Brian McEntire

Brian McEntire and his daughter, Emily, 9, are glad he wasn’t hurt when a car that was following him while he was riding his bike on Main Street in New Market about two weeks ago hit his $9,000 Pinarello Dogma F8 bicycle, flattening his rear tire. Police were called, but because McEntire wasn’t hurt, no formal police report was made.

Brian McEntire considers himself lucky that only his bicycle was damaged this month when a vehicle struck him.

The Frederick cyclist was participating in a charity bike ride, he said, patrolling the course along Main Street in New Market when a driver behind him began honking and maneuvering aggressively, eventually striking the bicycle’s rear wheel.

A 2010 Maryland law requiring drivers to pass cyclists at a distance of 3 feet didn’t help McEntire much on that day, even though he and other cyclists said they were optimistic when the law passed that it would help traffic share the road.

A check of local police records shows that officers have had few occasions to enforce the rule. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office wrote one citation for the “3-foot passing law” the year it went into effect. In the city of Frederick, which has several established bike lanes, police have not written any such citations.

“I’m shocked by that,” McEntire said. “If they’re not enforcing it, or if drivers are not aware of it, then it’s not achieving the safety that it really could.”

When McEntire was struck, a witness called police, but the driver was not cited, and no police report was filed, according to the sheriff’s office. Crashes are generally not reported unless they involve public property, an intoxicated driver or result in injury, a fatality or substantial property damage.

McEntire is quick to emphasize that nearly all the drivers he encounters are courteous, but he said that stricter enforcement of traffic laws could dissuade the few who drive aggressively around bicycles.

“By not charging the driver with anything, they are almost inadvertently legitimizing that behavior,” McEntire said. “It could have easily turned much worse.”

Emily Ranson, advocacy coordinator for Bike Maryland, a nonprofit that promotes bike safety, said she is aware of several crashes in which a driver who struck a cyclist was not charged with any violation because there were no injuries.

“When the police don’t issue a citation in that case, that’s very concerning to us,” she said. “That driver didn’t know that Brian would walk away fine.”

Part of the challenge of enforcing the law, which carries a possible penalty of $80 and one license point, is that officers need to observe a violation firsthand to act, sheriff’s Sgt. Paul Colantuno said.

He noted that 3 feet is a very narrow space, so it would be difficult for a vehicle to travel that close to a bicycle in the first place.

Colantuno encouraged cyclists and drivers to share the road and watch for each other. Bicyclists should be careful not to impede traffic, to ride as far to the right as possible and not to wear earphones.

There are exceptions in the law, Ranson said, that pose enforcement challenges. Bike Maryland lobbied last session to do away with part of the law that states a driver does not have to observe the 3-foot rule if the road is not wide enough to accommodate the vehicle, passing space and the bicycle.

“The road where Brian was struck is a road where the exception would apply,” she said.

Reported bicycle-involved crashes are fairly rare in Frederick County, but they often lead to injury. Motor Vehicle Administration data show 23 recorded crashes last year, seven more than average for the years 2010 to 2013.

Most of those crashes, 21, resulted in injury. There were no fatalities last year, but there was one in 2013.

Nationwide, the rate of traffic fatalities involving bicycles has increased slightly over the past decade.

Around 1.7 percent of total traffic fatalities involved bicycles in 2004. That portion rose to 2.3 percent in 2013.

The number of bicycle commuters also rose during that time, one possible cause for the increased rate of bicycling-involved fatalities in the U.S.

While the portion of Frederick County workers who commuted by bicycle remained flat at about 0.2 percent, the number of cyclists increased.

The number of commuters who cycled, drove a motorcycle or took a cab rose 12 percent between 2010 and 2013 to 1,220 people.

With the possibility of more cyclists on the road, McEntire said he hoped drivers and cyclists would respect each other and travel cautiously.

“I am very lucky to have avoided injury, and I want to increase awareness so that this kind of incident can become a thing of the past,” he wrote in an email.

Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiFNP.

Bicycle-involved crashes in Frederick County

Field 1 Field 2 Field 3 Field 4 Field 5 Field 6 Field 7
Year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 AVG.
Fatal crashes 0 0 0 1 0 0
Injury crashes 11 11 17 3 21 13
Property damage crashes 1 3 3 5 2 3
Total crashes 12 14 20 9 23 16
Total of all fatalities 0 0 0 1 0 0
Total number injured 12 11 17 4 22 13

(24) comments

jwhamann

Whew! Just returned from biking to Walmart and back. Only one driver failed to give me 3 feet. In fact he was right next to me in MY lane at a red light. I guess I need a bike cam.

DickD

I am wondering if 3' is enough. Bikers will sway and take up a lot of room. I like to give them a full lane to avoid any possibility of hitting them.

Glen Shiel

Talk about being righteous. [beam]

DickD

You are drooling with jealousy! lol

Glen Shiel

jwhamann "Looks like you're planning to." No, I am not "planning" to, but nice job of twisting my words around into something I didn't mean. I take it you're a liberal?

DickD

You were way to extreme with your righteous idea of a video camera to justify going close to a bicycle. Sounds like a right wing Tea Party, my way or the "highway". Ridiculous comment, like being liberal would make a difference in high way safety. You need to see a psychiatrist.

tammykauff

Here in Massachusetts they are fining bicyclist who do not follow the rules of the road. Going through red lights, not stopping at stop signs, not stopping at crosswalks etc.

Glen Shiel

As well they should be fining them. Now, if the cops would just start the same practice here.

chris

Yes! After that, they could move on to fining the thousands of drivers who do the same thing, day in and day out. Currently they do not.

Dwasserba

Even when a driver is ok with making way for a bike, there is always another driver ready to horn-punish for it.
Why is it so hard to watch other lanes around you when driving, so you can see what other drivers contend with and react accordingly?
Hereabouts the situation pretty much is, what happens in your lane is your problem, even in special situations like downtown.
I tried to share the left lane with a biker in traffic crossing Dill and Bentz (one way street) by inching a bit to my right, still inside my lane watching my mirror, and a driver who was in the right lane several feet behind me reacted like I intended to cut her off. No. I continued in my lane as she continued honking furiously. The bike was pretty obvious. I thought.
On Seventh Street going east, the car in front of me drove the entire distance from Military Road to the light where the road widens another lane, straddling the bike lane until he reached that lane to the right. I kept expecting him to park. It's dangerous to drive a bike here. Assume you have no rights and live.

pappyjoe

Common sense and courtesy needs to be applied by both on the roadway. Need I say more?

ScienceTeacher

And eyes on the road. Drivers aren't the only ones texting while in motion.

jwhamann

A while ago while riding up N. Court....which is narrow and full of holes...a car passed me so close that its side mirror brushed the side of my arm. I chased the driver down and when I caught up at a red light I saw that the driver was eating cereal from a bowl in her lap.

Jmsonic

First off, I’m glad to hear that the cyclist is Ok after the accident. When a car hits a cyclist or pedestrian, it is a scary situation. The amount of damage a car can do to the human body is immense.

Unfortunately, the reaction of many drivers is similar to Glen’s. They simply look for a way to justify hostility or anger towards cyclist. Why? Because you had to wait a few seconds before passing a cyclist or a group of cyclists. Because you had to drive a bit slower for a few seconds. I’ve never understood why those few seconds generate so much anger.

When you read that a cyclist was yelled at and then hit with car, why is your first reaction blame the cyclist? Cyclists are the ones in mortal danger. This a clear case of aggressive driving. There’s no danger to the driver, assuming they keep calm and stay a little patient. That’s all cyclists want, for drivers to have a little patience.

Cyclist will move as far to the right as they deem safe. And, yes, it’s how far they deem safe, not the driver of the car. Drivers cannot see the debris on the side of the road or see weather damage to the road’s edge. Drivers also do not have to worry about cars opening their doors in front of a cyclist. For these reasons, and many more, cyclist do not always ride as far to the right as drivers would prefer. However, in these cases, they do it for their own safety.

If you consider the location of this particular accident, it was on Main Street in New Market. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that road, but there are cars parked along both sides of the road. Cyclist will not ride directly next to parked cars for their own safety. Main Street is not a high-speed thoroughfare either. It’s a tiny little town. Why does someone have to be honking and yelling in downtown New Market? Are they so inclined to speed through downtown New Market?

Trying to justify hitting a cyclist is just asinine. Patience is a simple virtue that drivers need to practice, not only around cyclist but every time they’re on the road.

DickD

I have to agree whole heartedly, Jmsonic.

Glen Shiel

State of Maryland bicycle laws:

http://www.mva.maryland.gov/safety/mhso/program-bicycle-safety.htm

Traffic Laws for Bicyclists
Riding in Traffic Lanes and on Shoulders
•A bicyclist riding slower than the speed of traffic is confined to the right hand through lane (much the same way as a slow moving vehicle is) AND AS CLOSE TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD AS IS SAFE (emphasis added).

Traffic Laws for Motorists
•Drivers shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter being ridden by a person the driver of a vehicle must not pass any closer than three (3) feet to a bicycle or motor scooter IF THE BICYCLE IS OPERATED IN A LAWFUL MANOR (emphasis added).

No mention in the article if McEntire was riding as closely to the right side of the road as he could have been, as is required by law. My guess is that he was not, and that he was holding up the motorists to the point where the motorist just got sick and tired of it. When he heard and saw the motorist honking and maneuvering aggressively he should have taken a hint, done the proper and courteous thing and made way for the driver to pass him.

I'm but one of many, many drivers who are thoroughly disgusted with being inconvenienced by bicyclists who think they own the roads, ride several feet from the far right side of the road, ride side by side or in packs and my interpretation of the laws quoted above is that if the bicyclists are not as far to the right as they can safely be, they are not operating their bikes in a lawful manor and, therefore, the 3' law does not apply. I have a dash cam mounted in my personal vehicle and if I am ever involved in an incident where the bicyclist was not as far to the right as he could have been, I would be happy to make my point in court.

jwhamann

Happy you hit the cyclist?

Comment deleted.
jwhamann

Looks like you're planning to.

barbaradean8

he just aims for libural bikers

DickD

Better to be safe and not hit anyone. I see no reason to mount a camera, much better to just give them a wide berth. This should never be a matter of who is right, it should be safety first.

Glen Shiel

Tell that to all the cyclists who break the laws they are expected to obey.

DickD

Glen, I can't believe you would hit a bicyclist, just because they broke a law. Sounds like taking the law into your own hands, becoming judge and jury. So, you don't believe in "due process"?

cogtooth

As usual, posters here quote only what is convenient for their argument. For example, out of the web page quoted by another poster, but this section was ignored:

This ride-to-the-right provision does not apply when operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle to travel safely side-by-side with another vehicle within the lane.

Cyclist Brian was not obligated to stay to the right on a narrow center of town street.

Another clause:

A bicyclist riding at the speed of traffic can operate in any lane, just as any other vehicle can.

Cyclist Brian is one of the fastest riders in Frederick County and riding 25 miles per hour would not be a problem for him.

DickD

It would be going up a steep hill.

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