New bicycle buffer law to take effect

Green Party candidate's death underscores county's high pedestrian fatality rate
by Liz Skalski | Staff Writer | Gazette

A new state bicycle safety law is poised to take effect less than two weeks after a recent deadly crash in the county involving a bicyclist and a sport utility vehicle.

The new law, which goes into effect Friday, requires at least a 3-foot buffer between vehicles and bicycles and that motorists yield right-of-way to bicyclists.

Prince George's County — with its high population, dense living spaces and few sidewalks along major roads — tops the state in pedestrian deaths and fatal motor vehicle crashes, according to the State Highway Administration. More than 100 pedestrians and drivers have died each year since 2002.

"The new law is very specific and does give a specific buffer so the motorist and the rider can share the road safely," said Peter Moe, bicycle safety coordinator for the Maryland Highway Safety Office at the State Highway Administration.

Moe said bicycle safety "is a two-way street."

"When bicycles act like and are treated like vehicles, they do OK," Moe said. "It comes down to the mutual responsibility — mutual respect goes a long way."

The penalty for motorists who cause a crash that involves a bicycle, pedestrian or motorcycle face up to a $1,000 fine, the suspension of their driver's license and three points on their driver's license if there's a crash where there's a violation of right of way and serious injury, Moe said.
Jim Titus, 55, of Glenn Dale, a board member for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the Prince George's County representative for the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said while Pettigrew's crash may be a wakeup call for bicycle and pedestrian safety in the county, it isn't necessary "the perfect example of what is wrong."

"What this is symptomatic of is drivers, particularly in larger vehicles, not looking very closely for smaller things — bicyclists, pedestrians, turtles, dogs. Drivers need to look for small things," Titus said. "It really should be a wakeup call, but the reason isn't the precise — you don't draw too tight of a nexus until we understand why it happened."

Titus said there is a "mutual misunderstanding" and "a lack of education of safety procedures" between motorists and bicyclists.

"The normal person needs to know what the cyclist is going to do; the cyclist needs to know what the driver is going to do," Titus said. "It behooves cyclists to be very careful, to pay very careful attention to the traffic because the traffic may not be."

Pettigrew's mother, Kenniss Henry of Cheverly, said she has heard that the county has a mixed record when it comes to charging people involved in pedestrian and biking accidents.

&quot;A loss of life is a loss of life,&quot; Henry said. &quot;We seriously need to look at how we balance these scales.&quot; <a href=""></a>;

by B' Spokes

Like most people I live a hectic life and who has the time for much exercise? Thanks to xtracycle now I do. By using my bike for daily activities I can get things done and get an hour plus work out in 15 minutes extra of my time, not a bad deal and beats taking the extra time going to the gym. In case you are still having trouble being motivated; the National Center of Disease Control says that inactivity is the #2 killer in the United States just behind smoking. ( ) Get out there and start living life! I can carry home a full shopping cart of groceries, car pool two kids or just get lost in the great outdoors camping for a week. Well I got go, another outing this weekend.
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