Bike Delaware’s campaign to convince DelDOT to no longer cut off bike lanes with solid white lines (aka “taper lines”) in 2012 has run into some debris. We were hoping to achieve this with a few pave and rehab projects this year on DelDOT-identified bicycle routes. It would serve as an interim solution while we wait for the shared right turn-only lane design approval.
“Unfortunately, we cannot agree to this request [taper line removal/modification]. There are no known studies of this issue, that would indicate how bicyclists or drivers would utilize or understand what we are conveying, or what option best accomplishes the goal. Related to compliance with the MUTCD – there are a lot of things that would be considered compliant, but that we would not recommend or install. The issue is really about having the research completed, determining the best way to convey the meaning to the public, and then implementing the revised standard.”
“I know this process is not moving as quickly as you would like. However, as far as I know, we are one of the very few agencies that are working on this issue at all, and the only agency that is trying to do so with a systematic, research-based method.”
There are already examples of removed/modified taper lines in Delaware (e.g. Old Baltimore Pike in New Castle County and Route 1 in Rehoboth, left ) so, for both advocates and just shut-up-and-ride bicyclists alike, it’s hard to understand why something so simple and obvious should take so long. It’s doubly difficult to understand because we are not advocating for some new and untried pavement marking. All we’re asking for is that some pavement marking be taken away.
It’s hard to understand, but the reason is that this is how government bureaucracies work – and have to work. If government bureaucrats had the authority to “do what makes sense” or “what seems obvious”, there would probably be a revolution. We have entrusted enormous power and authority to bureaucrats but only on the condition that that power is constrained by rules. And, in Delaware (as in every other state, though not some cities), the rules that Traffic Departments operate under are the rules laid out in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (“MUTCD”). Anything in the way of pavement markings that can be found in the MUTCD is permitted. Anything else that is not in the MUTCD, however, is forbidden.
The MUTCD is an enormously frustrating straightjacket for advocates. But until political leadership authorizes a different/additional manual – an additional set of rules and tools – it’s what we’re stuck with at the moment.Above: Neighboring Maryland didn’t think twice about the shared lane option. Not only have they been opening taper lines, but they also delineate 3′ bike pocket lanes within 10′ right turn-only lanes.