Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Road Safety

Roads


Will leaders stand up against the death toll?

Tragically, people are getting killed on District streets, two in one day in February. Experts acknowledge that stopping these deaths is a major challenge. In something of a reversal from decades past, as demographics and living patterns shift, it's also a serious problem in suburban areas such as Montgomery County.


Photo by Hawkins on Flickr.

What is the D.C. Council doing about it? Adding police? Investigating thoroughly? No. In fact, in the budget the council passed this month, Chairman Phil Mendelson dedicated considerable future revenue to ease punishment for those whose dangerous actions put others at risk, while simultaneously restraining the police from expanding enforcement.

I'm not talking about murder and similar violence, though violence in our city is no laughing matter. This problem strikes far closer to home for most of us: distracted driving, speeding, unsafe right turns on red or through crosswalks, red-light running and other forms of unsafe driving.

Continue reading my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.

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Roads


NBC story on cameras actually discusses safety

Something astounding has happened: A news story about speed camera tickets actually discusses whether or not they deter drivers from speeding, one of the acts which makes roads unsafe.

Mark Segraves dug up some information on whether drivers get more repeat tickets at DC or Maryland cameras:

Segraves got data from DC, Montgomery, and Prince George's about the percentage of drivers who get multiple tickets, out of all the drivers who get a ticket from the cameras. Ticketed drivers are twice as likely to have multiple tickets in the Maryland counties, and 20 times as likely to have 5 or 10 tickets.

What would cause this discrepancy?

This could be because the fines were much higher in DC in Maryland (they decreased in DC thanks the last year's camera bill). It could be that the lower fines mean people are less worried about getting caught. Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker thinks that's true. Anecdotally, I've heard from other drivers who say they're much more afraid of speeding in DC.

It also could be that different groups of drivers get tickets in each jurisdiction. John Townsend of AAA (who can sound entirely reasonable when he tries) thinks that the Maryland cameras are in neighborhoods where the same drivers ply the roads day after day. A possible counter-argument is that drivers who live nearby know where the cameras are, so they shouldn't get tickets.

Another possibility is that DC gets more tourists, who come in, speed, get a ticket, and then aren't around to get more. Martin Austermuhle muses that perhaps Maryland drivers are just worse.

One way to better analyze these possibilities would be to break the data down by state. Are DC drivers re-offending at the same rate on DC cameras as Maryland drivers on Maryland cameras? Are Maryland drivers (most of whom do commute) getting more or fewer tickets on DC cameras than the DC drivers do?

Or, to investigate Townsend's claim, what about just the DC cameras that are in neighborhoods? AAA mostly complains about the ones on freeways, but the most serious safety problems are where major streets cut through neighborhoods. Do people get multiple tickets at higher rates on those DC cameras?

Was it wise to lower fines?

The task force Councilmembers Tommy Wells (ward 6) and Mary Cheh (ward 3) put together couldn't find convincing evidence one way or the other, so the councilmembers decided to lower the fines because of the political blowback. I argued at the time that AAA is orchestrating a lot of that blowback, so if they want to trade peace for lower fines, they'll have to follow through.

Townsend hasn't. Instead, they've sent out a stream of press releases attacking the cameras, and given lots of juicy quotes to the press. He's called cameras "the mother's milk of additional revenue" for government, even though DC lowered the fines.

Townsend even complained about red light cameras after arguing in the task force for keeping the fines high. He told Ashley Halsey III, "The District collects nearly two-thirds, a stunning 61.6 percent, of the [red-light camera] revenue total for the national capital area."

Let's debate the actual safety, not the fake anti-government frame

Maybe cameras won't work. Mount Pleasant ANC Commissioner Jack McKay doesn't think they do. MPD does, but doesn't have good enough data to really prove it. It would be great to have a real debate about what measures will and won't make streets safer.

That's not the debate we are having, however. Instead, AAA is using misdirection. They aren't saying the measures don't improve safety; they are saying the whole thing is a government conspiracy to squeeze money out of drivers. And the non-revenue elements like bike lanes are a "war on drivers" and an attempt to force people out of cars.

This is a pernicious theme because it plays right into the press's existing biases to cover stories as government vs. the people. AAA doesn't want to talk about the people who get hurt from drivers turning right without stopping; they want everyone to blame the evil gummint.

For some reason which escapes me, most reporters seem to eat it up. Halsey led off his story with the extremely biased line, "The lucrative battle to keep drivers in the District from running red lights seems to be achieving more profit than success." It's amazing that there had to be a letter to the editor to point out that illegal driving is more than a revenue issue, it's a safety issue.

Let's look at that success, seriously. A debate about the cameras based on safety would be welcome. There are plenty of angles for reporters to investigate that relate to the actual safety, or the appropriate level of fines. Mark Segraves has taken one step toward that. Will others follow?

Pedestrians


On crosswalks, research and safety campaigns conflict

Marlyn Eres Ali was killed last week in Wheaton, crossing Connecticut Avenue on foot at an intersection with no traffic light. She was in a crosswalk that has wheelchair ramps and a paved median refuge but no markings on the pavement. Why aren't crosswalks like this one marked?


Crosswalk where Marlyn Eres Ali died. By permission of nbc4 news.

Legally, a pair of crosswalks exists at every intersection, regardless of whether there are markings on the road. Most of the general public believes that marking those crosswalks makes them safer to use. But the Federal Highway Administration disagrees. Sometimes, at least.

Its Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or MUTCD, the traffic engineer's bible, states that on roads with 4 or more lanes, speed limits above 40 mph, and heavy traffic:

New marked crosswalks alone, without other measures designed to reduce traffic speeds, shorten crossing distances, enhance driver awareness of the crossing, and/or provide active warning of pedestrian presence, should not be installed across uncontrolled roadways.
Local agencies, reluctant to make cars go slower and short of funds to install the pedestrian warning lights called hawk beacons, usually take this as an injunction to simply leave the crossing unmarked.

The MUTCD bases this provision on studies of crash data. Pedestrians crossing big highways, these studies report, have a greater chance of being hit by drivers at marked crosswalks than at similar unmarked ones.

There are several possible reasons for this.

  • Traffic engineers often locate marked crosswalks at the places where they interfere least with vehicle movement. Pedestrians may put a higher priority on safety when choosing where to cross.
  • Politicians may demand crosswalk markings at the intersections with repeated crashes, meaning the crashes are not a consequence of the marked crosswalk but the cause.
  • Researchers have other suggestions, too, as Tom Vanderbilt discusses on page 198 of his book Traffic.
Whatever the causes of this phenomenon, if it is real, there is an easy way to save lives: FHWA and state transportation agencies could instruct pedestrians to ignore crosswalk markings when they cross highways without traffic lights. Cross at whatever intersection feels safest, not the one with a marked crosswalk.

Of course, you will never hear that advice in a safety campaign. They urge pedestrians, as the current DC effort puts it, to "always use a crosswalk." Pedestrians understand this to mean a marked one, and the campaigns reinforce that belief with images of marked crosswalks.


FHWA safety poster.

The FHWA's own pedestrian safety campaign does not explicitly recommend using marked crosswalks. Butsomewhat like advertising for an escort servicewhat isn't said matters more than what's said. The text assumes that the reader already has an idea of what's going on and carefully avoids correcting that impression. The real message is in the pictures.

Why would highway agencies promote pedestrian behavior that their research shows to be unsafe? One potential reason is that the traffic engineers don't really believe the research. The study results are often inconsistent; the researchers offer many cautions. Scientists know that when you get a result contrary to common sense, it's most often wrong. If it still stands up after checking and double-checking, you may have a great discovery, but more often you'll find a subtle mistake buried in your work.

The other possibility is that safety isn't really what this recommendation is about. Rather, it may reflect drivers' desire, reinforced by the historic biases of the traffic engineering profession, to get pedestrians out of unmarked crosswalks where they slow down cars. Peter Norton has shown that safety campaigns, when they started in the 1920s, aimed to push pedestrians off the streets and make room for cars.

Intentionally or not, the traffic engineering profession gravitates toward conclusions that support its existing practices and priorities. When the research supports a road design that speeds trafficwonderful! A safety recommendation that would slow down vehiclesunthinkable!

Roads


Speed camera bill now would make streets more dangerous

Tomorrow, the DC Council will take its second vote on its bill to lower speed fines. It's likely to pass, given that it passed unanimously on first reading, but it contains some extremely dangerous provisions, including one that would force the District to set speed limits based on the "engineering perspective" over neighborhood livability.


Photo by ph-stop on Flickr.

ANC 3E goes further and argues, in a unanimous resolution, that the bill would harm safety rather than enhance it. I have a hard time disagreeing, given that Chairman Phil Mendelson removed many of the important provisions in the original bill that came from the task force I served on, and added some harmful new ones.

I previously listed some troubling provisions that made it into the transportation committee markup, mostly at Mendelson's behest, but the most damaging is this section, which the committee didn't pass but which Mendelson added anyway:

(a) By November 1, 2013, the Mayor shall complete a District-wide assessment that evaluates the speed limits on the District's arterials and other streets. The report of the assessment shall include the criteria used for assessing the speed limits. Upon its completion, the assessment shall be posted to the District Department of Transportation's website. The assessment shall:
  • (1) Utilize factors common among transportation officials for the determination of speed limit;
  • (2) Evaluate whether comparable arterials should have comparable speed limits, and similarly do so for other streets;
  • (3) Include, based solely on an engineering perspective, speed limits for the District's arterials and other streets.
(b) By January 1, 2014, the Mayor shall revise, through rulemaking, existing speed limits throughout the District. The speed limits shall include comparable speeds for comparable arterials, and other comparable streets. Notwithstanding this requirement, the Mayor shall not cause an anti-deficiency as determined by a fiscal impact statement obtained by the Mayor from the Chief Financial Officer.
"Engineering perspective" shouldn't be only factor in speed limits

Mendelson apparently is trying to ensure that speed limits get set without regard for revenue or politics, and fairly between different arterials in various parts of the city.

Those are good instincts, but requiring an "engineering perspective" for speed limits is the wrong approach. The traffic engineering profession has a deeply ingrained practice of setting speed limits solely for car traffic, and with the motivation of making roads move traffic as fast as possible for the safety of drivers.

They traditionally use a simple "80% rule": Set the limit at the rate that 80% of drivers move on a particular road. The idea is that some people are speeding, but if most people travel at a particular rate, that rate is probably safe. And on a limited-access highway, that's not a terrible idea, because there is only one kind of road user (maybe two, if motorcycles are separate).

But our neighborhood streets, including arterials, have to balance the needs of many modes. 80% of drivers gives no thought whatsoever to the speed that will allow people to cross the street at unsignalized intersections (where it's legal) without the danger that a driver won't come around a curve so fast that they can't see the pedestrian or stop in time. It doesn't consider the traffic flow that would allow bicyclists and drivers to coexist safely and efficiently.

The "engineering perspective" doesn't have to ignore these factors; engineers could easily devise another algorithm that is better. But they generally haven't, and the guy in charge of speed limits for DDOT, James Cheeks, personally wrote a whitepaper when he worked for the Institute of Transportation Engineers advocating for the 80% rule.

That document says the 80% rule is "a case of majority rule." Actually, we often don't set laws just based on majority rule. We protect vulnerable minority groups and have legal processes to ensure majorities don't trample their needs. On the roads, motorists are the majority but pedestrians and cyclists are a vulnerable minority we need to protect.

At the task force meetings, Cheeks reiterated that the 80% rule was his preferred way to set speed limits, but when pushed, also added that DDOT always talks to residents and also thinks about pedestrian and bicycle safety. My fear is that the "engineering perspective" in Mendelson's provision will specifically push DDOT to follow the dangerous method in this whitepaper, which specifically comes from engineers, and not to incorporate other needs or listen to communities.

ANC 3E wants escalating fines

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission for Tenleytown, AU Park and Friendship Heights, ANC 3E, asked the Council to turn down the bill entirely, saying, "We believe the stated basis for enacting the Bill does not support the Bill's passage. Without material changes, we believe the Bill would fail adequately deter repeat offenders and lead to unnecessary deaths and injuries."

The ANC primarily is concerned that repeat offenders will get off easy for ignoring the laws time and again. The task force originally supported having some system that would give first offenders lower penalties, and chronic repeat offenders higher ones. The original bill also prescribed much higher fines for higher levels of speeding on the belief that traveling 20-30 mph over the limit is act much more intentionally flouting the law than speeding 11 mph over.

The ANC's resolution states:

ANC 3E believes the current fine regime, which per the legislative history puts DC near the middle of state fine regimes, is not unduly harsh. Evidence is strong that speed cameras save lives in DC. By contrast, the evidence is weak that higher fines do not promote more safety, as economic theory predicts, or that a majority of DC residents want to see fines lowered.

Whether or not the Council chooses to reduce some fines, however, we strenuously urge the Council to establish a system of fines for moving violations that escalates after a set number of offenses of a given severity. The escalation scheme should parallel the point system for violations in a police officer's presence. Thus, an owner whose vehicle is ticketed three times in a two year period for driving 16 mph over the limit should receive a fine on the third offense whose magnitude would be akin to the magnitude of license suspension for a 6+ months. Although we do not formally recommend such a sum, we believe that it should be at least $500.

If the Council does not amend the Bill to create such an escalating scheme, we respectfully urge the Mayor to veto it, and respectfully urge the Council to reconsider creating such a scheme.

The resolution also argues that absent more evidence that lower fines don't lead to more speeding, it doesn't make sense to lower the fines. It says that most residents do support the fines, and asks the Council not to listen to organized lobbying from a few special interest groups.

Update: Tina pointed out that this gem of a video is very relevant here. Everyone who thinks that the same old "engineering perspective" is the right way to make traffic decisions needs to see this.

Roads


Gray slightly tweaks camera fines to stave off larger change

This morning, DC Mayor Vince Gray proposed some changes to the District's speed camera fines. It seems to be an attempt to stave off more significant changes in a bill from Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh, which is having a hearing on Monday.


Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.

Gray's plan would lower fines for speeding up to 10 mph from $75 to $50, though MPD is generally not writing tickets for speeding at this level (though the law lets them if they choose). Speeding from 11-20 mph over the limit would decrease from $125 to $100.

Meanwhile, Gray would raise the fine for speeding over 20 mph from $250 to $300. He also announced something DDOT previously said at the task force, which is that they are reviewing speed limits and may raise some.

The Wells-Cheh bill, by contrast, would lower fines for 0-10 and 11-20 to $50, as well as fines for other infractions like blocking the box or not fully stopping at a stop sign.

Gray said he will use some of the money to hire 100 new police officers. That's fine, though if the police officers don't focus on traffic, then it ultimately is just using camera revenue for things other than road safety.

We need to do more for traffic safety. DC is adding a few cameras which will make a big impact, but there's a lot of dangerous driving out there. A few cameras with high fines will stem a little bit of it and raise a bunch of money. I want to see us stem a lot more of it, and the only realistic way to do that is to expand the cameras significantly.

A major element of the Wells-Cheh bill is a provision that some camera revenue goes into a fund the Metropolitan Police Department can use to buy more cameras. Regardless of the level of fines, it's critical to set up a system whereby the stock of cameras can automatically grow over time.

It's also critical to ensure that the political blowback from speed cameras doesn't stop the District government from adding more. Now, it's not clear what exactly is necessary to achieve this. If Gray had 3-4 more years on his mayoralty, there might be little need to change the fines. Gray shows no interest in curtailing the plan whatsoever, regardless of fines, and in fact is resistant to lowering fines.

The DC Council might have disapproved some contracts for new cameras, but it couldn't. The next year's budget counts on a lot of revenue from cameras, which means that if councilmembers had wanted to delete the cameras, they would have had to fill a big budget hole.

What about in the future? If Gray doesn't run for reelection, as most speculate he won't, then the next mayor might have a different view. Maybe the next mayor will be so hostile to cameras that it won't matter how high or low the fines are. Or maybe he or she will keep cameras going no matter what.

From a safety point of view, fines don't need to be high as long as it's having a deterrent effect. At the press conference, Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she doesn't believe $50 fines are enough to deter, but council staff could find no studies that showed any conclusive correlation between fine size and driving behavior.

That suggest that high fines don't really improve safety. On the other hand, it also means that lowering fines probably won't do anything for safety eitherunless lowering fines changes the political dynamic and allows more cameras.

It's not clear it will. AAA's John Townsend participated in the task force, and said in the meetings that AAA would support cameras as long as they're not for revenue. But then, last week AAA still came out with a provcative study of how many dollars certain cameras brought in, and got a raft of sympathetic stories in the press.

From a purely abstract point of view, lowering fines is the right thing to do. Punishments should be high enough to deter lawbreaking, but don't need to be higher just to punish. A lot of people believe, despite academic evidence to the contrary, that cranking up punishments fights crime or unsafe driving; past a certain point, it doesn't.

From a political point of view, on the other hand, it's worth doing this right thing if it achieves a greater goal. Expanding cameras, and making streets safer, should be that goal. If the bill sets aside a fund for MPD to buy more cameras, that could significantly streamline the process.

If lowering fines blunts political blowback, that's worth a lot. However, if speeders still complain, and AAA's Townsend will continue to say anything to get attention in the press regardless of lower fines, then lower fines would just give dangerous lawbreakers a windfall for little benefit.

Roads


How else can DC's camera program improve safety?

The District's traffic camera program is a good idea and a very important initiative, but it won't enjoy public support unless it's clear to voters that safety is the goal, not revenue. A task force, which I'm serving on, will meet soon to formulate recommendations for Councilmembers Cheh and Wells.


Photo by fringehog on Flickr.

Last week, I suggested some ways DC might identify the appropriate fine for speed, red light, and other cameras. In addition to the levels of fines, there are a few other ways we can ensure that the program serves safety first and works well.

We should make sure that drivers get a notice as fast as possible that they've gotten a ticket, so they can adjust behavior before getting one or ten more. Money from cameras could automatically fund more cameras, and projects to redesign the roadway to reduce speeding, red light running and more.

Notify drivers faster

A friend, who works outside the District in a car-dependent area, got 11 camera tickets before finding out about even the first one. If she was driving 11-15 miles over the speed limit, that would come out to $1,375 in fines. What does this achieve?

Since the goal of cameras needs to be getting people to obey speed limits, red lights, and other traffic laws, the quicker DC tells people they've gotten a ticket, the better. Psychologists call this "contiguity," and found that whether one's punishing animals, children or adult humans, the closer a punishment is to the infraction, the more effective the punishment.

We'd actually get the most behavior change if every time someone sped or ran a red light, a sign lit up a bit down the road saying, "You just got a ticket. Please don't speed/run red lights." However, this could anger and possibly distract drivers, and also, current cameras require a human to review each ticket to be sure it's fair. Therefore, this is probably impractical.

However, we can ensure that the tickets come as quickly as possible. A bill around ensuring safety could require that the contractor mail tickets within a set period of time.

The DC DMV also has a system where you can sign up with an email address to get notified about tickets, deadlines for late penalties, and more. Unfortunately, right now you have to get a ticket and then use that ticket number to sign up with the system, "for privacy reasons." At least for DC drivers, the DMV could sign up people for this service when they renew a car registration. Is there anything else that could be done for out-of-state drivers, besides having the DMVs of neighboring states work together?

Let MPD use camera money to buy new cameras

AS we discussed previously, more cameras with lower fines is a more effective way to get people to follow laws than fewer cameras with higher fines. In order to have more cameras with lower fines, however, DC needs to be able to buy more cameras.

The current crop of cameras MPD is ordering were in the pipeline for at least two years, and they're still not in place. That's largely a consequence of the procurement process. Even though the cameras bring in money, all of that money goes to the general fund. If MPD wants another camera or even if an existing one breaks, they need a line item in the annual capital budget specifically authorizing spending that amount of money on cameras.

There are reasons to budget this way. It forces more transparency and ensures that spending follows the priorities of the mayor and council. However, it also makes everything really, really slow.

A bill around cameras could give MPD the power to buy more cameras out of the revenue from other cameras. This would dovetail well with the suggestion from last week that fines automatically lower as more cameras come in. That way, safety improves, but drivers also get the reduction they want, and we maintain the overall balance of severity against certainty.

Use revenue for safety programs

There are other ways to make the streets safer. In particular, often the "design speed" of a road does not match the speed we want people to drive. For a long time, traffic engineers thought that it would be safest if they built every road to handle faster traffic than people actually wanted. The thinking went that if they did this, if a driver sped, they would still be able to avoid hitting a tree or something.

However, this created roads that sent psychological signals to drivers that they should travel faster. Drivers did, and a conventional wisdom evolved that faster driving was appropriate in that area. Standards evolved around setting a speed limit at the 85th percentile of how fast cars are traveling, which meant that the road design, which created a general practice, then became its own law.

To slow down traffic in residential areas, we can set lower speed limits, but most people ignore them. We can then put up cameras, but drivers will continue to feel tension between the signals they get from road design and the posted limits. The best way to solve this is to redesign the road with the right design speed.

There are many ways to reduce design speeds. Bulb-outs at corners reduce the distance pedestrians have to cross and create visual signals to travel slower. Cycle tracks reduce the visual width of a street. Bioswales, medians, and gently curving lanes (chicanes), like those suggested for C Street, NE, can add green features and slow traffic.

The camera law could mandate that camera revenue, over and above the revenue dedicated to the FY2013 budget and which doesn't go to cameras, would go into a special fund that DDOT can use to redesign roadways. Those roadways need to be ones with speeding problems today, where the change reduces the design speed of the road.

What else would you suggest?

Roads


Maryland leads, but counties hesitate on new bike signs

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) has started installing new signs informing users that "Bicycles May Use Full Lane." But most roads are managed by local governments, and none of them yet plan to use the sign as extensively.


Photo by Richard Masoner, www.cycle­licio.us on Flickr.

The decision to place "use full lane" signs on state highways took a sustained campaign by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) and an intervention by the state's Secretary of Transportation, followed by a year-long debate among senior SHA managers, which had to be settled by SHA Administrator Melinda Peters.

Why was there so much angst over a sign that merely states the law?

According to state employees, the sign came to symbolize a struggle between two schools of thought among traffic engineers: the traditional view that cyclists should ride as far right as practicable, and if that's not safe, stay off the road; and the modern view that cyclists are welcome on all roads, even if that requires riding in the center of the lane.

Within SHA, skeptics became supporters

While gradual, SHA's transformation has been remarkable. In April 2011, its Office of Traffic and Safety announced that SHA would not post any "use full lane" signs (PDF).

Tom Hicks, who was director of the office, explained in June 2011: "We assume that the bicycle requires a 4-foot operating width all the way to the right, while the automobile requires a 10-foot operating width. Drivers may have to move left into the next lane to pass. Potential conflict is increased if the cyclist moves farther to the left."

With some encouragement from MDOT Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley, a few months later, Mr. Hicks became a strong supporter of Maryland's yellow "use full lane" warning sign. "We think that this sign will be very useful on some highways," he told me. "I knew there was a solution in there somewhere." Last week, SHA posted the white rectangular version of the sign on MD-193, MD-212, MD-450, MD-500, and MD-704, which suggests that Cedric Ward, his successor, may prefer that version of the sign, which is officially known as "R4‑11".

Once the guidance on these signs is refined and fully implemented, there will be no ambiguity on state highways about where a bicyclist is assumed to ride.

Local governments have different stances

Cities have been most eager to use the signs. Laurel has the white rectangular signs and sharrows as part of a bike route parallel to US-1, and the city engineer endorsed placement of the yellow warning sign along US-1. The City of Baltimore uses the R4-11 signs on bicycle boulevards. Across the state line, the District of Columbia and Arlington (which operates its own roads) have used the R4-11 sign for more than a year.

Montgomery County has not posted any "use full lane" signs yet, but it intends to follow the approach described in the recent SHA guidance for the sign (PDF), according to Fred Lees, the county's chief of traffic engineering studies. Anne Arundel plans to limit the signs to a few cases where citizens report hazards caused by drivers not expecting to see cyclists using the full lane. "We already have 70,000 signs on county roads. Signs that merely tell people the law should not be needed," says James Schroll, the chief traffic engineer for Anne Arundel County. "There are better ways to inform residents that the law allows cyclists to take the lane."

Prince George's County still has the ambivalence about bicycling that SHA had in the past. Haitham Hijazi, Director of the Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T) says that the County will use the R4-11 signs along some roads that have at least two lanes in each direction.

But the county has rejected requests to post those signs on two-lane roads. In a meeting with WABA, DPW&T explained its reasoning:

DPW&T believes that signs and pavement markings increase its liability because doing so would imply endorsement of riding those roads. Today, cyclists ride those roads at their own risk. The County has never stated that all of its roads are part of the cycling transportation network. Installing signs and pavement markings would in effect endorse biking on those roads, making the county liable.
In rejecting a request for a sign on Church Road, where drivers regularly honk at cyclists using full lane, DPW&T traffic engineer Cipriana Thompson said that "this is a use-full-lane situation," but disputed the research that R4-11 signs increase safety. Others at DPW&T suggest that cyclists who use the full lane do so for political reasons, rather than their own safety:
DPW&T cares about public safety and is concerned when members of the community take safety lightly or knowingly commit acts of high-risk behavior as a mechanism to achieve a public action.
Advocates and officials seek common ground

WABA and other advocates disagree with the view that cyclists should not ride on 2‑lane roads that are too narrow to share. But rather than debate the point, they plan to work with Hijazi on specific roads that he is willing to improve. Councilman Eric Olson (D‑College Park) supports a pragmatic approach: "I look forward to working with DPW&T and the bicycle community on the new signs."

The American Automobile Association (AAA) is also supportive. John Townsend of AAA Mid-Atlantic, who lives in Prince George's County, has seen first-hand the need for better signage. "When I drive to church on Sunday morning, I see a lot of bicyclists on Lottsford Vista Road," he observes.

"That road has been widened in some places, but parts are still narrow, and cyclists move into the lane there. We already have deer warning signs, so surely we should have signs to warn about vulnerable people in the roadway."

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