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