Wednesday, March 04 2009 @ 06:22 AM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
Committee: ENV Date: 3/03/09 Bill #: HB 1197
Position: OPPOSE Title: Vehicle Laws — Bicycles — Rules of the Road
Explanation: HB 1197 would expand the definition of a bicycle to include a wider variety of wheel configurations and provide that, except for the requirement to use a sidewalk and travel facing traffic on a roadway or shoulder, a bicyclist has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian. It would also allow bicycles and motor scooters to be ridden on the shoulder or in the roadway if no smooth bike lane exists. Finally, it would allow a bicyclist to pass another vehicle by driving off the roadway.
Comment: The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) opposes HB 1197.
Currently, bicyclists are granted all of the rights and are subject to the same duties as a vehicle driver. While those provisions of law would not be repealed by HB 1197 they appear to conflict with the provision in this bill that bicyclists be treated as pedestrians. In fact it is more appropriate that bicycles generally be treated as vehicles.
[Note: Fact: Bicycles using trail crossing are not treated as vehicles per State law but encouraged/required to be pedestrians.]
Unlike their motorized counterparts (cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc.), bicycles and motor scooters typically are incapable of attaining or sustaining the speeds which are prevalent on highways throughout the State. Accordingly, special provisions were enacted in law to separate these slower vehicles from conflict with higher speed vehicles where there is a suitable alternative. Under existing law, bicyclists and motor scooter operators are restricted to riding on the shoulder in a bike lane and not in the roadway if a smooth shoulder or bike lane exists. Doing so greatly reduces the potential for conflict due to speed disparity with other vehicles.
This bill would allow these riders to ride in the roadway if there is no bike lane, even if a smooth shoulder exists. This would permit bikes and motor scooters to be operated in a position where they are more vulnerable to being struck by motor vehicles traveling in the same direction. It also would interfere with the flow of traffic to a considerably greater extent. These issues would likely be exacerbated with respect to youthful bicycle and motor scooter riders, who may lack the necessary skills and are less prone to pay attention to safety when mixing with faster traffic.
[Note: Fact: Under current law and current MDOT policies bicyclist are required to ride in "facilities" that fail to meet minimum width AASHTO standards and fail to have the required notice of hazards and protection of bicyclists right-of-way.]
Finally, the provision in current law that operators of bicycles and motor scooters are allowed to use the shoulder and bike lanes provides adequate legal authorization for them to pass other vehicles by leaving the roadway.
For these reasons, the Department respectfully requests the Committee grant HB 1197 an unfavorable report.
For Information: Tom Hicks