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Baltimore Cyclist Dies; Maryland still waiting on ruling for ”3feet2pass”

Jack Yates Ghost Bike

Baltimore's first "Ghost Bike," dedicated to Jack Yates by Velocipede Bike Project in 2009 (Photo by City Paper)

By ELIZABETH SUMAN

Lawrence Bensky, a 43-year-old pedacyclist, was hit and killed by a Toyota Echo near Butler and Falls roads this afternoon, at least the second cyclist to die from a car wreck in the Baltimore area in the last year.

Cyclist Jack Yates, 67, was killed in a hit-and-run accident on August 4, 2009 by a truck making a right-hand turn on the corner of Maryland and Lafayette.

The latest incident comes as the Maryland General Assembly is considering Senate Bill 51, a measure sponsored by Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D) and Sen. Jamie Raskin (D), that requires drivers to give bicycles and scooters a minimum of three feet of space on the road.

The measure also stipulates that drivers must yield to cyclists riding legally through intersections. Violators would receive a maximum $500 fine.

The official synopsis of Bill 51 states:

Requiring that a driver of a vehicle, when overtaking a bicycle, an Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device (EPAMD), or a motor scooter, pass safely at a distance of not less than 3 feet, with a specified exception; requiring a driver of a vehicle to yield the right-of-way to a person who is riding a bicycle, an EPAMD, or a motor scooter in a bike lane or shoulder under specified circumstances; etc.

The three-foot passing law, known among cycling advocates as “3feet2pass,” is being advocated for by several states across the country, including Hawaii, Washington state, Colorado and Ohio. Similar bills have already been passed in other states including New Hampshire, Maine and Tennessee.

At the time of the crash, a Baltimore Police spokesman was quick to say Yates was at fault. If the “3feet2pass” law had been in place, however, it would have been illegal for the driver to turn in front of Yates.

Yates’ family has since filed suit against Potts & Callahan, alleging that one of their drivers struck Yates and was responsible.

Maryland has considered versions of Senate Bill 51 on and off for years and some bike advocates have said this year, the bill may actually have a chance.

The measure was approved in February and the senate was scheduled to vote on March 30, though no results have been publicly announced.

Sen. Forehand’s office did not return a call requesting comment.

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  • gsimmons77

    Although SB 51 contains the legislation at issue, the real fight is over its sister bill, HB 461. The Senate version already has passed, but HB 461 has been stalled for weeks in a subcommittee of the House Environmental Matters Committee, where it will stay until there are enough delegates to move it favorably up the chain. For anyone who lives in a district of a delegate on that subcommittee, I would encourage you to contact them now. The session ends Monday. The membership of the Motor Vehicles and Transportation subcommittee is available on page 20 of this .pdf file: http://mlis.state.md.us/Other/Roster/Committee.pdf. … Also, I’ve learned that Marc Steiner will be discussing this very topic tonight on 88.9 FM at about 6:45 p.m. for anyone interested.
    Best,
    Greg Simmons
    President, U of M School of Law Cycling Club
    J.D. Candidate, ’11

  • bob newman

    Cyclists will ride the line forcing vehicles to cross the centerline into oncoming traffic. Only a politician would dream something up this stupid.

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