After an exhaustive input and review process, Bike Delaware has officially submitted their position statement “Bike Lanes at Intersections with Right Turn-Only Lanes“to DelDOT for review and consideration in Delaware’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). It is no secret that this provision, requiring little more than a striping alteration, increases safety and comfort levels for both bicyclists and motorists. It allows for correct positioning at both intersections and side streets, and increases the likelihood riders will obey the law. It reduces the threat of “right hooking”, cited as a serious safety threat in a recent survey. It also provides legal and defensible space, since bicyclists are routinely forced to use right turn-only lanes (RTOLs) as shoulders. The question now is, will DelDOT adopt this design guidance – or a similar remedy – in the spirit of Complete Streets and/or Routine Accommodation? Several other states, including neighboring MD (below), already have.
Chapter 1 of DelDOT’s current Road Design Manual makes the case for flexibility, and “sound engineering judgment” as long as documentation is thorough. Clearly, DelDOT engineers are given the green light to call on a host of different manuals and resources when unique circumstances call for it. Indeed, there are a few examples already where engineers went “outside the box”, successfully sharing of the shoulder as both a bike and right turn lane.
Our most famous example of a shared bike lane/right turn lane is down south on Route 1 in Rehoboth, which also includes buses in a 3-way share mix. As a result, it went from having the highest bicycle fatality rate in the state to zero.
Old Baltimore Pike between Rt.72 and Rt.273, is a “minor arterial” included in Wilmapco’s Congestion Management System. The goal of the CMS is a “systems” approach to identifying and addressing congestion in our region, and this road – as well as Red Mill and Polly Drummond Hill Roads, is included as in need of mitigation. According to the last available data (2004-2006), Old Baltimore Pike came in at 0.59 crashes per million vehicles entering its intersections, while Red Mill Rd/Polly Drummond Hill Roads – with shoulders sacrificed for right turn-only lanes and no bike lane treatments – came in at 0.64. While these numbers are relatively close, we believe this (and other similar examples found in Delaware) provides the evidence that bike lanes can and should exist in a share of open right turn lanes. There is no data that suggests such a design increases crash rates or in any way endangers road users. According to multiple studies on bike lanes in general, the opposite is true; crash rates, even for pedestrians, are greatly reduced.
We realize DelDOT’s commitment to facilitate alternate modes of transportation, in this case bicycling. They have held steadfastly to the state’s Bicycle Policy, maintained right of way for bicycles in lane expansion projects, and altered guidelines to ensure channelizing islands no longer encroach on shoulders through intersections. For these we are very grateful. The missing piece of the puzzle, however, is defining this space. This includes shared bike and right turn-only lanes available to engineers and planners in the Delaware MUTCD. It is entirely possible to define safe entry and delineation where traditional bike lanes cannot be installed due to lane width restrictions. We also ask that it be included in DelDOT’s Road Design Manual, or ultimately, in a dedicated Delaware Bicycle Design Manual unique to our state.
More pictures HERE.