New law doesn’t give cyclists special treatment

April 19, 2010

Maryland's new three-foot rule is intended to make motorists aware that they are sharing the road with bicyclists. Tragically, it took the death of bicyclist Larry Bensky to persuade the legislature, after five years, to finally pass this safety legislation.

Since the folks in northern Baltimore County have opposed safety improvements like road widening and eliminating blind spots to retain the rural, scenic character of their roads, everyone who uses these roads needs to be extra careful. It's not just bicyclists. There are school buses picking up and dropping off children. Carriers are delivering mail to residences. Tractors and horse trailers are extra wide, sometimes causing opposing traffic to have to pull over. As a motorist, I find it easier and safer to have to slow down and wait until it's safe to pass a bicyclist than to have to stop and pull off the road for a horse trailer or tractor. But they are all part of northern Baltimore County's rural heritage and should be respected.

People need to put aside their "me first" culture and begin looking out and caring for our fellow citizens. That bicyclist could be your doctor, accountant, or pharmacist — and a child's mom or dad. Treat him/her like you would like someone else to treat your loved ones. Bicycling is a wonderful way to exercise, lose weight and enjoy those treasured rural areas that are protected from development by zoning laws and tax dollars used to purchase development rights.

Requiring motorists to have to wait until it's safe to pass a bicyclist is not giving bicyclists special treatment. The overtaking vehicle always has the duty to use due care and wait until it's safe to pass. Also, most bicyclists wear bright clothing, making them easily seen. Blinking lights are only needed at night or during poor visibility in rain or fog. However, the combination of "Share the Road" signs and paved pulloffs on uphills, where bicyclists go slower, would facilitate easier passing and enhance safety.

Jeffrey H. Marks, Baltimore

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