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Why Pennsylvania Needs to Eliminate the Bicycle Occupancy Permit

Why Pennsylvania Needs to Eliminate the Bicycle Occupancy Permit

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Published by sarah8328
A detailed explanation of how the Bicycle Occupancy Permit inhibits the installation of bicycle lanes and signs throughout Pennsylvania.
A detailed explanation of how the Bicycle Occupancy Permit inhibits the installation of bicycle lanes and signs throughout Pennsylvania.

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Published by: sarah8328 on Mar 19, 2013
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03/19/2013

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Stop the BOP: How
PennDOT’s
Bicycle Occupancy Permit is PreventingCommunities from Making their Roads Safer
Currently, state law (Section 1622 of Title 75) requires local authorities to obtain approval fromPennDOT in order for a bicycle marking or sign to be installed on a state road. In the process of getting that approval (through requirements set forth in Section 212.5 of the PennsylvaniaCode), PennDOT requires local authorities to assume all maintenance and liability responsibilityfor bicycle markings and signs.In practice, this means that a municipality must obtain a Bicycle Occupancy Permit (BOP). This is
spelled out in PennDOT’s Design Manual Part 2 –
Highway Design (Publication 13M), Chapter 16on Bicycle Facilities. Effectively, the BOP is a signed commitment from the municipality it will beassume all responsibility for installation, maintenance and operation for certain traffic controldevices. The BOP requires municipalities to adopt the terms of the BOP by resolution.Philadelphia or Pittsburgh are exempt from the BOP requirement, and between these twocities, they have over 400 miles of bike lanes. In the rest of the state, where the BOP isrequired, it has kept the mileage of bike lanes down to less than 50. By requiring municipalitiesto assume all maintenance and liability, PennDOT has created a substantial obstacle thatprevents municipalities other than Philadelphia and Pittsburgh from installing bike lanes or bikesignage on state roads within their jurisdiction. In some cases, the BOP might apply even tocompletely separate trails.It is the view of the biking and walking community that bicycle markings and signs should nottrigger PennDOT approval and local authorities should not be required to obtain a BOP from
 
PennDOT in order to have bicycle markings or signs installed on state roads within their jurisdictions.Currently, there is a list of traffic control devices that require PennDOT approval and a separatelist of traffic control devices that do not require PennDOT approval. Bike lanes and bicycleroute signs are among those devices in the Section 212.5 regulation that are subject toPennDOT approval, along with traffic signals and a host of other signs. Crosswalk markings,parking stall markings, curb marking at intersections do not require PennDOT approval. Whyshould a bicycle lane marking? Street name signs and stopping, standing and parking signs donot require PennDOT approval, why should a bicycle route sign?One good example of how the Section 212.5 regulation has prevented bicycle lanes from beinginstalled is the case of the Kennett Pike Bikeway (MPMS 77476), Kennett Township, ChesterCounty. Kennett Township was awarded $740,453 in Transportation Enhancements funding forconstruction of the Kennett Pike Bikeway on PA 52 from US 1 south to the Township Border
with Pennsbury Township (1.7 miles). The project includes widening to provide 5’ shoulders on
both sides of PA 52. Kennett Township wanted to stripe bicycle lane markings to designate theshoulder area for cycling and provide signage to encouraging bicycling in this historic and scenic
byway corridor, located a stone’s throw away from Longwood Gardens and historic Dupont
mansions and landscapes. As part of the design process, the Township was presented with theoption of fulfilling the BOP requirements or not striping the bicycle lane. The Township decidedto not stripe the bicycle lane and not install bike signage.To resolve this issue, either PennDOT or the Legislature could take action. PennDOT couldresolve it in either of two ways. First, PennDOT could issue a directive from the Central Office
to District Offices that they don’t need to require municipalities to sign a BOP and pass a
resolution for bicycle lanes or signage. Second, PennDOT could change the regulation Section212.5 by moving bicycle markings and bicycle route signs from the list of devices that needPennDOT approval (212.5(b)(1)(v)) to the list of devices that do not need PennDOT approval(212.5(b)(1)(iv).)Alternatively, the legislature could enact legislation amending Section 6122 of Title 75 requiringthat bicycle route signs and pavement markings for bicycles not require PennDOT approval.

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