Baltimore Traffic Injury News: Study Says Maryland’s Three-Foot Rule Being Ignored by Motorists

As personal injury lawyers based in the Baltimore area, our firm is very sensitive to the safety and well-being of our residents, including pedestrians and bicyclists traveling throughout the urban areas here in Maryland, as well as in the District. Baltimore, as well as other cities throughout the country, has attracted a significant number of bicycle riders, runners and health-seeking walkers and joggers. There is no need for these people to be subject to excessive dangers in their own home towns.

Yet, nearly every pastime has with it some risk. Depending on the activity, a person must take into account a number of inherent dangers as part of that pastime, be it jogging for exercise, cycling for enjoyment or even walking to work. As automobile and trucking accident lawyers, we understand that eliminating all risk is a virtual impossibility. That’s not to say people should abandon their passions based on a certain amount of intrinsic hazard involved with that activity; just be aware of the negatives and stay as safe as one can.

For bicycle riders, Maryland’s state legislature had acted to improve the cycling community’s safety by enacting the so-called “3-foot rule.” This rather new legislation was supposed to give riders an extra amount of “legal” buffer on public roads; which was a welcome change since some of the roadways in an around our urban centers leave very little should room for bikes. Obviously the potential for bodily injury is still quite high for cyclists.

And while the move was applauded by nearly everyone across the state, a study published not too long ago apparently found that drivers are not adhering to the new law, which has led to cars and trucks putting a continual squeeze on bike riders throughout Maryland. Based on news articles, cyclists in and around the Baltimore area are almost regularly passed by automobiles well within the three-foot limit afforded cyclist by the 2010 law.

The latest conclusion was arrived at by researchers working out of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. In the actual document, published in the industry magazine, “Accident Analysis & Prevention,” researchers asked the simplest of questions: “Is the three-foot law working in Baltimore?” The answer, which came after observing more than 400 real-life situations of cars and trucks passing cyclists on our roadways, essential states that barely 17 percent of drivers yield the mandatory three feet to an adjacent bicycle on Baltimore roads.

By reviewing more than 600 minutes of video footage created just for this study, study participants discovered that only one in six motor vehicle drivers allow sufficient space between their vehicle and the bicycle rider in the video. The tests were carried out in several Baltimore neighborhoods, including Pigtown, Hampden, Mount Vernon and Charles Village.

The researchers in charge noticed that although a standard 10-foot-wide traffic lane provides, on average, room for a vehicle to pass a bike with 4.8 feet buffer space. However, it soon became clear, based on the extensive video records, that 17 percent of vehicle passes were effected with less than three feet of room for the cyclist.

Another interesting point brought to light by this study is that since December, 2011, the three-foot law has been enforced only twice, but in both cases there had to be a collision between a bike and a car before the authorities even levied charges. This is more than a bit distressing since nearly 2,000 cyclists were counted at eight Baltimore locations in September 2011, reflecting a nearly six percent increase over the same period in 2010.

Study Finds Three-Foot Law Not Followed,, April 16, 2012
Love, D.C., et al., Is the three-foot bicycle passing law working in Baltimore, Maryland? Accid. Anal. Prev. (2012)

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