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Friday, September 19 2014 @ 09:48 AM UTC

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Finally some progress on "bikes must ride right if they are slow"

Bike LawsBy B'Spokes,

Our story goes back to when Anne Arundel County introduced the "Bikes May use the Full Lane" sign and MDOT erroneously added that only cyclists traveling near the speed limit can "take the lane" slower cyclists on the other hand "must" ride far right as possible/practicable. Because basically MDOT said "Oh look, here is a way of looking at the law no one has thought of before," - Well that should have been a warning sign right there, but they decided to defend their position in my conversations with them, so I had to look for other solutions.

This was not the first time MDOT decided to go outside of what I'll call the canon of bicycle safety advice, which I outlined in this story: The best of MDOT's WTF

To demonstrate why MDOT's position was so grievous, let's say the ride side of the road has some issue that is covered by one of the exceptions to our ride right law, like debris or uneven pavement. Bicycle law says we can legally ride further left to avoid these kind of issues but slow moving vehicle law as interpreted by MDOT says we can't. Let me stress it is their interpretation at issue here, I see no conflict between the two per the letter of the law.

So for me it came down to: Does bicycle law clarify the slow moving vehicle law for cyclists or does slow moving vehicle law negate bicycle law and does MDOT have the legal authority to issue an interpretation of law? Or even more grievous does MDOT have the authority to say we are the only state where the Uniform Vehicle Code says something different then other states with the Uniform Vehicle Code?

I hope you can see when put in those terms, the issue is outrageous. But when talking about cyclists riding right when bicycle law says they may use the full lane even Vehicular Cyclists says there is a time we can be safe and polite and not put our safety at risk by riding to the right even though the law does not say you have to, this is called "Control & Release" as demonstrated in the following video:

Control and Release on Kirby Avenue Over I-57 in Champaign, IL from Gary Cziko on Vimeo.



The problem is the law does not spell this out (nor should it) so it becomes very hard to get MDOT to put this safety information out to cyclists as they primarily deal with summarizing the law and not safety advice that goes beyond the scope of the law. Additionally do I need to point out ANY summary of the law that is done by dropping words is inaccurate?

Or let me state it this way: I understand the desire of motorists that cyclists should assist in easier passing but it comes down to should MDOT stress (poor/inaccurate) summaries of the law or draw upon known good safety advice? My stance is leave the nitty-gritty of the law to the police and the courts and have MDOT stress the safety side of things.

To that end the last response I got from Secretary James T. Smith seems to be very encouraging. And special thanks to Brian Frosh (who is running for Attorney General and please consider contributing to his campaign) for his help and understanding on this issue. I will note one thing I learned from this, when dealing with MDOT about bicycles it would probably be best to get an elected official involved after the first "We are MDOT and we defend our position" response.

The letter:

From Maryland Department of Transportation - The Secretary's Office

Dear Chairman Frosh:

Thank you for your August 12, 2014 letter regarding whether bicycles are considered "slow moving vehicles." I appreciate you alerting me to the public statements made by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT)on this matter that may have been confusing, and I am happy we were able to clarify the issue for your constituent.

As noted in the email response, there is no hard and fast standard for requiring bicycles to move or stay right on the road. This allows for flexibility and accommodation for real-life circumstances that occur and may not neatly fall under statutory provisions. I am copying State Highway Administrator Melinda Peters as well as Motor Vehicle Administrator Milton Chaffee, who is also the Governor's Highway Safety Representative, on this response so they are aware of this clarification of the rules of the road as they pertain to bicycles. MDOT strives to provide accurate and timely information to Maryland's citizens and will make sure this issue is understood when communicating with the public.
... [Contact information for further clarification if needed]

James T. Smith, Jr.
Secretary

The PDF of the letter.
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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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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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Maryland lawmakers vote to increase penalties for drivers using cellphones

Bike LawsBy Jenna Johnson, Washington Post

The Maryland General Assembly approved legislation Monday that will stiffen penalties for drivers who cause fatal or serious crashes while talking on a cellphone or texting. The legislation now goes to the governor to be signed.

The Maryland House of Delegates and Senate had passed different versions of the legislation, but in a compromise reached on the last day of the session, lawmakers agreed to these conditions: The law would apply to drivers using a cellphone in a variety of ways, not just texting. Those found guilty would face up to one year in jail and a fine of as much as $5,000. And prosecutors could charge drivers with this law in addition to other laws.
...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/maryland-lawmakers-vote-to-increase-penalties-for-drivers-using-cellphones/2014/04/07/188b8470-be9b-11e3-b574-f8748871856a_story.html
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House OKs jail time for drivers who kill while on cell phones

Bike LawsBy Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun

The House of Delegates approved a bill Friday that would allow a judge to give up to a year's sentence to a driver who negligently kills or seriously injures someone while texting or speaking on a hand-held cellphone.
...

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/blog/bal-house-oks-jail-time-for-drivers-who-kill-while-on-cell-phones-20140314,0,4820774.story?track=rss
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So what would it look like if we had to obey both cycling laws and slow moving vehicle laws?

Bike LawsIntro:

So in my conversations with SHA they stated something along the lines "You don't get to pick and choose what traffic laws you have to obey. So slow moving vehicle laws apply to cyclists." But I've always looked at cycling laws as a of clarification of slow moving vehicle law for cyclists. Slow moving vehicle law has "right-hand lane" or "as close as practicable to the right" and cycling laws basically have the same thing but with better explanations when one or the other can be applied. Not to mention the abundance of material that explains how bicycling law should be applied for safety. The from out of nowhere SHA pulls out the so called "requirement" that cyclists must obey slow moving threatens to mess that all up.

So why bring up up slow moving vehicle law at all? Is it just another excuse to say something close to "cyclists need to stay out of the way of cars"? How about SHA needs to build us nice cycling facilities so we could be out of the way of cars? For me this is just a victim blaming thing. Public roads are public space and need to be shared by the public. And everyone needs to be clear on the rules and MDOT has a habit of trying to mess up those rules.

When I was a kid I rode to the right and no big deal, motorists were respectful of my presence. When I got back on the bike in 2000 right hooks and close passing galore. So I found out about "taking the lane" and the problem virtually went away. Again overly stressing cyclist must ride far right is another victim blaming thing. If motorists were polite, courteous and thoughtful to cyclists there may have never been the need to make "taking the lane" lawful for cyclists.

Taking the lane is no more rude than motorists who follow other motorists at a safe 2 second distance. Sure everyone tailgates nowadays and when I drive with a safe following distance I upset drivers behind me but the extra buffer space has saved me (and those following me) from a crash on more than one occasion. Likewise "taking the lane has helped me avoid being in an crash multiple times.

Promoting cyclists must ride right under the unspoken pretence that traffic moves faster that way would be like promoting tailgating to help traffic move faster. Not only is there no net improvement in the flow of traffic more crashes result and crashes are a major source of delays, just listen to the radio during rush hour. (BTW I never hear about safety campaigns or enforcement efforts to crack down on tailgating so in a way it is promoted.)



So what would guidance look like if we had to obey slow moving vehicle law?
So in trying to follow SHA's logic that we can't pick and choose what laws we need to obey I have to start off with choosing to ignoring the following to get close to SHA's statements.
What SHA chooses to ignore:
  • § 21-1202.1 which I take to mean if the bicycle subtitle covers bicycles going slower than the speed limit so therefore other sections in traffic law that cover going slower than the speed limit don't apply.
  • The slow moving vehicle law that says: shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or...

So everyone grab their speedometers because they will be necessary to follow these set of rules and let's see what kind of farce SHA has in store for us.

Here is a chart that shows what rules are applicable based on your speed in relation to the speed limit.

image

Slow Moving Vehicle LawBicycling LawRegular Vehicle Law
How far rightas close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway (sans "and safe")as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe (when applicable)n/a
When required to ride far rightAlwaysOnly in a lane that is wide enough to share (13'-14' or greater), that is not a right turn only lane, on a two way street and the cyclist is not preparing to turn left or the cyclists is avoiding hazards. (Not many streets fit this criteria.)n/a
Shoulder useMandatory regardless of conditionOptional unless speed limit is greater than 50 MPH then shoulder use is requiredDiscouraged
Special equipment a slow moving vehicle emblem unless you average 25 MPH or better*n/an/a
When making a left turnFrom the right side onlyMay use the left side for traffic in that directionMust use the left side for traffic in that direction
One way streetStay on the rightMay use the left side n/a
Avoiding pedestrians or road hazardsNot clearMay move left to avoidWhatever is deemed appropriate to avoid.
The right lane is a right turn only laneStay on the rightMay ride further leftAvoid (unless turning)
Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motor scooter and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the laneStay on the rightMay use the full laneUse the full lane
* If your average is 12 mph for example and you are traveling on 25 mph roads you never become a slow moving vehicle so no a slow moving vehicle emblem is required.
Have you ever seen such a complicated mess before?
As I said a complete and utter farce and only designed to confuse everyone on the road so cyclists will be continued to be harassed. Of course none of this would be asserted if you understand slow moving vehicle law as saying shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic.
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The best of MDOT's WTF

Bike LawsWhen talking about the new 'Bikes May use the Full Lane" sign

bicyclists traveling more than 10 mph under the posted speed limit are considered slow moving vehicles and should stay as far to the right as possible

Even if we have a sign saying we may use the full lane we have to ride to the right if we are slow? And is it really too much to ask to have this clarified?
http://www.baltimorespokes.org/article.php?story=20140111153606990


When introducing our new 3' foot safe passing law

The law says the bicyclist has the responsibility to move aside and let you pass.

There is no such law for cyclists, motor vehicles capable of doing the speed limit yes but not cyclists. But even so there has to be space to move aside.
http://www.baltimorespokes.org/article.php?story=20101012170700484


And MDOT still insists this is 100% correct and is a good paraphrase of a cyclist failing to ride lawfully (not in compliance with § 21-1205).

A 3 foot passing distance is required unless... the bicyclist fails to ride to the right,

http://www.baltimorespokes.org/article.php?story=20101005122814769


Am I the only one who is detecting a theme here? While MDOT has been good at correcting stuff online they are horrible at correcting "little" meda slip ups. My impression of the first two slip ups are the result of trying to get some vehicle code that does does not apply to cyclist to apply to cyclists. It would have been nice if they corrected the misunderstanding in the Capital Gazette (first quote) by simply clarifying that even slow cyclists can legally use the full lane when the lane is narrow. But it seems they have dug in their heels and will only go as far as replacing "as far right as possible" with "as far right as practicable and safe" for slow cyclists. Well I have news for you MDOT the latter phrase is from the bicycle code and NOT the slow moving vehicle code, that should be a hint that the slow moving vehicle law does not apply.

Art. 6. That all persons invested with the Legislative or Executive powers of Government are the Trustees of the Public, and, as such, accountable for their conduct: Wherefore, whenever the ends of Government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered... - Maryland Declaration of Rights

Are not our personal liberties endangered if MDOT puts out contradictory messages? Is not failing to correct an error in the original source of publication failing the public trust? I have gone to too much work just to get MDOT to clarify that even slow cyclist can use the full lane if it is too narrow. I am now trying to investigate other options if anyone knows a good lawyer that could handle this let me know.
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CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: The Orphaned Right: The Right to Travel by Automobile, 1890-1950

Bike LawsBy : Roger I. Roots, J.D., Ph.D.

"The right to make use of an automobile as a vehicle of travel," wrote Justice Ladd, "is no longer an open question." n39 "The owners thereof have the same rights in the roads and streets as the drivers of horses or those riding a bicycle or traveling by some other vehicle."

The Kansas Supreme Court struck down the Topeka ordinance and reversed Swift's conviction, declaring that [each] citizen has the absolute right to choose for himself the mode of conveyance he desires, whether it be by wagon or carriage, by horse, motor or electric car, or by bicycle, or astride of a horse, subject to the sole condition that he will observe all those requirements that are known as the "law of the road."

The right to travel by the vehicle of one's choice was thought to be as important as any personal freedom recognized under the Constitution.

The ninety and nine of every hundred people of this and other countries will not abandon the public thoroughfares to a single class comprising less than 1 per cent of all the population. If a selfish, reckless, and indulgent class must run faster than the majority of mankind, let them build their speedways and kill each other if they will, but they must not be permitted to continue to terrorize and kill the people whose toil and tax maintain the public thoroughfares.

Representative Cousins stated that fines and arrests did little to deter speeders, who simply paid the fines and continued speeding. n98 "Horrible and gruesome incidents are of almost daily occurrence," and the recklessness of automobilists "has bespattered boulevards with blood." n99 Representative Cousins went on to state, it should be said in justice to many automobilists, that after running over people they have stopped and rendered quick assistance and have furnished flowers for the funerals of their victims, although in a great many instances it appears that the greatest utility which high-speed gearing accomplishes is getting away from the corpse before the machine numbers can be detected.



http://www.constitution.org/lrev/roots/orphaned_right.pdf
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VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER – COMPARISON OF “GROSS NEGLIGENCE” WITH “CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE”

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: If I am reading this right "the community’s general sense of right and wrong" is that it is perfectly fine to pass a cyclist via the oncoming lane with limited visibility (motorist can't see past the crest of a hill.). I think we need to get on MVA's case to provide better instruction if that is indeed the case.]
VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER – COMPARISON OF “GROSS NEGLIGENCE” THAT IS AN ELEMENT OF VIOLATION OF OFFENSE DEFINED IN CRIMINAL LAW ARTICLE §2-209 WITH “CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE”

December 21, 2011
The Honorable Joseph I. Cassilly
State’s Attorney for Harford County


...
The New York court also differentiated between “negligence,” as used in civil cases, and “criminal negligence”:

Criminal liability cannot be predicated on every act of carelessness resulting in death ..... The carelessness required for criminal negligence is appreciably more serious than that for ordinary civil negligence[;]the carelessness “must be such that its seriousness would be apparent to anyone who share[s] the community’s general sense of right and wrong”.... Criminal negligence thus requires “some serious blameworthiness in the conduct that caused [the death]”... or some culpable “risk creation” ....



http://www.oag.state.md.us/Opinions/2011/96oag128.pdf
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Support the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act!

Bike LawsBy the league of American Bicyclists

The United States should have a national goal to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed on our roadways. 

Please ask your Senators and Representative to co-sponsor HR 3494/S 1708 to institute a nonmotorized safety performance measure.

It seems like a common sense request, but US DOT and the Federal Highway Administration has refused to set a performance measure to reduce bicycle and pedestrian deaths. We are now asking Congress to require such a measure.

Here's why:

  •  MAP-21, the new federal transportation law, requires USDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to establish safety performance measures for states to meet - but, no performance measure related to the safety of people who bike and walk is currently being considered by FHWA.
  • The number of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities has risen for the past two years (2010 and 2011) while overall traffic deaths have gone down quite dramatically — that means the percentage of fatalities that are bike/ped has risen from 12% to nearly 16%.
  •  MAP-21 almost doubled the amount of funding available for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), a program run by state Departments of Transportation. Unfortunately, that program has woefully small investments in bike/ped safety projects: Only seven states have spent any of these funds on bike/ped projects, and combined they've spent less than 0.5% of the funds annually.


​Without a specific performance measure to focus on nonmotorized safety, bicyclists and pedestrians will remain firmly in the blindspot of traffic safety.

Please ask Congress to co-sponsor HR 3494/S 1708 to set a national goal to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians injured and killed on our roads.

To take action http://cqrcengage.com/lab/app/write-a-letter
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