Monday, October 4, 2010

Maryland Bicycle Law Has No Teeth

I came across this story in the Baltimore Sun about a three-foot rule being enacted in Maryland. That is, Maryland has a new law that requires drivers give a three-foot buffer when passing a bicyclist on the road. Now, I don't live in Maryland but I am interested in cyclist's rights everywhere.
Advocates for bicyclists scored a big win this year when they persuaded the Maryland General Assembly to adopt a measure requiring drivers to leave a 3-foot buffer when passing a bicycle.
On the surface I think this law is a great idea; however, when you dig into the specifics it seems as if the law has no teeth. The article goes on to point out that cyclists have the responsibility to pull over and make room for cars if they are going 15 mph or more below the speed limit. Then there is this last little tidbit from the article:
Now let's say the bicyclist is in the wrong — blithely hogging the travel lane while slowing the motorist to 20 mph under the speed limit. In that case, the buffer rule does not apply. But drivers who would prefer not to spend their day explaining that to police after a collision should keep their distance anyway.
I want to dissect the logic here because the way I read it, in most situations the law would not apply. Lets say you are like me, a lowly bike commuter, riding to work day by day, just trying to get by.  What I'm getting at is I'm not Lance Armstrong, I am almost always riding at least 15 mph below the speed limit. So instead of giving me rights, this law takes away my rights to the road in almost all situations. Laws like this have to be written without caveats that give drivers loopholes to escape prosecution for reckless behavior. Otherwise, the laws don't really do anything to protect cyclists.

 Baltimore Sun Story

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