Self Driving Cars and Bicycle Safety

This week the US House of Representatives unanimously passed HR 3388 to amend Title 49 "regarding the authority of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over highly automated vehicles, to provide safety measures for such vehicles." The full text of the resolution is here. So what? 

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Self-driving cars are not coming, they're here. The technology is going to revolutionize the way that we human beings move things, not just people but all types of cargo. That will be great for commerce and society as a whole because it will reduce vehicle collisions and increase the efficiency of transport. The question we need to ask is, will this new technology be able to share existing roads with other modes of transit?

While the news media is conflicted about whether or not these new cars will be safe for bikes and pedestrians (some articles are hopeful others are not), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers described in February the difficulty of developing automated vehicle technology that can identify and react to a nearby pedestrian or bicycle. Some experts believe that bikes may have to "talk" to driverless cars in order to be safe.  But is that the cyclists' responsibility? What if they forget to charge their transmitter?

Missing from the House resolution are two very telling words. "Bicycle" and "Pedestrian" appear a total of ZERO times in the full text of the resolution. The legislators missed a very important opportunity to explicitly direct the NHTSA to make certain that cyclists and pedestrians will be protected with any implementation of the new technology.

You may find and write to your representative here: 


April 11, 2017 County Bike Plan Review

This week we met with Jim Gugel and Ron Burns from Frederick County, MD Division of Planning and Permitting. We reviewed their 1999 Bike Plan and the changes they intend to make before moving a draft forward this June. Our proposed Monocacy Crossing Trail is on the plan and is likely to be considered a priority. The plan refers to it as the Pennsylvania Railroad Trail, but it needs to be updated to reflect the new position over the Monocacy River and to continue to Heritage Farm Park. 

The key takeaways are:

  • The county is considering codifying a policy known as Complete Streets (As proposed by the National Complete Streets Coalition)
  •  is just a draft, still in the works
    • A final draft will be complete in June
    • This will have to go through various approvals and public hearing
  • Some paths will be deleted
    • Catoctin Creek
    • Bush Creek (east of MD 75)
    • Linganore Creek (East of Gas House Pike)
    • Emmitsburg Railroad
    • Monocacy Greenway - (between Monocacy National Battlefield and MD 28)
    • Walkersville to Woodsboro 
  • Priorities will be set based on criteria including: amount of public support, path or path sections that fill gaps, areas that will be connected, population density and areas being served
  • The plan does not include specific engineering details for the proposed paths, only the general descriptions of the paths
  • Funding is always scarce and these paths will need to compete for county, state, and federal grant funds

Thanks to all of those that came out, especially Jeff Behm Photography for taking these photos!