After years of careful research and debate, the federal Department of Transportation has approved signs that say “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” for lanes that are too narrow for a car to safely pass a bicycle. Experienced cyclists know that it is safer to use the full lane on these roadways, but motorists often don’t. These signs would both give notice to motorists to be aware of the potential presence of cyclists taking the lane, and would provide greater clarity than the common, but ambiguous “Share the Road” sign. These signs make the roadways safer for cyclists.
But the Maryland State Highway Administration wants to block the use of the signs in Maryland, so that most cyclists will continue to ride on the extreme right side of the roadway–even on roads where doing so is more dangerous than using the full lane. And drivers will continue to be surprised—and sometimes angry—when cyclists do use the full lane. Maryland law explicitly allows cyclists to use the full lane when doing so is safer than keeping right, but some state officials do not seem to agree with the law. And they are expressing their disagreement by disapproving a sign that makes us safer.
Sadly, this decision is coming at the end of the distinguished career of SHA Director Neil Pederson, who retires this week. A cyclist himself, Mr. Pederson has often pushed his agency to accommodate cyclists. Because the decision seems to have been made at a lower level, we do not know whether Mr. Pederson has been fully informed or not. We also do not know whether Governor O’Malley, who has been actively promoting Cycle Maryland in recent weeks, is aware of or supports this anti-cyclist decision by his Highway Administration.
1. Asking them to reverse SHA’s staff decision, and approve the use of the R4-11 “Bicycles may use full lane” sign so that cyclists and drivers alike will realize which roads are most safely ridden using the full lane, and
2. Thanking Neil Pederson for his years of service and asking the Secretary and Governor to ensure that he is replaced by someone with a commitment to making Maryland’s roads safe for all road users.