Motorists must give 3ft to bikes in Maryland

By Kirsten Robbins | Tuesday, February 16, 2010 10.00pm

Motorists are now required to leave at least 3ft of space when passing cyclists on streets in the US state of Maryland.

The state’s senate approved House Bill 461 last week and motorists in violation will be fined a maximum $500 misdemeanor charge.

The Bill requires that drivers, when overtaking a bicycle, an Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device (EPAMD) or a motor scooter, must pass safely at a specified distance, except under specified circumstances.

It also requires motorists to yield the right-of-way to a person who is riding a bicycle, an EPAMD or a motor scooter in a bike lane or shoulder under specified circumstances. A House of Delegates committee will review the conditions of the new measure this week.

“Delegate Jon Cardin has been one of the main drivers behind this very important bike safety rule,” said Bill Kelly, chairman of the College Park Area Bike Coalition in Ellicott City, MD.

“The House Bill 461 was needed to make and keep cyclists safer on our busy roadways [and] also, to encourage folks to ride their bikes sometimes and not their autos to benefit all of us. There are five or six related Bike Safety Bills in this session.”

College Park Area Bike Coalition (CPABA) is a group that is devoted to bicycle advocacy, education and safety, and it backed the new piece of legislation.

“The 3ft bike clearance was requested several years ago and was a composite of many approaches to keeping cyclists safer when they biked on the roadways,” Kelly said.

“Some autos and motorists seemed to want to play chicken with bikes to see how close to the handlebars they could come and scared the cyclist into not riding on the road which is their right because bikes are a legal vehicle in all 50 states. Without a stated Three Foot Bike Clearance Law the police could not charge the errant motorist.”

This is not the first time the Maryland Senate has reviewed a bill to protect cyclists. In 2008 a similar version, House Bill 143, was also designed to force motorists to provide 3ft of space when passing cyclists and to yield to cyclists riding in a bike lane at intersections. However, it did not pass.

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