Friday, July 17, 2009

Signs of Change

We all know it. We've all seen. It has been beaten, bantered and embedded into our collective conscious. Share The Road. It has been the main stay of the cycling activist for a long, long time throughout Florida. But is it enough? Does it do enough to inform both cyclist and motorist of what actions can and should take place?

And what does Share The Road really say? For me, each time I see this this sign planted roadside. I envision a tattered clothed orphan extending an empty bowl towards the uncaring motorist and pleading for a little of the roadway. I don't know about you, but I'm tried of asking, pleading or using any other form of politeness a Share The Road sign implies.

What about where roads are too narrow to be shared? I'm speaking of roads with lanes that are below the standard 14 foot width. Lanes that are too narrow for both a motor vehicle and bicycle to share. All cyclists at one time have experienced the horror of a driver baring down on them with pure evil and vengeance in their eyes in a substandard lane. The reasons why certain drivers are so frustrated when confronted with a lowly cyclist on the road in front of them are varied. But I'm going to make a huge assumption here and guess the vast majority of motorist that honk, scream at, throw stuff and buzz cyclists do so for one reason. They are unaware that cyclists are not only allowed to be there. But are also entitled to take control of the lane. 316.2065(5)(a)3

So lets assume one of these substandard lane roads happens be along your daily commute. Let's also assume you are lucky enough to have this section of road ah blaze with Share The Road signage. You clearly see them and the motorist clearly sees them. But a Share The Road sign means two distinctly different things to each of you. For you, the sign means you have right to be there. To the motorist however, he/she reads the sign as you can be there until they feel you are in their way. At which time you should pull over let them pass.

Which brings us in a long drawn out way to the topic of this post. The Southside Blvd. Service Rd.. A mile long roadway with lanes so narrow a JTA bus just barely fits within it.

This Road was designed and built for one purpose. To keep turning traffic and merging traffic from disrupting the flow along Southside Blvd. The north end Allows entrance from SS blvd. but no exit. About midway along the service road is a signaled intersection that provides an exit off the service rd.. The south end allows both access into and out of the service rd.

Along the Service rd. are a massive variety of apartments and condos. To reach any shopping, dining or any other place of business everyone is forced to funnel out of the midway signal or the south end of the service rd.

There are no Share The Road signs along this service road. But I believe they would make little difference even if there were for the reason stated earlier. Why do I think that? Because as of late I have spent a fair amount of time riding that roadway. I have felt the brunt of the poor unfortunate motorist that is delayed the 3 minutes that it takes me to get from where was to where I need to be. But I'm lucky, unlike this guy. I'm not one of the many people that commute by bike daily along this service road suffering abuse from drivers during both directions of their commute. I'm thinking we need something with a little more punch than Share The Road here. Something that leaves no doubt to the motorist what the cyclists rights are...

Does the sign above leave any questions about where a cyclist is capable of riding within a lane? Does this sign leave any questions as to what a motorist is to do when they encounter a cyclist controlling the lane? Are you aware that Florida has no such sign?

Enter the folks at Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 2. Believe it or not, there are some very intelligent, capable and bicycle/pedestrian friendly people that work there. I made the call to the District 2 offices and spoke with Chris LeDew an Assistant District Traffic Operations Engineer to discuss what could be done in way of signage along the service rd.. And after a lengthy conversation that consisted of me explaining what the problems are along this roadway. And a just as long explanation from Mr. LeDew on the FDOT signage approval process. I was told he would have someone check into it.

Fast forward to the next week. I get a call from Scott Lent the District 2 Safety Engineer letting me know that he had visited the roadway and wanted to talk to about their thoughts on a solution and hear what my suggestions are.

Mr Lents suggestion was of course to place Share The Road signs. But through his conversation with Mr. LeDew, Mr. Lent already knew I was seeking a new sign altogether. He actually asked me if I could provide examples of the verbiage for the signage I was thinking about. I had to check to make sure I wasn't being punk'd as State agencies don't have the reputation for being this helpful and/or responsive.

Through all of this I have to keep reminding my self that I am actually having a positive experience with a state agency. I have in a weeks time talked with two different State of Florida employees. And both times they not only very patiently explained the FDOT process. But they also asked for and attentively listened to my suggestions. This may well be a first in the history of our great state.

The bottom line is we just may end up with a new sign. One that will greatly benefit both motorist and cyclist on substandard lanes is now in the process of design and approval. While there is no promise of the sign being added to the FDOT library. There is positive change within the FDOT for cyclists and pedestrians. And that my friends is a good sign.


Abhishek said...

The positive attitude of FDOT is indeed very refreshing.

A sign stating more then 'Share the Road' should alleviate some anxiety and frustration of the motorist waiting to overtake a slower cyclist. A sign implying that cyclists may take full lane clarifies the local laws and educated every one travelling on the road.

It will also discourage some cyclists from using the sidewalk by educating them, thereby reducing chances of this statistic (link) from improving.

Finally, a fantastic advocacy work and post on your part, Matt.

Joe Mizereck said...

Matt, well done.

Joe Mizereck
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Jeremiah Russell said...

I agree with Shek that FDOT is taking steps in the right direction. Now if we could only get developers and the Architecture Community to pony up and start rethinking how communities work we could all get rid of our cars in favor of rail transit and cycling. Yay!

Endurance Athlete said...

I love that sign, I wish our government officials were as open to cyclists as they seem to be in Florida. Lets hope this is just a beginning.