obey the Rules of the Road
Ride straight and single file in a predictable manner. Plan ahead and allow time to maneuver around road hazards and to negotiate with traffic and open car doors. Yield to pedestrians and obey all traffic signals and signs.

Ride with Traffic
Always ride on the right side. Use caution if passing other traffic on the right. When approaching an intersection, use the appropriate lane for the direction you intend to travel (left, straight, right).

Signal All Turns
Look back before you make a lane change or turn. Signal safely in advance using one of these signals.

Make Left Hand Turns Safely
You may turn left as a vehicle (1) by moving into the left side of the travel lane (or left turn lane) OR cross like a pedestrian (2) by stopping, dismounting, and walking across crosswalks.

Be Prepared for Slick Road Conditions When braking in the rain or snow, allow extra distance to stop and look for pavement markings and utility covers, which may become slippery.

Be Visible - Use Lights at Night
When riding at night, Maryland State Law requires a white headlight on the front and a red reflector on the back visible from at least 600 feet. In addition, it is recommended that you wear bright clothing in the daytime and reflective clothing for night riding.

Bicycle Equipment
Helmets are required for operators or passengers of bicycles under the age of 16. They are, however, strongly recommended for all operators or passengers regardless of age.

By law, all bicycles must be equipped with:
• brakes capable of stopping from a speed of 10 miles per hour within 15 feet on dry, level, clean pavement.
• a white beam headlight visible at a distance of 500 feet, and a red rear reflector visible at a distance of 600 feet if night time or during unfavorable visibility conditions. Alternately, a bicyclist may be equipped with a functioning lamp that acts as a reflector and emits a red light or a flashing amber light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear instead of, or in addition to, the red reflector above.
• a safety seat, firmly secured to the bicycle, or a trailer must be used if traveling with a small child;
• a bicycle basket, rack or bag must be used in transporting small articles so that both hands may be kept on the handlebars.

Just to note this is what the MVA originally offered (mostly from http://www.choosesafetyforlife.com/pdfs/Bicycle_Booklet.pdf)
Markings for Bicycles and Pedestrians
Along most of Maryland’s streets and roads, bicycles share travel lanes with motor vehicles without any special traffic signs or pavement markings. In some cases, shared-use lane markings, consisting of bicycle symbols and pairs of chevrons (broad arrows without stems) are applied to the roadway, mostly in urban areas. These markings alert motorists to the possible presence of cyclists, indicate where in the travel lane, cyclists should ride, and discourage wrong way cycling.

Some streets and roads have pavement markings which establish lanes that are designated for the exclusive use of bicycles. These bike lanes are separated from motor vehicle travel lanes by solid or broken white lines. Where there is on-street parking, similar lines may be used to separate the bicycle lanes from the parking lanes. Bike lanes may be marked with a combination of bicycle symbols and arrows and sometimes by bike lane signs. These symbols also may be used to designate preferred travel paths along shoulders.

Pedestrian crosswalk lines are white, solid lines that emphasize pedestrian crossing points. Crosswalks may have additional lines between the white, solid lines or in place of the parallel lines.



Rules and Tips for Motorists Sharing the Road with Bicycles

Bicycle Right-of-Way
Bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles. Motorists should drive carefully around a bicyclist; even a slight mistake can result in death. Most bicycles do not have turn signals and their operators use hand and arm signals to alert you of their intentions.

Following a Bicyclist
As you approach a bicyclist, slow down. Avoid the use of your horn. Bicyclists can usually hear an approaching vehicle and loud noises can startle the bicycle operator, causing an accident. Do not follow a bicycle too closely. Bicycles can stop and maneuver quickly and a bicyclist can swerve or change speed to avoid a road hazard. Young bicyclists, in particular, are more likely to make surprising changes in direction.

Expect Bicyclists on the Road
Always expect to encounter a bicyclist on the road; on all types of roads, in all types of weather and at all times of the day and night. Bicyclists may be riding out in the travel lane for their own safety due to narrow roads, obstacles, or pavement hazards, which you may not see. Before opening your car door, check for bicyclists who may be approaching.

Pass with Care, Give Bikes at Least 3 Feet
Pass a bicyclist as you would any slow-moving vehicle. Slow down, wait until oncoming traffic is clear and allow at least 3 feet of clearance between your car and the bicyclist when passing. After passing a bicyclist, check over your shoulder to make sure you have allowed enough room before moving over. Experienced bicyclists often ride 20 to 25 mph and may be closer than you think.

Be Careful at Intersections
Always assume bicyclists are traveling through an intersection unless they signal otherwise, and yield to them as you would to any other vehicle. Do not turn left or right in front of bicyclists unless you can do so safely. You must yield the right-of-way to the bicyclist if your vehicle is about to cross the designated bike lane. You can be fined $1000 and receive 3 points on your driving record if you injure a bicyclist by violating their right-of-way.

Watch for Children
Children on bicycles are sometimes unpredictable – expect the unexpected. Be aware of bicyclists entering the roadway from driveways or around parked cars. Strictly observe speed limits in school zones and in residential areas to give yourself time to see and safely share the road with young bicyclists.

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