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Sunday, May 28 2017 @ 12:21 PM UTC
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Why Isn’t It a Crime To Kill a Cyclist with a Car?

Biking ElsewhereBY Andrew Zaleski, Next City

His fear would soon turn to anger when he realized that local police had no interest in pursuing charges against the woman who nearly killed his wife. After the State Highway Patrol’s investigation concluded that there were no grounds for felony charges, the district attorney also demurred from pressing charges.

“As far as the state of Mississippi goes, you could be an armadillo hit on the road, and the state treats you just the same as a… cyclist,” Morgan says.

“When we turned around. Her boyfriend was screaming, ‘Oh my God, she’s run over her!’”

“She should not have been found guilty of a crime because she did not commit a crime,” said Norton’s attorney, C. Marty Haug. “Criminal law punishes bad intentions and bad acts, not traffic accidents.”

In a country where the national highway system was designed for the automobile, it’s unsurprising that the legal system also prioritizes the car. Still, the number of Americans who commute by bicycle jumped by 64 percent — to 765,703 — between 1990 and 2009, and in many parts of the country cyclists ride on dedicated bike lanes and lock up on publicly subsidized bike racks. But the laws protecting them lag behind. In most states, for instance, the only law explicitly addressing bike safety is a safe passing law requiring drivers to give cyclists a cushion of anywhere from two to four feet. In only three states is it a felony offense to maim or fatally injure a biker or pedestrian if you are behind the wheel of a car. And in nearly every state, getting police or the courts to prosecute a negligent driver for harming a cyclist is a serious challenge, attorneys and cycling advocates say.

By all indicators, New York’s low prosecution rate is not an anomaly, but rather a reflection of national patterns. Yet there is no sure way to know. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keeps track of cyclists killed by motorists — 726 in 2012 — there’s no corollary database of how motorists were charged, if at all. For state governments, there are no guarantees that transportation officials are in touch with law enforcement officials who track court cases.

“Many states do not aggregate citation statistics in a manner that makes it easy to understand how laws protecting cyclists, such as three-foot laws, are being enforced,” says Ken McLeod, a legal specialist with the League of American Bicyclists.

The absence of data, compounded with the patchwork of local laws and varying understandings of cyclist rights across the country, means few solid protections for the Jan Morgans of the world. A fine of $100 is the penalty for a first-time offense of the three-foot rule in Mississippi, even if the offense endangered a life. For a third offense, a $2,500 charge is levied along with seven days in the county lockup if, that is, the police and courts decide the charge is worth the time. Even with the law, however, there is no state database keeping track of three-foot violations and subsequent enforcement.

“What happened to Jan is not an accident,” says Peter Wilborn, a trial lawyer and founder of Bike Law, a South Carolina-based firm that represents cyclists in court. “This is what happens when drivers are lawless.”

“Generally, our lawmakers, our judges, our officers tend to just think that car accidents happen — they’re the inevitable product of living in a modern society with cars and trucks,” says Juan Martinez, general counsel at Transportation Alternatives, a New York-based non-profit that advocates for better road safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

Martinez argues that traffic accidents are entirely preventable, if only the causes of them were actively enforced. The New York City Police Department, for example, issued more than 96,000 citations to drivers in 2012 for excessive window tinting, which wasn’t an influence in any fatal or injurious crashes. By comparison, according to a October 2013 Transportation Alternatives report, the NYPD issued fewer than 12 summonses a month in 2012 to drivers who failed to yield, one of the leading causes of injurious crashes in New York.

“I can’t walk into a courtroom and expect twelve jurors to be sympathetic to a cyclist. The first thing that goes through their mind is: What did the cyclist do wrong?”
[B' Spokes: Combonded with some think (not artticulated) the law is, where ever a cyclists was if they could have been somewhere else out of the way then the cyclists is at fault.]
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Traffic deaths in Maryland up 17.3 percent in 2015.

Biking in MarylandBy Ben Weathers, Capital Gazette

Some 520 people died on Maryland roadways last year – an increase of 17.3 percent from the previous year, state transportation officials said Tuesday.

"There's no sugar coating this news and quite frankly these numbers are unacceptable," Ports said.

The state saw a 35 percent increase in traffic fatalities involving commercial vehicles and a 26 percent increase in fatalities involving young drivers, officials said.

In addition, the bicycle fatalities doubled — from five in 2014 to 10 last year, officials said.
[B' Spokes: IMHO as long as we stay below 12 cycling deaths a year, we are good. Stating this as a doubling does not do our small numbers of deaths justice.]

Anne Arundel, however, saw a slight decrease from 35 traffic deaths in 2014 to 33 last year, officials said.


Jurisdictions that saw increases in 2015:

•Baltimore City saw 39 traffic deaths, up 10.

•Baltimore County saw 65 traffic deaths, an increase of six.

•Harford County saw 22 traffic deaths, an increase of five.

•Carroll County saw 16 traffic deaths, an increase of five.

•Queen Anne's County saw six traffic deaths, an increase of three.

•Howard County saw 18 traffic deaths, an increase of two.

The increase comes even though Maryland State Police troopers conducted some 564,000 traffic stops in 2015, said Col. William Pallozzi, police superintendent.

Police continue to aggressively enforce traffic laws and seek out impaired drivers. Troopers have conducted 30,000 traffic stops in April alone, Pallozzi said.

[B' Spokes: Thank you legislature for raising the speed limit and nixing our bike safety bills! I'm sure that helped a lot. [/sarcasium] The big question is what have the county police been doing and more to the point does Baltimore even try to do traffic enforcement? And of course the Highway Safety Office and it's victim blaming safety messages has helped. [/even more sarcasium] It's going to get worce till reducing traffic deaths becomes a top priority for the police and MDOT.]
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“Shared Responsibility” messaging ignores our Basic Human Responsibilites – to look out for the more vulnerable among us.

Biking ElsewhereBy MRBIKESABUNCH

Lately, there’s been a barrage of messaging from various agencies, whether they be in Ontario or beyond, taking aim at the behaviours of people walking and cycling. From messages about wearing bright, reflective clothing to talking about the (invented) scourge of distracted walking to asking pedestrians to remove their earbuds while walking, much of the focus of these messages are on the behaviours of people walking.

Now let’s be clear – people do have a responsibility to look out for their own safety. I don’t advocate wearing headphones, blaring loud music while playing Candy Crush on your phone and walking out into free-flowing traffic. But to continuously shift the onus onto people walking by demonizing the very things that make walking so enjoyable – listening to music, staring up at the buildings, enjoying conversations and the sights and sounds of your environment, the ability to simply get up and go without needing to strap on lights, reflective safety vests and protective helmets, belies the fact that the vast majority of injuries to people walking occur because the person driving didn’t obey the law. They most often failed to yield the right of way at an intersection, although there are lots of other causes as well.

One of the worst examples of this culture of victim-blaming I’ve seen to date came, unfortunately, from Peel Regional Police. During their “Pedestrian Safety Week“, Peel Police offer such gems of advice like “Don’t rely solely on traffic signals or stop signs. Ensure that it is safe to cross the road before crossing”. At the end of their list of advice, which includes the usual “wear reflective clothing”, “cross at crosswalks” and other helpful tips, they offer one last piece of counsel, just in case there was any remaining doubt that their campaign has little interest in tackling the root cause of injuries to people walking – dangerous behaviours by people driving.

Let that sink in for a second. Rather than running a campaign to encourage people driving to drive more attentively, to be extra careful of people walking and to always, as a default, yield the right of way to a more vulnerable road user, the police emphasize that, as someone who is not encased in a metal box, you need to be extra vigilant to protect yourself against those who would break the law and fail to yield the right of way, potentially endangering your life.

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Being Too Cautious While Biking On the Road Can Actually Be Dangerous

Biking ElsewhereBy Patrick Allan, Life Hacker

Nervous cyclists who stay closer to the side of the road in hopes they won’t get hit might actually be making their bike commute more unsafe. You’re better off being loud and in the way—even if it might seem a little annoying.

[B' Spokes: Being assertive is the only way to be around aggressive drivers.]
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News you will not see in Maryland-> Drivers who strike pedestrians and bicyclists in crosswalks would be assessed $500 fines in addition to criminal charges, under a bill that won final, unanimous approval in the Connecticut Senate. The bill, which Stamford lawmakers sought this year after recent fatalities in that city, goes to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for final review. The new law would raise the current $181 fine to $500. (sHB 5403: An Act Increasing Penalties for Failure to Yield to Pedestrians in Crosswalks and Failure to Exercise Due Care to Avoid Hitting a Pedestrian or Cyclist:

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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Careful jaywalking saves lives

Biking Elsewhereby Ben Ross, Greater Greater Washington

To make streets walkable, we need to re-think the basic principles of how people on foot and people in cars share the roadway. This is the first of a multi-part opinion series.
Pedestrians put themselves in danger if they wait for a walk signal instead of crossing the street whenever and wherever it looks safest. There are no definitive studies, but that is what available evidence strongly suggests.
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Traffic Engineers Still Rely on a Flawed 1970s Study to Reject Crosswalks

Biking Elsewhereby Angie Schmitt, Streets Blog

"When St. Louis decided not to maintain colorful new crosswalks that residents had painted, the city’s pedestrian coordinator cited federal guidance. A 2011 FHWA memo warns that colorful designs could “create a false sense of security” for pedestrians and motorists."

"That may sound like unremarkable bureaucrat-speak, but the phrase “false sense of security” is actually a cornerstone of American engineering guidance on pedestrian safety."


"In 1972, a researcher named Bruce Herms conducted a study of crosswalk safety in San Diego. He found that intersections with marked crosswalks had higher injury rates than ones with unmarked crosswalks. He concluded that marked crosswalks should only be installed where they are “warranted” because they can give pedestrians a “false sense of security,” encouraging risky behavior."
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Biking Elsewhere-> The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates a 10% increase in the number of persons on foot killed in traffic crashes in 2015, compared with the prior year. This annual "GHSA Spotlight on Highway Safety Report, Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2015 Preliminary Data" ( provides the first look at 2015 pedestrian fatality trends, based on preliminary data reported by all 50 state highway safety agencies and the District of Columbia. This report also analyzes recent trends in pedestrian fatality data and discusses state and federal efforts to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Along with the increase in pedestrian fatalities, pedestrians now account for a larger share ? about 15% of all motor vehicle crash-related deaths ? compared with 11% a decade ago.

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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An angry driver...

Biking ElsewhereVia The Invisible Visible Man Blog

"The designs betray a profound confusion in public policy. There’s a vague instinct that cyclists can’t be entirely denied better facilities. But that goes hand in hand with cowardice about the idea that promoting cycling is a public good. There’s no sense that sacrifices to encourage cycling might be worth everybody’s while. The unspoken sense is that cyclists should take up no space, have no momentum and cause no-one else to modify any part of their behaviour."

"My sense is that the incident might partly reflect police officers’ genuine conviction that it’s a cyclist’s job to avoid traffic turning across his or her path, not a driver’s job to yield."
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"Everyone Plays a Part in Chainsaw Safety"

Biking Elsewhereby Bob Gunderson, Dearest District 5 Blog

"Everyone plays a part in chainsaw safety, from the people wielding chainsaws, to the people scurrying in fear around chainsaws."

Chainsaw merchants say it's only coincidence that people running through the city with chainsaws contributed to the uptick in chainsaw injuries & deaths.

Randy has been wielding a chainsaw on Market Street ever since he can remember, and he's not about to stop "just because some idiot hurts themself on my chainsaw."

Randy Smith, head of the "San Francisco City Chainsaw League" said,"It's my God given right to juggle chainsaws while running through downtown. It's my preferred method of travel. People just need to make sure to educate themselves and their children to watch for people with chainsaws. It's about mutual respect. Besides, if you don't want someone coming at you with a chainsaw, travel around with a chainsaw, for safety."

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