My Letter Opposing the Mandatory Helmet Bill

[Note: This is rather long so if you are inspired to pick up a point (from here or on your own) and write, please do so. Also note I'll send this late Monday so any helpful suggestions would be appreciated. Hearing is 2/12 at 1:00 p.m.]
To: members of the House Motor Vehicles &amp; Transportation Subcommittee (<a href=""></a>; )

Subj: HB 339 Required Use of Protective Headgear - Oppose

Let me introduce myself as one of the contributors to the bicycle section of the Maryland Drivers' Handbook. I am very concerned/involved about about traffic safety especially in regard to cycling.

I'm in a very awkward position in that I do wear a helmet and I encourage others to do so as well but now I have to explain why I don't support mandatory helmet use. Perhaps I can make my point clearer by switching to another personal safety apparel item...

In public safety circles the issue that get addressed are the ones the ones that have the most adverse effects on society. In Baltimore we have one cycling death a year versus over a hundred deaths by shootings. Police wear bulletproof vest to make them safer, so just imagine how many more lives we could save in Baltimore alone if we required everyone to wear a bulletproof vest! I have found bulletproof vest on-line for roughly the same price as a good helmet, so the burden to individuals is not that great. We could have police at the Inner Harbor issuing warnings that &quot;It is illegal to be outside in Baltimore without a bulletproof vest.&quot; Wouldn't that be great thing to do? Think of all the lives we could save with a mandatory bulletproof vest legislation.

OK, that's crazy but what is the rational explanation on why that is crazy?

One of the hardest arguments to dispel is &quot;If this would save just one life it will be worth it.&quot; - If that was really true we would have mandatory bulletproof vests and everyone would be wearing helmets all the time (more people die from a fall in the home then cyclist fatalities.) The error here falls under the category of &quot;Blaming the victim.&quot; People in Baltimore have the expectation that the it is the police responsibility to reduce the number of homicides and shifting the responsibility to the victims by making something like a mandatory bulletproof vest law so now it's the victims fault if they are dead because they did not wear a bulletproof vest. Similarly, a victim of a motorist error should not lose all compensation for their injuries based solely on the fact that they were not wearing a helmet. The motorcycle helmet law address this issue but not this bill for bicyclists??? That's just wrong. Not wearing a helmet does not cause a crash, nor does it prevent a crash so why are we now going to be legally barred from recovering damages based solely on not wearing a helmet?

Things to consider to improve cyclists safety that work better then just wearing a helmet

Learn defensive bicycle riding

&quot;Either way, this study suggests wearing a helmet might make a collision more likely in the first place,&quot; - Dr. Walker (Ref: <a href=""></a>; )

While Dr. Walker does not state this, there is an inference in his data that learning defensive bicycle riding (or more specifically taking a class by a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor) will do more good for cyclists' safety then a helmet alone ever will. A next best option would be to promote MDOT's Safe Cycling in Maryland handbook. I'll note that information that this booklet exists and how to get this specific booklet has been removed from SHA's website, this should be corrected. I will also note that I tried to get a note in the Drivers' Handbook &quot;For more information on safe cycling request the booklet Safe Cycling in Maryland&quot; but that failed. This information should not be treated like it's top secret.

Like reducing homicides the police need to take cyclists safety more seriously.

I was amazed to find out that learning traffic laws as they apply to cyclists is an optional course in the police academy and very few of our police officers ever received that training. Leading to crazy ways to find the cyclist at fault by police. In one case a cyclist riding as far right as practicable (as required by law) was killed by a right turning truck (no signals.) But the police found fault with the cyclist road position because &quot;21-1303(d) a person may not operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.&quot; - Did you catch that? The police misapplied motorcycle law to a bicycle as if that overrides specific instructions to a cyclist. I have other evidence that the police were citing numerous cyclists for being &quot;illegally in the road&quot; (a pedestrian violation not a cyclist violation.) I have personally been ordered by police to ride on the sidewalk where sidewalk riding was illegal. I could go on and on about this but I have to ask how can we expect the roads to feel safe when even the authorities get the laws wrong. And just adding a helmet requirement so the police have more excuses to harass cyclists is not going to help.

That no power of suspending Laws or the execution of Laws, unless by, or derived from the Legislature, ought to be exercised, or allowed. - Maryland Declaration Of Rights

Hmm, is singling out laws for bicyclists to be excluded from regular police officers training an act of suspending execution of laws? I'm not enough of a lawyer to say one way or the other but I can say what is going on is outrageous. Even MVA has gotten into the act when introducing our new three foot passing law and concluded &quot;The law says the bicyclist has the responsibility to move aside and let you pass.&quot; (Ref: <a href=",0,6224574.story">,0,6224574.story</a>; ) I'll note &quot;moving aside&quot; is correct for motor vehicles capable of doing the speed limit but are going much slower. But &quot;moving aside&quot; is not correct for cyclists. I could go on with other issues but in short there is a lot of misunderstandings exactly what is the law for bicyclist among so called professionals. I will also point out that it was Michael Dresser and NOT MVA that issued the correction (ref: <a href=""></a>; ). It's rather sad that a layperson can see the plain text meaning in our laws while &quot;professionals&quot; cannot.

We desperately need to get everyone on the same page as far as cycling laws go and what constitutes safe cycling, this is paramount to safety. And putting more onus on the more vulnerable road user at this time is outrageous in my book.

Free helmets giveaways

I have a resource for getting really cheep bicycle helmets in bulk (and still meet the standards.) Wouldn't be cool if we could actually work together so these helmets could end up in police cars for the police to give away to helmetless riders instead of issuing warnings for failure to comply with this purposed law?


I know you meant well with this legislation but cycling is a safe activity, certainly a lot safer then walking in Maryland. You do realize that Maryland has earned the 4th highest pedestrian fatality rate in 2009 right? Maybe we should seriously think about making pedestrians wear helmets.

Maryland has yet to make it into the top ten in terms of cycling fatality rates and last time I checked our cycling fatality rate was below average. The big cycling issue for me is we have below average number of cyclists, we need to encourage more cycling for health (Maryland has a high obesity rate) and for cleaner air (too many code red days following really nice days to ride.) Not to mention more cycling makes a better place to live and encourages more tourism. A lot of states are doing a lot better then what we are in this regard, we are below average in our share of bike commuters, this needs to be corrected.

“Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn’t justified — in fact, cycling has many health benefits,” says Piet de Jong, a professor in the department of applied finance and actuarial studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. He studied the issue with mathematical modeling, and concludes that the benefits may outweigh the risks by 20 to 1. (Ref: <a href="[ItUCaa,1">[ItUCaa,1</a>; )

&quot;After scrapes with motorists [in Takoma Park, Md.], he now mostly drives.&quot; - about Obama's new Chief of Staff (Ref: <a href=""></a>; )

To many cyclists are harassed by motorist and and too many police are indifferent about getting involved or just plain hostile to cyclists, resulting in less people who bicycle. Mandatory helmets are not going to help this, it's just going to make it worse.

Safety-in-numbers is also observed in the U.S.

Portland, OR and New York City, NY are two places off the top of my head that have documented their Safety-in-numbers effect. And Minneapolis, MN just documented theirs (Ref: <a href=""></a>; )

We need more people who bicycle, please take steps to remove barriers and not add any more barriers to cycling.

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Maryland lawmaker defends mandatory helmet bill

“If the only reason you’re riding a bicycle is to feel the wind in your hair, you should take up another sport.” - Del. Maggie McIntosh

I'm sure Del. Maggie McIntosh has the best intentions but as one commenter noted, no mention of the health benefits of cycling. The CDC recommends combining exercise with your daily activities, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Just one problem with that, building codes, security issues and fire departments insist that most stairwells are inaccessible except in case of fire. Which basically leaves cycling as one of the last remnants of a healthy life style that incorporates exercise with daily activities that gives you an hour or more of exercise for less then a hour extra of your time. (i.e. Replacing a 10 mile car trip with a bike trip is ~ an hour exercise with only a half hour extra in time.)

We need to be encouraging more bicycling to reduce the growing obesity rates (among other things) and not putting up barriers to non-sport cycling. As lets face it, almost all that are into the &quot;sport&quot; of cycling are wearing a helmet. It's the demographic that is doing practical utility cycling for health or economics that is being targeted by this legislation. There is no &quot;take up another sport&quot; here.

The health benefits of cycling outweigh the safety risks by a factor of 20 to one. - Hillman, M., 1992

This bill is not strong encouragement to wear a helmet, it is designed to prohibit a non-helmet wearing cyclist from recovering any damages from a crash that otherwise is the total fault of the motorist, that's the problem with laws like this in a contributory negligence state. Bicycle laws need to be confined to purely operational issues that can cause a crash.

My tangent from: <a href=""></a>;
Which I recommend reading as well and afterwords if you are inclined to write: (Remember be nice, she does mean well.)

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HB 160 Riding on Sidewalks - Oppose

The change in law as purposed by the bill:
UNLESS PROHIBITED by local ordinance, a person may ride a bicycle, play vehicle, or unicycle on a sidewalk or sidewalk area.
<a href=""></a>;

My main concern is study after study shows riding against the flow of traffic on the sidewalk is very dangerous. I do not support making such action legal.

From <a href=""></a>;
Bicyclists on a sidewalk or bicycle path incur greater risk than those on the roadway (on average 1.8 times as great), most likely because of blind conflicts at intersections. Wrongway sidewalk bicyclists are at even greater risk, and sidewalk bicycling appears to increase the incidence of wrong-way travel.

Main page: <a href=";stab=01&amp;id=hb0160&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">;stab=01&amp;id=hb0160&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS</a>;
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Why I support sidewalk bicycling (sometimes):

By Greg Hinchliffe

I was going to call this “Why I support House Bill 160”, which would legalize sidewalk riding in Maryland unless the locality prohibits it, but, really, the bill does not do much. It merely makes prohibiting sidewalk riding an “opt-in” system, rather than the status quo which is “opt-out”: sidewalk biking is currently banned by the state unless the locality specifically permits it. I suppose as a practical matter, sidewalk riding would be legal in more places, as the issue is probably not a high priority for county and municipal lawmakers. What makes it even more irrelevant is that the existing state and local bans are hardly ever enforced, except for a short time in Baltimore City, when Mayor O’Malley’s administration tried, unsuccessfully, to make the ban a tactical weapon in the War on Drugs.

But, my, oh my, it has engendered some debate, so here is my two cents’ worth. I am Baltimore City resident and an experienced urban cyclist. I don’t bike to work but cycle often for fun, exercise, and to run errands, logging thousands of miles per year. I am confident in traffic and can hold my own in the crosstown rush-hour madness of Lombard or Fayette Street. But I also frequently ride on the sidewalk in certain places, sometimes even against the flow of adjacent traffic. Russell Street around Oriole Park? I am cruising that 20-foot sidewalk. Towsontown Boulevard between Charles Street and greater Towson, where the county has striped what seems to be a dozen 8-foot lanes, all occupied by speeding, distracted motorists? No, thank you. I am lovin’ that new sidewalk as I grind up the hill. I know, I know, I have seen the stats: twice as dangerous to be on the sidewalk as on the road, but here I am. How have I survived the (more than I care to count) decades of playing such bad odds? Simple. I am not an imbecile. Well, maybe I am, but I don’t ride like one. The sidewalk is not the problem.

Some sidewalks ARE dangerous: nasty, narrow things, with blind corners and hordes of pedestrians. Clearly these should not be cycled. But many of our city and suburban sidewalks are much better, with generous width, good sight distances, and few other users. Bicycling on such a facility is not, in itself, dangerous. What IS dangerous is shooting out from that sidewalk into an intersection, appearing suddenly and unexpectedly in the path of a surprised motorist, who had no idea there was a bicycle nearby until it disappeared under his front bumper. I have coined a new name for this spectacularly foolhardy maneuver: Inexcusable Intersection Idiocy, or I.I.I. It is pronounced AY-yi-YI !!! It is also known as Darwin, Unselecting Moronic Bicyclists. You can probably pronounce that one without my help.

In short, the main hazard of sidewalk cycling is not the cycling on the sidewalk part, but extremely poor intersection technique. This dangerous foolishness is what drives the statistics that condemn sidewalk riding, and trail riding as well. And it is a subject for education and regulation, not prohibition. Any cycling-safety course, whether taught by the LAB, WABA, Bike Maryland, the ‘Y’, the scouts, or the school system, should not just teach NOT to ride on the sidewalk, but HOW to ride on the sidewalk, and when it might be safer to do so. They should teach the tenets of safe sidewalk riding. Are there any such tenets? Yes, scads of them. Scads. S.C.A.D.S. Sidewalk cyclists must ride Slowly, Courteously, Alertly, Defensively – Safely. Get it? Scads? Get it? Anyone? Anyone? OK, never mind. Lame. Sorry.

Look, riding on a sidewalk can be dangerous, but so can riding in the dark. The way we deal with night-cycling is by educating about the requirement for reflection and illumination, legislating the equipment required to ride in darkness, and sponsoring light give-aways and discounts. We do NOT prohibit cycling after sunset.

I am further concerned that prohibiting sidewalk riding discourages new cyclists. If faced with the choice between a.) riding on the sidewalk (illegal), or b.) riding in traffic (scary), a less experienced cyclist is likely to choose c.) take the Buick. We need all the cycling allies we can get out there to improve the physical and political cycling climate. We shouldn’t be scaring them away.

In a perfect world, cycling on the sidewalk would never be necessary, due to the superb bike facilities nearby. No, cyclists don’t ride on the sidewalks in Amsterdam, but that’s because they don’t have to. In our decidedly un-Dutch environment, sometimes the sidewalk is part of the cycling space. We should make sure prospective riders know how and when to use it safely. A blanket prohibition does not help.
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HB 445 Overtaking Another Vehicle - Support

This is basically an attempt to improve our 3' safe passing law by getting rid of the narrow highway exception and adding this text to the section of law that governs the overtaking and passing of vehicles:

I've written about MDOT's poor summery of our narrow exception before. While non of the exceptions are really necessary (cyclist is riding in a manner that is illegal so don't ticket the driver for a 3' violation - We need that spelled out? And if it is the cyclist that moves closer the vehicle, how is that the driver's fault?) but the narrow highway exception was very troubling how MDOT has summarized it and is not easily understood nor applicable to the vast majority of our roadways. Does the legislature really think the police will ticket a driver for passing a cyclist on a one lane highway when both are doing the best they can to do safe passing?

Main page: <a href=";stab=01&amp;id=hb0445&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">;stab=01&amp;id=hb0445&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS</a>;
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HB 339 Required Use of Protective Headgear - Oppose

This bill will require all cyclists but not moped riders to wear a helmet. (But § 21-1306.1 says moped rider must wear a helmet. So the moped bit is confusing/contradictory.)

1) I will add a new point to this discussion, motorcyclists get this with their mandatory helmet law:
§ 21-1306.1.(e) Failure to use required headgear; evidence; civil actions. --
  • (1) The failure of an individual to wear protective headgear required under subsection (b) of this section may not:
  • . (i) Be considered evidence of negligence;
  • . (ii) Be considered evidence of contributory negligence;
  • . (iii) Limit liability of a party or an insurer; or
  • . (iv) Diminish recovery for damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or operation of a moped or motor scooter.

Cyclists should get that as well.

2) From my observations Maryland has a below average number of cyclists. We need to work on getting more cyclists, not making it more restrictive. For more points about Undesirable effects of mandatory helmet use.

3) WABA opposes: Why We Don’t Support Mandatory Helmet Laws

4) Bikeyface makes a great post on SERIOUS ABOUT SAFETY. Let's work down this list before we get to the last item, OK?

Main page:
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Bike bills for 2013 legislative session


2013 Regular Session

Total Bills: 3

View Prior Year Legislation

NumberTitlePrimary SponsorStatusOriginal House
and Hearing Dates
Opposite House
and Hearing Dates
Broad Subject
HB0160Bicycles, Play Vehicles, and Unicycles - Riding on SidewalksDelegate Miller, A.In the House - Hearing 2/05 at 1:00 p.m.Environmental Matters
02/05/2013 - 1:00 p.m.
Vehicle Laws - Rules of the Road (R5)
HB0339Vehicle Laws - Bicycles - Required Use of Protective HeadgearDelegate McIntoshIn the House - Hearing 2/12 at 1:00 p.m.Environmental Matters
02/12/2013 - 1:00 p.m.
Vehicle Laws - Rules of the Road (R5)
HB0445Vehicle Laws - Rules of the Road - Overtaking Another VehicleDelegate CardinIn the House - Hearing 2/12 at 1:00 p.m.Environmental Matters
02/12/2013 - 1:00 p.m.
Vehicle Laws - Rules of the Road (R5)

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Annapolis Report Week 4 from Jon Cardin


Bicycling Safety Act

I have also introduced a new and improved Bicycle Safety bill for this year. In the past, I worked with Bike Maryland and other interested groups to pass legislation mandating a safe three foot passing distance from a bicyclist. The law already allows motorists to drive on the left side of the road to pass a cyclist, and this legislation will clarify the situations in which it is safe.
Cyclists on Maryland roads have increased by the tens of thousands over the last decade.  Those commuters and exercisers bring no pollution but rather an appetite and credit card to the communities they visit.  Unfortunately, when cars and bicycles collide, it is ALWAYS the bicyclist whose life is at risk. We should not wait for another tragic accident such as those that took the lives of Natasha Pettigrew, Nathan Krasnopoler and Larry Bensky to make the roads safe for cycling and make sure drivers are given flexibility to pass when safe.
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Should I bring up malfeasance again?

I'll note that I am looking for a better argument to be sent to and reference "Case: 47820 "(Not a email bomb, simply, who has the winning and most convincing argument on any topic is somewhat a random occurrence and I encourage you if you have a better argument then what I present here please send it to the Secretary and if you get a response please share.)

In this section I'm going to share some things I cut from the letter I sent:

Let's go back to when MVA introduced our 3' law and concluded "The law says the bicyclist has the responsibility to move aside and let you pass."

But the law says no such thing. While MVA is well versed in laws for motor vehicles capable of doing the speed limit, so what they said is correct if you are driving a car. But the flaw in their logic is they incorrectly asserted "the bicycle "has all the rights and responsibilities" of any other vehicle. "

This fails on two counts, so let's look at what the law actually says:
§ 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.

Fail #1 As otherwise provided in this subtitle § 21-1205. Riding on roadways or on highway says when we are riding in a lane too narrow to share we can ride anywhere in the right hand lane. No obligation to move aside because § 21-1205 overrides any general lane position for motor vehicles.
Fail #2 § 21-804. (a) ... a person may not willfully drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede ... traffic. Bicycles by their very nature do not have a motor so § 21-804 is not applicable to cyclists. I should note laws that motor vehicles and cyclist both have to obey the statute when it just says "vehicle".

Additional Points
A legal brief from a higher court in Florida about a cyclists wrongfully charged with impeding traffic.
That’s safe cycling, not arrogance, says MDOT

But you will note it was Michael Dresser, NOT MVA that issued the final correction so I suspect there are those in MVA who still think cyclists have the responsibility to move aside. (A side note that this conversation helped get Changes to the Drivers' Handbook.)

I am starting to think MDOT is trying to take over the Attorney General's position and provide legal opinions but unlike the Attorney General not based on law in it's entirety and legal proficiency but on some half baked thoughts and agendas. MDOT's job should be promoting what constitutes safe driving based on the law. And I have no idea how the construct "if you can't pass safely you can pass unsafely" fits into that.

I sent this to the Secretary of Transportation: Don't drink and drive but having 4 drinks before driving is fine
His response
My next response:
Dear Secretary Mobley et al.,  
(The letter I am responding to is attached.)

I should apologize for the lack of organization and my apparent inability to make a clear point, I will try to correct that in this email. I really do appreciate the time and the response and hopefully these issues will finally be resolved or at least a constructive dialog will begin.

Points I would like to get your attention/action on:
1) Please correct recent incorrect "safety" advise given to DNR (specifically to "Carr, Steve" <>>  )    
2) The 3' "safety" card is in error and not accurate as you asserted
3) Michael Jackson has been ineffective on resolving this issue (issue first brought to MDOT's attention Oct 2010)

Working with MVA has resulted in the following.

Traffic Laws for Motorists
  • The driver of a vehicle passing another vehicle, including a bicycle, must pass at a safe distance and leave plenty of space.  The driver should be able to see the passed vehicle in the rear view mirror before returning to the original lane. After passing you must make sure you are clear of the bicyclist before making any turns.
  • Drivers shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle, Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device (EPAMD), or motor scooter being ridden by a person.
  • The driver of a vehicle must not pass any closer than three (3) feet to a bicycle or motor scooter if the bicycle is operated in a lawful manner. It is not lawful to ride against traffic.
  • The bicycle has the right of way when the motor vehicle is making a turn, and you must yield to bicycle.
  • Motorists must yield the right-of-way to bicyclists riding in bike lanes and shoulders when these vehicle operators are entering or crossing occupied bike lanes and shoulders

In Maryland's Drivers' Manual: 
Pass with Care -- Give Bikes at Least 3 Feet
  Pass a bicyclist as you would any slowly moving vehicle. Be prepared to slow down, wait until oncoming traffic is clear and then allow at least 3 feet of clearance between your car and the bicyclist when passing. The same 3-foot clearance applies if you are passing a bicyclist in a bike lane, on the shoulder, or in the same lane as your car. After passing a bicyclist, check your mirror to ensure that you have completely passed the bicycle with enough room before you move back to the right.  

These summaries are accurate and up to professorial standards for safety advice. Is it too much to ask that MDOT gives advice consistent with the above?  

2) The 3' "safety" card is in error and not accurate as you asserted 
(Points here will help with 1) so that's why it's out of order.)

Reader bias plays a huge role in peoples understanding. Good safety advice should be clear to the reader despite any bias but the law as written is not always that clear, as additional steps in logic might have to be engaged to come to an understanding.

In the case of our three foot law let's say there are two reader biases (this is for explanation/understanding and not an accusation.) The first bias I'll summarize as "The exceptions are notes to the police when not to ticket a driver." i.e. Why ticket the driver for a 3' violation if (1) the cyclist is riding unlawfully (2) it is the cyclist who is passing less then three feet (3) if everyone is doing their best in constrained circumstances. 
The second bias is "The exceptions are for drivers of motor vehicles so they know when they can pass closer then 3 feet." - I'll attempt to explain why this this not accurate, especially in light of how MDOT has summarized the exceptions.

The Law(i) The bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter rider fails to operate the vehicle in conformance with § 21-1205(a) of this subtitle ("Riding to right side of roadway") or § 21-1205.1(b) of this subtitle ("Roadway with bike lane or shoulder paved to smooth surface"); 

The 3' "safety" card: If the bicyclist fails to ride to the right,   
The 3' "safety" card: If the bicyclist is in a Bike Lane

Now contrast that with what's on the MVA site (from above): The driver of a vehicle must not pass any closer than three (3) feet to a bicycle or motor scooter if the bicycle is operated in a lawful manner. It is not lawful to ride against traffic.

So MDOT has changed one exception into two and has failed to carry the "fails to operate" clause to the second term. These two sections of law govern cyclists lawful position on the roadway and the titles of those sections alone are not the best summaries for safety advice. 

If a person is looking for reasons to pass a cyclist less then 3 feet, you can see why they might think why should a motorist be "bothered" to pass with 3 feet if a cyclist is in their own (bike) lane or if they fail to ride to the right but the section of law that governs riding to the right has an exception for lanes too narrow to share side by side, which most lanes in Maryland are, so a driver DOES have to pass with at least 3 feet a cyclist riding in the middle of a lane that is too narrow to share. So while I can understand how MDOT's summary came about it does not mean that it is accurate. 

The Law(ii) A passing clearance of less than 3 feet is caused solely by the bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter rider failing to maintain a steady course

The 3' "safety" card: Doesn't keep a steady course,

This is the most disturbing to me, safety advice would dictate if you see a cyclist failing to maintain a steady course a driver should give a wider berth and not a lesser one, this aspect should be made clear that this exception does not apply to drivers passing at all by the first and primary clause "caused solely by the bicycle." The fact that MDOT chose the subordinate clause here is not accuracy. But again we can see a bias that the exceptions "must" be for allowing "a motorist to pass less then three feet." - This bias just does not fit here. 

The Law(iii) The highway on which the vehicle is being driven is not wide enough to lawfully pass the bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter at a distance of at least 3 feet. 

The 3' "safety" card: If the roadway is not wide enough for the motorist to pass legally at a distance of three feet.

The exception was added at the last minute by a delegate and it really could have been worded better as it is very difficult to understand by the layperson and a simple change of "highway" to "roadway" does not help in clarification at all. Keep in mind a narrow two lane highway has enough width to pass a cyclist with 3 feet. So we are talking about a highway much, much narrower then two lanes. So we are giving safety advice on how to pass another vehicle on a narrow one lane road where a law abiding cyclists should be in the lane. And MDOT says it's lawful for a motorist to pass in that situation. Neglecting to mention that §21–303.(b) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle that is going in the same direction shall pass to the left of the overtaken vehicle at a safe distance. is still applicable. A safe passing distance is always required. 

I am also concerned promoting this exception close to as is written in the law without putting it in the vernacular can lead to the absurd conclusion "If you can't pass a cyclists lawfully you can pass them unlawfully." - This is not what the law in it's entirety says. If you must, a 3 foot law exception merely defers to §21–303.(b) (passing at a safe distance.)

1) Please correct recent incorrect "safety" advise given to DNR (specifically to "Carr, Steve" <>  )    

There is a joke form where the punch line goes "You must be a [some profession] because everything you told me is true, accurate and useless." Safety advice should stress usefulness over and above thorough legal accuracy. The Drivers' manual is full of legal advice that is not all inclusively accurate but it DOES address common (legal) errors and attempts to correct those errors. Is it too much to ask that the same principle be applied for safety advice given in regards to cyclists?  

MDOT recently gave the following advice to DNR:
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.
Again, a safe passing distance is still required and in the case of one lane highways passing is accomplished by cooperation and slow speeds, that's how safe passing is done in that situation. Due to the lower speed and cooperation a distance less then 3 feet can still be safe passing as long as everyone is doing the best they can

I am very concerned why is MDOT generating wildly deviant wording from what was agreed upon with MHSO:
  • The driver of a vehicle must not pass any closer than three (3) feet to a bicycle or motor scooter if the bicycle is operated in a lawful manner. It is not lawful to ride against traffic.
Note the recent advice from MDOT added the word "safely" - leading to the absurd understanding: "If you can't pass a cyclist safely you can pass unsafely." - This is very wrong and not accurate at all. 

I really would like the agreed upon wording from MHSO to go out to the same list that DNR used to push the inaccurate advice.

3) Michael Jackson has been ineffective on resolving this issue (issue first brought to MDOT's attention Oct 2010)

I have been getting assurances that the issue around the inaccurate 3 foot safety card would be correct since 2010 and it is still alive and well on MDOT servers.

And it has been seen being distributed late 2012.
Ref: "Greg said he attended the annual State Fair in Timonium and said that SHA had a booth there handing out materials including a card explaining the 3 foot passing law"

I don't know enough what happens behind the walls of MDOT but my assumption is either MDOT's hierarchy/internal policy keeps Michael Jackson from being effective or there is something about Michael Jackson that keeps him from being effective. That's for you to determine, all I know is I have not seen results on this issue despite a significant push to motivate Michael into action on this:

Please note the date on this Nov, 2011 and in Aug(?) 2012 the card is still alive and doing well on the State Fair Grounds.  

A bit of History

Around Oct 2010 I first became aware of the 3 foot safety card. It was explained that it was based upon a summary of the three foot law on MVA's web site. So our first concern was to correct MVA's web site with the assumption that a corrected 3 foot law card would soon follow. While MVA's site was corrected the card was not.

Nov 2011 I discovered the three foot safety card on the Maryland Bikeways Program web site. While we were successful in getting it removed from that web site, it resurfaced again about a year later in printed form.

We are now in 2013 and the 3 foot "safety" card still exists. While I appreciate the promise of a revised brochure but I have heard that before so an extra effort to get rid of the old one would be very much appreciated. And if you would be so kind as to share the revised brochure as MDOT does not have a very good track record with our three foot law.   


MDOT has done some wonderful things when they work with the cycling community and I am very appreciative of what MDOT has done. But a micro focus on one exception of bicycling law that is not easily understood is not doing anyone any good. The law must be understood in it's entirety and common errors for cyclists and motorists must be addressed. I look forward to working with you and MDOT in the future.
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Access to Justice for Bicyclists Act Passes D.C. Council

[B' Spokes: We need this in Maryland!]
By Shane Farthing, WABA

The passage of this law is a big victory for D.C. bicyclists, as it will allow those who are intentionally assaulted on our roadways to seek redress in court. It will also bring consequences to motorists who inflict harm upon cyclists for using roadways. Too often, these cases have slipped through the cracks because criminal charges are not brought and the cyclist cannot afford legal representation. Thus, those who assault cyclists suffer no consequences.

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