By Bruce Cohen - April 9, 2015
As the legislative session begins to wrap up, we extend a hearty thank you to the legislators who worked with us and advanced legislation that helps bicyclists across the state. Part of our legislative agenda this year was supporting legislation that tackles drunk driving and hit-and-runs, an issue that affects bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers all across the state. We also supported legislation that addresses the actual design of state roads, which can create a safer environment for bicyclists and pedestrians, or create a dangerous one. The legislation we introduced with Senators Klausmeier, Raskin, Lee, and Guzzone and Delegates Lafferty, Fraser-Hidalgo, Aumann, Fush, Carr, Lierman, Luedtke, McIntosh, and Miele looked to provide protection for bicyclists on narrow Maryland roads by applying the three-foot law on all roads, but this did not make it through committee.
HB 450/ SB 371 – This law places a timeline for the State Highway Administration to develop the guidelines for and approve Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Areas. The original Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area legislation passed many years ago, but as of yet only White Flint has been designated despite many applications.
SB 86 – Creates a “Yellow Alert” system for hit-and-runs, similar to the alert system the police use for missing children. Community identification of hit and run drivers is common, and getting this information out quickly helps police apprehend hit-and-run drivers before they have the opportunity to hide, sober, or dispose of evidence.
SB 605 – Aggressive Drunk Driving: This law clarifies that “super drunks” or repeat offenders who kill or injure a person while driving under the influence can be sued for punitive damages.
HB 588/SB 547 – Update to the Three Foot Passing Law: Our attempt to have the three foot passing law apply on all Maryland roads did not move forward session. We tried to remove an exception that made it so if the roadway was too narrow to give three feet the law did not apply. This exception almost killed advocate support for the original law because it makes the law confusing and difficult to enforce, as well as prioritizes driver convenience over bicyclist safety. For a more in depth analysis, please see our post here.
HB 539 – This law puts a mandate on the State Highway Administration to evaluate the speed limits on urban state highways and determine if they should be altered. As it stands right now, SHA does not have to return to reclassify roads and appropriate speeds as use along that road changes. The Environment and Transportation Committee voted unfavorably for the bill and it will not move forward this year. However, this is an important discussion to start, and we applaud Delegate Carr for bringing it up this year.
HB 546 – This law creates an oversight committee for the Maryland Transit Administration but was voted unfavorably in the House Environment and Transportation Committee.