While I am heartened by the recent article in the Sun about statements of fault were premature and the investigation is still ongoing. As well as yesterdays meeting with police by the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee, Bike Maryland and Mary Pat Clarke. But still there have been reports from people who have contacted the police and the response was the cyclists was at fault because... well, we'll just call it something outrageous. And this has me concerned, very concerned actually.
I would like to remind you that in "Safe Bicycling in Maryland" published by MDOT there is a little section on "What to do when the police get the laws wrong." There is nothing comparable in the Drivers' handbook. This is the heart of the matter, standard procedures do not acknowledge that their might be less then adequate understanding of laws in regards to bicycle and motorist interaction. It is not my intention to insult anyone but just a general statement that our society has made such understanding optional with an implied it's not necessary, after all if a kid can ride a bike how hard could understand bike laws be? Actually when it it comes to traffic violations and understanding "the dance" on how bikes and cars can safely mix it can get rather complex as there are rights and duties on both bicyclists and motorists and it is not as simple as bicyclist must stay out of the way of cars.
While on one hand I am perfectly content to wait till the investigation is complete and see what charges are applied but at that time it then becomes too late to influence the decision made. Do you remember the statement MVA made when discussing our 3' law and how cyclists must move out of the way of cars? This was not made because of any lack of intelligence by MVA personnel, in fact quite the opposite. It was made because the manual used for understanding traffic laws is written primarily for motor vehicles and has a grossly oversimplified § 21-1202. Traffic laws apply to bicycles and motor scooters. (bicyclists have exactly the same rights and duties of motorists, with no mention of the exceptions.) This is the same manual used by police and the DA. Are you getting concerned yet? Good.
So inspired by the story of the dog Bear-Bear that was shot by an off-duty police office in an Anne Arundel County dog park and not charged. But public outcry got that changed. I hope that a promising young man now in a comma because a motorist simply could not be bothered to check to see if she cleared the cyclist or not is at least the same level of a tragedy as losing a dog. Or have we become so unsensitized to tragedies by automobile that this harm to human life is necessary for fast and "efficient" travel... to save two second in getting into a home driveway?
I should note that I do not have enough facts to say what was the cause of the accident or who was at fault (so the above is just my belief in most probable cause) but there is enough to be highly suspicious that the driver was not operating in full accordance of the law AND those laws are not in the manual used by police because they have little impact on motorist on motorist collisions.
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Write Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City <email@example.com>
[Note: feel free to write something different if you are inspired.]
Subj: Proper enforcement of law in Nathan Krasnopoler crash at University near 39th st
[Don't forget to sign your name, address and optional telephone number.]
I am writing because I have several concerns with bicycle crash investigations in Baltimore City.
The first is with the bicycling fatality involving John Yates where the bicyclist was improperly charged with motorcycle violations which are clearly part of the enumerated exceptions for bicyclists - TR § 21-1202. (Traffic laws apply to bicycles and motor scooters) And the turning motor vehicle failed to use turn signals as required by TR § 21-604. (Turning, slowing, and stopping movements; required signals.) and was not cited. Yet some how the police felt that the cyclist needed to be mind reader and was required by law to yield to turning vehicles that don't signal. As a cyclist I am flabbergasted by these facts.
I cannot stress enough the need for motorists to follow the letter of the law to protect more vulnerable road users. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration ranks Maryland's pedestrian fatality rate the 4th highest state in the nation http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/States/StatesPedestrians.aspx And 42.1% of traffic fatalities in Baltimore City are pedestrians. Proper enforcement of the law is paramount to the quality of life in Baltimore and as you can see there is certainly a need to improve traffic safety.
My next area of concern is the police have responded to several cyclists inquires that the cyclists was indeed at fault because of [something outrageous] implying a less then ideal understanding of the law. I am not trying to imply any sort of lack of intelligence but from experience the bicycling community has come to realize the bulk of motor vehicle traffic law training is motor vehicle specific with little to no training on just how the laws for motorists and and the laws for bicyclists are supposed to mesh together. To that end I highly encourage you to consult with Peter Moe of the Maryland Highway Safety Office - (410) 787-4096 firstname.lastname@example.org in this investigation.
As a cyclist that has had numerousness cars turn across my path while I had the right-of-way and barley escaped significant injury, I strongly encourage you to discourage this behavior from motorists and help make Baltimore a truly a cleaner, greener, healthier City.
I also respectfully request that the investigation makes sure that the motorist has complied with the following laws and guidance, as I stated earlier it is imperative that motorist follow the letter of the law for the safety of vulnerable road users.
Motorists passing a cyclist and then turning
• After passing a bicyclist, check over your shoulder to make sure you have allowed enough room before moving over. Experienced bicyclists often ride 20 to 25 mph and may be closer than you think.
• Be Careful in Intersections – Always assume bicyclists are traveling through an intersection unless they signal otherwise, and yield to them as you would to any other vehicle. Do not turn left or right in front of bicyclists unless you can do so safely. You can be fined $1000 and receive 3 points if you injure a bicyclist by violating their right-of-way
Bicycle Safety: It's a two way street. - SHA
(This is from Maryland Highway Safety Office and fully vetted for being in accordance with Maryland law.)>
[Note: The speed of a turning vehicle can be slower then a speed of a cyclist. Since motorists are not aware of this fact they think the speed at which they started the pass will continue through their turn never realizing that they just started using their brakes and are no longer passing the cyclist but have them trapped in their blind spot.]
§ 21-303. General rules governing overtaking and passing vehicles.
(c) Overtaking vehicles going in the same direction.- The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle that is going in the same direction, until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle, may not drive any part of his vehicle directly in front of the overtaken vehicle.
§ 21-1209.(d) Yielding right-of-way.- Unless otherwise specified in this title, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a person who is lawfully riding a bicycle, an EPAMD, or a motor scooter in a designated bike lane or shoulder if the driver of the vehicle is about to enter or cross the designated bike lane or shoulder.
[Yielding while looking but not signaling may be safe. Yielding while signaling but not looking is never safe.]
Motorists making right turns
Use Caution at Intersections, Bridges and Driveways
Never make a right turn from a through lane immediately after passing a bike on a shoulder or bike lane. Doing so is as dangerous as turning right from the left lane after passing a car on your right, so stay behind the bicycle. Try to avoid any chance that a bicycle will be to your right or in your right blind spot when you turn right. Before starting a right turn, move as far to the right as practicable within the bike lane, shoulder, or right turn lane.
Changes to the Drivers' Handbook per Maryland Bicycle Advisory Committee established by State law to provide safety guidance.
[I have to seriously ask how could a cyclists slam into the right side of the vehicle in the right position? (On the cyclists side, this position is NOT a requirement of law, while the motor vehicle's position is.)]
Our laws more closely resembles California laws with some redundancy that requires drivers to at least behave like the requirement in Oregon when a bike lane is present. (Click play in the graphic below.)
Click here if you cannot see the graphic.
Laws not covered already
§ 21-601. Required position and method of turning at intersections or crossovers.
(a) Right turns.- If the driver of a vehicle intends to turn right at any intersection, he shall approach the intersection and make the right turn as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.
§ 11-151. Roadway.
(a) In general.- "Roadway" means that part of a highway that is improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, other than the shoulder.
§ 11-104. Bicycle.
"Bicycle" means a vehicle that:
(1) Is designed to be operated by human power;
(2) Has two or three wheels, of which one is more than 14 inches in diameter; and
(3) Has a drive mechanism other than by pedals directly attached to a drive wheel.
[Note: a bicycle is a vehicle so a bike lane is for vehicular travel. This is the same rule as bus lanes. This method of cars merging with bike traffic to turn right is also recommended by the League of American Bicyclists. (Otherwise what happened in this case is very likely to happen a lot and we don't want that.)]
Point on hitting the side rear of a turning car
If an aggressive driver cuts off a bus in a bus lane is the bus at fault simply because they struck the side rear panel of the improperly turning car? Why was the driver aggressive? Because they wanted to impatiently pass a slower vehicle. How is this different that what cyclists typically experience?
Some police enforcement videos from other states on right hooks:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKmwKP5ZRtQ Starting at: 3:00
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaX2iHgHnhE Starting at: 3:45
Bicycle law that seems to be over looked a lot.
§ 21-1202. Traffic laws apply to bicycles and motor scooters.
Every person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter in a public bicycle area has all the rights granted to and is subject to all the duties required of the driver of a vehicle by this title, including the duties set forth in § 21-504 of this title, except:
(1) As otherwise provided in this subtitle; and
(2) For those provisions of this title that by their very nature cannot apply. [The statute must say bicycle or just "vehicle". Bicycles are not motor vehicles and they are not motorcycles so those statutes do not apply.]
Police have an obligation to educate the public and improve the safety of all individuals. Bikes lanes are new to the City and there has been no public education effort on how motorists are supposed to deal with them. But ignorance of the law is no excuse and it does seem to be the modus operandi in Maryland to educate after the fact (what do you expect with only 20 questions on the drivers test?) I strongly encourage the City and the Police to correct this oversight.
[Note I had to change the text color in my email, I'm not sure what's up with that.]