Archive for March 16th, 2011
In response to a request for clarifications from Congressmen Connolly, Moran, Quigley, and Blumenauer, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) clarified whether certain bicycle infrastructure facilities were or were not permitted under the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The MUTCD is the roadway manager and engineer’s guidebook on the appropriate signage, markings, and control devices for traffic control.
In many cases, state and local jurisdictions were unclear whether certain bicycle facilities–such as contaflow lanes and bike boxes–were allowed under the MUTCD. This lack of clarity resulted in some jurisdictions’ reluctance to adopt such facilities.
This guidance from FHA clarifies that contraflow lanes and buffered bike lanes are allowed, so long as the accompanying signs and pavement markings are MUTCD compliant, and that a cycletrack is “not a traffic control device” within the scope of MUTCD, and therefore not restricted.
In addition, the guidance clarifies which treatments and facilities are still under evaluation at the “experimental” stage.
For cyclists and bike advocates, the clarity afforded by this document is welcome–as is its confirmation that many innovative bicycling improvements are permitted by the MUTCD.
We look forward to seeing further clarification and documentation from FHWA regarding the nature and scope of experimental projects, and whether one jurisdiction can piggy-back on another jurisdiction’s application to test an experimental facility or treatment.
Thank you to Congressmen Connolly, Moran, Quigley and Blumenauer for pushing for this clarification, which allows greater flexibility to transform our roadways to better include facilities tailored to cyclists.
Last week, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker released a lengthy transition report including numerous proposals to improve county government. But one of his recommendations, if implemented, could marginalize the county’s bicycle and pedestrian planners by pushing them out of the transportation review process.
In a section entitled “Change 1: Transportation Reviews,” (p. 32) the transition team recommends that all authority for reviews of engineering design, operations, and maintenance of roadways be given to the Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T), and that opportunities for review and input be removed from the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC).
This is a step in the wrong direction. For years, WABA has been advocating for a bike coordinator for Prince George’s County to ensure that bicycles are considered in roadway design, operations, and maintenance decisions–but still there is no such coordinator. Instead, bike issues have been left largely to M-NCPPC staff and to the Prince George’s County Bicycle and Trails Advisory Group (BTAG), which is overseen by M-NCPPC.
While we strongly support the creation of a countywide bicycle coordinator to work with DPW&T, it is M-NCPPC that has the expertise in bike planning. To minimize the ability of that agency’s qualified bike and pedestrian planners to provide input on the need for road improvements and the nature of those improvements is to undermine the very improvements in bicycle and pedestrian connectivity and livable, sustainable development that County Executive Baker has extolled.
DPW&T remains, by and large, a traditional, automobiles-first transportation agency, and has been reluctant to take the steps necessary to improve roadways for the benefit of cyclists–even going so far as to recommend that a cyclist not travel a certain roadway in the county with his child due to its unsafe conditions, while refusing to make improvements.
Removing the qualified bike and pedestrian planners from the roadway review process is counterproductive. And while removing an agency from the process flowchart might seem to improve efficiency, it will result in roadways that are less safe for all and a community that is less livable, walkable, and bikable for all.
We appreciate the County Executive’s transition team’s efforts to improve Prince George’s County’s review processes, but we hope that County Executive Baker will stand by his statement in a March 8 letter to WABA that he will work with us “to advance the agenda of better bicycle and pedestrian connectivity as issues that can improve individual health, as well as create stronger communities and a more sustainable environment.”