MVA chief replies to bicyclists' objections
There was quite a bit of outrage in the Baltimore bicyclist community about my basically pro-bicyclist column in Monday's Sun. The column accurately quoted Buel Young, spokesman for the Motor Vehicle Administration, on the effects of the state's new law requiring motorists to maintain a 3-foot buffer when passing bicyclists.
Among the most outraged was local bicyclist Barry Childress, who fired off a letter essentally calling for Young's head on a platter (OK, slight exaggeration). The following is the reply he received from John T. Kuo, head of the MVA:
Dear Mr. Childress:
As follow up to our telephone conversation yesterday evening, thank you again for sharing your concerns regarding the statements attributed to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) in Michael Dresser’s October 3, 2010 "Getting There" column entitled "New bicycle law codifies common sense, courtesy / But folks on two wheels have responsibilities, too." The article concerns the new law that requires a three-foot buffer when passing a bicycle.
This new law does not change or impact any other existing motor vehicle laws. A bicycle on the road is considered a vehicle and has exactly the same rights as any other vehicle on the road. In fact, Maryland Motor Vehicle Law states that "every person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter in a public bicycle area has the rights granted to and is subject to all the duties required of the driver of a vehicle by this title." In addition, all drivers have the responsibility to show due care as stated in Maryland Vehicle Law 21-504 to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.
The Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) is committed to the safety of all vehicles on Maryland’s roads, including bicycles. Bicycles are part of the traffic scene, sharing the road with other users. In our public outreach efforts, we consistently emphasize the message of sharing the road. We urge drivers to look out for other vehicles, drawing particular attention to motorcycles, large trucks and bicycles.
Common sense and good judgment must prevail to insure the safe and practical use of the roadway for both vehicles and bicycles. In the state’s approved driver’s education curriculum, 15 miles an hour below the posted speed limit is used as a benchmark for impeding traffic. This information is only meant as a guideline and is not a legal requirement. Good judgment regarding the safety of all vehicles and individuals must always be exercised.
The MVA is currently in the process of revising The Maryland Driver’s Handbook and has reached out to the bicycling community through the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access. The new handbook should be published next year and will have updated information relating to the laws for bicyclists and drivers. The MVA will constantly work to provide the public with the best possible information regarding driver and vehicle safety, not only as it relates to specific motor vehicle laws but also to recommended best practices.
As we discussed and agreed, all vehicles operating on our roadways should exercise an abundance of caution and courtesy at all times to help prevent accidents. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to contact directly at anytime.
John T. Kuo
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration