Baltimore Spokes
Biking in Baltimore
Sign Up!
Login
Welcome to Baltimore Spokes
Tuesday, October 21 2014 @ 03:04 PM UTC

Should I bring up malfeasance again?

Bike Laws
I'll note that I am looking for a better argument to be sent to secretary@mdot.state.md.us and reference "Case: 47820 "(Not a email bomb, simply, who has the winning and most convincing argument on any topic is somewhat a random occurrence and I encourage you if you have a better argument then what I present here please send it to the Secretary and if you get a response please share.)

In this section I'm going to share some things I cut from the letter I sent:

Let's go back to when MVA introduced our 3' law and concluded "The law says the bicyclist has the responsibility to move aside and let you pass."

But the law says no such thing. While MVA is well versed in laws for motor vehicles capable of doing the speed limit, so what they said is correct if you are driving a car. But the flaw in their logic is they incorrectly asserted "the bicycle "has all the rights and responsibilities" of any other vehicle. "

This fails on two counts, so let's look at what the law actually says:
§ 21-1202. Traffic laws apply to bicycles and motor scooters
Every person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter in a public bicycle area has all the rights granted to and is subject to all the duties required of the driver of a vehicle by this title, including the duties set forth in § 21-504 of this title, except:
(1) As otherwise provided in this subtitle; and
(2) For those provisions of this title that by their very nature cannot apply.


Fail #1 As otherwise provided in this subtitle § 21-1205. Riding on roadways or on highway says when we are riding in a lane too narrow to share we can ride anywhere in the right hand lane. No obligation to move aside because § 21-1205 overrides any general lane position for motor vehicles.
Fail #2 § 21-804. (a) ... a person may not willfully drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede ... traffic. Bicycles by their very nature do not have a motor so § 21-804 is not applicable to cyclists. I should note laws that motor vehicles and cyclist both have to obey the statute when it just says "vehicle".

Additional Points
A legal brief from a higher court in Florida about a cyclists wrongfully charged with impeding traffic.
That’s safe cycling, not arrogance, says MDOT

But you will note it was Michael Dresser, NOT MVA that issued the final correction so I suspect there are those in MVA who still think cyclists have the responsibility to move aside. (A side note that this conversation helped get Changes to the Drivers' Handbook.)

I am starting to think MDOT is trying to take over the Attorney General's position and provide legal opinions but unlike the Attorney General not based on law in it's entirety and legal proficiency but on some half baked thoughts and agendas. MDOT's job should be promoting what constitutes safe driving based on the law. And I have no idea how the construct "if you can't pass safely you can pass unsafely" fits into that.

I sent this to the Secretary of Transportation: Don't drink and drive but having 4 drinks before driving is fine
His response
My next response:
Dear Secretary Mobley et al.,  
 
(The letter I am responding to is attached.)

I should apologize for the lack of organization and my apparent inability to make a clear point, I will try to correct that in this email. I really do appreciate the time and the response and hopefully these issues will finally be resolved or at least a constructive dialog will begin.

Points I would like to get your attention/action on:
1) Please correct recent incorrect "safety" advise given to DNR (specifically to "Carr, Steve" <>SCarr@dnr.state.md.us>  )    
2) The 3' "safety" card is in error and not accurate as you asserted
3) Michael Jackson has been ineffective on resolving this issue (issue first brought to MDOT's attention Oct 2010)


Overview
Working with MVA has resulted in the following.

Traffic Laws for Motorists
  • The driver of a vehicle passing another vehicle, including a bicycle, must pass at a safe distance and leave plenty of space.  The driver should be able to see the passed vehicle in the rear view mirror before returning to the original lane. After passing you must make sure you are clear of the bicyclist before making any turns.
  • Drivers shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle, Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device (EPAMD), or motor scooter being ridden by a person.
  • The driver of a vehicle must not pass any closer than three (3) feet to a bicycle or motor scooter if the bicycle is operated in a lawful manner. It is not lawful to ride against traffic.
  • The bicycle has the right of way when the motor vehicle is making a turn, and you must yield to bicycle.
  • Motorists must yield the right-of-way to bicyclists riding in bike lanes and shoulders when these vehicle operators are entering or crossing occupied bike lanes and shoulders


In Maryland's Drivers' Manual: 
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.  


These summaries are accurate and up to professorial standards for safety advice. Is it too much to ask that MDOT gives advice consistent with the above?  


2) The 3' "safety" card is in error and not accurate as you asserted 
(Points here will help with 1) so that's why it's out of order.)

Reader bias plays a huge role in peoples understanding. Good safety advice should be clear to the reader despite any bias but the law as written is not always that clear, as additional steps in logic might have to be engaged to come to an understanding.

In the case of our three foot law let's say there are two reader biases (this is for explanation/understanding and not an accusation.) The first bias I'll summarize as "The exceptions are notes to the police when not to ticket a driver." i.e. Why ticket the driver for a 3' violation if (1) the cyclist is riding unlawfully (2) it is the cyclist who is passing less then three feet (3) if everyone is doing their best in constrained circumstances. 
     
The second bias is "The exceptions are for drivers of motor vehicles so they know when they can pass closer then 3 feet." - I'll attempt to explain why this this not accurate, especially in light of how MDOT has summarized the exceptions.


The Law(i) The bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter rider fails to operate the vehicle in conformance with § 21-1205(a) of this subtitle ("Riding to right side of roadway") or § 21-1205.1(b) of this subtitle ("Roadway with bike lane or shoulder paved to smooth surface"); 

The 3' "safety" card: If the bicyclist fails to ride to the right,   
The 3' "safety" card: If the bicyclist is in a Bike Lane

Now contrast that with what's on the MVA site (from above): The driver of a vehicle must not pass any closer than three (3) feet to a bicycle or motor scooter if the bicycle is operated in a lawful manner. It is not lawful to ride against traffic.

So MDOT has changed one exception into two and has failed to carry the "fails to operate" clause to the second term. These two sections of law govern cyclists lawful position on the roadway and the titles of those sections alone are not the best summaries for safety advice. 

If a person is looking for reasons to pass a cyclist less then 3 feet, you can see why they might think why should a motorist be "bothered" to pass with 3 feet if a cyclist is in their own (bike) lane or if they fail to ride to the right but the section of law that governs riding to the right has an exception for lanes too narrow to share side by side, which most lanes in Maryland are, so a driver DOES have to pass with at least 3 feet a cyclist riding in the middle of a lane that is too narrow to share. So while I can understand how MDOT's summary came about it does not mean that it is accurate. 


The Law(ii) A passing clearance of less than 3 feet is caused solely by the bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter rider failing to maintain a steady course

The 3' "safety" card: Doesn't keep a steady course,

This is the most disturbing to me, safety advice would dictate if you see a cyclist failing to maintain a steady course a driver should give a wider berth and not a lesser one, this aspect should be made clear that this exception does not apply to drivers passing at all by the first and primary clause "caused solely by the bicycle." The fact that MDOT chose the subordinate clause here is not accuracy. But again we can see a bias that the exceptions "must" be for allowing "a motorist to pass less then three feet." - This bias just does not fit here. 


The Law(iii) The highway on which the vehicle is being driven is not wide enough to lawfully pass the bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter at a distance of at least 3 feet. 

The 3' "safety" card: If the roadway is not wide enough for the motorist to pass legally at a distance of three feet.

The exception was added at the last minute by a delegate and it really could have been worded better as it is very difficult to understand by the layperson and a simple change of "highway" to "roadway" does not help in clarification at all. Keep in mind a narrow two lane highway has enough width to pass a cyclist with 3 feet. So we are talking about a highway much, much narrower then two lanes. So we are giving safety advice on how to pass another vehicle on a narrow one lane road where a law abiding cyclists should be in the lane. And MDOT says it's lawful for a motorist to pass in that situation. Neglecting to mention that §21–303.(b) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle that is going in the same direction shall pass to the left of the overtaken vehicle at a safe distance. is still applicable. A safe passing distance is always required. 

I am also concerned promoting this exception close to as is written in the law without putting it in the vernacular can lead to the absurd conclusion "If you can't pass a cyclists lawfully you can pass them unlawfully." - This is not what the law in it's entirety says. If you must, a 3 foot law exception merely defers to §21–303.(b) (passing at a safe distance.)


1) Please correct recent incorrect "safety" advise given to DNR (specifically to "Carr, Steve" <SCarr@dnr.state.md.us>  )    

There is a joke form where the punch line goes "You must be a [some profession] because everything you told me is true, accurate and useless." Safety advice should stress usefulness over and above thorough legal accuracy. The Drivers' manual is full of legal advice that is not all inclusively accurate but it DOES address common (legal) errors and attempts to correct those errors. Is it too much to ask that the same principle be applied for safety advice given in regards to cyclists?  

MDOT recently gave the following advice to DNR:
The 3-Foot Passing Law – Motorists are now required to give cyclists 3 feet of clear­ance when pass­ing. The 3-foot law has an exemption for roads that are too nar­row to allow 3 feet of clear­ance safely. In this case, drivers are allowed to pass cyclists with less than 3 feet.
Again, a safe passing distance is still required and in the case of one lane highways passing is accomplished by cooperation and slow speeds, that's how safe passing is done in that situation. Due to the lower speed and cooperation a distance less then 3 feet can still be safe passing as long as everyone is doing the best they can

I am very concerned why is MDOT generating wildly deviant wording from what was agreed upon with MHSO:
  • The driver of a vehicle must not pass any closer than three (3) feet to a bicycle or motor scooter if the bicycle is operated in a lawful manner. It is not lawful to ride against traffic.
Note the recent advice from MDOT added the word "safely" - leading to the absurd understanding: "If you can't pass a cyclist safely you can pass unsafely." - This is very wrong and not accurate at all. 

I really would like the agreed upon wording from MHSO to go out to the same list that DNR used to push the inaccurate advice.


3) Michael Jackson has been ineffective on resolving this issue (issue first brought to MDOT's attention Oct 2010)

I have been getting assurances that the issue around the inaccurate 3 foot safety card would be correct since 2010 and it is still alive and well on MDOT servers.

And it has been seen being distributed late 2012.
Ref: "Greg said he attended the annual State Fair in Timonium and said that SHA had a booth there handing out materials including a card explaining the 3 foot passing law"

I don't know enough what happens behind the walls of MDOT but my assumption is either MDOT's hierarchy/internal policy keeps Michael Jackson from being effective or there is something about Michael Jackson that keeps him from being effective. That's for you to determine, all I know is I have not seen results on this issue despite a significant push to motivate Michael into action on this:

Please note the date on this Nov, 2011 and in Aug(?) 2012 the card is still alive and doing well on the State Fair Grounds.  

 
A bit of History

Around Oct 2010 I first became aware of the 3 foot safety card. It was explained that it was based upon a summary of the three foot law on MVA's web site. So our first concern was to correct MVA's web site with the assumption that a corrected 3 foot law card would soon follow. While MVA's site was corrected the card was not.

Nov 2011 I discovered the three foot safety card on the Maryland Bikeways Program web site. While we were successful in getting it removed from that web site, it resurfaced again about a year later in printed form.

We are now in 2013 and the 3 foot "safety" card still exists. While I appreciate the promise of a revised brochure but I have heard that before so an extra effort to get rid of the old one would be very much appreciated. And if you would be so kind as to share the revised brochure as MDOT does not have a very good track record with our three foot law.   
 

Conclusion

MDOT has done some wonderful things when they work with the cycling community and I am very appreciative of what MDOT has done. But a micro focus on one exception of bicycling law that is not easily understood is not doing anyone any good. The law must be understood in it's entirety and common errors for cyclists and motorists must be addressed. I look forward to working with you and MDOT in the future.

Story Options

Trackback

Trackback URL for this entry: http://www.baltimorespokes.org/trackback.php?id=20130124104353458

No trackback comments for this entry.

0 comments

My Account





Sign up as a New User
Lost your password?

Google


Site Map

Events

There are no upcoming events

Older Stories

Friday d-M


Thursday d-M


Wednesday d-M


Tuesday d-M


Monday d-M


Thursday d-M


Wednesday d-M


Tuesday d-M