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Thursday, November 23 2017 @ 11:06 AM UTC

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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