Archive for July, 2013

Bike Technical Committee of the MUTCD Comes to Portland

MUTCD coverAh, the great MUTCD! Full name being the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices the standard reference for all road signs and pavement symbols used on roads in the United States.

Normally I don’t get too excited about this particular and exhaustive resource, but last week a number of us who are local bike advocates got to experience a little taste of the work of the National Commitee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) – the national group of private and public sector experts that helps the Federal Highway Administration maintain and update the MUTCD.  They meet twice yearly to conduct business related to the manual – with quite a bit of work on details in between – and their Summer 2013 meeting happened to be held in our beloved Portland.

(As an aside, I chuckled when some committee representatives from the other Portland introduced themselves simply as “from the City of Portland”, apparently feeling no need to tack on “Oregon” even though they were sitting in the heart of the city of Portland, Maine.  One of our local transportation planners introduced himself as being from “the original Portland”, which was fabulous.:)

Photo by James D. Schwartz - Creative Commons

Photo by James D. Schwartz – Creative Commons

What most claimed the attention of those of us into bicycling was the chance to attend the meetings of the Bicycle Technical Committee (BTC) – which considers and makes recommendations on bike-related MUTCD infrastructure.  The folks in the room clearly had great experience and a vast working knowledge of transportation research, standards and practices.

For this go-round the BTC was looking at proposals regarding items (some of them controversial), such as:

  • signage to accommodate cyclists through road construction projects
  • bicycle-specific traffic signals (which they’ve had for years in California and Oregon but for various reasons have yet to be formally adopted by the MUTCD)
  • bike boxes to bring bicyclists to the front of the cue at intersections (same situation as previous bullet)
  • alternate bike lane ends/bikes merging signage

NCUTCD Vets BridgePlus we got to take a bike facilities tour of Portland and share some meals with members of the Bike Technical Committee – lots of fun and you can see more photos from various members of the group in this Facebook album posted by John Brooking, local Bicycle Coalition of Maine board member and Cycling Savvy educator.  One of the few female members of the BTC, Michelle DeRobertis of Oakland, CA even invited us out for Bike Karaoke – you have to check out her great lyrics and parodies of songs, all having to do with walking and biking!  [Note: Joe Stafford, another BTC member has since shared “Shift, Shift“, an original re-write performed only once at the 2001 Thunderhead Alliance Retreat in Leavenworth, WA.  What folks come up with – it’s great!] 

Most encouraging was how diverse the group was in its consideration of bike facilities – i.e., they didn’t want to adopt just anything.  A number of the members of the committee have specific concerns about the safety and proper construction of “good” bicycle infrastructure (e.g., that doesn’t set up bicyclists to be doored or to get right-hooked by cars turning at intersections).  And all seemed able to reach consensus or vote their consciences.

BTC Meeting roomOf course that same thoughtful and lengthy consideration and descent into minutiae is likely to drive both committee members and the general public a little crazy.  As a transportation planner and a Quaker, I generally hold with the idea that we need to ”go slow to go fast” – but I could tell there were plenty of folks in the room who would like to see the process move a lot faster.

Regardless, it was a real education.  Many thanks to the NCUTCD Bike Technical Committee for the camaraderie and the chance to participate!

July 1, 2013 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment


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