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Maryland Slips in Bicycle Friendly State Ranking

By - June 17, 2015

This year Maryland slipped from the 7th most bike friendly state to 10th, down from number two in the East to number three. Since last year’s announcement, Maryland has added two new Bicycle Friendly Communities: Hagerstown and Salisbury, and the University of Maryland College Park moved up to be a gold level Bicycle Friendly University.

This slip in ranking doesn’t mean that Maryland has declined since 2014, but it does mean that we are not advancing like other states around us, and if we want to continue to be a competitive state we need to up our game.

Immediately after the rankings were released, Nate and I met with Michael Jackson, the state’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator at the Maryland Department of Transportation. The issue with Maryland’s ranking hinges on a couple of fixable, but major problems:

  1. Our Three Foot “Safe Passing” law has too many exceptions which make it a weak law when compared to other states. In Maryland, if the road is too narrow to provide three feet of space while remaining in the same lane, the law does not apply. We do not believe this is a reasonable stance for a law to take. If three feet is the safe metric for passing, then bicyclists and other vulnerable road users should be given three feet on all roads.
  2. Bicycle/Pedestrian crossing of the Susquehanna River. The East Coast Greenway, when completed, connects Maine to Florida. Right now there is only one place where the cue sheets tell bicyclists to get off their bikes and drive. That place is in Maryland, between Perryville and Havre de Grace. As of today, there is no way for a bicyclist to cross the Susquehanna in or around those towns without taking a twenty mile detour over the narrow Conowingo Dam.

Some other issues noted in the state’s report card are already on the road to being dealt with, so that we will be ready for next year.

  • The Maryland Department of Transportation has been working on a project to pull and compile bicycle-related crash data. At the same time, we are working on a complementary, self-reported system because many bicycle collisions are not reported.
  • The State Highway Administration already collects information on exempted projects and tracks bicycle and pedestrian accommodation compliance. As we work closely with the State Highway Administration, we know that those who handle bicycle and pedestrian accommodation waivers take it very seriously. However, detailed information on the number and types of waivers is not public.
  • We are in the process of providing training to State Highway engineers and planners on implementing their own bicycle accommodation policy.

It is great that the Maryland Department of Transportation is taking our ranking decline seriously. Maryland is a great place to live and ride, but we have work that we need to finish to maintain our competitive edge against our fellow Mid-Atlantic states: Delaware (3), New Jersey (11), Pennsylvania (12), Virginia (13).