Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bikes May Use Full Lane... and good luck

Sign at Colesville Road and Crestmoor Drive.  Photo by the author.

Many people have noticed this sign on University Boulevard and Colesville Road, as well as other roads around the county.  Many of the signs are on roads that have no bike infrastructure whatsoever, and they are posted in places that are inhospitable to cyclists.  These factor have caused some people to question "who would ever try this?"  I had a reader bring this up in a comment a couple weeks ago, and I figured I should talk a little more about the new signs as well as other cycling related issues in Four Corners.

I recently attended an event at which Shane Farthing, who is the Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, spoke about the sign and its history.  Farthing explained that the sign is officially known as R4-11.  It is white sign with black text, which means it is a regulatory sign, similar to speed limit sign or a 'right turn only' sign.  The sign has its genesis in a misinterpretation of "share the road" signs which have been common for many years.  Many drivers thought "share the road" meant "aggressively pass within inches of cyclists without switching lanes".  This practice caused may accidents in which cyclists were side swiped by passing vehicles.  To remind motorists what "share the road" really means, many municipalities have begun posting R4-11 on major roads.

Colesville Road at Southwood Avenue.  This is a hazardous place  to cycle on the road. 
The problem with these signs in our area is that they are posted in areas that lack any form of bike infrastructure.  They are also posted in places where most people would not expect to see cyclists, such as Colesville Road on the downhill to Burnt Mills,where traffic speeds approach 50 MPH.  These signs are a nice gesture to remind people that cyclists are allowed on the road too, but posting a sign does not magically make a road safe to bike on.  If the State Highway Administration (who posted these signs) and MCDOT want to make cycling a viable option on roads around Four Corners, they'll have to do more than this.

In tomorrow's post, I'll elaborate on the bicycling situation in and around Four Corners.

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