Cyclists in Annapolis, Baltimore, Columbia and everywhere else across our state can possibly breath a little easier now that the state’s three-foot rule is law. As a Maryland personal injury lawyer representing victims of bicycle-related traffic accidents, I know that several feet may not seem like a lot to some people, but ask most any cyclist and you’ll find they appreciate the extra margin of safety that this new law hopes to provide.
That’s not to say that we have now eliminated any chance of bicycle-related injuries as a result of a car, SUV, pickup or commercial delivery truck accident. Let there be no mistake, cycling enthusiasts and bicycles in general have not become invincible, but they have gained a little more respect on the road, at least in the eyes of the law. Head and spinal injuries, not to mention broken bones, cuts and bruises are all potential injuries when a bike is struck by a car or truck.
According to news articles, it’s been decades since the original “share the road” signs began to appear across the state, reminding Maryland motorists to be mindful of pedal-powered commuters on our public roadways. With the latest law taking effect, that reminder now has some teeth — driver that ignore the three-foot rule could face a fine of up to $500 if they are caught. But will this help reduce fatal car-bike accidents?
The new law, which took effect on October 1, provides more exacting definition of what is acceptable when motor vehicles and bicycles meet on our ever more crowded roads. By now, everyone has heard stories of nerve-shaking close encounters that cyclists have long endured when riding around on urban, and even rural, streets and roadways.
Based on reports, more than 600 cyclists died across the nation in 2009. A sobering 51,000 bike riders were injured in car and truck accidents last year as well. Here in Maryland, 11 cyclers were killed in collisions on state roads in 2009, and that represented an increase over the previous year.
Sadly these statistics have been rising as more and more recreational cyclists as well as two-wheel commuters have increased in number — all encouraged by the newly established bicycle lanes, which unfortunately have also added to the frustration level of automobile drivers and engendered in some drivers active aggression against cyclists. One can only hope that this new law will make drivers think about and watch for those lesser protected road users.
New bike law takes effect in Md., WashingtonPost.com, September 30, 2010