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The reporter incorrectly stated that the shoulder will be designated for on-road bicycle use. It will not have any designation whatsoever because it's too narrow, among other reasons. It will simply be a shoulder. We will work with the county police to ensure that it is not treated as mandatory for bicyclists. It should be exempt from the mandatory shoulder use law per the "hazardous condition" exception (in other words, there's a limit to how narrow a shoulder can be before it's too narrow to require cyclists to use it). But by that time, given any luck, the mandatory shoulder use law may be repealed. The bill is up again this year, and this time for the first time it is not being opposed by MDOT. Stay tuned. The effect of the other law requiring bicyclists to ride "as far right as practicable" (with several exceptions) is less clear, but I assert that you'll have the right to take the lane based on everything said in the Leymeister incident (excluding the idiotic things said by the police and prosecutor).

In the mean time, it would be nice to post some signs saying "bicyclists entitled to full use of roadway", if only to make it clear to drivers. The signs could be left up after the change too.

The benefit of the shoulders is to make the road more appealing for those riders who do stay to the right, which is quite a few. The stripes will also narrow the roadway portion. Some riders have advocated for the change for literally 25 years. Whether this is effort is warranted when there's a big backlog of bike projects, and even this project is being delayed by a couple years for budget reasons, is another question.

Of course the path improvements are way overdue. The path as it exists now has serious safety problems.

The County Executive is trying to delay the MacArthur project until 2013-2014, since bike projects are the first things cut when the transportation budget is reduced (except perhaps bus routes and safety programs for pedestrians, even more ignored than us). MacArthur is being improved in stages. That's the first stage. The second stage's initial design (so-called "facility planning phase 1") was supposed to begin this year but the Executive seeks to delay that too. At this rate the entire project will be complete by, I'm guessing, 2025.

I love it!!!

Done by 2025?!!!

I applaud the candor and emprical accuracy of the comment: "excluding the idiotic things said by the police and prosecutor."

I have a sociologist friend writing a book about the bicycle in the USA. His thesis is that bike advocacy has done no more for bike enhancement than would have been brought about, and in fact was and is brought about, by treating the bicycle as a recreational need, no more or less than a golf course or a playground sandbox. (And of course bike facilities are in fact overseen not by transporation depts but by recreation depts, and run by folks that dont ride-- witness *attorney* Michael Jackson of MDOT.

When I read Richard Layman's comments on his blog, and this blog, with comments like those of Jack Cochrane, I want to grasp some sort of fast- track hope for bike improvement in the USA, but it just doesnt seem possible.


We'd better hope that Jack Cochrane's comments don't get picked up and spread around. Any chance of the shoulder-use law being repealed would be scuttled if people learned what it would mean on MacArthur.

I've been called a die-hard vehicularist but I think it would be a disaster for cyclists to take any position other than they ought to use the new shoulder even though they aren't legally required to do so. In fact I would so far as saying that rather than putting up signs that say "Cyclists entitled to full use of lane" they put up signs that say "Cyclists please use shoulder."

If you want to see what this road will look like, bike down Little Falls Parkway some time. It's one lane in each direction, 35 mph speed limit, very few intersections or driveways, and has a shoulder of about 3 feet. In short, pretty much a perfect match for MacArthur. Riding on the shoulder is no problem. (It also has a parallel MUP that fast cyclists would find inferior, but slower or less confident cyclists may prefer, just like MacArthur.)

This is not a hill for cycling advocacy to die on.

Contrarian, the section of Little Falls Parkway you're referring to has NO intersections or driveways, and I'm pretty sure the shoulder is wider than 3 feet. MacArthur has numerous driveways, several intersections, and a few stop signs. There are some businesses along MacArthur. The speed limit is 30. The two roads have little in common in use or character. The only benefit I see in adding a substandard shoulder to MacArthur is that it will allow cyclists to easily pass motorists when traffic gets backed up during rush hour.

Cyclists should oppose Maryland's backward law in word and deed.

Safer? No offense intended, but I think we will have to file that under wild @ss speculation.

(1) Perhaps curb huggers will have more room than they would otherwise. But by creating the extra space, one also encourages more close passes since some cars/trucks would not have passed under the old regime or will not shift over as far now that there is a line demarcating where the car and bicycle goes. Some might argue that motorized traffic will pass at a greater velocity than before. Why do you think the positive effect is bigger than the negative effect?

(2) A Contrarian's post demonstrates, the 3 foot shoulder encourages VCs and other riders to choose the too narrow shoulder by AASHTO standards. Consequently, the change moves cyclists from the arguably safer lane position (exposed to rear collisions) to a position that exposes them to more turning and passing collisions, as well as, crashes due to worse conditions on the shoulder. What here drives you to conclude that the shoulder makes cycling safer?

(3) Will this increase aggression towards cyclists that take the position that many safe cycling instructors declare safest?

I think that under the right conditions, the extra space can be utilized to accommodate more passing -- but almost certainly not safer passing -- by motorized transportation in a safe manner. But I think it takes an experienced cyclist to take advantage of it. And misconceptions regarding the rules of the road and cyclist rights could create more arguments rather than fewer. Particularly during rush hour and other high motorized traffic times where emotions and tempers run high.

Serious question, over the past 5 years or so, how many cyclists have been hit from behind and how many have been hit due to the driver passing too close? Is there a real safety concern here?

I guess I would say safer because the shoulder gives cyclists more options. Cyclists can still ride in the center of the lane if that's what they want. If they ride on the right hand side of the lane, they now have 3 feet to move over to the right if they need to (this is my main reason for calling it safer). They also have the shoulder to ride on. I work on the assumption that cyclists are smart enough to know which is best for them at the time. This design will allow cyclists to move right and allow an aggressive driver to pass rather then have them sitting behind them getting angrier and angrier.

I'm uncomfortable with the premise that we need to build roads that limit choice, lest cyclists make the "wrong" one.

I'm not sure about the exact numbers, but off the top of my head I can think of five cases in the region where a cyclist was hit from behind and one where they were hit by a driver passing too close.

Just my personal experience here: I've never had a near-miss from a driver passing too close but I have had two drivers speed up and ride right on my tail in attempts to get me out of the way and force me off the lane. This was the case even when the lane to the left was completely free of traffic (car or bike).

I don't know how this affects the arguments here but I know that some drivers seem to like intimidating cyclists who are on the road, regardless of whether it's rush hour or whether the cyclist is actually in his way.

Contrarian, you really are a contrarian! Signs recommending that cyclists use the shoulder? And I thought I was too accommodating. I assume that's tongue in cheek. But MacArthur isn't likely to be used against us in the legislative debate. The campaign to change the law isn't hitting trouble from local legislators but from some outside the metro areas where cyclists and deer get about the same respect from drivers as far as I can tell. Also I think Little Falls is better than MacArthur because it has 4 lanes and cars can pass you.

I roll a die whenever a reporter calls. If I roll 1 or 2, I say drivers have to wait patiently behind us, damn them. 3 or 4, I say we all have to get along. 5 or 6, I say paths are the best thing ever. This time I rolled a 2. Seriously, a little of each is important.

So the entire reason for it being more safe is that it gives "smart" cyclists more options so they can shift right in face of an aggressive driver? Otherwise, I still have not seen a serious argument that riding in three foot shoulder is «b»safer«/b».

Oh, my bad for being unclear. If this accommodation is supposedly about making MacArthur Blvd. safer, I'm interested in whether any cyclists have been hit from the rear/passing collisions on MacArthur Blvd.. Have there been any? Have any "smart" cyclists been hit in such a manner on MacArthur Blvd? If not, then what safety issue are we trying to address here? It appears to me that the safety argument is a red herring when the accommodation is for cars.

WABA should be uncomfortable with road changes that can be reasonably argued to be more dangerous than the status quo before worrying that cyclists lack a choice between a shoulder that safety engineers have determined to be too narrow and taking the lane against potentially more aggressive -- Contrarian seems to think so -- drivers. In the context of the safety discussion, the choice argument is somewhat flippant, IMO. It sounds great as a slogan -- think of call for "liberty" among the tea party folks -- but the world is a more complicated place than that. Many drivers lack a fundamental understanding of the risks associated with cycling and it is reasonable to think that many will see the cyclist taking the lane as being selfish and react accordingly. As the literature on bargaining demonstrates -- I can give you some literature if there is an interest -- additional possibilities can make one worse off.

Mind you, I think experimenting with certain accommodations with worthwhile. And if it is the case that this is negotiation -- we'll take these subpar shoulders on MacArthur if you do such and such -- I can understand creating goodwill. But I'd keep expectations low and create a lot of noise for the additional signage -- how about SHARROWs instead? -- that Jack suggests.

@Geof Gee, Let me try to answer each of your questions.

1)Why do you think the positive effect [of giving curb huggers more room] is bigger than the negative effect?

A cyclist who currently hugs the right will, on the new road, either hug the right edge or hug the white line.
a)If they hug the white line, they're in almost the exact same position they were before, but now they can move to the left OR the right if there is a reason - such as a tree branch - that they can not maintain their line. The only difference is that the lane will be one foot narrower, which, by your definition, should discourage close passes.
b) if they hug the edge of the shoulder, they now have two extra feet of space and a white line. This is the situation you're worried about. The question then is how many more times will a cyclist be passed by a car who gives less than 3 feet? A cyclist riding on the shoulder will probably be passed a little more often than one riding right, though not much,and I'm not sure if you'll see more close passing.

2)the 3 foot shoulder encourages VCs and other riders to choose the too narrow shoulder by AASHTO standards. Consequently, the change moves cyclists from the arguably safer lane position (exposed to rear collisions) to a position that exposes them to more turning and passing collisions, as well as, crashes due to worse conditions on the shoulder. What here drives you to conclude that the shoulder makes cycling safer?

First, when I stated the additions will make the road safer, I meant all of the changes. So the shoulders AND the separated path AND the narrower roadway. Second, while I agree that the shoulder will probably encourage some cyclists to use it, I don't agree with the consequences of that as you've defined them. Cyclists will be passed only slightly more often after as before. When I've ridden MacArthur, every car that comes up behind me eventually passes me (admittedly some may turn before they get a chance to pass, but that is a minority). No one sits behind me for mile after mile. So cyclists will only be exposed to a marginal increase in possible turning or passing collisions. They may be passed at faster speeds, but then, maybe not, since the lane will be narrowed and that tends to slow drivers down. Furthermore, I don't see a reason to believe that cyclists will ride on the shoulders if it has worse conditions.

3) Will this increase aggression towards cyclists that take the position that many safe cycling instructors declare safest?

Probably not. In order to get there you have to believe that there is some marginally reasonable group of drivers out there who will not be angered by a cyclist taking the lane when there is a bike path "right over there" but not a shoulder; but who will be angered if there is a shoulder. If such people exist they are a very small group and they will be dwarfed by the number of people who are thankful for the cyclists who move to the shoulder and wave them past.

4) So the entire reason for it being more safe is that it gives "smart" cyclists more options so they can shift right in face of an aggressive driver?

It's really not fair to say "other than the point you've made, and I've not contradicted, what reason do you have?" That alone could be my reason. Why would that not be good enough?

5) Otherwise, I still have not seen a serious argument that riding in three foot shoulder is safer.

I've not claimed that RIDING on the shoulder would be safer. I said the presence of a shoulder (and the narrower lane) would be safer.

6) I'm interested in whether any cyclists have been hit from the rear/passing collisions on MacArthur Blvd.. Have there been any? Have any "smart" cyclists been hit in such a manner on MacArthur Blvd? If not, then what safety issue are we trying to address here?

I don't know of any collisions between cyclists and drivers on MacArthur. But do we need to wait for a death or injury to decide that it's unsafe. There's no reason the Curtis Leymeister fatality couldn't have happened on MacArthur. If it had, would that change anything? Let's say the shoulders don't improve safety. They could still help to reduce conflict and encourage more people in the area to bike instead of drive, both of which are good.

7)WABA should be uncomfortable with road changes that can be reasonably argued to be more dangerous than the status quo

I don't speak for WABA, but I think the reasonable arguments you've raised are at least as much wild @ss speculation as the claim that the shoulders make it safer. So even without a valid safety argument, there is still good reason to go with it. But, IMO, it is safer. Perhaps we disagree, but you haven't made a significantly compelling argument to make me change my mind.

To amplify my earlier comment:

The new shoulder is a perfect example of why cyclists should oppose badly-designed facilities.

Imagine if Dr. Gridlock, Marvin Kalb, WTOP or Chris Core were to get ahold of Jack Cochrane's post. Imagine the story: "Montogomery County is set to spend almost $9 million to give bikes their own space and get them out of the way of cars on MacArthur Boulevard. Bike advocates say that if a change the Maryland legislature is considering right now goes through they won't be required to use the bike space, and they will insist on their right to impede cars." Do you think that story would catch the attention of people in Glen Echo and Great Falls? Or their representatives in Annapolis?

I could see this single-handedly derailing the mandatory shoulder use repeal, which would be a bad thing.

MoCo is putting the shoulders in for one reason: to reduce conflict between cyclists and drivers. Which means one lane for the bikes, one for the cars. They're not properly designed facilities -- but do you really think that's going to matter to anyone but advocacy junkies?

I have long maintained that if these shoulders are built there is going to be intense pressure on the county to enforce the shoulder-use law. If the shoulder-use law is repealed, I can only see two possible outcomes:
1. The shoulder-use law is reinstated.
2. The county moves the white stripe three feet to the right and makes the shoulder part of the roadway, and starts rigorously enforcing the as-far-right-as-practicable law. With the extra three feet the lane would be 13 feet, which AASHTO says is enough for sharing when parking is prohibited.

If this goes through, the only question we have to ask is if we're better off with the white stripe to the right or the left of us.

I do not get this project at all. My understanding of the cyclists who ride on the road rather than the bike trial along MacArthur is that they do this because the road is clear of debris. Have you looked at the existing shoulders on MacArthur? They are covered with debris. The new shoulders will also be covered. Why in the world would cyclists ride on this over the trail?

I think it is a terrible waste of resources and will add greatly to polluting the Potomac/Chesapeake to add even more pavement to this sensitive watershed and we will loose many trees if it goes ahead.

I also think that it will be more dangerous for cyclists who do ride in the road as it will lead to more road rage from car drivers as they will want the cyclists to ride on the shoulder.

I went to a Montgomery County presentation on this. The DOT representative made it clear that cyclists will not be required to ride on the shoulder.

I think widening the bike trail would be good. It will encourage more cyclists to ride on it and make it safer for less experienced cyclists to get out and ride.

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