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The marine analogy is sadly misdrawn. With clear exceptions, the law says, power yields to sail, which yields to human power. Everyone knows it and nearly everyone observes it. The reference is to something known colloquially as the "rule of gross tonnage" which is just common sense in dealing with vessels who aren't obeying the regs or heavy shipping who can't slow or stop in a reasonable distance. We should be so lucky to have a similar situation on the roads.

Shell-shocked, eh? Are the bike bills giving Malone Jr. PTSD?

Wow, a possible 4-foot rule in Maryland. Here in Virginia we can't even get a 3-foot rule passed because delegates say it might inconvenience motorists. Cyclists across the river are living in luxury for sure. :>)

Seriously though, I think 3 feet is fine if people actually are aware of the law and care enough to obey it. But people know the law is to signal before turning, and that's maybe a 50-50 proposition.

I hate to criticize Shane, because he's really doing the Lord's work here, but it seems like there were some tactical missteps here. The proposals to too small to generate much interest, and the connection to changing common law rules simply invited negative conclusions. Pedestrians are smaller, and they get the right of way--the link should have referenced that the legislative goal that this rule embodied.

The maritime Rules of the Road are quite clear. There's a hierarchy of vessels that places the burden on craft that can maneuver most easily. Power boats must give way to sail; sailboats give way to tugs with tows; everyone gives way to a ship that's lost its steering.

Under the rules, a human-powered vessel counts as a vessel under power. If there's enough room, a kayaker has the same legal status as a supertanker.


The "rule of gross tonnage" speaks to the non-maneuverability of large vessels. It's a casual idea born of prudence, but it's actually enshrined in the rules of the road. The rules don't require a ship to turn faster than it's physically capable of turning.

The rules go back at least to the 19th century, and they're standardized internationally. Interestingly, there is no concept "right of way." Instead, they start with the principle that all vessels are obligated to keep clear of each other. The sea is a big place, much bigger than the road. The rules just exist to clarify obligations when two vessels must pass at close quarters.

Thanks for the correction about human power, DR. I guess I am just used to trying not to sail over kayakers and paddle boarders. I should modify my comment to read "Almost everyone...".

Vessels under sail are required to give way to vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver, not T & Ts specifically, and the "rule of gross tonnage" speaks equally to encounters between large and small pleasure boats, believe me.

To return to the issue at hand, however, the point is that navigation is governed by a highly explicit and generally obeyed set of rules, not Common Law or custom and the smaller and slower often take precedence.

I don't see what exactly HB0052 purports to accomplish, and I don't understand what is meant by the insurance example.

Have there been cases in which an insurance company has denied claims for a cyclist that they would have paid for a motorist under the same circumstances? What responsibilities do they think cyclists have beyond those of motorists? Are they denying claims based on the old "Bikes don't belong in the roadway" logic?

Interactions between vehicles were actually governed by common law at the beginning of the motor age. That didn't last long, and legislation (pushed by the automobile lobby) gave cars less liability than they had under common law...

Hit post too fast. I obviously meant that "motorists" have less liability, not "cars". Even when you try to be aware of that distinction, habits are hard to break.

Anyway, in the absence of legislation forcing pedestrians into ghettos/crosswalks, etc., motor vehicle accidents would be governed by common law principles such as negligence. Now, is it the motorist or the pedestrian who has a *duty to prevent injury to others*? The courts were picking the obvious choice on that in the early 20th century, and the car lobby fairly quickly obtained legislation to shift the liability off the motorists. (It would have been really hard to sell cars if the drivers would be held responsible for their behavior while driving.) Why Shane Farthing brought the unrelated topic of maritime law into this is beyond me, and the idea that our statutory system is intended to protect pedestrians/cyclists because common law did not is completely backward.

FYI: there are several other bills pending in the Maryland legislature that would affect bicyclists:

HB 241 Authorizing a driver of a vehicle to drive across the left side of a roadway in a no-passing zone, if it is safe to do so, while overtaking and passing a bicycle; and repealing an exception that applies under specified circumstances to the requirement that a driver of a vehicle, when overtaking a bicycle, pass safely at a specified minimum distance.

HB 530 and SB 520 Creating an exception to the prohibition against a person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter on a roadway where the posted maximum speed limit exceeds 50 miles an hour; and authorizing a person who is lawfully operating a bicycle or a motor scooter on a shoulder adjacent to a roadway for which the posted maximum speed limit exceeds 50 miles an hour to enter the roadway only if making or attempting to make a left turn, crossing through an intersection, or the shoulder is overlaid with specified directional markings.

Maryland lawmakers don't ALL suck. There are legislators who introduce and support bike-friendly bills. But Malone has always been a thorn in our side.

I'm not sure the wisdom of pushing for 4' when we only recently achieved 3'. It has a "never satisfied" or "moving the goalposts" quality to it. If we were so gung ho for 3' before, what changed? Were we wrong before? Before worrying about that there are some technical flaws with the 3' law that need to be addressed.

The safety of cyclists and motorists should be considered in all of this. If a car gives 4 feet, does that put them in danger of oncoming traffic? If a car does not give 4 feet, will it endanger the cyclist? A vehicle is much bigger, faster, and sturdy than a bicycle, so motorists should be aware of cyclists. On the other hand, cyclists should be aware of motorists and obey the traffic laws. It would be easy if bikes had their own lane and did not have to come close to motor-vehicles, but that isn't exactly the most realistic option. Many people wonder why bikes just don't stay on the sidewalks, but many areas prohibit bikes on the sidewalks. It is certainly an interesting and complex debate... do you mix motorists with cyclists or cyclists with pedestrians?

Cyclists belong on the roads in most instances.

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