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Thursday, October 30 2014 @ 10:51 PM UTC
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Staff editorial: Peddling a silly proposal

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: I found the following comments rather interesting. On one hand, yes, College Park is ahead of a lot of campuses in Maryland and it has the Bronze level award from LAB for their The Bicycle Friendly University program ( ) But the real question is what about the other college campuses in the state? To quote (from memory) what one official from a different university said when discussing bicycle access to the university "Not unnecessary because no one bikes here." :/ - That needs to change. ]
By Diamondback Editorial Board

In addition to tackling the rising costs of tuition and graduate students’ unionization rights this legislative session, state Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s) introduced a bill last month that will require in-state universities to develop biker- and pedestrian-friendly facility master plans by 2014. At first glance, this editorial board thought the legislation seemed like a good idea — for other universities, at least.

We might harp on a lot of administrative issues, but if this university has done one thing right, it’s prioritizing exactly what Rosapepe’s legislation suggests — making the campus a safe and enjoyable place to ride your bike and walk around. So we were surprised to see that when asked about his thoughts on this campus in particular, Rosapepe responded: “College Park is behind a lot of other campuses around the world in bicycle access. The big picture here is the university ought to be setting goals for the percentage of students, faculty and staff who can commute to campus by bicycle.”

Apparently, Rosapepe hasn’t heard of a $600,000 project called the Facilities Master Plan — a recently Board of Regents-approved 162-page document that outlines the university’s future developments and landscaping. In the plan, the word “bicyclist” appears 17 times. The word “bicycle” shows up 60, and “pedestrian” is written a whopping 105 times.
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Maryland Legislative Roundup

Bike Lawsby Jim Titus, Washcycle

Last year this blog featured about a dozen detailed posts on Maryland House Bill 363, which created a new crime of negligent vehicular homicide.  Cyclists, AAA, victims families, and the elected states attorneys all supported that bill for several years before it became law; and WABA did the leg work to ensure that those living in the district of the key Senate Committee Chairman contacted their legislator.

This year we've had fewer posts about legislation in Maryland, but activists are pushing a number of bills.  Below is a summary of the four most significant initiatives.  I'll warn you at the outset that I have a less favorable view on these bills than most of the activists, not because I disagree with the objectives but because I think several need work to strengthen their positive features and remove their negative features.  Be that as it may, if all of those bills pass, here is the result:

  • There will no longer be a potential jail term for those who unintentionally kill someone due to driving that constitutes a substantial deviation from the duty of care, unless the driver is drunk, speeding by 30 mph, passing a school bus, or crossing the double yellow line.  SB 942 largely repeals HB 363 which we worked hard to enact last year.  I hope to prepare a more detailed post.  The proponents (several states attorneys) actually want stronger legislation, but they think that H.B. 363 was watered down too much last year.  They prefer to start over by repealing the bill enacted last year and then identifying a few crimes that would be negligent homicide.  (Cycling organizations, AAA, and victims families oppose this bill.)
  • Police will be able to ticket people talking on a hand-held cell phone.  HB 104  (SB 217) makes using a hand-held mobile phone a primary offense, which allows police to  stop and cite offenders for that reason alone. This bill repeals provisions of law that require enforcement as a secondary offense of specified violations involving the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle, and also applies whether or not the car is moving.
  • Drivers will be allowed to cross the double yellow line to pass a bicyclist, as long as the passing distance is not greater than 3 feet  (HB. 1397).  I personally do not like this bill.
    • I think that if we are going to legalize something alot of motorists do, we should also legalize something alot of cyclists do (e.g. rolling through a stop sign). 
    • It seems to repeal the cyclist's right to take the lane by riding in the center of the lane, since it lets a driver squeeze alongside the cyclist at a distance of three feet; I'm not sure whether an R4-11 sign would restore that right.  A previous post by WABA had recommended allowing drivers to cross the double yellow lines, if they leave a much larger passing distance (e.g. change lanes to pass).  The differing perspectives by cyclists were not synthesized to create a bill that resolves all the outstanding issues.  
    • The bill also allows drivers preparing to make a left turn to cross the double yellow line and salmon in the oncoming lane for a few hundred feet. 
  • Cyclists will be able to ride on all sidewalks except where the local government has specifically prohibited it.   I think H.B 946 needs to be revised because as written, it will create an unneeded administrative burden on jurisdictions that have decided not to legalize cycling without specifically prohibiting it (since it was already prohibited).  In Prince Georges County, DPW&T has authority and intends to work with cyclists to administratively legalize riding where it is safe.  If “prohibited” was changed to “prohibited or regulated” then that problem would be solved and I would support the bill. 

Advocates are working on two other changes worth noting, but I think that they may be too late to get a bill introduced this year. 

  • John Wetmore, who produces “Perils for Pedestrians” is working with Senator Frosh (D-Bethesda) on making utility easements more available for trails.  Maryland already has a statute that relieves some owners of trails from liability, and that law could certainly be extended to utilities.  But I doubt that would be sufficient to make Pepco or BG&E enthusiastic about trails.  I personally think that to be effective, the law would have to give the utilities substantial financial incentives such as, for example,  reducing the assessment of utility real estate by an amount equal to what such an easement would otherwise cost to buy.  I think it would also be possible to require public access on all new utility easements that are acquired without running afoul of the takings clause.  But for existing utility easements, compensation would be required.
  • The key advocates for MoBike are looking for a sponsor of a bill to require MDTA to allow bikes to ride on the shoulders of the Intercounty Connector.

 (Jim Titus is on WABA's Board of Directors and represents Prince Georges County of the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (MBPAC).  He tends to wait 4-8 hours after a post is uploaded before replying to comments.   The opinions expressed here are Jim's alone and do not represent the views of either WABA or MBPAC.)

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Alert: Bad Senate Bill 942

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: The purpose is to make driving 54 mph in a school zone a minor offense for killing minors.]
FOR the purpose of repealing the application to motor vehicles of a certain provision of law relating to criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle...
establishing that it is not an offense under this Act for a person to cause the death of another as a result of the person’s driving, operating, or controlling a motor vehicle in a negligent manner...

[So doing 54 in a residential neighborhood or school zone is NOT negligent driving.]
[Remember, caps-bold are the additions and stuff between brackets [] are deletions.]

Hearing 3/20 at 1:00 p.m. (Judicial Proceedings)

Sponsored By: Senator Stone (Baltimore County District 6) Contact info:

Committee members to contact if they are your rep:
Brian E. Frosh
Lisa A. Gladden
James Brochin
Jennie M. Forehand
Joseph M. Getty
Nancy Jacobs
Victor R. Ramirez
Jamin B. (Jamie) Raskin
Christopher B. Shank
Norman R. Stone, Jr.
Robert A. Zirkin
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Tips On Working With Elected Leaders

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: I thought there might be some interest in this with our Bicycle Symposium coming up and in general we need to connect on the local level with city and county governments.]
Snips from Bicycle Transportation

Build Relationships
In order to be effective with legislators it is important to get to know them and their districts....

Bring Good Information
To build support for our issues, we need to provide both facts and personal stories that bolster our case. ...

Follow Up
In order to be successful we must follow through on our commitments with legislators and be persistent in our approach. ...
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Punitive Damages for Drunk Drivers in Maryland

Bike Lawsfrom Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog

There is a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would authorize punitive damages against drunk drivers who caused "injury or wrongful death while operating a motor vehicle." Punitive damages would be available against drunk drivers: (1) With a blood alcohol concentration of over .15; or (2) With a blood alcohol concentration of over .08, and was driving on a suspended or revoked license or had entered a plea of nolo contendere or received probation before judgment within the last 5 years.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce opposes this bill. Why? [No real reason given in the article] ...
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Krasnopoler family pushes for competency tests for Maryland drivers

Bike LawsBy Fern Shen, Baltimore Brew

Krasnopoler is much more comfortable when he’s talking about the tougher driving skills requirements his family is backing in the Maryland General Assembly this session – changes he thinks could prevent tragedies like the Feb. 26, 2011 crash that claimed the life of his son, Nathan Krasnopoler.
“The state is already offering these [functional capacity] tests but they are done by medical referral or voluntarily,” he said. “It would be easy to make them a requirement.”
The family is suggesting the tougher license requirement be added to an MVA-sponsored bill (SB 111) that proposes to increase the amount of time between license renewals from five years to eight years. Not surprisingly, the Krasnopolers oppose that change.

“I can’t think of any reason they would propose this other than to save money,” he says witheringly.

Other Issues

There are two other legislative priorities on the family’s agenda this session, Krasnopoler said yesterday.

One is to increase the consequences of failing to remain on the scene of an accident that results in injuries or death.
Doing so is currently a misdemeanor offense that is rarely enforced because the offender gets no points on their license, he said. (Witnesses said the driver whose car struck Nathan Krasnopoler got out of the car and left it running while the injured cyclist was still pinned underneath it.)

“We want it to be an 8-point infraction so people take it seriously,” Krasnopoler said.

Another change the family seeks is a clarification in the Maryland health surrogacy law that would allow family members to make decisions regarding organ donation even if their incapacitated family member is not on a ventilator.
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The “Ignorance is Bliss” Defense

Bike LawsBy Bob Mionske,

“I didn’t see the cyclist.”

It’s the most common explanation motorists offer after hitting a rider.

Even though the cyclist was wearing high-visibility clothing.

Or was well-lit.

Or was riding in broad daylight.

It’s the “ignorance is bliss” defense: “I didn’t see the cyclist, and I didn’t intend to hit anybody. It was just an accident. It’s nobody’s fault.”

Well, yes, it is somebody’s fault. It’s your fault, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t “intend” to hit somebody. You did hit somebody, and if you didn’t see the cyclist because you weren’t paying attention, it’s your fault.

Let’s be clear about this point, because it’s the other Get Out of Jail Free card that negligent drivers always seem to reach for. Intent is not relevant in determining whether a driver was at fault in an accident. In fact, that’s why we call unintentional collisions “accidents.” If the driver intended to hit somebody, that’s assault. If the driver didn’t intend to hit somebody, that’s an “accident.” But just because the collision was unintentional doesn’t mean that nobody was to blame. Almost all collisions are preventable. If the collision occurred because a motorist didn’t see a cyclist who was plainly visible, guess what? It’s the motorist’s fault.

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Gross Negligence Bar Is High Hurdle

Bike Lawsfrom Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog

Judge Williams said that even if true, these facts fall short of gross negligence, citing Boyer v. State for proposition that gross negligence is inflicting injury with such indifference to "to the rights of others to the extent of acting like the victim had no rights at all." I'm paraphrasing and I still don't know what that means.
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Collateral source rule in Maryland

Bike LawsFYI if you happen to miss work due to a crash with an automobile:

"Maryland has had for - count them - 112 years, that the claimant is paid for time missed from work regardless of whether they used vacation time or their employer paid them out of the goodness of their heart"

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Legalize Changing Lanes to Pass a Bike in No Passing Zones

Bike LawsBy jtitus - WABA

An Opportunity to Help Motorists and Cyclists: A “Change-Lanes-and-Pass” Rule

My neighborhood has many polite drivers who wait behind me as I ride on two-lane MD-953, which has double yellow (no passing) lines the whole way. I am usually in the center of the 10-ft lane, pulling a trailer with my daughter.  Even when I don’t have the trailer, 95% of the drivers wait until the oncoming lane is clear, change lanes, and pass.  And when I am riding toward the right side of the lane for some reason, the vast majority still change lanes to pass.

Countless drivers have probably done you the same favor on another road. But they are technically breaking the law.

We think Maryland should legalize changing lanes to pass a bike riding in a no-passing zone. Not only are these drivers being safe, they actually enhance safety.

Why would cycling organizations initiate a reform that increases motorists’ rights? Aside from the fact that it probably will make us safer, cyclists probably understand this issue better than motorists. Cyclists have discussed many “rules of the road” that make sense for motor vehicles, but do not enhance safety when applied to bicycles. We would love to see those laws reformed. In some cases we may lack the political power to compel the changes we hope to see. But we probably do have the power to secure the right to change lanes and pass a bike when there is a double yellow line. So I think we should.

But Let’s Not Go Too Far: The “Partly-Cross-the-Line and Pass” Rule

By coincidence, some other Maryland advocates are considering a similar reform, but they would go even farther. Their idea is to allow drivers to cross the double yellow line to pass bikes, without the requirement to fully change lanes. This “partly-cross-the-line and pass” rule seems to be motivated by the observation that some cyclists ride far enough to the right so that a car barely has enough room to squeeze between the bike and the yellow line, and some drivers do. This rule would allow motorists to move only partly into the adjacent lane to pass the cyclist by the required three feet.

We prefer the requirement that the motorist fully change lanes. Motorists frequently report difficulty in gauging the three feet of space they are required to leave when passing, so why not apply the normal requirement that motorists change lanes? It is an existing behavior with clear rules and expectations. There is no need to encourage drivers to pass while occupying parts of two lanes.

Additionally, the requirement to change lanes before passing would discourage the idea of “squeezing” around others—whether the cyclist or a potential oncoming motorist. Finally, the State of Maryland will soon start erecting signs that say “Bicycles May Use Full Lane”. We think that “change lanes and pass” better reinforces the message of those signs, than partly crossing the line and sharing the lane.

Over the next few weeks, advocates in Maryland will be deciding which approach to take. While WABA took a major role last year in the promotion and passage of the Maryland vehicular homicide law, this year WABA intends to play a supporting role to Bike Maryland, which frequently leads statewide efforts to enhance cyclists’ rights through state legislation.

(Jim Titus is a member of WABA’s Board of Directors from Prince George’s County)

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