Three-foot rule won’t make bicyclists safer

April 15, 2010

The road bicyclists use the death of one of their own this week to lobby the state for a mandatory three-foot buffer from cars. These road bicyclists choose some of the worst roads to ride on, rural route roads like Falls Road and the side roads of Upperco in Baltimore County, where if the state of Maryland wanted to do anything rational, it would ban the use of bicycles on all rural route roads without shoulders because it isn't safe to operate bicycles on them.

These twisty, windy roads with blind corners and rapidly changing elevations and without shoulders are constantly used by commercial vehicles like horse trailers, farm equipment and people towing machinery, which many times extends beyond the lane they are traveling in. Motorists traveling in the opposite direction many times have to more off the road to allow these vehicles to pass. These cyclists expect to get a three-foot buffer on these roads? It is not possible.

Instead, these cyclists, who I see constantly without the proper safety equipment (rear-view mirrors on their bicycles or helmets and blinking lights on their bicycles) want to be given special treatment. Just using the picture in The Sun from Tuesday, not one of the people pictured atop a cycle is employing this equipment. They want to operate on roads where they are a danger to themselves and other motorists and constitute a public nuisance.

It is simply impossible to have a three-foot buffer for them on these roads. A three-foot buffer would require bicyclists to be riding on a wide shoulder or bike lane and the motorist to actually move about a foot into another lane to pass them. This is not possible on these roads, where the motorist would be required to cross over a double yellow every time a cyclist is encountered. Many times, due to the speed and the nature of these winding roads with blind turns, and the fact cyclists do not employ any safety equipment like blinking lights, the motorist will have to take this action suddenly because the cyclist will appear suddenly. Furthermore, because most cyclists do not use rear-view mirrors, they have no idea a car is bearing down on them and cannot even check for approaching cars. The motorists of the opposite side of the in this situation could easily find themselves in a head-on collision.

The fact is, this proposed three-foot buffer will probably encourage even more cyclists to use these roads because it is going to give them a false sense of security. This will probably sadly result in more cyclists being killed and worse road conditions on already dangerous roads for motorists.

Daniel O'Neal Vona, Baltimore

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