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Monday, March 30 2015 @ 02:14 AM UTC
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Bike Laws

A Close Look at Doug Morgan’s Columbus, Ohio Slam Dunk Victory

By Steven M. Magas, Ohio’s Bike Lawyer[1]

Early in 2010, my friend, and one of the smartest lawyers I know, Doug Morgan, defended a young cyclist in Franklin County Municipal Court.  The cyclist was cited for “taking the lane” on High Street – i.e. riding towards the center of the lane rather than hugging the white line. The officer cited him for a violation of Ohio’s “AFRAP” law, as adopted in the Columbus, Ohio, City Code.  Doug’s trial strategy should serve as a model for lawyers and cyclists alike in these cases.


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Good and bad bills defeated in Maryland Legislature

Bike LawsBy Jim Titus, Washcycle

The 2012 legislative session did not substantially advance the interests of cycling in Maryland. Last year saw the passage of House Bill 363, which created a new crime of vehicular negligent homicide, after years of lobbying by cyclists, AAA, victims families, and the elected states attorneys. And 2010 was a banner year, with both the creation of the 3-foot passing law and repeal of the long-hated mandatory shoulder use rule.

This year, the General Assembly rejected Governor O’Malley’s proposal to end the sales tax exemption for gasoline, which means that many transportation projects are likely to proceed more slowly than planned—including those that help cycling. The Purple Line will be threatened unless the Legislature provides funding next year. The Legislature also declined to give police the power to stop a driver for talking on a cell phone. But the news was not all bad:

  • A Senate bill to repeal the negligent homicide statute was soundly rejected (S.B. 942);
  • The House Environmental Matters Committee gave an unfavorable report to a bill that would have allowed automobiles to cross the double yellow line to pass bikes (H.B. 1397); and
  • The House failed to act on a proposal to legalize cycling on all sidewalks statewide except for those in Gaithersburg and Baltimore (H.B. 946).

While each of these bills were poorly conceived, the sponsors had good intentions and it may be possible to accomplish their objectives without the problems their bills would have caused. Over the next few days, I’ll comment on the fate of those three bills and possible next steps.

(Jim Titus is affiliated with several Maryland cycling groups. The opinions expressed herein are Jim's alone, and do not reflect the views of any organization with which he is affiliated.)
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In Maryland, the 3-foot passing law confuses everybody

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: I will also note my ongoing efforts to correct the State's summaries of this law, some have been successful and some have not, such as this is still a good link:

To highlight bits of Jim's article for emphases:]

By Jim Titus, Washcycle

  • If the highway is too narrow for the driver to legally pass with the required clearance. This probably only applies to narrow highways, such as one-lane bridges and narrow roads where cars must slow and pull partly off the road to pass in opposite directions. But Bike Maryland believes that it also applies to no-passing zones (double yellow lines) on standard 2-lane roadways , because it thinks that the legislature inserted the word “highway” when it meant “lane”.  This assumption prompted Bike Maryland to sponsor HB 1397 which would have allowed cars to cross the double yellow line to pass bikes.  That way, our Baltimore allies reasoned, the exception to the 3-foot rule will no longer apply because it will be legal to pass with the required clearance.  Previous posts on this blog have discussed why many cyclists did not support that bill. MDOT also opposed the bill, albeit for different reasons. After the session, some of the advocates had an email colloquy with MDOT on whether the three-foot bill does or does not apply to the typical 2-lane road.    I asked MDOT for its position on that question, but so far, MDOT has not responded,

These four exceptions have been widely publicized, though few drivers probably undestand what they mean and no one knows what the final one means.


Between the ambiguous exceptions, and the exceptions to(the (bike lane and keep right) exceptions, Maryland has a law that is too confusing to explain to student drivers.  Fortunately, the Motor Vehicle Administration appears to be sticking to the simplest approach:  Drivers should pass cyclists with at least three feet.  This was always MVA's recommended best practice, and the fact that a court can not convict a driver for passing with less clearance in some situations does not change the clearance with which a reasonable driver will pass.

(Jim Titus is on the board of directors of WABA from Prince Georges County, The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of WABA.)

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Summary of legislative actions

Bike LawsHOUSE BILL 1278
Requiring each public institution of higher education, when it revises its facility master plan, to address bicycle and pedestrian circulation on and around the institution's campus; and requiring the institution to include in the facility master plan measures to incorporate bikeways and pedestrian facilities and to promote biking and walking on the campus.

House Action Returned Passed (95-28)
Senate Action Passed (47-0)
Establishing the Baltimore City Community Enhancement Transit-Oriented Development Fund as a special, nonlapsing fund for specified purposes; providing for the contents and uses of the fund; providing that a portion of revenues from projects and other money shall be paid into the Fund under specified circumstances; requiring the Comptroller to pay specified money from the Fund to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City in a specified manner; adding the Fund to a specified list of exceptions; etc.

House Action Passed (83-34)
Senate Action Passed with Amendments (40-6)
Altering a provision of law requiring vehicular traffic to stop and take specified actions when approaching a nonfunctioning traffic control signal at specified intersections to apply the requirement to all intersections; and requiring vehicular traffic approaching a nonfunctioning traffic control signal at an intersection to stop in a specified manner, yield to other vehicles or pedestrians in the intersection, and remain stopped until it is safe to enter and continue through the intersection.

House Action Passed (133-0)
Senate Action Passed Passed (44-2)
4/10 Approved by the Governor
Requiring the Maryland Department of Transportation to use the maximum amount of specified federal funds available for highway or capital transit construction training program and supportive services, including skill improvement programs; requiring the Department to administer specified highway construction and supportive services programs in collaboration with the Governor's Workforce Investment Board for a specified purpose; etc.
* [B' Spokes: To bad we can't get something like this for bikeway funding (ya we still have a lot sitting there unused.) ]

House Action Passed (125-10)
Senate Action Passed Passed (46-0)
Authorizing an insurer to exclude a moped and motor scooter from insurance benefits; requiring a moped or motor scooter in the State to be titled by the Motor Vehicle Administration; requiring an owner or prospective owner of a moped or motor scooter to obtain or maintain security; requiring an excise tax for a certificate of title for a specified moped or motor scooter; prohibiting an individual from operating or riding on a moped or motor scooter unless the individual is wearing specified headgear and eye protection; etc.

House Action Passed (97-33)
Senate Action Passed Passed (33-13)
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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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