Thursday, January 8, 2015

DelDOT to install "Bicycles IN LANE" signs at key I95 crossings

Despite poor results with our petition drive, a new and unique bicycle warning sign is heading for approval. Working with 1st State BIKES advocates, Mark Luszcz (P.E, DelDOT) designed the sign that will give Delaware another 1st on the national stage, rolling out the words "IN LANE" in conjunction with the standard bicycle warning sign (bicycle symbol on yellow sign). Safe to say, this wouldn't be happening without a Chief Traffic Engineer who takes a pro-active approach toward bicycle and pedestrian safety.

According to the Federal Highway Administration and the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the bicycle warning sign by itself is used to indicate that bicycles are ahead, i.e. crossing or entering the roadway. But if you add a message in a sub-sign or "plaque", or in conjunction with the symbol on the sign itself, it then becomes useful for whatever the conditions dictate.

Few will argue that something more is needed on non-shouldered roads with sub-standard width lanes. Something like a warning sign, yet carries an educational message that bicyclists are legally entitled to ride in the lane of traffic. DelDOT had considered wider spread use of the "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" (BMUFL) regulatory sign, and tested it on Gills Neck - a 2 lane non-shouldered road in Sussex County. But it raised the ire of motorists and legislators, who claimed that bicyclists were abusing the privilege and deliberately impeding traffic. Under pressure, DelDOT removed the signs. Fortunately, a second location, at the bridge crossing the White Clay Creek on Papermill Road in Newark, is doing very well and will remain. Main Street in Newark is also working very well. Both are placed in conjunction with sharrows, of which have their own safety benefit. So it appears that DelDOT will limit use of the BMUFL sign to downtown environments and pinch points like the above.

It has not yet been determined when the first "IN LANE" warning signs will be installed, but it should be in time for Spring. For pinch points, the following four I95 crossings were selected: Chapman Road, Salem Church Road, Otts Chapel Road, and Welsh Tract Road. Each has limited shoulders or no shoulder space at all, yet draw regular bicycle traffic because they are direct spans with no I95 access.

Though Welsh Tract Road appears to have a narrow shoulder, it isn't usable. Occasional storm grates and debris collection, and a close proximity to the curb make it very dangerous to ride in. Safest position here is the traffic lane.

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