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Maryland Leaders Split Over Road Signs For Cyclists

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Two bicyclists cross the street in Northwest Washington, D.C.
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Two bicyclists cross the street in Northwest Washington, D.C.

Bikers and drivers have at times been at odds on how to share narrow roads, and that conflict has spilled off the road and onto road signs.

Alex Manente says he was once hit by a car while riding his bicycle on the far right side of the road. "We have the law of right turn on red... most of the time the driver is not really paying attention on who's coming on the right, only paying attention to the car and not the cyclists," he says.

But the Maryland State Highway Administration has been paying attention. Over the past two weeks, they've installed dozens of signs along five state highways in Prince George's county that read, "Bicycles may use full lane." But county governments control most of the roads in Maryland, and some hesitate to encourage bikers to take up a whole lane in all situations.

"If there are two lanes in either direction, the bicyclist can use the full lane, that way a car can get over into the other lane," says Susan Hubbard, spokesperson for Prince George's County's Department of Transportation.

On smaller roads, though, she says that won't work. So instead, the county prefers signs that simply say, "bicycles share the road."

"We are utilizing the two signs, as not only are we concerned about the county's liability, but also about the safety of the bicyclists," says Hubbard.

But Jim Titus from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association says "Share the Road" signs can be confusing, as they don't say exactly where a bicyclist can be.

"When you're riding in the middle of the lane, which is the safest place to be, people honk at you, they know you can be at the roadway, they just want you to be extreme right of the roadway," says Titus.

As far as county roads are concerned, which specific roads will get which signs, remains unresolved.

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