Archive for June 27th, 2011
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.
Much of last week’s confirmation hearing for DDOT Director Terry Bellamy went smoothly. He said the right things, including stating support for improved bicycling. But when asked about specific projects, things went less smoothly.
Specifically, Director Bellamy said that the L and M Street cycletracks were “on hold” and that “we may not do them” due to concerns over parking removal.
In recent months, we have seen little progress in improving the District’s cycling infrastructure. This is especially disappointing given the success, obvious even to the most casual rush-hour observer, of the 15th Street cycletrack and the Pennsylvania Avenue lanes (which are frequently characterized as a cycletrack as well).
The L & M Street cycletracks are crucial to providing a much-needed east-west connection through downtown that is safe and accessible–not only to experienced cyclists but also to the many novices who cycle downtown, encouraged by the success of Capital Bikeshare and other infrastructure improvements.
For many, these cycletracks are seen as a litmus test for the Gray administration’s support of cycling. While District cyclists have been consistently reassured that Mayor Gray supports cycling and shares our vision of a bike friendly District, we have seen extremely limited improvement in bicycle infrastructure or enforcement during his tenure to-date. This project provides the Mayor and DDOT Director Bellamy the opportunity to continue the progress in improving the District’s downtown for cyclists.
Please take a moment to email Mayor Gray, DDOT Director Bellamy, DDOT Bike & Pedestrian Coordinator Jim Sebastian, and Councilmember Tommy Wells stating your support for the L and M Street cycletracks.
More Bike to Work Day follow-up news, on Thursday, June 24, 2011, the D.C. Lottery congratulated Joseph Tobing of Silver Spring, Maryland as the winner of its customized performance hybrid cycle and accompanying gear. The total value of the prize package was worth over $700. Tobing, an avid cyclist who bikes to work regularly and is a Computer Science professor at Washington Adventist University, was on summer vacation when he received notice of his win. “This was quite a surprise,” he said, “This bike is nicer than the one I have now!”