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New Maryland Cycling Laws Go Into Effect Friday

September 29, 2010

The 2010 Maryland General Assembly, with substantial prodding and guidance from advocacy group One Less Car, managed to pass new bicycle legislation—some fairly substantial, some just for show—and this Friday it goes into effect. With some help from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, let’s take a moment to recap the changes.

The 3-foot passing law

The gist of the law is that motorists are now required to give cyclists 3 feet of clearance when passing. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t have the teeth it needs. The main problem: the 3-foot law has an exemption for roads that are too narrow to allow 3 feet of clearance safely. In this case, drivers are allowed to pass cyclists with less than 3 feet, which is in itself unsafe. But only to the cyclists.

Cyclists no longer have to ride on the shoulder

Ridiculous as it sounds, cyclists used to be required to take the road shoulder when it was “smooth” enough—which effectively made riding in traffic illegal on roads with a shoulder. Sensibly, this law has been repealed. Cyclists, however, still have to ride in a bike lane where there is one—no matter how much of an unmaintained death trap it may be.

Balanced funding for cyclists and pedestrians

The general idea is that Maryland is now required to give “an appropriate balance of funding” for pedestrian and cycling facilities alongside new highway construction; also: “‘increas[ing] accessibility for the greatest number of pedestrians and bicycle riders’ in transit-oriented areas.”

Sidewalk and Bike Path Construction

This common-sense law requires the state to improve or build sidewalks or bike paths where their absence is “’a substantial public safety risk or significant impediment to pedestrian access.’”

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