Thursday, March 13 2008 @ 04:13 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
We've worked so hard on this. But it seems that once again the bill to mandate a 3 foot safe passing distance for bicyclists appears dead.
Why? Here are the apparent concerns among some members of the House Environmental Matters Committee: First, some think the law would be unenforceable (not true - its being enforced with citations in Arizona, Utah, Florida and in the 6 other states with similar laws); Second, motorists might be in violation of the law if they tried passing on a very narrow road; Third, bicyclists may inadvertently drift towards a car while the car is passing, thereby coming too close and making the motorist a de-facto lawbreaker.
We can debate the merits of these arguments against HB 143, but here are the facts:
* 9 States have 3 foot passing laws (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, Arizona, Florida......)
* The Maryland MVA Driver's Handbook states on page 61 "that "when passing a cyclist, allow a minimum of three feet clearance".
* Maryland has some of the highest bike crash numbers in the country.
* Most fatal crashes occur mid-block (i.e. cars passing bikes).
So why can't we have a 3 foot law?
It should be noted that Delegate James Malone, the Vice Chair of the Environmental Matters Committee has personally told OLC that he would support working with the State Highway Administration to ensure that a safety campaign focusing on "giving 3 feet" is instituted. This is a welcome step forward.
Regardless, HB 143 is a good bill and if it does not fly this year, we will be back in 2009.
Do us a favor. Send an email to the co-sponsors of HB 143 and tell them thank you for their support of safe cycling in Maryland: