The Maryland State Legislature is in the midst of its short session, and bike legislation under consideration needs a boost of support from the bicycling community. Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are leaders on bicycle issues, but many changes have to happen at the state level. It only takes a minute to send a letter of support to your representatives, and it makes a big difference when they hear from you.
Beginning today, Virginia law now requires to drivers to give at least three feet of space to bicyclists when passing. Safe passing laws are effective at educating drivers about safe distance needed to pass bicyclists while providing additional legal protection after a crash occurs. Virginia is the 21st state to enact the three foot passing law. The District of Columbia and Maryland state both have three footing passing laws on the books, so Virginia’s new law brings much needed consistency to Washington area bicyclists and drivers. The legislation (SB97) sponsored by Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) passed the full Senate on January 21 and it passed the House of Delegates on March 21. The bill was signed into law by Gov. McAuliffe shortly after its successful passage. Learn more about the legislative history of SB97 in our March blog post. WABA has worked for years with the Virginia Bicycling Federation to advocate for the three foot passing law. We would like to thank the thousands of Virginia bicyclists who contacted their legislators throughout 2014 legislative session.
As October 1 approaches and the numerous bicycle-related laws passed by the 2010 Maryland General Assembly and signed into law by Governor O’Malley are set to take effect, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on those bike advocacy successes and, more importantly, to ensure that cyclists are aware of the changes. 1. Three Foot Passing Maryland law now requires motorists to “pass safely at a distance of not less than three feet” when overtaking a cyclist unless: (a) the cyclist is not riding on the right or in the bike lane/shoulder as required by § 21-1205, or (b) the roadway is too narrow to allow three feet. Previously, it was widely assumed that the duty to pass safely meant three feet, but the new law clarifies that it does mean three feet in some situations and does not mean three feet in others. With this law, it becomes more important to “take the lane” whenever it is too narrow to safely share side-by-side, because otherwise you do not have the legal right to the 3-foot buffer. 2. Requirement to Ride in the Shoulder Repealed As of October 1, cyclists will no longer be required to ride in the shoulder where a smooth shoulder is provided and there is no bike lane. However, Maryland remains one of only five states to require that cyclists ride in the bike lane where provided. Removal of the shoulder-riding requirement is a significant step forward, but further advocacy is needed on the requirement to ride in a provided bike lane. 3. Crosswalks “Rules of the Road” The change in law also attempted to clarify some of the rights of cyclists in crosswalks–but many of those rights are still unclear.
- In jurisdictions where the local government has legalized riding on sidewalks (most of Montgomery County other than Gaithersburg) the bill gives cyclists the right to ride in any crosswalk. Moreover, at a signalized intersections, cyclists legally in the crosswalk now have the same right of way as pedestrians over cars with a green signal, or a car turning right on red.
- The bill did not give cyclists the same rights of way as pedestrians in crosswalks without a signal.
- In jurisdictions where riding on the sidewalk is illegal (most of Maryland including most of Prince Georges County), the bill did not provide for a right to ride in crosswalks.