Greater Greater Washington

Maryland legislative roundup: Return of the bag bill

Maryland's 2014 legislative session began last month. For the state's urban areas, one of the biggest issues is whether to spend the glut of transportation funding on more highways or new transit. But there are also two bills seeking to improve bicycling safety, while legislators will again consider a statewide disposable bag fee.


Photo by Michael Hilton on Flickr.

Disposable bag fee returns

Right now, Montgomery County, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City are allowed to impose a fee on stores giving out disposable bags, though only Montgomery currently does. Two new bills from Senator Jamie Raskin (D-Takoma Park), SB 707 and HB 718, would allow the other 21 counties to charge for disposable bags as well.

This isn't the first time Maryland's attempted a statewide bag fee. Raskin has introduced the bill each year for the past four years.

Bike bills would increase passing distance, outline cyclist rights

Lawmakers have also introduced two bills to promote bike safety. Delegate Jon Cardin (D-Pikesville) submitted HB92, which would strengthen Maryland's current 3-foot passing law by increasing the distance drivers need to pass cyclists to 4 feet. There would be some exemptions, including when the road is too narrow for drivers to leave 4 feet of space.

Delegate Al Carr (D-Kensington) introduced the other bill, HB52, which clarifies that the duties of bicyclists are those defined in Maryland law. The bill would give cyclists the same rights and duties as drivers.

It would require bicyclists to watch for other vehicles in public areas, while drivers would have to watch for bicyclists along highways where bikes are allowed. By clarifying the duty of a bicyclist, this bill would protect cyclists who are riding lawfully from additional or hypothetical responsibilities.

Both bills came up in a committee hearing on January 28th and were not received well. Legislators questioned if the new legislation is necessary at this time. The Washington Post quoted Delegate James Malone (D-Baltimore and Howard counties) as saying that cyclists already "don't pay any attention to the rules of the road."

We'll keep you posted on what happens next.

This post was edited to reflect that only Montgomery County has enacted a bag fee, while Baltimore City and County are authorized to.

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Abigail Zenner is an Associate in Government Affairs at the American Planning Association. She is a member of the Ward 3 Vision Steering Committee and often described as a professional parking nerd. When she's not nerding out about smart growth, you may find her teaching a fitness class. Her blog posts represent her personal views only. 

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The Washington Post quoted Delegate James Malone (D-Baltimore and Howard counties) as saying that cyclists already "don't pay any attention to the rules of the road."

Of course cyclists don't follow the rules of the road. Half the time the supposed rules they're supposed to follow don't exist.

And yet, just this morning we have evidence from NYC that shows, when you make things easier for cyclists, they start obeying the law.

by drumz on Feb 5, 2014 2:40 pm • linkreport

What, it's not the law that I'm supposed to endanger myself to save you 3 seconds?

Didn't think it was.

by Crickey7 on Feb 5, 2014 2:57 pm • linkreport

drumz, regardless of excusses, cyclist should not ever be giving any special treatment to in spite of hatred towards people that choose to own and drive automobile cars.

by tom on Feb 5, 2014 3:29 pm • linkreport

@tom - The whole reason for laws pertaining to pedestrians and bicyclists is because those are both vulnerable road users compared to two-ton+ motor vehicles. I hope you don't kill or injure any of either group in your quest to save 3 seconds during your commute.

by DaveG on Feb 5, 2014 3:40 pm • linkreport

drumz, regardless of excusses, cyclist should not ever be giving any special treatment to in spite of hatred towards people that choose to own and drive automobile cars.

Is this a sentence?

by MLD on Feb 5, 2014 4:35 pm • linkreport

Last I checked, there isn't a bag fee in Baltimore... The council members voted on it last month but ultimately voted it down. Actually, I don't think Baltimore County has one either.

by hemNhaw on Feb 5, 2014 4:50 pm • linkreport

MLD, regardless of how you took my comment I still made my point.

by tom on Feb 5, 2014 5:06 pm • linkreport

Cyclists shouldn't give special treatment to people in cars? I wholeheartedly agree.

by MLD on Feb 5, 2014 5:14 pm • linkreport

The purpose of HB52 is to ensure that if a negligent driver strikes a cyclist who is following the law, the cyclist will have the right to compensation. There are two horrible cases in DC that say the opposite: that cyclists should understand that drivers do not look for vehicles in places where no car would be driving, so stay out of the way.

We have to assume that those cases are persuasive in Maryland, but I have a fear that I have been relying too much on stories from DC when there are unreported cases in Maryland of the same sort of thing happening: insurance companies creatively finding a duty in the common law that no one knew about.

If you have examples, please let me know.

by JimT on Feb 5, 2014 5:26 pm • linkreport

Imposing a bag fee might significantly reduce the little in Maryland. Currently, it's disgusting, especially in Prince Georges County.

I've driven the entire length if I-95, from Maine to Florida, and Maryland's section of the highway is the dirtiest, except for the most depressed sections of the South Bronx.

by ceefer66 on Feb 5, 2014 7:06 pm • linkreport

Should have said LITTER, not 'little".

by ceefer66 on Feb 5, 2014 7:07 pm • linkreport

MLD, regardless of how you took my comment I still made my point that cyclists should not ever be giving special treatment just to spite people that own and drive automobile cars.

by tom on Feb 5, 2014 7:27 pm • linkreport

Forget it, he's on a roll.

by Drumz on Feb 5, 2014 7:42 pm • linkreport

Since when do car drivers pay attention to the rules of the road? 20-30% are texting or websurfing on their phones. The majority of drivers exceed the speed limit each day. Many drivers speed up on yellow lights to beat red lights. This is unsafe, even if some of them manage to beat the red. (Many others do not beat the red light, but blow through the red signal anyway.) Other drivers take right turns on red at high speed, without bothering to slow down or look for pedestrians in crosswalks. Many drivers will actually try to force pedestrians out of crosswalks, even when the pedestrians have a WALK signal and were in the crosswalk before the driver arrived.

Then there's the matter of drunk driving. And other impairments.

by Citizen on Feb 5, 2014 7:44 pm • linkreport

tom should look up the traffic enforcement operation in Montgomery County last year. I think it was near Veirs Mill Rd. Officers walked across the crosswalk in the middle of a sunny day, while wearing reflective safety vests. Officers had to cite a driver for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk almost once every 2 minutes during the entire operation!

You also have to consider that once other drivers see a car pulled over by police, they will be more vigilant about following rules and common-sense safety practices. But as soon as the driver was sent on his/her way, another driver would come along and try to run over pedestrians in the crosswalk. Over and over again. Car drivers do not follow the rules of the road, nor do many of them concern themselves with the safety of others.

by Citizen on Feb 5, 2014 7:48 pm • linkreport

Related to the bag fee is the bottle fee. Broken glass on the streets would end very soon if people could make money by returning bottles. And then, as a cyclist, I'd have far fewer flat tires, which would be so nice. I've flatted twice this week so far. The flat tires are almost always caused by glass shards.

by likedrypavement on Feb 6, 2014 9:35 am • linkreport

There are some other bicycle bills pending in the Maryland legislature.

HB 241 allows a driver to cross a double yellow line (or as the bill states, "drive across the left side of a roadway in a no-passing zone, if it is safe to do so") when overtaking and passing a bicycle. It also repeals the provision in the 3-foot passing law that says drivers don't need to give 3 feet if the road is too narrow.

HB 530 creates "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."

by J. Walker on Feb 6, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

I'll try to provide an update on Washcycle in a day or two. HB 92 and 241 were defeated. HB52 will probably be referred to a different committee in the next week; its Senate companion is SB808.

HB 530 is an MDOT bill and will probably pass since it is unobjectionable to anyone.

by JimT on Feb 6, 2014 12:43 pm • linkreport

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