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Three Feet on Every Road

By - January 26, 2016

Note: House Bill 214 has its hearing in the House of Delegates on February 11th at 1:30 pm. If you would like to submit oral or written testimony, please email Emily at emily@bikemd.org or call at (443) 406-2711, ext. 1.

Pieces to include:

  • Testimony about a close encounter
  • Images of roads where lane widths are too narrow but drivers have buffer zones
  • Images of roads where it is not safe to pass in lane

Maryland’s three foot law does not apply on narrow roads, where lanes are less than 14′ wide. Most of the roads where cycling is allowed have lanes less than 14′ wide. House Bill 214, sponsored by Delegates Lafferty, Fraser-Hidalgo, Lam, Carr, Chang, Ebersole, Krimm, Lierman, Miele, and Moon seeks to change that.

Contact your delegates and senators to let them know that you care about bicycling issues, especially that you want the three foot law to apply on all roads. The safest way for a driver to pass you on your bicycle is to wait until there is room. The current law legally condones a driver squeezing passed you in the same lane, and that is not acceptable.

  • When passed in 2010, Maryland’s three foot law, which requires a minimum of three feet when passing a bicyclist, included a narrow highway exception. Maryland’s three foot law does not apply on most roads where bicyclists ride.
  • Over Summer 2015, Bike Maryland participated in a working group with members of the House Committee of Environment and Transportation, Maryland Department of Transportation, the State Highway Administration, the Maryland Motor Truck Association, county planners, MACO, AAA, and others to discuss safe passing of a bicyclist on narrow roads. We decided that the safest way to pass a bicyclist is to wait until there is room.
  • Three feet is the national standard of safety, and by refusing to mandate this behavior Maryland will continue to fall behind other, competitive states. Maryland has fallen from the 7th most bicycle friendly state to 10th as other states make strides forward. The narrow lane exception of Maryland’s current three foot law is cited as a reason.
  • 26 states have at least three-foot passing laws, even rural states with narrow roads such as Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia. Maryland is unique with its “narrow highway” exception.
  • On roads where there could be room for three feet, engineers provide safety and convenience measures for drivers, not bicyclists. Frequently, even on preferred bicycle routes, bicyclists lose their shoulder and are required to merge into a narrow lane with 45-50 mph traffic in order to provide drivers with turn lanes and buffers from oncoming traffic. Bicyclists need a legal mandate for three feet to make up for roads designed for motor vehicle safety – not bicycle safety.
  • Bicyclists on the right side of the road, often riding there to minimize their impact on motor traffic, are the most vulnerable to close passes, limiting their ability to avoid obstacles. The current three foot law threatens polite cyclists riding to the right.

In 2010, the three foot bill passed at the last minute in a large part because of Larry Bensky’s widow’s tearful testimony about the recent death of her husband, for whom we hold the annual Larry’s Ride. Because of the narrow lane exception, Maryland’s three foot law excepts Butler Road, where Larry died. Maryland cyclists deserve three feet passing clearance on all roads.

Legislators ask us how many members we have overall and in their district. Join Bike Maryland today and be counted as a constituent who is committed to safe cycling.

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