Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Report on zig-zag pavement markings

The current issue of Spokes magazine contains a good article on the zig-zag pavement markings (starting on page 19) used by VDOT at the Belmont Ridge and Sterling Blvd crossings of the W&OD Trail. The article discusses a study done on the effectiveness of the markings, Best Practices in Traffic Operations and Safety: Phase II: Zig-zag Pavement Markings
The study found that the markings installed in advance of the two crossings heightened the awareness of approaching motorists. This was evidenced by reduced mean vehicle speeds within the marking zones. Further, the majority of survey respondents indicated an increase in awareness, a change in driving behavior, and a higher tendency to yield than before, and the markings had a sustained positive effect on speed reduction. The study also found that motorists have limited understanding regarding the purpose of the markings, and users of the W&OD Trail and motorists are confused regarding who has the right of way at the crossings.
We were especially interested in the study recommendations, mainly the one regarding confusion about who has the right-of-way at the trail crossings. Police have been known to issue tickets to cyclists for failure to stop at the stop signs placed by NVRPA. According to the study author: "A cursory review of the Code language in this study suggested that trail users on multiuse pathways may not be obligated to comply with non-signalized traffic control devices where the trail intersects a roadway."
RECOMMENDATIONS 5. A review of the Code of Virginia should be undertaken with respect to those sections dealing with trail users on multiuse pathways and their obligation to comply with non-signalized traffic control devices. The purpose of the review should be to determine if legislative changes could help alleviate the confusion about right-of-way, and if so, to suggest appropriate legislative change proposals. Such a review could be initiated, or led, by VDOT’s Traffic Engineering Division with assistance from staff at VTRC. A cursory review of the Code language in this study suggested that trail users on multiuse pathways may not be obligated to comply with non-signalized traffic control devices where the trail intersects a roadway. In addition, the research found there is confusion among motorists and trail users about right-of-way laws regarding the W&OD Trail where a STOP sign is directed toward the trail users. This confusion could compromise safety at these and other similar multiuse trail/roadway intersections.
A few years ago we asked our local VA delegate to ask the Attorney General for clarification of the responsibilities of cyclists at the W&OD Trail intersections where there is a stop sign placed by NVRPA at a crosswalk. The Attorney General misunderstood the request and said that motorists must yield to pedestrians and bicyclists when the speed limit is 35mph or less, which is true but didn't answer the question about how cyclists should treat the stop signs.

At a road intersection with stop signs on one road crossing another, a motorist facing the stop sign must wait for traffic to clear before entering the road. With a crosswalk in front of a stop sign at a trail crossing, the issue becomes unclear, both for trail users and motorists. We plan to ask VDOT they are conducting the recommended code review.

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I assume "non-signalized traffic control devices" is traffic-geek speak for "anything except a traffic light", right? So, in this specific case, the STOP signs that are pointed at the trail users.

That's my interpretation as well. I'm awaiting an answer from VDOT as to whether they are looking into the report's recommendation to investigate the code related to cyclists responsibilities at these intersections. I'll post something here when I hear back.
I will be interested to hear what VDOT says in response. Thank you for inquiring. Will definitely watch for that post!
I was attacked by an angry motorist with his vehicle today because he claimed I did not stop at the stop sign at Sunset Hills & the W&OD. While waiting for 911 to answer after the driver slapped me in the face, tried to flee the scene, and then proceeded to run me over with his car, I thought of this very article.

I think regardless of what the result of this discussion is, more care needs to be taken to communicate to motor vehicle drivers what is expected of them (and amazingly enough, that was the officer's comment, not mine)

Just because they don't have a stop sign doesn't mean that they don't also have to stop. Unfortunately, I do not know how to communicate that. But hopefully someone will, and soon, before someone gets seriously hurt.

The most interesting part of this situation was the number of people that stopped and asked if I was OK. Numerous motorists and fellow cyclists offered their assistance which is just awesome. It may show that there is some knowledge that the trail crossings are dangerous and most likely (though not always) the motorist is going to be in the wrong.

But of course, there was a sole outsider who actually gave the assailant a thumbs up as he drove by and that is just disgusting.
CableDawg, what happened after you called 911. Did police arrive and take a report? Have you heard any more about whether or not they have issued a citation to the motorist? Is there anything FABB can do?

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