Baltimore County Now
Sheldon Epstein, Chair, Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee
Cyclists and Motorists – Be Safe Out There
Over the past several weeks Department of Public Works contractors have been posting bike route signs and marking bike lanes in the Towson area to encourage us to leave our cars at home and try cycling. The Towson “Bike Beltway” Loop is only one of several new on-road bikeways that are being planned in Towson and other areas in the county.
With these improvements, Baltimore County is joining the growing number of cities, towns and counties throughout the US that are offering bicycling as an active transportation option. The county is making it easier for us to choose to bike, especially for those of us who live close to shopping, work, transit or parks. Cycling is an earth-friendly and healthy way to get around, as long as we do it safely. And it’s not just cyclists that may need a safety refresher. Many drivers who are not used to encountering bikes on the road could benefit from a few traffic safety reminders too.
So, let’s review a few of the rules of the road to help keep everyone safe and happy.
Bikes Belong.Some motorists think roadways are meant to be used only by cars, trucks and buses. But in fact, state law recognizes bicycles as vehicles, and allows them on almost all roadways. Those “Share the Road” signs you see occasionally are posted to alert drivers to expect to encounter cyclists on popular bike routes. But sharing the road is something that motorists and bicyclists should do wherever bicycles are permitted.
Obey the Rules of the Road.Since they are vehicles, bicyclists are expected to obey traffic safety laws. They are required to ride in the same direction as the motor traffic, and stop at stop signs and red traffic signals just as cars do. Slower moving cyclists are to stay to the right hand side of the road to allow motorists to pass them more easily, a law that also applies to motor vehicles. Cyclists are allowed to move left when needed to protect their safety, pass slower moving bicyclists, or make left turns. When passing a cyclist, a new law requires motorists to leave at least three feet of separation.
Be Careful in Intersections: Many traffic accidents (including those with bikes) happen at intersections. So, motorists--yield to cyclists as you would to any other vehicle. Be aware that it can be easy for you to underestimate how fast a bicycle is traveling. Experienced cyclists can be moving at 20-25 m.p.h. or more. And cyclists—always use appropriate hand signals before you turn so that your intentions are clear.
Wear the Helmet: Cyclists 16 and older are not required to wear a helmet, but it’s just a good safety practice. OK, they aren’t that fashionable, but accidents do happen, so protect the most important part of your body–your brain.
Avoid “Dooring”:Bicyclists riding adjacent to parked cars are especially leery of disembarking drivers opening their car doors in their paths. This can really hurt! Both exiting drivers and passing cyclists need to pay special attention when cars are parked on the road.
Please Don’t Yell or Throw Things: Drivers can get frustrated when they get behind a slower moving bicycle. But please take a deep breath, and wait calmly until it is safe to pass. And cyclists–follow the rules, be courteous, and enjoy the ride safely!
For more safety tips, check out: http://mhso.mva.maryland.gov/SafetyPrograms/program_bicycle_safety.htm
Lt. Steve Troutman, Baltimore County Police Crash Team Leader
Battalion Chief Jennifer Utz, Baltimore County Fire Department
Now that summer is here, people are getting out and about more. Sadly, the beautiful June weather means more people will be seriously hurt - or killed - just crossing the street.
It’s not usually who you think, or for the reasons you think…
There are some common misconceptions when it comes to pedestrian crashes. Most people tend to assume that the crash is caused by the person behind the wheel. That is normally NOT the case. Plus, it’s more often an adult rather than a child who is struck.
In fact, 80% of these incidents are actually caused by the pedestrian. Many of these fatal crashes are results of:
· Failure to walk in crosswalks or obey crosswalk signals
· Distracted walking
· Failure to look both ways
· Wearing dark clothing while walking at night
You might be even more surprised to know that 60% of those killed last year in pedestrian-vehicle crashes were over the age of 40. That’s right, we’re not just talking about distracted students or young children; most pedestrian infractions are committed by adults.
Tragically, in recent years, Baltimore County is experiencing a significant increase in the number of serious pedestrian crashes. Each year, the Baltimore County Police and Fire Departments respond to about 420 pedestrian-vehicle crashes - that’s more than one accident every day, on average! In 2013, the number of fatal crashes in Baltimore County increased more than in the last five years.
Though pedestrian related crashes are prevalent throughout Baltimore County, there are particular areas where rates are higher, such as Liberty Road in Randallstown, York Road in Towson, and Merritt Boulevard in Dundalk. Each of these areas has high volumes of traffic, which can result in greater chances of injury. There are also large numbers of pedestrian crashes near bus stops, as pedestrians can sometimes focus more on making the bus or rushing home than on their own safety.
With the drastic increase in pedestrian accidents in the last few years, Baltimore County is launching a “Heads Up! Walk Safe” public awareness campaign, focusing on four simple reminders:
· Obey the Law: always cross at a crosswalk or intersection
· Avoid Distractions: put away the cell phones and other electronic devices while crossing
· Be Visible: when walking or running at night, wear bright colors
· Be Aware: be mindful of your surroundings and know when a vehicle is approaching
Find out more on the County’s Walk Safe web page. On behalf of our fellow first responders, please walk safely and don’t be our next crash victim!
Edited by Justin Tucker, Baltimore County Office of Communications Intern
Chairman, Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee
Now that spring has finally sprung, it's time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. What better way to enjoy the fresh air than to put on your walking shoes or dust off your bike and take a ride.
Baltimore County began the process of transforming itself into a more walkable and bike-friendly community by developing pedestrian and bicycle improvement plans. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC), working with the County Department of Planning, recommended areas where sidewalks, bike lanes and other types of improvements could be made. The PBAC is composed of enthusiasts representing each council district, the county administration, and Bike Maryland, a local advocacy group.
So far, the County has received State funding through the Maryland Bikeways program to stripe bicycle lanes and install bike route signs in Catonsville, Arbutus/Halethorpe, and Towson. If more State funding becomes available this year, even more improvements can be made throughout the County.
Here’s where you can help. We are looking for projects that would be low cost, connect to major destinations, and have the support of the local community. The PBAC committee’s first public input meeting will be held April 16, 5:00 p.m., at the Jefferson Building, Room 104, 105 West Chesapeake Avenue, Towson 21204. If you have a great idea but can't make the meeting, send in a written suggestion to the PBAC, c/o Department of Planning, 105 West Chesapeake Avenue, Towson 21204, or email Kathy Schlabach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Successes from Catonsville, Arbutus/Halethorpe, and Towson will help us become eligible for additional grant funds to develop plans in other parts of the County.
While you are dusting off that bicycle, keep in mind that Bike to Work Day will be coming up May 17. Details about the early morning rallies in Catonsville, Towson and White Marsh will be coming out soon.
But let us hear from you on April 16. Together we can make Baltimore County a better place to be outside, year-round. Now let’s get walking and biking for our enjoyment, health, and as a greener way to get places.