Monday, December 21, 2009

New specs for bicycle traffic control devices

The new version of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) was recently released. See related posts at BikePortland, LAB, Wash Cycle, Rails to Trails, and VBF.

Major changes in Part 9. Traffic Controls for Bicycle Facilities include the new Shared Lane Markings, formerly called Sharrows. These have been used experimentally along some on-road portions of the Mt. Vernon trail in Alexandria. They can now be used without special permission. They indicate to motorists, on roads with a speed of 35mph or less, that bicyclists will be sharing the road.

The "Bicycles May Use Full Lane (R4-11) sign" is another significant addition that "may be used on roadways where no bicycle lanes or adjacent shoulders usable by bicyclists are present and where travel lanes are too narrow for bicyclists and motor vehicles to operate side by side." It can be used with the Shared Lane Marking.

There are many locations in the county where these signs will help cyclists where there is no room for wide outside lanes or bike lanes. An example is on Old Courthouse Rd leading into Tysons. Bike lanes are located to the west. The road narrows as cyclists ride uphill approaching Freedom Hill Park where there are many mature trees and a steep bank that make widening the road very difficult. The new signs will indicate to motorists that cyclists belong in the center of the lane because the lane cannot be safely shared.

Another example is on Idylwood Rd between Hurst St and Idyl Ln. Cyclists coming from the W&OD Trail riding north to Tysons and McLean must take the lane and are often harassed by motorists. There are extensive utilities located adjacent to the road and the county estimates it will cost over $1,000,000 to provide paved shoulders. Shared Use Lane markings and Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs are a low cost measure that would help educate motorists about cyclists rights.

Also of note are new bike route wayfinding signs that include destination information, mileage, and arrows. These are used extensively in Oregon and some other western states but were not part of the official manual until now. They can now be used for the planned bike route signs in McLean, on the Fairfax County Parkway Trail, and elsewhere.

A minor change that makes a great deal of sense concerns the use of "Bike Lane Ahead" and "Bike Lane Ends" signs. Use of these signs is no longer required, which could save money where there are either short sections of bike lanes or short gaps in existing bike lanes.

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