By Bruce Cohen - December 21, 2015
This year we are supporting legislation that improves bicyclist safety and comfort on the roads by targeting dangerous driver behavior and road design.
After the Three Foot Working Group over Summer 2015, Delegates Lafferty, Fraser-Hidalgo, and Lam are sponsoring a bill that will remove the “narrow highway” exception from Maryland’s current three foot bill and also includes a provision to pass at a safe speed as to not endanger, impede, or interfere with bicyclists in the road. If you are their constituent, be sure to thank them.
As we as cyclists across the state support this bill, we need to show the reasoning for it. If you have a story, images, or other evidence to illustrate why three feet on every road is vital for our safety and comfort on Maryland roads that are designed for the safety and comfort of those protected by steel and airbags, not ours, please contact Emily Ranson, our advocacy coordinator.
Over the years, the cycling community has been continually frustrated when drivers who kill a cyclist are given a slap on the wrist because they were not drunk or texting when the offense occurred. Driving into the sun, not paying attention to the road, or falling asleep at the wheel, are not considered negligence, despite the fact that drivers should be in control of their vehicle at all times. When we choose to drive we need to understand that we wield a powerful and deadly vehicle, and we need to behave appropriately. If a hunter fired blindly or fell asleep with a loaded weapon and killed someone, it would not be called an “accident.”
In this, we support a Vulnerable Road User law, similar to those already adopted by seven states. This law increases penalties for seriously injuring or killing a bicyclist, or other vulnerable road user, and most importantly this law does not require intent. The penalty for this law in other states includes financial penalties, jail time, mandatory motor safety education, community service, and license suspension.
Other legislation that is coming up that we support includes increased penalties and restrictions on drunk drivers, a bill that includes penalties for “coal rolling” a bicyclist or other road user, and a repeal of the mandatory bike lane use law.
For more information on the bills that will be introduced this session, please see our 2016 Legislative Agenda.