Having asked you to contact Maryland officials about the State Highway Administration’s (SHA) decision to reject the Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign (R4-11), we wanted to give you an brief update on our progress to see that decision reversed.
As far as we know, everyone who wrote Governor O’Malley, the State Highway Administration or the the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) received a letter from MDOT Secretary Beverly K. Swaim-Staley stating (in part)
Consistent with Governor O‘Malley’s policy initiatives to encourage bicycle use and accommodate bicyclists, MDOT and SHA will develop guidelines for the appropriate use of the R4-11 sign. As we previously agreed, the SHA will consult with stakeholders before adopting a ﬁnal set of guidelines. I apologize that incorrect information was communicated prior to any formal decision.
The MDOT letter clearly implies that MDOT has not made a decision on the guidelines for the R4-11 sign. But it does not necessarily mean that MDOT has decided to actually use the sign, because the guidelines that states are allowed to issue under the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices include the option of not using the sign or substantially changing it.
Last week I spoke with several officials with SHA and MDOT Headquarters. There is clearly a difference of opinion within these state agencies. MDOT’s Director for Bicycle and Pedestrian Affairs is a champion of the sign. SHA’s Office of Traffic and Safety—which usually decides such matters—originally rejected the sign and continues to oppose it. At about the same time that the MDOT letter was being sent, SHA officials reiterated that they had rejected the R4-11 sign as approved by the US Department of Transportation, though they are open to an alternative way to accomplish the same objective.
Usually, when there is an internal disagreement, MDOT defers to the judgment of its Office of Traffic and Safety. But in this case, the 625 emails that you sent have elevated the issue to senior management. There is a reasonable chance that the decision will be made on its own merits, rather than as a matter of deference to the office that originally rejected the sign.
(Jim Titus is a member of WABA’s Board of Directors from Prince Georges County)