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Thursday, September 21 2017 @ 03:15 AM UTC
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Additional thoughts about our 3' law and the narrow highway exception

Bike LawsLet's start with a narrow two lane highway, which is basically the narrowest type of highway most people will encounter. Just considering width (which our three foot law does) there is plenty of room for one motorist to pass another on this type of highway. Given that, there is certainly enough room on this type of highway for a motorist to pass a lawful riding cyclist with at least three feet of space.

So the narrow highway exception must apply to something narrower, so the next whole number down is one lane highway. (Do you know where any one lane highways are? They are really rare.) So in attempt to turn legalize into the vernacular we are now talking about just one lane available to all traffic that is too narrow for a cyclist and a motorist to safely share side by side.

Now keep in mind that our 3' law requires that the cyclist be a lawful cyclist. So what does the law say about the cyclist position in a lane that is too narrow to share? The law no longer requires the cyclist to ride as far right as practicable, safety advice can vary but basically they are: right tire track, right one third or center of the lane. So now there is really no room for a motorist to pass a cyclist. Yet MDOT's interpretation of this law basically says when there is no room for a cyclist and motorist to be side by side a cyclist should take the lane and a motorist can pass a cyclist. - That's crazy and scary.

Let's back up for a second, Maryland does have a few bidirectional one lane (narrow) dirt roads. Do drivers pass each other on these roads? Sure. Do motorist pass each other safely on these roads? Sure. So now you might be asking how is this done? From my experience one driver backs up to find a point where the road widens and then safe passing takes place. I think it's important to note that the point where passing takes place is wide enough to do so safely. The issue I have is describing this as any time there is not enough room to pass with 3 feet you can pass with less then 3 feet. That does not accurately reflect how safe passing is done in this situation.

I will speculate that Delegate Malone did not want cyclists going "Oh look that motorist passed me 2' 10" ticket him." when the motorist was doing their best in trying to pass a cyclist safely. That's fair enough but if that is the case MDOT needs to stress safe passing at a location where safe passing is possible on one lane roads. I would even add that the cyclist needs to indicate that they are cooperating with the passing motorist. This is how motorist do it, so the same should apply to cyclists as well.

As I previously noted (<a href=""></a>; ) not being in violation of the 3' statute does not negate other laws like passing safely. Additionally a bicycle is a vehicle, we can look how motor vehicles behave in one lane situations and apply the same principles with a bit less space. MDOT does no say to motorists when there is not enough room to safely pass another motor vehicle on a one lane road you can do so less safely, so why are they doing that with cyclists?

Read more for some bizarre considerations of this exception
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Don't drink and drive but having 4 drinks before driving is fine

Bike LawsCan you imagine such a safety campaign as I have in the headlines? Yet consider the latest from MDOT:
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.

I will assert there are more people that are male and weigh more then 220 lbs (were I got the 4 drinks from see BAC Information below) then there are highways that are not wide enough to lawfully pass the bicycle at a distance of at least 3 feet.

I will also note this law is still in effect no mater how you look at our 3' law.
§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.

And there is this in the SAME statute as well:
§ 21-1209. (a) Drivers to exercise due care.- Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, the driver of a vehicle shall:
.(1) Exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter being ridden by a person;

I really have to ask does MDOT summary even come close to expressing due care in avoiding colliding with any bicycle is a legal requirement no mater the width of the road? I will also note that a two lane highway does not fall under this exception, we are taking about a narrower highway with less then two lanes.

Jim Titus had a great response:
My main concern is that the statement quoted is incorrect in at least three ways.
a. First, the exception applies for "highways" that are too narrow, not "roads" that are too narrow. Legally, these two words are not synonyms.
b. Second, the law does not say that one can pass with less than three feet, only that the specific statutory requirement does not apply. It is an open question what the required passing clearance is on a narrow highway, just as it is an open question as to what even if a narrow highway. Bottom line: No authoritative legal opinion exists that identifies any specific road where a driver is allowed to pass with less than three feet--so why invite general readers to speculate?
c. The statute has some exceptions, not exemptions. Exemptions are part of the tax law.
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Under Bill Moving Through D.C. Council, Cyclists Hit By Cars Would Get Additional Civil Remedies

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: I would love to see a similar effort for Maryland.]
By Martin Austermuhle, DCist

A bill that would give cyclists that are hit by cars additional civil remedies was approved by a D.C. Council committee today, moving the bill forward more than a year after it was introduced. Under the provisions of the bill, a cyclist knocked off of their bike by a car will be able to sue for either $1,000 or damages, whichever is greater, along with reasonable attorney’s fees and costs if the total amount of damages stemming from the incident is less than $10,000.
According to a committee report, the bill aims to offer cyclists an additional civil remedy in cases that may not produce significant injury but could still lead to thousands of dollars of medical expenses. In those cases, say cycling advocates, it's often hard for cyclists to find attorneys who will take their case, due to the relatively low value of damages. &quot;The goal of the legislation is to incentivize attorneys to take on the cases of bicyclists in these lower-damages situations, by making provision for attorney’s fees and costs and creating a floor for actual damages of $1,000,&quot; says the report.

The bill stemmed from a 2011 incident where a cyclist was knocked off of his bike while riding along Rhode Island Avenue NE. (He famously caught the incident on camera.) The Washington Area Bicyclist Association pushed the proposal, which was based on a similar law passed last year in Los Angeles.
During a November 2011 hearing, WABA Executive Director Shane Farthing explained the issue thusly: &quot;Assault is already illegal, but roadway assault cases with bicyclist victims are never brought by the U.S. Attorney’s office. Assault is also prohibited by civil law, but civil representation is only available to cyclists when they have been significantly injured. Thus, we cyclists are encouraged to share the roadways with motor vehicles, but are given no protection when the operators of those vehicles - frustrated at being asked to share with us—lash out and intentionally harm, or attempt to harm, us.&quot;

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, who originally seemed to doubt the value of the bill, ushered it through the Judiciary Committee today, after which it will head to the full council for consideration. And though there were some small changed made to the bill, Farthing said that was happy to see the bill move forward.

&quot;Our goal is that folks get access to justice,&quot; he said this afternoon.

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Contributory negligence - one persons story

Bike LawsB' Spokes: As you might know I try to collect various information about Maryland's contributory negligence doctrine and this is one disturbing report.
by Greg, a comment on The WashCycle

In Maryland, 70% of civil suits involving a pedestrian and a vehicle the pedestrian is at fault. Recently, as an example, my friend was hit by a truck on my block walking away from a tow truck with flashing sirens. In spite of Maryland's requirement that the driver yield right of way when approaching a vehicle using authorized flashing lights and slow to a prudent speed, he swerved around the truck and struck my friend resulting in medical bills and injuries.

My friend, because he was walking on *my property* but on the right hand side of the road as opposed to the left hand side of the road, was found to be contributory negligent and therefore not entitled to any relief.

Contributory negligence makes a lot of sense when you're talking about someone walking on ice with disregard for their own safety - however to infer that a pedestrian or cyclist needs to hold themselves to a higher standard of vigilance than someone driving a 2000+lbs vehicle is backwards and flies in the face of common sense. People holding hammers need to watch where they swing, I shouldn't need to walk around the edge of my property worrying about vehicles striking me down because I'm on the side of the road where my house is...

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Pre-Impact Fright: Why It Matters So Much

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: Part of the justification of low traffic fines is the injured victim can sue in civil court. I'm concerned about this approach for the following reasons:

1. Public education. Law suits and their outcome are rarely made public. So what we get is: kill a cyclists and get fined $400 and that's generally it. (<a href=""></a>; ) Will there be a law suit or will the family just say it will not bring back the dead?

2. Contributory Negligence. I've written about this before numerous times but basically another way to prevent cyclists from winning in court (but please consult a lawyer first as results can vary.):
<a href=";query=Contributory+negligence&amp;submit=Search&amp;type=all&amp;st=0&amp;keyType=phrase&amp;author=all&amp;results=50">;query=Contributory+negligence&amp;submit=Search&amp;type=all&amp;st=0&amp;keyType=phrase&amp;author=all&amp;results=50</a>;

3. And now I find out about this:]
by Ronald V. Miller, Jr., Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog

The issue of pre-impact fright is a big deal in wrongful death car accident cases in Maryland.

Why? Well, in non-malpractice cases we have a cap on wrongful death claims and a cap on survival actions. In Maryland - I know some states have it reversed - the survival action is the victim's loss: his medical bills and pain and suffering damages. It is the only claim in the victim's own right for the wrong done to them. Under this law, if you shoot a guy in the back of the head without him seeing you coming, there is no survival action. Like the cap itself, this is a dumb law. (Fill in here your own rant about how misguided the cap is. I've done it here many times before, but the subject is inexhaustible.)

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Allow cars to pass over the double yellow, please [video]

Bike LawsIn this video shows why I would support allowing motorist to pass cyclists over the double yellow (no passing zone.)
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Two Chances to Reform Contributory Negligence Doctrine in Maryland

Bike Lawsby Jim Titus, The Washcycle

Observers have been expecting the Court to revisit this question for the last few years, because the Court requested a special report to evaluate the two doctrines. That report, completed last year, did not make specific recommendations; but it provided alot of context that will help the Court regardless of its decision. During the 20th century, 46 states adopted comparative fault, 34 by statute and 12 by court decision, with Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, and Maryland being the only holdouts.

As we have discussed on this blog many times, the doctrine of contributory negligence has alot of good points, but it is totally unfair to cyclists.

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Glen Echo pushes for Maryland's first stop sign camera

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: I am all for this! 1) We need a campaign that teaches that a significant safety issue is drivers rolling through stop signs (counter the idea that only cyclists roll through stop signs.) 2) If police can't get enough personnel out there enforcing public safety (and yes traffic enforcement is a public safety issue) then we should go with the automated enforcement.] Highlights:
Unlike speed and red light cameras, Maryland law does not allow stop sign cameras. Beers hopes to get the issue before the Maryland General Assembly in the upcoming session.

Alternatively, the county could begin allowing the town to keep the revenue earned from tickets given to drivers who roll through the stop sign, Beers suggested.

Since the town is too small to have its own police force, it hires off-duty county police officers to monitor the stop sign. But paying the police officers gets expensive, Beers said, and the extra revenue -- which the county keeps -- would help.

Stop sign cameras can keep people safe, Townsend said. Intersections controlled by stop signs account for more than 40 percent of all fatal crashes.

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A new type of anti-harassment law holds aggressive drivers accountable for their behavior

Bike LawsBy Bob Mionske

Although the roads belong to everybody, some motorists don’t see it that way. Maybe you’ve had a run-in with a driver who threw something at you or even tried to force you off the road. Such acts are illegal, but unless a police officer witnesses the crime, it’s very difficult to bring the motorist to justice.

That’s starting to change. Last year, the city of Los Angeles passed an anti-harassment law—the first of its kind in the nation—that empowers cyclists in new ways. Lawmakers elsewhere are starting to take notice: In February, Berkeley, California, passed its own version of the law. Last fall, cyclists in Washington, DC, fought for one as well, although it has not yet passed. Here’s how the new type of legislation evens the playing field—and why you should encourage your local or state representatives to enact a similar law.

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Bike Laws

A Close Look at Doug Morgan’s Columbus, Ohio Slam Dunk Victory

By Steven M. Magas, Ohio’s Bike Lawyer[1]

Early in 2010, my friend, and one of the smartest lawyers I know, Doug Morgan, defended a young cyclist in Franklin County Municipal Court.  The cyclist was cited for “taking the lane” on High Street – i.e. riding towards the center of the lane rather than hugging the white line. The officer cited him for a violation of Ohio’s “AFRAP” law, as adopted in the Columbus, Ohio, City Code.  Doug’s trial strategy should serve as a model for lawyers and cyclists alike in these cases.


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