Saturday, January 30, 2016

On the Narrow-Highway Exception to Maryland's 3-Foot Law

This is the letter I just wrote to Senator Jim Rosapepe and delegates Barbara Frush, Ben Barnes, and Josaline Pena-Melnyk about the need to get rid of the narrow highway exception to Maryland's 3-foot law. BikeMaryland's article outlines it pretty well, but it's important for individuals to speak out, in addition to the wonderful work being done by BikeMaryland and BikeAAA.

Dear Senator Rosapepe,

Getting rid of the narrow-highway exception to the 3-foot law will protect bicyclists in the short and long term, and help to defuse the tension between the bicycling community and the driving community.

My route to almost everywhere requires me to ride on Annapolis Rd between Arundel High and the traffic circle, then on Odenton Rd between the traffic circle and the MARC station.

Both of these roads fall under the "narrow highway" exception for bicyclists. Vehicles aren't obligated to give me a safe passing distance, and usually don't. Both the high school and the MARC station are destinations one would expect for bicyclists traveling to school or work.

As a motorist, I am aware of the inconvenience to motorists by the presence of a bicyclist. As a result, I prefer to ride to the right of the lane, so that motorists can pass when it is safe. When motorists pass too close - as the current law allows - I ride in the middle or left portion of the lane. Preventing motorists from passing too close is safer in the short-term, but I worry about the ill-will it engenders.

As a cyclist, I need the protection of the 3-foot law. I need to know that motorists will respect my need for safety by waiting until they can leave a safe passing margin, and that I don't have to take actions which would seem aimed at angering drivers in order to achieve my short-term safety.

Getting rid of the narrow-highway exception to the 3-foot law will protect bicyclists in the short-term and in the long-term, as motorists learn that leaving a safe passing margin is not the "polite" thing to do, but the legal thing to do.

When motorists understand that laws prioritize bicyclists' safety, they will be less likely to take cyclists' presence on the roads as a personal affront. They will be less likely - I think - to succumb to rage against an individual cyclist. Getting rid of the narrow-highway exception will be good for motorists and cyclists.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.

In peace,

Jennifer A. Carson

Monday, January 4, 2016

Terrorists vs. Assholes

Terrorists are total assholes, but not all assholes are terrorists. While this may seem obvious, it's clear that we could all use a refresher.

Let's start with definitions.

The FBI states that domestic terrorism must contain the following three characteristics. It must:

  • Happen within U.S. territory.
  • Include acts dangerous to human life that violate state or federal law.
  • Appear to be intended to 1) intimidate or coerce a civilian population, 2) influence government policy through intimidation or coercion, or 3) affect government actions through mass destruction, kidnapping, or assassination. 

These are terrorists

Let's apply this checklist to the situation in rural Oregon:

  • Happened in the U.S. - Check! (Last I checked, Oregon was in the U.S.)
  • Includes acts dangerous to human life - Nope!
  • Appears intended to 1) intimidate or coerce a civilian population - Nope! 2) influence government policy - Not really. 3) Affect government actions through mass destruction, kidnapping, or assassination - Nope!

Now, admittedly, that third point on the checklist gets a little murky. I could see an argument that their actions appear intended to influence government policy - that would be, the government's policy of continuing to maintain and administer federal land. However, the Bundy's redress of grievances focuses not on government policy, but on specific actions of the government. The armed militia is not trying to affect government actions through mass destruction, kidnapping, or assassination. So, that third point still gets a "not really."
These are not terrorists
While I can get behind the sentiment that had this militia been composed of anyone other than white people, the reaction would have been different, the reality is that no one was threatened or harmed in this, with the exception of the threat of violence as a response to government attempts to clear the building. It's not white-washing - they just aren't terrorists.

We don't need to apply the terrorist moniker to them to even the scoreboard - we should stop applying it where it doesn't belong. That's how you even the scoreboard and maintain perspective.

We should be taking action. We shouldn't take action because we'd take action if they were Muslims or if they were African American. That's not why. We need to make it clear that taking over a federal building - occupied or not, remote or not - will not be tolerated. Not by terrorists, not by assholes.

As funny as the terms #Y'allQaeda, #VanillaISIS, #TaliBundy, and #YeeHawd are, this isn't terrorism. They aren't terrorists - they're just assholes.



  • Da'ish/ISIL/ISIS/Whatever
  • Al-Qa'ida/Al Qaeda/Al Kayda/However
  • Boko Haram
  • Those Paris-hating assholes

Not Terrorists:

  • The man at work who wears a turban
  • The kid with a Super-Soaker
  • The asshole who pulls into the parking spot you sharked for hours to get
  • Those assholes occupying an empty rural federal building