Turning drivers confused by bike path's solid boundaries

  • A reader says that the "Do Not Enter" sign on the center island where Pennington Avenue changes from two-way to one-way keeps getting knocked down. There is a sign on the sidewalk to the left.
A reader says that the "Do Not Enter" sign on the center… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
December 04, 2010

The problem Drivers turning right at a Northeast Baltimore intersection are confused by a bike lane.

The back story Lee Brown drives through the intersection of Frankford Road and Moravia Park Drive in the Frankford neighborhood several times a day.

That gives him plenty of opportunity to see that other drivers have different approaches when they need to turn right onto Moravia Park from Frankford.

City crews installed a bike path on that road about three months ago, and since then, Brown says, he's seen a few near-misses.

Some drivers cross the solid white boundary of the bike lane to make their turns. Others choose to turn from the main driving lane, which can be trouble if someone has driven a car into the bike lane.

Brown, who volunteers at Greater Grace World Outreach, said he's seen other church members accuse each other of doing the wrong thing. One told another that he was driving in the bike lane, and he replied that he was in the right-hand lane to make a right turn.

Security officers at the church spoke with police officers on patrol and got inconsistent responses, Brown said.

From his driving-school days, Brown remembered that solid white lines are not to be crossed. "The solid line was to represent a brick wall," he said.

And near other intersections and driveways, there are broken or dashed white lines to indicate that drivers could direct their cars into the bike lane — taking care to avoid any cyclists, of course.

Brown said he called 311 twice to report the potential problem. His second call, on Oct. 13, was categorized as a request for a traffic study at that intersection, with a March 2011 due date.

"If there was definition for all, then there would be clarity as to what you are supposed to do there at that intersection," he said.

Adrienne Barnes, spokeswoman for Baltimore's Department of Transportation, said the solid white line was not laid in error and that drivers are free to enter the bike lane to make right turns.

Based on the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which establishes national guidelines for lane markings, "our current standards do not prohibit motorists from crossing the white line to negotiate the right turn," Barnes said. The Maryland Driver's Handbook states that single solid white lines separate areas "where lane changing is discouraged."

She stressed, however, that crossing the line is allowed only when drivers are turning right. And as the Maryland Driver's Handbook instructs, motorists making a right turn should yield to cyclists.

However, to ease the confusion at Frankford and Moravia Park, "we're just going to replace the solid line with the dashed white line," she said.

That work should be completed within about 30 days, Barnes said.

Until then, "we recognize there may be some confusion, but he can make that right turn at that particular intersection," she said.

Who can fix this Randall Scott, traffic division chief, Baltimore Department of Transportation, 443-984-2150. City residents should call 311 to report problems.

— Liz F. Kay

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