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Friday, September 19 2014 @ 11:52 PM UTC
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Recent bike-related deaths renew safety debate

Bike LawsBy CATHERINE SHEFFO, Capital Gazette

After a rash of high-profile bicycle accidents, Maryland's General Assembly might consider strengthening laws that allow judges to punish careless drivers.

Last month saw the sentencing of a Calvert County driver who hit and killed bicyclist Patricia Cunningham, of Annapolis, while she was riding on Riva Road last year. Cunningham was an assistant track and cross-country coach at Annapolis High School.

A grand jury had charged the driver with four traffic violations. A judge found her guilty of three of them and imposed the maximum penalty: a $1,500 fine, as well as points on her license.

This angered some in the community. Prosecutors and bicycle organizations hope the Cunningham case will spark a debate about Maryland's laws on the rules of the road and the severity of charges that can be brought against reckless drivers.

"We're open to any changes in the law that give individuals the tools for justice," said House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis. "If the state's attorneys have any suggestions, we're willing to listen to them."

At the center of the debate is a 2011 Maryland law. The measure aims to establish a middle ground between the longer prison sentences associated with drunken driving and excessive speeding and the fines for minor traffic violations, such as running a red light.

The law uses the term "negligence" to describe the actions of a driver who is careless or not paying attention. Minor negligence is a traffic violation punishable by only a fine. Criminal negligence — legally, a "gross deviation" from careful driving — can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Anne Arundel County Deputy State's Attorney William Roessler said that while the new law is a step in the right direction, juries and judges struggle to determine what should be considered criminal negligence.

Roessler, the prosecutor in the Cunningham case, said the law's wording is too similar to the laws on drunken driving for it to be effective. "It's so close that grand juries and judges are going to hold it to a very similar standard," he said.

"There may very well be a small category of cases, but it's not going to work very much. I haven't seen it yet."

Grand juries decide on how defendants are charged, so the way a law works depends on the way a grand jury interprets it, Roessler said.

In this case, the grand jury decided that defendant Whitney Decesaris' actions didn't amount to criminal negligence. She was charged with traffic violations instead, leading to fines instead of potential jail time.

"The loss from a human standpoint compared to $1,500 … it just seems grossly out of proportion," said Jon Korin of BikeAAA, an area bicycle advocacy group.

Roessler said prosecutors asked lawmakers to amend the law's wording to better reflect what they wanted it to accomplish. He said delegates were confident the law would work as intended.

Some delegates, however, said the problem is harder to fix than it seems.

"When something bad happens, people want to propose a law, but (Decesaris) didn't obey the current law," said Del. Herb McMillan, R-Annapolis.

McMillan said changing the law won't force people to follow the rules of the road that keep cyclists safe — namely, allowing 3 feet when passing at appropriate speeds.

"I don't really know what to think, aside from this was a tragic accident," he said. "I'm not sure a law new could have fixed it."

Busch said this is the first he has heard of attorneys having problems with the law, and lawmakers will consider working with prosecutors to make it more effective.

Meanwhile, bicycle advocates said harsher penalties for careless drivers are the key to reducing injuries and deaths.

"Enforcement is important," Korin said. "You can do education, but enforcement is a very, very critical element of changing behavior."

He expects the state level of BikeAAA to discuss legislative changes it may take to the legislature.

"It's a conversation that needs to be had so that proper charges can be applied."


http://touch.capitalgazette.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-81045583/
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Just because drivers complain does not make it illegal

Biking Elsewhere image image image

I am Traffic
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Why US Pedestrian Safety Remains Elusive

Biking ElsewhereBy Klaus Philipsen, Community Architect


Even though overall traffic fatalities continue to fall, pedestrian deaths not only stayed stubbornly high, they even increased in some areas. How come?

The first guess may be technology. While improved vehicle safety protects the life of the driver and passenger better and better, those outside the vehicle, primarily bicyclists and pedestrians, are left out. Even worse, the bigger, faster, and quieter that cars and SUVs have become, the more they have mutated into effective killing machines for those who are in their way. The safer the roads are made for driving (curves, straightened, sightlines improved, trees felled etc.) the more drivers are lulled into a false sense of security and the faster cars can safely go – both possibly to the detriment of the pedestrian.

That the pedestrian carnage isn't an immutable price one has to pay for technological progress becomes obvious if one realizes that there are significant differences in pedestrian safety between different countries and states, between rural areas and cities, and between the various "cultures" of how to plan and design villages, towns, cities and suburbs. My home state Maryland has 1.75 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents, a fatality rate almost twice that of Massachusetts (0.88). In fact we are among the most unsafe states: only Florida, New Mexico and Puerto Rico are significantly worse. What are the safer states doing that the others are not? What can be done to make walking safer and what have those states with the low crash rates done right?

Some think that education is the answer. In the Baltimore area, a current billboard campaign advocates "smart walking," with drastic images showing a person lying in the street in front of a car. The flaw of this campaign is obvious – the message seeks to address the problem by placing the blame on "dumb" walking, a clear case of blaming the victim, a strategy well know from campaigns that try to curb violence against women. Ironically, those billboards for "smart walking" are placed along arteries for the benefit of drivers who, peering through their windshields, probably don't identify themselves as the intended target. Thus, the blame is even further shifted from where the real responsibility lies: the drivers. While education is always good, it needs to address the root cause of the problem which is likely not just the wrong behavior.


Maybe it isn't dumb walking as much as dumb street design that lies at the heart of the matter. The low pedestrian fatalities in some areas are likely not caused by brighter pedestrians that just walk smarter; it is equally unlikely that the drivers are just smarter there.
...

http://archplanbaltimore.blogspot.com/2014/08/why-us-pedestrian-safety-remains-elusive.htm
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Pushing buttons gets pedestrians nowhere in downtown Dallas

Biking Elsewhere[B' Spokes: Can you imagine as a pedestrian being accommodated automatically at intersections just like a car? (I will note this is similar to my request on the Reisterstown streetscape,) Phase out pedestrian "beg buttons" makes a lot of sense as this article points out.]
*****************************************************************************************************************
By DANIELLE GROBMEIER, Dallas News

...
Many other cities, including New York and Boston, have gone to pre-timed lights or similar systems that they say ensure a safer and more consistent traffic flow at crosswalks. Doing so means the push buttons become purely decorative or, as described by a New Yorker, “mechanical placebos.”
...


He said busy intersections would have push buttons deteriorate faster. And if they’re mechanical buttons, that could happen in a little over a year.

Majumdar said the city might get complaints about the nonworking buttons [they are not fixed unless someone complains] But he said the pre-timed signals are safer for pedestrians.
...


http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20140730-pushing-buttons-gets-pedestrians-nowhere-in-downtown-dallas.ece
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Bike tour of Baltimore's community gardens!

Biking in BaltimoreRegister for the Charm City Garden Tour! Enjoy a nine mile leisurely ride to some of Baltimore's most beautiful community gardens and urban farms. August 16, 8:30 am, starts at the Druid Hill Park City Farm. This year's ride will feature some of North-Central Baltimore's creatively designed and maintained greenspaces. The tour concludes for a celebratory swim at Druid Hill Park pool!

For more information or to register: http://charmcitygardentoursupper.wordpress.com/
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NEW HIKER-BIKER PATH ALONG MD 51

Biking in MarylandVia email:

STATE HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION BUILDS NEW HIKER-BIKER PATH ALONG MD 51 NEAR C&O CANAL’S PAW PAW TUNNEL IN ALLEGANY COUNTY

Half-Mile-Long Shared Use Path is Part of $3.2 Million Resurfacing Project along MD 51

(July 17, 2014) – This fall, bicyclists and hikers will have a safer way to access the MD 51 (Oldtown Road) Bridge over the Potomac River from the C&O Canal Towpath near the PawPaw Tunnel in Western Maryland. The State Highway Administration (SHA) partnered with the National Park Service to design a new shared-use path along the south side of MD 51, between the towpath trailhead and the Potomac River Bridge.

“A popular side trip for hikers and bicyclists on the towpath has been to leave the trail and follow MD 51 about half a mile to the bridge to stop in town in Paw Paw, W.Va., or use the river access there, but as a winding, two-lane road without shoulders, MD 51 was not particularly friendly to bicylists or pedestrians,” said SHA District Engineer Anthony Crawford. “We are pleased to partner with the Park Service to design a safe, attractive and environmentally-friendly solution.”

SHA is constructing the 1,700 foot-long, 10-foot-wide shared-use path as part of a resurfacing project on MD 51. The path will be separated from the roadway with a concrete barrier topped with fencing. Weather permitting, it will be complete in October.

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Baltimore and the Age of the Bicycle

Biking in BaltimoreOld time photos and on Thursday, August 7th, MdHS wants you to join us in celebrating the bicycle...

http://www.mdhs.org/underbelly/2014/07/31/baltimore-and-the-age-of-the-bicycle/
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Do cyclists get a fair shake with the law?

Bike LawsIt just came to my attention that Whitney Decesaris was never charged with this:

§ 2-210. Manslaughter by vehicle or vessel -- Criminal negligence
. (a) "Vehicle" defined. -- In this section, "vehicle" includes a motor vehicle, streetcar, locomotive, engine, and train.
. (b) Prohibited. -- A person may not cause the death of another as the result of the person's driving, operating, or controlling a vehicle or vessel in a criminally negligent manner.
. (c) Criminal negligence. -- For purposes of this section, a person acts in a criminally negligent manner with respect to a result or a circumstance when:
. . (1) the person should be aware, but fails to perceive, that the person's conduct creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such a result will occur; and
. . (2) the failure to perceive constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that would be exercised by a reasonable person.
. (d) Exception. -- It is not a violation of this section for a person to cause the death of another as the result of the person's driving, operating, or controlling a vehicle or vessel in a negligent manner.
. (e) Violation. -- A violation of this section is criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle or vessel.
. (f) Penalty. -- A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $ 5,000 or both.



Note: this is a misdemeanor charge and not a criminal charge like what the Grand Jury acquitted her of.

Remember Nathan Krasnopoler when the police refused to acknowledge the law that gave cyclists the right-of-way in a bike lane? It looks like something similar is going on here.
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Guilty of negligent driving and maximum fines!

Biking in the Metro AreaSo I attended the trial of Whitney Decesaris, the driver that killed Trish Cunningham on a narrow road in Anne Arundel County. I mainly wanted to make sure the fine was more then the typical $140 for killing a cyclist in Maryland. So I am happy to report Decesaris was found guilty of negligent driving (the main contested point) and got the maximum fine of $500 plus points. In addition there was failure to exercise caution and failure to control speed, both with $500 fines.

Physical evidence showed that Decesaris hit Trish Cunningham 10 inches in from the right side of the vehicle. Testimony indicated that Decesaris did not brake or swerve prior to contact with the cyclist. Only after hitting the cyclist was there was movement to the left but how much over the double yellow is not exactly known.

The defense made a pretty good argument that this was "just an unavoidable accident" that had me silently going "Grrr" in my seat, more then once." but the thing is, if you filter out the spin and the unnecessary stuff you get the exact same argument on why this was negligent driving, The Judge saw that and called her out on those points.

The Washington Post did a good job summarizing this and other things of the trial.

I really wish there was some sort of professional examination after a fatality to better understand what the driver was thinking that failed to pass a reasonable person standard so we could target and correct that kind of thinking, But in lieu of that, I personally believe there has been too much stress on cyclists riding right, with failure to even mention the drivers duty that even when the cyclist is riding as far right as possible the driver still has to change lanes to pass or wait behind the cyclist till there is a safe opportunity to pass with at least 3'. (Ok fine, I need to add more clarifications to that statement but you get the idea.) Speculation: Was Decesaris thinking "Share the Road" so if the cyclist is on the right I can "share" the rest of the lane... whoopsie (to be fair Decesaris was very distraught at the trial and no doubt feels a lot of remorse.)

The Judge even brought up the new "Bikes May Use the Full Lane" signs that have been going up. Now don't get me wrong, these are great and all but something targeting drivers like "Only one vehicle per lane. Bicycles are vehicles. No sharing the lane with bicyclists." - That's not perfect either but maybe it's time to error on the other side of the equation?

So we had a very good turn out as shown here after the trial:
image

So I have to ask, was it the turn out that turned a minimum fine to a maximum fine? Could be but I suspect the truth lies more in the next picture:
image

So first let me introduce the fellow on the left, Wes Adams. He is running for State's Attorney of Anne Arundel County. and the very fact that he showed up for this trial he is getting my vote. The others are cycling advocates of Anne Arundel County. So let me reiterate get politically involved, it pays off! I encourage you to support both:
Wes Adams for State’s Attorney of Anne Arundel County
Bicycle Advocates For Annapolis & Anne Arundel County ("BikeAAA")
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Let's stop calling the killing of cyclists by negligent drivers "accidents"

Biking ElsewhereBy Lloyd Alter, Treehugger

Rising Canadian squash star Adrian Dudzicki was murdered yesterday by Aleksey Aleksev, while riding his bicycle to practice in Toronto. The weapon was a 1992 BMW 325; Aleksev has been charged with dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death.

Yet Canada's most respected newspaper, the Globe and Mail, has the headline Star squash player killed in accident while cycling in Toronto and the copy starts:

"One of Canada’s top squash players has died after being hit by a car while cycling in Toronto."

"Squash Canada confirmed in a release that Ottawa’s Adrian Dudzicki died from injuries sustained in an accident on Wednesday when a vehicle struck him as he rode his bicycle to the National Squash Academy."


Interesting language. If a driver is charged with criminal negligence causing death, is it an "accident"? Did the BMW kill Adrian or did Aleksey Aleksev?

"Words are powerful. They shape the way we see the world around us."
...

http://www.treehugger.com/bikes/lets-stop-calling-murder-cyclists-people-driving-bmws-accidents.html
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