- every cyclist needs bicycle law

[B' Spokes: I have conversations with Bob Mionske’s assistant Rick and I can't express how impressed I am with these guys. So a snippet from their main page:]
Welcome to cycling attorney Bob Mionske’s website, Bob is a former Olympic and professional cyclist, with a law practice that is exclusively focused on representing cyclists who have been injured by motorists, unsafe road conditions, or defective cycling products. Bob is licensed in multiple jurisdictions, and with the assistance of experienced associated local counsel, Bob handles bicycle accident cases in every state. If you have been injured in a bike accident, or by defective bicycle products, and would like to discuss your case with an experienced bicycle accident attorney who “gets” cycling, Bob welcomes your call for a free consultation.

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Maryland legal code gets user-friendly online makeover

Found via: <a href=""></a>;

I've noticed from time to time I could not access Lexis Nexis (<a href=""></a>; )

So now we have <a href=""></a>; with the advatage that it's pages are searchable through typical search engins on the internet.
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Proposed Changes to UVC Chapters 1 and 11

If you would like to make comments to the proposed changes to the Bicycle Technical Committee see the main page.

To highlight a few of proposed changes (my best attempt at preserving formatting):


§ 11-301 Drive on right side of roadway—exceptions

(a)         Upon all roadways of sufficient width a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway, except as follows:

1.  When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement;

2.  When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway; provided any person driving to the left of the center of the highway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway within such distance as to constitute an immediate hazard;

3.  Upon a roadway divided into three marked lanes for traffic under the rules applicable thereon; or

4.  Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic.

(b)         Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal and lawful speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right—hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road, alley, or driveway. or far enough to the right to allow overtaking and passing by faster vehicles if such passing is safe and reasonable, except under any of the situations listed below.

1.  When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

2.  When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

3.  When the operator must necessarily drive in a lane other than the right-hand lane to continue on such operator’s intended route.

(c)  The intent of this subsection is to facilitate the overtaking of slowly moving vehicles by faster vehicles, and shall not require the drivers of such slowly moving vehicles to risk their own safety in order to facilitate overtaking. If there is a marked bicycle lane at the right side of the road, operators of bicycles shall not be required to use such lane.

(d)  Upon any roadway having four or more lanes for moving traffic and providing for two-way movement of traffic, no vehicle shall be driven to the left of the center line of the roadway, except when authorized by official traffic-control devices designating certain lanes to the left side of the center of the roadway for use by traffic not otherwise permitted to use such lanes, or except as permitted under subsection (a) 2. This subsection shall not be construed as prohibiting the crossing of the center line in making a left turn into or from an alley, private road or driveway.

Specific justifications for § 11-301 changes:

This section is being expanded to include all slow-moving vehicles. The changes enhance safety and clarity. An operator of a bicycle, moped or motorcycle can facilitate overtaking in a wide lane while still maintaining a position in the lane which maintains visibility and avoids potential hazards. Section (b) 3 applies to situations where the right-hand lane is obstructed or unsafe, or is a right-turn lane, or is to the right of a right-turn lane.

§ 11-303 Overtaking a vehicle on the left

The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions and special rules hereinafter stated:

(a)  The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance to the left of the vehicle being overtaken and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

(b)  Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and not increase the speed of the vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle. If the roadway is of sufficient width to permit safe passing, the overtaken driver shall not unnecessarily obstruct the overtaking vehicle.

Specific justifications for § 11-303 changes:

The current language in part (b) requiring an audible signal is an antiquated leftover from the days of Model T Fords and dirt roads. Then, people drove towards the center of such roads to avoid ruts at the edge. A faster driver would signal with the horn to alert the leading driver to move over. On modern roads, people normally drive near the right; therefore this instruction has little meaning. Occupying a lane is not unnecessarily obstructive if another lane is available for travel. Use of horns must be reserved for emergency situations, not to intimidate or startle slower drivers, and avoiding noise pollution.

§ 11-307-No-passing zones

(a)         The (State highway commission) and local authorities are authorized to determine those portions of any highway under their respective jurisdictions where overtaking and passing or driving on the left side of the roadway would be especially hazardous and may by appropriate signs or markings on the roadway indicate the beginning and end of such zones.

(b)         When such signs or markings are in place and clearly visible to an ordinarily observant person every driver of a vehicle shall obey the directions thereof.

(c)         Where signs or markings are in place to define a no-passing zone as set forth in paragraph (a) no driver shall at any time drive on the left side of the roadway within such no-passing zone or on the left side of any pavement striping designed to mark such no-passing zone.

(d)         This section does not apply under the conditions described in 11-301(a)2, nor to the driver of a vehicle turning left into or from an alley, private road or driveway.

(e)         Division (c) of this section does not apply when all of the following apply:

1.  The slower vehicle is proceeding at less than half the speed of the speed limit applicable to that location.

2.  The faster vehicle is capable of overtaking and passing the slower vehicle without exceeding the speed limit.

3.  There is sufficient clear sight distance to the left of the center or center line of the roadway to meet the overtaking and passing provisions of sections 11-305 and 11-306, considering the speed of the slower vehicle.

Specific justifications for § 11-307 changes:

Overtaking slow vehicles does not require as much distance as overtaking vehicles traveling near the speed limit. In particular, it is often only necessary to merge partway into the oncoming lane to overtake a bicyclist, and so the distance required for overtaking is even shorter then. Such overtaking is common and has not been shown to be a problem. Ohio, Maine and New Jersey have adopted provisions to make this legal. This change is necessary for safe and legal passing distances on many roads. The wording is from Ohio statute, and is also relevant to farm equipment and animal-drawn vehicles. See

§ 11-601 Required position and method of turning

(a)        The driver of a vehicle intending to turn shall do so as follows:

1. Right turns - Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. Where there is a separate lane for bicycles at the right edge of the roadway, a driver making a right turn must merge into this bicycle lane before turning.

2. Left turns - The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle. Whenever practicable, the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection so as to leave the intersection or other location in the extreme left lane lawfully available to traffic.

3.     Two-way left-turn lanes - Where a special lane for making left turns by drivers proceeding in opposite directions has been indicated by official traffic-control devices:

                i. A left turn shall not be made from any other lane.

              ii. A vehicle shall not be driven in the lane except when preparing for or making a left turn from or into the roadway or when preparing for or making a U turn when otherwise permitted by law.

(b)        The state highway commission and local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may cause official traffic-control devices to be placed and thereby require and direct that a different course from that specified in this section be traveled by turning vehicles, and when such devices are so placed no driver shall turn a vehicle other than as directed and required by such devices.

Specific justifications for § 11-601 changes:

The first sentence of §11-601(a) already implicitly requires drivers to merge into a bike lane, parking lane or other special-purpose lane before turning right. Language added to §11-601(a) will help prevent the dangerous error called the “right hook”. This is similar to California CVC § 21717.

Reorganization of the section clarifies that standard rules for left turns, as well as the option to specify special rules, apply to all vehicles. Also see section 11-1208, which describes the two-step left-turn option for bicyclists.

§ 11-505--Pedestrians to use right half of crosswalks and shared-use paths.

Whenever practicable, pedestrians shall move upon the right half of crosswalks and shared-use paths, unless indicated otherwise by traffic-control devices.

Specific justifications for § 11-505 changes:

The narrowness of most shared-use paths, and the slower travel speeds of bicycles compared with those of motor vehicles, make it more practical and reasonably safe for pedestrians to keep to the right. This is the practice in most states. Then bicyclists can at least keep moving at a slow riding pace, or by walking. If pedestrians walk on the left, head-on conflicts with bicyclists occur and the capacity of the path is greatly reduced when it is congested. This addition refers to the new definition of “shared-use path” proposed for Chapter 1 of the UVC.

Please see Proposed Changes to UVC Chapters 1 and 11 for all the proposed changes.
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Successes for Cycling in the 2013 Maryland General Assembly

[B' Spokes: A great run down of this year's legislative action and I'll highlight one bit:]
By Jim Titus, WABA

Contributory negligence
The Maryland Court of Appeals is considering a case that could, if successful, repeal the doctrine of contributory negligence. Maryland is one of only five states that retains this legal doctrine, under which a plaintiff who is even minimally at fault cannot successfully sue to recover damages caused by someone else’s negligence. This doctrine is very unfair to cyclists, who may lose the ability to pay for significant medical bills or the loss of earnings after a severe accident.

Last fall, the Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on whether to replace the doctrine of contributory negligence with comparative fault in the case of Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia. The case involves a volunteer soccer coach who smoked pot before practice, tried to swing on a portable goal, and fell on his face. He sued for damages from the soccer league for failing to warn him about this hazard, but the jury found that he was contributorily negligent, so he could not recover damages.

If any such bill has a significant chance of passing, we will work to include an exception for bicyclists who collide with motor-vehicle drivers.
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Fw: A few of the tricky legal questions about rules of the road and bicycles

A posting to Montgomery Bike by Jim Titus

Dustin—here is the short version of some of the legal questions we discussed Friday. Jim
1. How does the law require a driver to make a right turn into a cross street or driveway when there is a bike lane.
A: Safety experts and the Maryland code hold that when a driver wants to make a right turn on a road with a bike lane, the driver is supposed to merge right into the bike lane, before initiating that turn. Let's start with the Maryland Driver Manual, which says on page 31:

”Never make a right turn from a through lane immediately after passing a bike on a shoulder or bike lane. 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.”

Now let's look at the Maryland code. § 21-601 (a) requires drivers to make the right turn from as close as practicable to the curb or edge of the roadway. If there is no curb, the bike lane is still part of the roadway (though shoulders are not). See § 11-151 which defines a roadway as the portion of the highway used for vehicular travel.
Bicycles are vehicles under Maryland law. Thus, § 21-601 (a) requires the same thing that the Driver Manual urges: Drivers must merge right into the bike lane, and then make their right turn.

2. Does a solid white stripe between the bike lane and the general travel lane change the rule that drivers must merge right into the bike lane before turning right?

A: No.
A feature of the MUTCD is that dashed white lines mean that changing lanes is fine, solid lines mean it is discouraged. Legally, the requirements of the Maryland code take precedence over what the MUTCD encourages. Of course, if an accident does occur due to the ambiguity caused by painting stripes that discourage compliance with the Maryland Code, a court might be asked to consider whether the road agency had been negligent.

A comparable situation concerns construction zones with solid white lines separating two general travel lanes in the same direction: Drivers are discouraged from making lane changes. But if a driver in the left lane needs to turn right into a driveway, clearly the driver is allowed to change lanes into the right lane before making the turn, rather than being expected to continue and circle the block.

3. Can cyclists rides 2-abreast? How about 3- of 4-abreast?
A. The number of cyclists that may ride abreast depends on the circumstances. Cyclists may ride 2 abreast on a roadway as long as the flow of traffic is unimpeded. § 21-1205(b) .

Here are some circumstances where the flow of traffic is clearly not impeded:
i. The cyclists are traveling close to the speed limit, or keeping up with the traffic in a traffic jam where all traffic is below the speed limit.
ii. A road with little to no traffic.
iii A road with light to moderate traffic and two lanes in the same direction with the cyclists only obstructing the right lane.

Here is one case where the flow of traffic is probably not impeded but a legal opinion would be useful:
i. On a road where the right-most lane (or only lane) in a given direction is too narrow for a bike to share side-by-side with an automobile. The single cyclist using the full lane as the law allows would be holding up traffic, so the second cyclist sharing that same lane does not impede the traffic further. In fact, cyclists impede the flow less by riding two abreast because the line of cyclists that must be passed is shorter.

Here is one case where cyclists can only ride one abreast: When the lane is about 14-16 feet wide and hence wide enough for a bike to share side-by side with an auto but not wide enough for two bicycles and a car.

B. Cyclists can ride more than two abreast if some of them are on the shoulder or a sidepath, because § 21-1205(b) only applies to roadways (including bike lanes).

4. Does the law require cyclists proceeding on a shoulder at the straight (through) edge at a T-intersection to stop for red lights.

A: The answer depends on the situation.
i. Under § 21-202(h)(1)(i)(3), a vehicle may not enter an intersection against a red light while proceeding straight. If the shoulder along which one is riding has a curb, then one enters the intersection when one crosses the extension of the curb line (or fog line if there is no curb) of the cross street, which means that one must stop at the red light. See § 21-101. Definitions (l)(1)(i).
ii. If the road along which one is riding has no curb, however, then the shoulder is entirely outside the intersection. Nevertheless, if there is a clearly marked crosswalk or stop line across the shoulder, one must stop § 21-202(h).
iii. If there is no crosswalk or stop line painted across the shoulder, and the road alone which one is riding has no curb, then one need not stop at a red light.

5. What is the legal significance (if any) of placing an R4-11 sign on a road where the lane is too narrow to share side-by-side with an automobile.

A: The R4-11 sign is a regulatory sign, so there is a presumption that it changes the rules of the road compared to what those rules would be without the sign. Given that the sign is being posted on roads where cyclists do not have to ride as far right as practicable, the question arises: What is the difference between “using the full lane” and simply not being required to rode all the way to the right?

In the Maryland code, the phrase “full use of a lane” means that no other vehicle is entitled to travel alongside that vehicle within the lane. See § 21-1303 (b) (motorcycles entitled to full use of lane). So the most straightforward intepretation of the R4-11 sign is that wherever it is placed, bicycles have the same protection as what § 21-1303 (b) provides to motorcycles—full use of the lane.

Another possible interpretation is that the authors of the MUTCD used the wrong phrasing to convey the intent, and that “full lane” means “any part of the lane”. This is a less likely interpretation for a regulatory sign, because regulatory signs generally change the rights and responsibilities of at least one class of highway users. The MUTCD guidance does not specifically state what is required of drivers who see this sign. The phrase “may” seems to imply that the requirement of drivers depends on whether the cyclist actually is using the full lane.
The most plausible interpretation is thus, that if the cyclist is riding to the extreme right, the driver may share the lane but pass the cyclist with a safe clearance; but if the cyclist rides in the middle or left portion of the lane, then a driver must change lanes to pass.

6. Can a driver cross a double-yellow line to pass a bike?

A: Maryland code offers no exceptions to the rule that one must not cross a double yellow line to pass. The complete absence of any exceptions in the code leads some people, including MDOT, to assume that one is excused for crossing the line when necessary, because otherwise people would remain stuck behind disabled cars, etc. “Necessary” in that context includes stopped vehicles, trees, pedestrians, and dangerous conditions. MDOT believes that passing a bike is in that list of activities where crossing the double yellow line is excused. No court has decided this question.

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Wrongful Death Settlements and Verdicts in Motor Vehicle Accidents in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia

B' Spokes: So besides contributory negligence working against us, Maryland has a cap on pain and suffering that applies to all personal injury cases. :/

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Maryland: Cell phone laws, legislation

Via Handsfree Info

Maryland distracted driving update: A get-tough bill that upgrades enforcement of the state’s existing handheld cell phone law to primary status has cleared the House and Senate. The measure also would make significant increases in fines for distracted driving violations.

First offenses will bring a $75 fine. A second offense could bring a ticket of up to $125, and a third to $175. The current fine for violations range from $40 to $100. The plan to assign points was removed by amendments.

The removal of the secondary enforcement provision of the handheld cell phone law means police can stop and cite violators for that reason alone.

The bill, sent to the governor on April 8, was a rerun of previously unsuccessful legislation by Del. James Malone. “They can’t have (a cell phone) in their hand whatsoever,” Malone says. The legislature did water down the penalties in the original bill.

Two other 2013 bills also sought to remove the secondary enforcement limitation on the state’s existing handheld cell phone law.

State Sen. Nancy King puts a spin on the enforcement issue. Her Senate Bill 193 of 2013 specifies primary enforcement if a child under the age of 8 is in the vehicle when the driver violates Maryland’s handheld cell phone law. King, D-Montgomery County, also sponsors a bill seeking to increase penalties for not safely securing a child in a vehicle.

The state made several technical adjustments to its existing distracted driving laws during the 2012 legislative session. They included a separation of cell phones and texting devices under the legal definition of a “wireless communication device.”

Current prohibitions:
Text messaging prohibited for all drivers.
Handheld cell phone use banned for all drivers. Fines between $40 and $100.
Drivers under the age of 18 prohibited from any use of cell phones.

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Happy March 25 — Opposite Chamber Bill Crossover Date

On this date:

Each Chamber to send to other Chamber those bills it intends to pass favorably
Opposite Chamber bills received after this date subject to referral to Rules
Committees (Senate Rule 32(c), House Courtesy Date)
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B' Spokes: That is to say that the Mandatory Helmet Bill did not transfer over so it is officially dead as all our other bike bills.

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Improvement to Maryland Three-Foot Law Defeated in Committee

By Jim Titus, The WashCycle

The Environmental Matters Committee gave an unfavorable report yesterday to House Bill 445, which would have removed the "narrow highway" exception to Maryland's three-foot safe passing statute.  The Committee also rejected HB 160, which would have legalized riding bikes on sidewalks in localities with no local laws on the subject (Baltimore, Montgomery, Prince Georges, and Howard have local laws.)

As we've discussed before on the Washcycle, Maryland's three-foot law has four confusing exceptions.  One of those exceptions allows drivers to pass with less than three feet of clearance if the highway is too narrow for a driver to pass with three feet of clearance.  No one knows precisely what that exception means:  Bike Maryland thinks that this exception refers to virtually every two-lane road with a double yellow line, while I think that, regardless of what was in the mind of Delegate Malone when he inserted the provision, the rules of statutory construction mean that the exception only applies to narrow highways (e.g. country roads or one-lane bridges).  But if the cycling advocates can't agree on what it means, clearly the statute needs clarification.  The best way to clarify the statute would have been to eliminate this exception, which this bill would have done.

Why did the bill fail?  We don't know yet, though some of the contributing factors are obvious. Cycling advocates have focused more on HB 339, the mandatory helmet bill.  Two weeks ago, ten advocates showed up to a hearing at the Environmental Matters Committee, and passionately offered a wide array of arguments against the helmet bill. About 20 minutes later, Delegate Cardin presented the safe-passing bill to the same commitee, and only three of those advocates testified, along with Bike Maryland (which has taken no position on the helmet bill).  None of the advocates were as passionate about the three-foot bill as they were in opposing the helmet bill.

The truck drivers opposed the safe-passing bill, and interpret the existing law the same way Bike Maryland construes it.  They want to be able to pass cyclists more closely than three feet if the alternatives are to cross the double yellow line or wait.  Trucks are wider than cars:  It will often be possible for a car and a bike to share a lane with a three-foot clearance (if the cyclist hugs the edge).  But a 9-foot truck can only pass with 1-foot of clearance, and the truckers want to be able to continue doing so.  One representative added that they can't really tell whether they are passing with 3' feet or 2'6" anyway.  None of the cycling advocates made a strong case for why a safety buffer is more important than giving truckers what they want.

Another contributing factor was that Delegate Cardin also seemed to be preoccupied with other matters.  His presentation starts at 1:25:00 in the video of the hearing.  There was a subsequent colloquy with Delegate Vitale in which it became clear that the committee and Delegate Cardin had different versions of the bill (1:35:00).  A few minutes later, (1:38:00) Delegate Cardin closed that colloquy by providing an explanation that seemed to more closely resemble last year's bill than this year's bill.

If these are the reasons the bill failed this year, I hope that Delegate Cardin and Bike Maryland will stick with this version of the bill and try again next year.  It was a step in the right direction, and the fact that we did not convince the Committee this year had more to do with the fact that our minds were elsewhere than the merits of the bill.

With a little more preparation, we can make the case for removing the narrow-highway exception.  The idea that trucks should be able to pass bikes with less clearance than cars, simply because trucks are wider, is absurd.

(Jim Titus is a cycling advocate from Prince George's County.  The opinions expressed here do not represent the views of any organization with which he is affiliated.)
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