Waverly Woods to try subtle traffic calming


April 24, 2005|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LIKE MANY other neighborhoods in Howard County, Waverly Woods is concerned about motorists speeding through the community.

Shannon Gillen, a community manager for First Real Estate Management, is excited about the innovative approach to traffic calming that the Waverly Woods homeowners association will try out soon.

"Installing bike lanes is a great alternative to the traditional traffic humps and other measures that usually go in," she said.

The bicycle lanes will be marked with lines, rather than a physical structure, but according to information she has obtained, lines are just as effective as other traffic-calming structures, such as chokers or speed humps, and a lot less expensive to maintain.

Temporary bike-lane markings are scheduled to be painted on Dorchester Way, between Dickens Way and Petersboro Road, next week.

The final configuration will allow for on-street parking on one side, travel lanes in both directions and a bike lane on both sides of the road.

Bill Davis, who lives in Waverly Woods, wondered about information that he and other residents had received from their homeowners association about which side of the road on which to ride.

Davis said: "A letter to the residents announcing this trial states: `According to Howard County law, bikes are required to travel opposite the direction of oncoming traffic for optimum driver visibility.' That seems to directly contradict what you wrote in [last week's] Traffic Talk."

He noted that last week's column had advised bicyclists to ride on the right side of the road, to the right of the lane.

I also heard from two other Waverly Woods residents who also were wondering about the conflicting information. Although I was quoting directly from Maryland's traffic code last week, I checked with the Howard County police to ensure I had provided the correct information.

Sgt. Frederick von Briesen said that I had.

"There is nothing in the County Code that states bikes are required to travel opposite the direction of oncoming traffic for optimum visibility," he said.

He also said that Howard County's law defers to Maryland's "ride-on-the-right" law if you're riding in the travel lanes.

But there are exceptions to the ride-on-the-right rule.

"As far as riding on bicycle lanes is concerned, cyclists should always ride on the right-hand side of the lane," von Briesen said. "Riding in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic is preferred. However, crossing a heavily traveled roadway should be avoided. In that case, the rider can ride against motor vehicle traffic, but should still ride to the right of the supplied lane."

Bottom line: Ride on the right whenever you're in the travel lanes of a road; try to ride in the same direction of traffic if you're in bike lanes that offer lanes on both sides of a road, unless it's just too dangerous to cross the road. And when you're in the bike lane itself, ride on the right-hand side.

Biking along U.S. 29

Jon Merryman pointed out, also in response to last week's column, which stated that Maryland law prohibits bike riding on roads with posted speed limits of 50 mph or greater, that U.S. 29 is "designated as a bike lane on the shoulders."

The thought of bicyclists on U.S. 29, or any other major highway -- even on the shoulders -- horrifies me.

Unfortunately, Harvey Muller, the State Highway Adminstration's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, confirmed my worst fears.

"Maryland law prohibits bicycling in the travel lane of a roadway where the posted speed limit exceeds 50 mph," he said. "However, cycling on the shoulders is permitted. Crossing ramps from one shoulder to another is also permitted."

He said that we should not confuse permission to use shoulders of these highways with a designation as a bike route.

"While we permit bicyclists to utilize the shoulders of U.S. 29, it is not designated as a bicycle route," Muller said.

Commuter route

Questions are still coming in about a popular commuter route toward Baltimore from Howard County.

"I live in Howard County but work in Baltimore County," E.E. Hornberger said. "I would normally travel to Frederick Road, across the Patapsco River bridge to Hollifield Road, then take Dogwood Road to Ridge Road. But the Patapsco River bridge is now closed for repairs. How long will repairs take? With the current gas situation, it is a longer trip down U.S. 40 to Rolling Road to Dogwood Road to Ridge Road."

I'm afraid that he is going to have to get used to burning that extra gasoline.

Nitin Kadoo, the Baltimore County Department of Public Works project manager, said the bridge was unsafe.

Among the repairs being made are a new deck on the bridge, enhanced bridge supports and abutment repairs. In addition, the bridge will be cleaned and painted.

Don't expect to resume driving this favorite commuting route until December.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at TrafficTalk@comcast.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia 21044. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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