To: members of the House Motor Vehicles & Transportation Subcommittee (<a href="http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/06hse/html/com/04env.html#mass">http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/06hse/html/com/04env.html#mass</a> )
Subj: HB 445 Overtaking Another Vehicle - Support
MDOT recently released the following "safety" advice through DNR list serve:
The 3-Foot Passing Law – Motorists are now required to give cyclists 3 feet of clearance when passing. The 3-foot law has an exemption for roads that are too narrow to allow 3 feet of clearance safely. In this case, drivers are allowed to pass cyclists with less than 3 feet.
What are they saying, if you can't pass a cyclist safely you can pass unsafely?
The 3 foot passing distance does not negate the safe passing requirement. A simplified formula for safe passing is one foot of passing distance for every ten mph. That's why you can safely park in 7 foot lanes and 12 foot lanes are needed on the freeway. The faster the speed the more separating distance that is needed... that's safety! A point that MDOT has continually missed since 2010.
If a two lane highway has enough width to pass a cyclists with three feet, the narrow highway exception must apply to something much narrower, which leaves a very narrow one lane highway. There is no way to safely pass a lawful riding cyclist on such a road UNLESS the cyclist is being cooperative in allowing the motorist to pass. Even then slow speeds are required by the passing motorist.
If MDOT does not get the narrow highway exception what hope do we have that the general driving public will get MDOT's poorly worded version? And if MDOT's mission is for improved road safety why are they pushing a poorly worded version of the narrow highway exception? How is that going to improve cyclists safety? Is it really going to improve the motorist travel time by MDOT saying when you can't pass a cyclists you can pass a cyclist... whoops a crash. That's going to take more time then waiting behind the cyclist until you can safely pass.
Please, until such time that drivers are being unfairly ticketed on one lane highways for violation of the 3 foot law when passing a cyclist cooperatively (everyone doing the best that they can) let's just drop this exception OK?