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New Maryland signs emphasize cyclists' right to the road

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) yesterday posted nine rectangular signs stating "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" along MD-953 in Glenn Dale, a narrow 2-lane road that crosses the Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Trail. SHA plans to post similar signs on 18 state highways in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

The new sign. Image from the MUTCD.

The signs will "warn motorists that bicycles may be operating anywhere within a traffic lane," according to SHA Administrator Melinda Peters, marking a step forward for driver education and cyclist safety in Maryland.

Within the Capital Beltway, SHA operates most of the direct bike routes into the District of Columbia from Prince George's and Montgomery counties, as well as key cross-county routes such as University Boulevard and East-West Highway. Decades ago, SHA converted most shoulders on these roads into general travel lanes, forcing cyclists and drivers to share the road.

The meaning of "share the road" has evolved. For decades, the law required cyclists to keep as far to the right as practicable. This made sense when most cyclists were children proceeding slowly. But at higher speeds, riding too far to the right is hazardous. Drivers and pedestrians are not looking for fast vehicles close to the curb, and cyclists can't see them emerging from driveways, cross streets, or parked cars.

When lanes are too narrow for a car to pass a bike safely, too many drivers try to pass bikes within the lane anyway. So on those roads, it is safer for a cyclist to ride near the center of the lane, according to Maryland's Driver Manual.

Section 21-1205(a)(6) of the Maryland Transportation Code says that a cyclist may ride in the center of a narrow lane. But many drivers learned to drive (and bike) back when cyclists were supposed to simply keep to the right. And on any given road, drivers and cyclists may have different perceptions about whether the lane is too narrow to share. So "drivers and cyclists often must guess what the other is going to do," says Shane Farthing, Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association.

Signs will educate, warn drivers

The Federal Highway Administration's official handbook of highway signs, The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), included a new sign in its most recent update to ensure that drivers and cyclists have the same expectations. This sign, called the R4-11, says "Bicycles May Use Full Lane." Because it has the shape of a white rectangle, R4-11 is technically a "regulatory sign," giving it the force of law. Wherever it's posted, cyclists may ride in the center of the lane, even in states that have not legalized this practice, such as New Jersey.

Sign SHA will use in some places. Image from SHA.

In Maryland, which allows cyclists to take the lane, the shape and color of the sign does not change the driving rules. But there are certain requirements for the placement of all regulatory signs, according to Tom Hicks, who recently retired as SHA's Director of Traffic and Safety. Those requirements can be administratively burdensome, so SHA will also use a yellow diamond "warning" sign with the same words.

"The signs will increase safety by providing drivers with a warning about where bikes may be," says Dustin Kuzan, SHA's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. A study in Austin, Texas found that placement of similar signs has little impact on where cyclists ride. But drivers moved to the left as they passed bikes enough to increase the median passing clearance by 3 feet.

John Townsend of AAA Mid-Atlantic agrees: "These signs are a really good idea. Bicyclists have the right to use the full lane on narrow roads. As drivers, we are operating the heavier vehicle which can seriously injure a cyclist. So it is up to drivers to avoid a collision. But drivers need information about where the bicyclist might be riding, and these signs will help."

"The signs may also decrease hostility between drivers and cyclists by informing all road users that cyclists have the right to be in the center of the lane," Kuzan adds.

SHA plans to post the signs on state roads through Montgomery and Prince George's Counties this summer. Additional details on SHA's plans and policies are available on Washcycle.

Highways Designated for "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs

Prince George's County

Montgomery County

US-1Baltimore Ave., Rhode Island Ave.US-29Colesville Rd.
US-1 AltBaltimore Ave., Bladensburg Rd.MD-384Colesville Rd.
MD-193Greenbelt Rd., Unversity Blvd.MD-193University Blvd.
MD-212Riggs Rd.MD-97Georgia Ave.
MD-500Queens Chapel Rd.MD-39016th St.
MD-953Glenn Dale Rd.MD-650New Hampshire Ave.
MD-450Annapolis Rd., Bladensburg Rd.MD-320Piney Branch
MD-704Martin Luther King, Jr. Hwy.MD-355Wisconsin Ave.
MD-202Landover Rd.MD-190River Rd.
MD-414Oxon Hill/St. Barnabas
Source: Office of Traffic and Safety, Maryland State Highway Administration. The plan also includes very short sections of MD-5 and MD-458. MD-214 is under consideration.

The new signs aren't for every road

The "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs are a step toward implementing the general bicycle policy established by the previous SHA administrator, Neil Pederson, shortly before he retired last summer. Under that policy, every state highway where bicycles are not prohibited should have one of five bicycle configurations:

  • Wide shoulder
  • Bike lane
  • Wide lane (and possibly sharrows) for side-by-side lane sharing
  • Narrow lane with "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs (and possibly sharrows)
  • Sidepath
The new signs will not be used on all roads with narrow lanes. Some rural highways have little or no shoulder, but SHA is unlikely to post the "Use Full Lane" signs in areas where there are few if any cyclists.

Additionally, some highways have wide shoulders that could technically become bike lanes, but poor pavement or right-side hazards like driveways and vegetation make them unsafe for cycling. Neither cyclists nor SHA want additional substandard bike lanes.

SHA is reluctant to post "Use Full Lane" signs where there is a real shoulder. "SHA is still discussing the use of the R4-11 in these situations," says Kuzan. "The challenge is determining which shoulders are so unsuitable that a cyclist should not even straddle the fog line," which might leave enough room for a car to pass within lane.

Signs by themselves will make only a small difference during rush hour. On any weekday morning, the state highways leading into Washington are full of cars traveling 40-50 mph. These speeds are intimidating to cyclists, whether the cars are passing with one foot or four feet of clearance.

SHA plans to widen parts of US-1 near College Park to add bike lanes, according to Gregory Slater, SHA's planning director Along MD-450 and MD-704, Prince Georges County has asked SHA to implement a "road diet" and reduce the number of general travel lanes to create space for bike lanes and better sidewalks. SHA officials are discouraged from using the term "road diet", but Mr. Slater says that SHA is looking at "redistributing roadway capacity." "Things have to slow down a bit," he says.

Realistically, bike lanes along most state highways inside the Beltway are still decades away. The "Use Full Lane" signs are something we can afford now. They are likely to make these highways safer during off-peak times, and they may help to educate drivers about how to share the road.

Will that education carry over to local roads? Or will drivers assume that bicycles may not use full lane if these signs are not posted? We don't know yet.

Jim Titus lived aboard a 75-foot coast guard cutter at Buzzards Point boatyard in southwest Washington until he was 2. Since then he has lived in Prince George's County, going to school in Ft. Washington, Accokeek, and College Park before moving to Glenn Dale. He represents Prince George's on the state of Maryland's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and is on the board of directors of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Professionally, he works for a federal agency, which asks not to be identified. 


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This is bad news. It will confirm the false believe that bikes are only allowed on certain roads and not others.

It would be much better to run a PSA campaign pointing out that bikers may bike everywhere [except on aptly named limited-access highways].

by Jasper on Aug 1, 2012 12:07 pm • linkreport

Jim, thanks for writing about MD SHA. I think they receive far too little scrutiny here at GGW though their policies have significant ramifications, especially in the close-in suburbs of PG and MoCo. I hope we'll see more stories from you in the future.
I think, in general, the SHA really doesn't know how to deal with the close-in "streetcar" burbs and they do a fairly poor job of it. They are overly concerned with "the standards" and LOS and not particularly interested in the context of these thoroughfares and how they relate to the communities they move through. It was, I'm told, once an innovative department, but they are well behind the times today.

by thump on Aug 1, 2012 12:41 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: This is bad news. It will confirm the false believe that bikes are only allowed on certain roads and not others.

How are you getting that message from a sign that says bikers may use the full lane?

Are you saying that these must either be posted on every single road, or they should not be posted at all? That seems...unreasonable.

by Gray on Aug 1, 2012 12:44 pm • linkreport

May Use Full Lane...Will Obey Zero Traffic Laws.

For an example of this, please visit the corner the of G St NE and First St NE in the shadow of Union Station. Bikes NEVER stop and almost cause accidents daily.

by South Awwlington on Aug 1, 2012 12:46 pm • linkreport

ikes NEVER stop and almost cause accidents daily.

Wait. So, I'm confused. Do they cause accidents daily? Or do they *almost* cause accidents daily? Because the former is a problem. And the latter is just overly dramatic bellyaching.

by oboe on Aug 1, 2012 12:52 pm • linkreport


I don't see how this is bad news.

It's a permanent reminder to motorists to share the road with cyclists, just like the electronic signs on the interstates remind drivers to share the road with motorcycles. There are far more drivers who hold the belief that cyclists shouldn't be on the road at all, than those who think that they should only be on certain roads.

by King Terrapin on Aug 1, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

@ King Terrapin:There are far more drivers who hold the belief that cyclists shouldn't be on the road at all

Then change that belief. Everywhere. Not just where there are bikers.

by Jasper on Aug 1, 2012 1:05 pm • linkreport


I guess you'll have your answer when one of stop sign running bicyclists finally get hit by a driver who doesn't manage to stop or chooses not to...

I dunno, your call.

by South Awwlington on Aug 1, 2012 1:12 pm • linkreport

South Arlington - in that stretch, the cars always always double park, park in the bike lanes, squeeze through on red lights, etc.

I obey the traffic laws. I recognize that cyclists need education on that. But drivers do in equal measure.

by Weiwen on Aug 1, 2012 1:17 pm • linkreport

@Weiwen -

I am 100% on your side about double parking, it drives me nuts. I would say these vehicles need to be ticketed and towed. As for lane blocking, when making a right turn, vehicles are supposed to shift into the right-most lane (something I didn't know until I read it here). If blocking is happening other than turning, that is an education issue also.

This morning a bicyclists came through the intersection at roughly 25 mph, didn't stop, swerved into the oncoming traffic lane and almost met our car head on. Immediately, the driver of the car appears to be at fault due to shear size of the vehicle.

I won't even touch on bike messengers.

Oboe's response to my post seems of the attitude, "no harm, no foul." This is not true. I live in fear of hitting bicyclists because of their unpredictable actions. Yes autos are unpredictable as well but the count of traffic offenses I have seen from bikes v. cars don't even live in the same universe.

by South Awwlington on Aug 1, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

@South Awwlington-Yeah, I'm really not sure why you're singling out bicyclists here. That street is a clusterfudge all the time. I used to work down that way and walked fairly regularly to Union Station for lunch. The last thing I was worried about were cyclists...

OK....can we get back on topic? MD SHA/bike infrastructure/state highways.

by thump on Aug 1, 2012 1:33 pm • linkreport

but the count of traffic offenses I have seen from bikes v. cars don't even live in the same universe.

I'm going to not head my own advice and respond to this; You "see" the offenses by bikes b/c we've normalized deviant behavior on the part of motorists. I don't know if you ride a bike in the city, but boy do you notice quickly how many drivers are breaking the law.

by thump on Aug 1, 2012 1:37 pm • linkreport

Distracted driving, distracted walking and Kamikaze bicyclists all add to the problem at this intersection and all over the region.

I stand by my comments and I'd happily run a traffic study via lawn chairs and clipboards at this location with anyone who isn't afraid of the statistical outcome. Morning and evening commute times. Heck all day even.

by South Awwlington on Aug 1, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

@South Awwlington

I am in. When do we do it? Guarantee we see way more infractions from cars than bikes. Not to mention, ya know, that bikes max at about 275 pounds, including the rider, while cars can easily go 5,000+.

Back on track, when are we doing this?

by Kyle-w on Aug 1, 2012 2:07 pm • linkreport

A bit of advice:

Bicyclists, "take the lane" in Prince Georges if you want, but do it at your own risk. On the many 2-lane roads in the Bowie-Glenn Dale area, I've had drivers get out of their cars at a red light, step to me, and curse me out for DRIVING in front of them too slowly to suit them. I wouldn't want to be a cyclist who gets in their way, slows them down, and pisses them off.

Yes, you have a right to use a lane. I'll respect that. But don't take it for granted that everyone will. Don't try to assert your right to the lane and prove a point in PG. Just move over.

by ceefer66 on Aug 1, 2012 2:14 pm • linkreport

One more thing:

I do ride for recreation. I live in a large development in the Bowie area that has trails, plus I use the bike lanes and shoulders on Watkins Park, Enterprise, Glendale and Church Roads. But I just don't have the nerve to ride in the middle of the road out here because people drive too fast and many are just plain inconsiderate.

That said, remember PG isn't DC. In DC there's strength in numbers. Drivers are used to bicycles and bikes are generally accepted even though some of can be a pain in the rear to drivers - and some seem to enjoy being a pain.

In PG, most of the bikes on the road appear to be for recreational purposes, not for commuting. Out here, you just don't go out on the roads expecting to see bike bikes among the mix like in DC.

Be careful.

by ceefer66 on Aug 1, 2012 2:27 pm • linkreport


You do realize the article is praising the SHA right? The problem with the SHA is its management, which Melinda Peters can hopefully improve.

The Administration is still pretty innovative. They set up those very useful LED displays on I-95 to inform drivers of the travel time to the next interstate. (VDOT is considering rolling out a similar program in NoVa because of the success of the MD one) They have also utilized innovative traffic management techniques on state highways and have built one of the few diverging diamond intersections in the nation (in AA County), as well as one of the few continuous flow intersections (in PG County).

It's less painful and more straightforward to drive in those close-in "streetcar suburbs" than it is to in most of DC, especially if you're not from the area. Also, Maryland highways are much better than those in Pennsylvania or Virginia, or most other states for that matter.

by King Terrapin on Aug 1, 2012 2:33 pm • linkreport

Yes, you have a right to use a lane. I'll respect that. But don't take it for granted that everyone will. Don't try to assert your right to the lane and prove a point in PG. Just move over.

You nailed it man. I don't take it for granted for sure. I'm on Rt. 1/RI Ave. for about 3 blocks and the drivers are pretty terrible. That being said, if I don't stand up for my right to use the lane, who is going to do it for me? Things will change when people like me assert their right to the road. It may happen slowly and it might piss some people off, but too bad. That road-rage you describe is one reason why so many cyclists are using cameras. The cameras give some measure of protection.

by thump on Aug 1, 2012 2:40 pm • linkreport

@ ceefer66: I've had drivers get out of their cars at a red light, step to me, and curse me out for DRIVING in front of them too slowly to suit them.

Better be cursed at than driven off the road by some dude whom you forced to stay behind you by taking your lane, than being run off the road by that same clown thinking he can pass you while you were driving in the gutter.

Taking your lane is for your own safety.

The problem is explaining that to the guy that's cursing at you.

by Jasper on Aug 1, 2012 2:56 pm • linkreport

This is a good start (thanks to Jim Titus, no less), but I hope that it is followed up by better enforcement of the laws against dickish behavior. I drove my car to work today had to deal with some idiot in a GMC Yukon trying to run me off the road. A cyclist would have had no protection.

by SJE on Aug 1, 2012 3:07 pm • linkreport

Sorry I didn't close the itals in my previous post.

@King Terrapin-Yeah, I know there is praise in this article. I share it in this case. However, I still don't think SHA does a very good job and I don't think it's just management. It's communication and a blind reliance on "standards" instead of context. They don't know how to handle competing priorities in close-in burbs and the default position is to elevate motor vehicle travel over people (especially the people who live there). When I look at a map like this ( and see so much red (crappy levels of comfort for bicyclists) on close-in SHA controlled roads, I'm not sure I can get overly excited about some more signs. It's encouraging, but it's far from great. Incidentally, there are +/- 8 signs at and around the roundabout in my town, put there by SHA that say "yield to ped in x-walk". They don't work, because SHA refuses to narrow the lane, stripe larger crosswalks, increase the size of the ped islands so they are the same size as the paint meant to show cars where they can be, or give any other contextual cues to show that actual people on foot might be trying to cross the road.

by thump on Aug 1, 2012 3:08 pm • linkreport


I hear you. Good luck. And be safe.

by ceefer66 on Aug 1, 2012 3:23 pm • linkreport

Thanks to all for your comments.

@Jasper. Your initial comment seemed to be your answer to the final paragraph in the article. If you have any evidence to support the idea that a dollar spent on PR is more effective than a dollar on road signs, I would be interested. I did link to the Austin study on R4-11, but it did not get into the systemwide effects.

I considered your perspective before engaging in this campaign, but concluded that the signs are likely to be overwhelmingly positive. First, I can work to get the signs posted on the roads I ride, and the signs unarguably create some awareness among drivers on the roads. Second, I think the ill effect you predict is unlikely. Consider the various classes of drivers:
a. Those who do not think cyclists belong in the roadway. Since they already don't think that the cyclist belongs in the road, I don't see how a sign that says that they do on a given road will do anything other than at least inform them that cyclists belong on that road.
b. Those who realize that cyclists belong on the road but are a bit confused about which part of the road. The sign lets them know, at least for that road. While it is possible that some people will use the false logic (if sign-->right, then no sign-->no right), it is just as likely that the concept of "use full lane" will be taught to people who thought that cyclists are always suppose to be far right.
c. Children, student drivers, and curious people will see the signs and start conversations about them with other people, some of whom know the law and reason for using the full lane. The signs can be a conversation starter with an educational benefit.

But I'd prefer to see a study in MD rather than speculate on all this.

@thump: Thanks for your encouragement to write about SHA. Your insights seem valid to me. As you may surmise, I tend to write GGW articles on either at the beginning or at the end of a campaign. So I am likely to be saying relatively positive things here. I'll tend to communicate my concerns directly to SHA to try to work something out.

@thump and ceefer66. There will be a second part to this series shortly, as my original submission was too long for a single article. There we contrast SHA with some of the localities. Forgive me if I overdo the praise for SHA. Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but often when you give people credit for their better sides, they don't let you down.

@ceefer66: Part 2 will quote some official statements very similar to some of the points you made. You may be amazed at the candor.
I also see some of the same drivers, as I live on Glenn Dale Rd. Many drivers ignore the double yellow line and pass any car less than 10 mph over the limit. They seem to be less of a problem for cyclists on Glenn Dale Rd. That may be because the traffic is so light, that if you take the lane, they just change lanes or, at worst, slow for 15 seconds to let a single oncoming car pass. The only problems I see on that road is when I leave enough room for the overtaking vehicle to squeeze through.
But I agree about Church Rd. There is a judgment call one has to make. Certainly if a car lacks sufficient site line to pass me by changing lanes, I don't want him squeezing me on these 10-ft lanes either.
The larger point, however, is that cyclists should probably not change how they ride because of the signs. because one can not assume a change in driver behavior. The evidence is that drivers move a bit left and pass with a greater buffer, perhaps because they think that "use full lane" means that drivers should give them the full lane. I am not sure.

@King Terrapin. SHA was originally going to have a press release then the signs were posted, so when I told their public affairs office that this post was up, and asked about the press release, I copied your comment in the email. I hope you don't mind. I nag them enough that I wanted to make them smile.

@SJE: Slightly off point, but I learned that as of about a year ago, about 30 citations have been issued for violations of the 3-foot passing buffer in Maryland. Also, as bad as drivers treat cyclists, they often treat other drivers even worse. I think that's why AAA tends to support measures aimed at really bad drivers. Cyclists can (sometimes) escape those selfish, distracted, mean-spirited people--but drivers are always stuck with them.

Best regards


by Jim Titus on Aug 1, 2012 4:31 pm • linkreport


I'll note that while BLOC grades are a gradual linear scale cyclists "comfort" is anything but gradual and linear. Case in point is the "D" grade which is too often earned because space is very tight for side by side sharing yet the road is not exactly "too narrow" for side by sharing, leaving the cyclist with a damned if you do and damned if you don't ride far right.

So I really object to the color scheme that lumps BLOC D with a BLOC C. BLOC C is essentially following AASHTO guidelines and BLOC D is skimping on the guidelines (and I will assert over accommodating motor traffic.)

by Barry Childress on Aug 1, 2012 4:45 pm • linkreport

MacArthur Blvd and Jones Bridge Road please!

by Erik on Aug 1, 2012 6:01 pm • linkreport

So I am a full-time bike commuter here (from east MoCo to Bethesda and back and all I can say is that there are places I think the signage will do some good and others where...well, it is to laugh. Piney Branch? You know...that might really help, especially now that it is resurfaced and there are marked bike lanes on the DC side of the line. But University Blvd? Really?? I can think of a very few, very short stretches where this might make some sense, but most of this is just hopeless. And, lest you think I am some kind of timid rider, I am one of the few and proud that is willing to brave Wisconsin Avenue, at least in those regions where this is not a death wish. And the sad fact of the matter is that the DC bike lanes really do put our pathetic little MoCo efforts to shame. A four inch stripe of paint really is so much more effective than even six feet of shoulder. Drivers really do try to go between the lines, so give them lines, and the world is so much more pleasant.

by Justafed on Aug 1, 2012 8:01 pm • linkreport

I'm a cyclist and the truth of the matter is, most cyclists cannot keep up with cars.

This is no substitute for bike lanes.

by Capt. Hilts on Aug 1, 2012 10:28 pm • linkreport

I'd happily run a traffic study via lawn chairs and clipboards at this location with anyone who isn't afraid of the statistical outcome.

OK. You've cherry picked your location, and I also have one in mind. So, we'll go to yours, count the number of bike and car violations in a half hour, then go to mine and do the same. I guarantee you my number will be bigger - even on a percentage basis. Shall we put some money on it? A $100 donation to the winner's charity of choice?

by David C on Aug 1, 2012 11:43 pm • linkreport

Don't try to assert your right to the lane and prove a point

I'm pretty sure no one does this. People take the lane for safety. That's it. We really aren't trying to educate you.

by David C on Aug 1, 2012 11:44 pm • linkreport

Just an insurance point I wanted to make. All of these bicyclists are riding around in and amongst cars in an uninsured status. My wife, while driving her car was hit at an intersection by a cyclist and he sustained minor injuries and did over $1000 damage to my vehicle. MY insurance had to pay his medical costs for an accident that was his fault, and we had to take the guy to court in order to get our deductible back. Crazy Maryland laws. But should cyclists (at least in cities) be required to carry insurance if they're going be in traffic? I know it's a slippery slope, and could be extended to pedestrians, which would be over the top.

by Berkle on Aug 2, 2012 6:50 am • linkreport

Local talk radio brought up 'bikes may use full lane' signs this (Thurs) morning. Man, were the callers hostile to this idea. "Why do they have the right to slow down traffic?" "Why can they be in my lane but I get a ticket if I go in the bike lane?" "Why can they drive on the road without insurance?"

by Kolohe on Aug 2, 2012 7:12 am • linkreport

Huh, Mr. Berkle, was that you that called into Brian^2 this morning? It was the same exact story.

by Kolohe on Aug 2, 2012 7:14 am • linkreport

Kolohe, it was.

by Berkle on Aug 2, 2012 7:22 am • linkreport

Does this mean that walkers on the Capital Crescent Trail, for example, will now be able to use the "full lane," rather than having to walk on the shoulder while bikers zoom by them, screeching at them to get out of the way? Bikers will just have to slow down to the walkers' speed, maybe dismount and walk, until it's safe to pass, right?
Just asking.

by bluelinedad on Aug 2, 2012 8:39 am • linkreport

@all: Just checking in to say that I'll plan to address the comments during my lunch break today.

by Jim Titus on Aug 2, 2012 8:53 am • linkreport

Just FYI, these signs were adopted by the University of Maryland (College Park campus) and placed on the incoming lanes of all their entrance roads over a year ago. They have a campus-wide speed limit of 20 MPH, bicycles are entitled to the full use of the lane on all roads within the campus, and the Department of Transportation Services and the university police have actively educated their community that bicycles are vehicles, entitled to the full use of the road and subject to all traffic laws. Way to go, UMCP!

by Brandt on Aug 2, 2012 9:10 am • linkreport

Bikes are capable of holding their own in lanes that have a 25 or 20 mph speed limit.

by Capt. Hilts on Aug 2, 2012 9:12 am • linkreport

"Does this mean that walkers on the Capital Crescent Trail, for example, will now be able to use the "full lane," rather than having to walk on the shoulder "

Is the CCT so different from the trails I ride on in NoVa, where pedestrians DO take the full lane, and in fact wander across the entire trail, 4 or 5 abreast, or with a dog on a leash going across the entire trail? You say "bike passing" as a courtesy, and they have the choice of going to the right part of the lane, or IF THEY PREFER going to the grassy shoulder. If there stay on the lane, and there is safe way to pass them (because of bikes or peds coming i the other direction, then yes, cyclists slow down (I do). This can also happen when cyclists are going at different speeds.

Its one of the reasons fast cyclists in particular belong in the road, and not on the trails (at least not at their times of peak use)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 2, 2012 9:20 am • linkreport

@ Jim Titus

Haha I don't mind at all.

by King Terrapin on Aug 2, 2012 9:32 am • linkreport

"Bikes are capable of holding their own in lanes that have a 25 or 20 mph speed limit."

Some of the 2-lane roads in PG have speed limits of 30-40 mph, even with curves.

Be careful.

by ceefer66 on Aug 2, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

Few bicycles can keep up with 30 - 40 mph speed limits and the dangers are all the greater in an event of an accident, blowout or whatever. It's NOT a good idea to mix bikes on roads with those speed limits. And, of course, the cars are probably going 50, not 40.

by Capt. Hilts on Aug 2, 2012 10:48 am • linkreport

"Few bicycles can keep up with 30 - 40 mph speed limits and the dangers are all the greater in an event of an accident, blowout or whatever. It's NOT a good idea to mix bikes on roads with those speed limits. And, of course, the cars are probably going 50, not 40. "

I hope the experience cyclists will help here, as Im a newbie to cycling issues, but IIUC good cycling practice does not involved taking the lane for long periods on roads of 30 to 40 MPH, but rather taking the lane for short stretches where the alternatives are worse. Roads where you need to do that for long periods are deemed bicycle unfriendly, and cycling advocates lobby for changes, such as wider lanes, better shoulders, bike lanes, or off road paths.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 2, 2012 11:02 am • linkreport

"Also, as bad as drivers treat cyclists, they often treat other drivers even worse."

Thanks for pointing this out. This is my main argument against the idea that bicycle riders are simply "drivers of vehicles." We are humans on the road without a cage and we deserve more physical and legal protection than we are getting. If we could reduce our motor-vehicle fatality rate to typical European levels, we'd save about 20,000 lives per year.

by Jonathan Krall on Aug 2, 2012 12:26 pm • linkreport

I never rely on the kindness of strangers - especially when I'm on my bike and they're in a car.

by Capt. Hilts on Aug 2, 2012 12:27 pm • linkreport

Here are a few responses to comments that came in after 4:30 pm yesterday, and before noon today.

@Erik: Jones Bridge Road has been the subject of much discussion as cyclists take the lane. Of course it is a county road. The second part of this story, which will probably run here next week, suggests that Montgomery is open to placing the signs on such a road, though I did not drill down to specific roads in that discussion.

@Justafed, Capt Hilts, and some others. We have two separate issues here: Should cyclists ride on roads with heavy traffic and speed limits above 30 mph, and, given that some do, should we post some signs to help them to ride more safely on the path that they choose. The R4-11 signs are oriented toward the latter. For any number of reasons, sometimes cyclists riding as safely as possible will still be in the way of a motorist, who will wrongly assume that the cyclist should be hugging the curb, and honk or perhaps pass the bike too closely as punishment for the perceived infraction.

The actual effect depends on whether we have 1 or more lanes in a given direction. If just one lane, the sign may help to direct the momentary annoyance of the motorist away from the vulnerable cyclist and toward the highway department (for posting the sign or building such narrow lanes). Hats off to the highway department that would rather have the motorist angry at the government than angry at the driver in front of them. Where there are two or more lanes, the signs seem to be interpreted as “change lanes to pass” by many drivers.

I think that University Blvd ended up on the list because PG-BTAG pushed for Greenbelt Road, where the right or three lanes is right-only half the time anyway. Then it has a shoulder. But why stop at UMD, when it is a major East-West road that some people do ride on? To some extent, the R4-11 sign is just meant to be a way to give a little help to the unlucky soul who as to be on that road.

@Capt Hilts: A lot of roads will not have bike lanes any time soon, nor a nice parallel route. SHA is basically trying to do what it can here. Sharrows would be a bit stronger of a message, they are more affirmatively telling cyclists to ride in the middle of the lane. The R4-11 sign is interpreted by some motorsists to mean: See that guy who is only 3 feet from the right edge of the pavement? He could be in the middle of the lane. So give him the full lane as you pass.

@Berkle: Feel free to email me offline about the specifics of your situation if you don’t want to discuss here. But from what you have said, your insurance company did not have to pay the cyclist a cent. If the cyclist was even 1% at fault, and the accident occurred in Maryland, you do not owe the cyclist anything under the doctrine of contributory negligence. So please explain why your insurance company chose to pay.

I can believe that you had to take the cyclist to court to pay damages. Cyclists often have to take motorists to court for damages as well. When everybody is totally covered, sometimes the insurance companies work it out amongst themselves, but that problem is not limited to car-bike accidents. A driver carrying liability only might have to sue a negligent motorist simply because insurance companies will stiff individuals when there is a close case.

Frankly, you are more likely to sustain serious economic damage from an underinsured motorist than from a cyclist. A serious accident could cost you a few hundred thousands dollars (or more), and most motorists do not carry that much liability insurance—and they don’t have that kind of money in their bank account either. The cyclist will only do so much damage, and he probably has that much money. Both drivers and cyclists, unfortunately, often are in a situation where they have collided with someone who is at fault and refuses to pay.

@bluelinedad: If you want to analogize to pedestrians, think of these signs as the bicycle equivalent of a painted crosswalk. Both remind motorists of the law, both can be misconstrued as implying that the law does not apply elsewhere by people who don’t really care about the law anyway. Both will be ignored, but both also provide some safety to those who assert themselves.

The need for cyclists to use full lane has nothing to do with a pedestrian on a trail. The issue is not the right to hold up traffic, but rather the warning that a road user has the right to be where she is. If you feel under assault by cyclists who seem to want you off the pavement onto the grass, you know how cyclists feel on roads. As others point out, it is appropriate to somehow warn pedestrians that you are passing, but probably not be shouting the word “left”; pedestrians should maintain their course because no matter which way you move, it might be the wrong way.

@ Cpt Hilts and AWalkerInTheCity: The speed limit is not the only variable that matters. Glenn Dale Rd (MD-193) has a speed limit of 40 mph. One uses full lane because there are trees and mailboxes up to the pavement edge, and because drivers squeeze between the cyclist and oncoming traffic at times. But traffic is so light that drivers usually do not need to slow down to pass. And when there is oncoming traffic or a sharp turn, the wait is momentary. So one might use full lane the entire time.

On MD-450, which also got the signs this week, the speed limit is 35 mph and traffic starts getting heavy. There we have 2-3 lanes and drivers can usually change lanes to pass. Perhaps at times, it all just gets so intimidating that a cyclist will move over to the extreme right and share the 12.5-ft lane with a driver, at the point where that becomes less scary than using full lane. In my own experience, before 7:30 AM the traffic is light enough that the whole right lane could be a bike lane without inconveniencing drivers. But none of this is to say that this is ideal, but simply that whatever it is, the signs should help a bit.

by Jim Titus on Aug 2, 2012 12:45 pm • linkreport

Few bicycles can keep up with 30 - 40 mph speed limits and the dangers are all the greater in an event of an accident, blowout or whatever. It's NOT a good idea to mix bikes on roads with those speed limits. And, of course, the cars are probably going 50, not 40.

Excellent point. Therefore, in areas where viable bicycle options don't exist, we should lower the speed limit to 25 mph and enforce it ruthlessly.

by Admiral Ackbar on Aug 2, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

Admiral Ackbar, sarcasm isn't helpful to this discussion.

I'm a driver AND a cyclist.

by Capt. Hilts on Aug 2, 2012 12:59 pm • linkreport

But should cyclists (at least in cities) be required to carry insurance if they're going be in traffic?

Probably not. As Jim points out, most cyclists can cover the damage they cause. And doing so would create a barrier that would reduce the amount of people who bike for transportation - which is the opposite of stated goals. So the costs are high and the benefits are low.

by David C on Aug 2, 2012 1:05 pm • linkreport

@Capt. Hilts, that's not sarcasm. That's a viable solution. Certainly it's more fair to slow traffic down to a safe speed that allows everyone to use the road than to ban one group. Wouldn't you agree.

[Sorry about the name confusion, that was me]

by David C on Aug 2, 2012 1:07 pm • linkreport

David C.,sorry. Yes, I think motorists are driving too quickly nowadays in most situations.

by Capt. Hilts on Aug 2, 2012 1:08 pm • linkreport

Good post Jim about a positive, albeit meager development for MD/SHA. I think Thump said is best about MD/SHA using a 1-size fits all mentality in their projects. Bike lanes don't always make sense and it's OK to exclude them in rural areas, for example. But for MD roads inside of the Beltway the traffic engineers need to be thinking multi-modal and not just about how to move cars. There are a number of MD-roads in MC and PGC that should have bike lanes to increase the options for people traveling, but MD/SHA keeps clinging to their outdated standards (which are unfortunately the same outdated standards that the USDOT Fed Highway Admin. also uses). Have MD/SHA ever considered designs from NACTO or considered using the types of standards in bike-friendly countries like Denmark? Last time I checked, SHA's budget doesn't require them to use the outdated FHWA standards, but only that SHA's standards are no worse than FHWA ...

by TC on Aug 3, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

Share the road signs, like these, are a good way to inform motorists of the likely presence of cyclists and justify their presence on the road. But I maintain, the only real improvements in resolving motorist behavior toward cyclists and cyclist scofflaws is for state DOTs to require on-bike driver education and testing for all new drivers at the same time they receive motor vehicle training and testing. Licensed drivers should be required to take a written exam on proper cycling in traffic when the have their license renewed (it would not limit their renewal - the point is to get motorists sensitized to being a cyclist by requiring they know on-road cycling technique and traffic law). If states want to spend money to improve safety, this would be a great compliment to better facilities.

by R R Bike on Aug 14, 2012 10:55 am • linkreport

I think that both cyclists and drivers are entitled to use the road equally.

Now, that said, they should also equally take tests for license to drive, to learn and respect all laws, i,e, stop at lights, stop signs, etc. They should ALSO have appropriate insurance to answer for accidents caused by any of them.

by Devil's advocate on Aug 15, 2012 8:38 am • linkreport

The problem is, Devil's Advocate, they are not equal in an accident.

by Capt. Hilts on Aug 15, 2012 10:08 am • linkreport

@All: Did the WAMU story run? Otherwise unusual for comments on an old post.
@R R Bike. Maryland is doing something along the lines of what you suggest, though perhaps not enough. The Maryland Driver Manual has a section on cycling that was drafted by the advocates, endorsed by MD's BPAC, and accepted with minimal edits. It also has a section on all traffic control devices, but R4-11 had not been adopted so it is not in the manual--yet. Requiring drivers to learn what that sign means will do some good.

But of course, relying on the drivers test will take two generations. Signs, PSA's, and enforcement are needed as well. There is a broken-windows problem with traffic enforcement, which probably starts with the failure to stop for pedestrians.

Cyclists can teach drivers too: While I may be in a minority, I also think that rigid adherence to the law by vehicular cyclists is also important, because the driver who sees you do a full-stop at a traffic light might assume that you know the law when you take the lane for about a minute and then pull over at a convenient point to let her pass.

@Devil's advocate: Do you really believe that children need liability insurance to ride a bike? (The vast majority of adyult cyclists have sufficient assets or garnishable wages to pay for whatever damages they will ever do--drivers with no more than the mandatory minimum liability coverage (or no coverage) are a far more serious problems than cyclists unable to pay for damages they cause.)

by Jim Titus on Aug 15, 2012 11:04 am • linkreport

I tried clicking on the link to the MD bike map and Google said it couldn't find it. It may be temporarily down, so I'll try again tomorrow, but in case it's not temporary, I thought you should know.

by IleanaDU on Aug 19, 2012 12:06 am • linkreport

If you mean the Maryland Driver Manual, that PDF seems to be unavailable about 10 % of the time. Otherwise I am not sure which link you mean. Thanks. Jim

by Jim Titus on Aug 19, 2012 12:51 pm • linkreport

Bikes allowed on Connecticut Ave.?!!!
Really? I just saw a nationwide survey that says the D.C. Metro area now has the worst traffic in the United States (I guess we have beat out L.A.)and we're going to allow bikes to take up a lane. "Lane Share" -tell me how that's possible between a bike and an automobile? Ridiculous.
Bike travel is just not possible for a lot of people. I don't think there's a basket big enough for a few kids. You want to encourage bike riding-make a bike lane. I know there's money and traffic headaches during repairs but at least there's an end in site. Understand there are plenty of us who care about the environment but cannot ride a bike to work.

by Sharon on Mar 22, 2013 5:38 pm • linkreport

1) On a 2-lane road with a double-yellow stripe do cars have to slow down to bike speed?

2) When coming to a stop sign or traffic light do bikes have to maintain their current position or are they then allowed to "sneak up" the shoulder and sit along side the first car at the light?

by Harry on Jan 5, 2016 7:41 am • linkreport

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