By Jack Cochrane
Maryland’s Department of Transportation (MDOT) continues to move toward adopting a sign that says “Bicycles May Use Full Lane.” At this month’s meeting of Maryland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Michael Jackson of MDOT told committee members that the State Highway Administration (SHA) will adopt the white rectangular version of the sign, which is commonly known as R4-11. But the meeting raised doubts about whether SHA will allow the message “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” to appear on a yellow diamond sign as well. SHA staff brought two white rectangular versions of the R4-11 sign and two yellow diamond signs to the meeting, one of which also said “Bicycles May Use Full Lane.” But the state’s presentation to the committee only addressed the R4-11 sign, not the warning signs.
It is imperative that the state approve both the white rectangle and yellow diamond versions of Bicycles May Use Full Lane. Some jurisdictions in the state are saying they would use the yellow version but not the white R4-11 version on some roads. If SHA does not approve both versions of the sign, those jurisdictions will not post Bicycles May Use Full Lane on those roads. That would be a great loss. The state must give local jurisdictions the flexibility to choose whatever shape and color they believe is appropriate on the Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign.
In addition to the yellow Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign, SHA staff also brought a yellow sign to the meeting with the message "Bicycles May Be in Roadway." That sign is not a suitable substitute for the yellow Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign. First, it does not express the fact that bicyclists may use the full lane, which is what we need. Second, telling road users that cyclists may ("are allowed to") be in the roadway could leave the impression that they are not allowed to be on roads where the sign is not posted. If SHA approves that sign in addition to the yellow and white versions of Bicycles May Use Full Lane, that is okay; but I would much rather have the sign say "Bicycles in Roadway" than "Bicycles May Be in Roadway."
Advocates need to stand up for having a yellow Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign as well as the white R4-11 version. As WABA has pointed out, 700 people sent letters asking SHA to approve such a sign. Their concern was clearly to get these signs posted throughout the state along the roads where they ride, not the shape or color of the sign.
(Jack Cochrane is Chair of Montgomery Bicycle Advocates, also known as “MoBike”)