By Bruce Cohen - February 1, 2017
On Tuesday, February 7, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hear SB 337 and SB 338. We need to show that cyclists support these two critical bills.
SB 337 will clarify laws and allow bicyclists to ride their bicycles in a crosswalk.
SB 338 will remove the barriers to installing pedestrian activated signals on state highways and address concerns expressed by the State Highway Administration.
If you are a resident of any one of the following districts, we urge you to email your state senator.
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As a cyclist I urge you to support SB 337 — Vehicle Laws — Bicycles and Pedestrians — Use of Crosswalks and SB 338 — Vehicle Laws — Pedestrian Hybrid Signals.
As you will hear during the hearing, drivers continually fail to obey crosswalk laws. We need to ensure that cyclists are protected if they are riding their bicycle in a crosswalk and we need to install pedestrian-activated signals to allow both cyclists and pedestrians to safely cross our state highways.
We can do better. Please support SB 337 and SB 338 and help save lives throughout Maryland.
Under current Maryland law, cyclists are only permitted to ride their bicycles in a crosswalk if they are permitted to ride on the sidewalk causing confusion in the legal system.
Within a 6 month period, both Frank Towers and Oscar Osario were killed in Montgomery County while crossing Viers Mill Rd. In the case of Frank Towers, the judge ruled that the driver could not be penalized because Frank was riding his bike in the crosswalk instead of walking his bike across Veirs Mill Road.
SB 337 will provide needed clarification for cyclists and the legal system. SB 337 further specifies that drivers must stop and makes it illegal for a driver to go around another driver stopped at a crosswalk.
Pedestrian Hybrid Signals (PHS) allow pedestrians to safely cross in an area where there is no need for a full traffic light. At a PHS, the cyclist or pedestrian presses a button, which activates a series of signals that, for the drivers, change from flashing yellow to solid yellow to red to flashing red. When the solid red appears, the pedestrian sees a walking person in the pedestrian signal indicating that it is safe to cross. When the warning hand and the countdown clock starts, the drivers see a flashing red that allows them to proceed, after stopping and yielding to pedestrians. When the crossing is over, the light returns to a dark phase where it remains until activated. Drivers are permitted to proceed through a dark signal without stopping.
Pedestrian Hybrid Signals stop traffic using the red light that we all recognize and allow pedestrians to feel more certain that they have the right of way
Studies have shown that these signals reduce vehicle/pedestrian crashes by 69 percent. (Federal Highway Administration).
The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) has refused to install these signals. A letter from MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn stated that the “dark phase” of the HAWK signal was in conflict with current Maryland Law. In Maryland a dark light, most often seen during a power outage, requires drivers to stop as if it were a stop sign. SHA is concerned that the dark phase of the HAWK signals will confuse motorists.
However, State Highway 45, aka York Road has a HAWK signal. If one can be placed at York Road, why not on Veirs Mill Road?
In Maryland, local governments are beginning to use them in places such as Gude Drive in Rockville, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County. The PHS on Gude Drive less than 5 miles from the Veirs Mill Road crossing.
SB 338 will address the concerns raised by the State Highway Administration and remove barriers to installing these signals.