Group Requests Change Of Highway Signage On SR4 Through White Rock To Read ‘Bicycles May Use Full Lane’

Editor’s note: The following letter has been sent to state Department of Transportation District 5 Engineer Paul Brasher seeking the change of signage on SR4 through White Rock to promote safety and help deconflict motor vehicle encounters with people on bicycles. 

By Travis Moulton, Los Alamos 
Brett Kettering, Los Alamos 
Brandon Hill, White Rock 
Warren Oldham, White Rock 
Scot Johnson, Los Alamos 
Khal Spencer, Santa Fe 
Paul Geimer, Los Alamos 
Carl Gable, Santa Fe 

This letter requests that NMDOT District Five change highway signage on State Route 4 through White Rock between its junctions with Jemez Road (west of mile marker 50) and State Route 502. This change of signage would be a road safety enhancement to this popular bicycling route. This section of State Highway 4 has been the location of multiple crashes between bicycles and motor vehicles in the past couple of years. 

New Mexico State Statutes and Los Alamos County Ordinances have direct application here. Persons riding bicycles have the same rights and duties as vehicle drivers under NMSA §66-3-702 and LACO §38-542. NMSA §66-3-705(B) and LACO §38-545(c) each permit persons riding bicycles to ride two abreast. 

NMSA §66-3-705(A) and LACO §38-545(a) require persons riding a bicycle to ride as far to the right as practicable. Where not practicable persons riding bicycles may use the full traffic lane. Under LACO §38-545(b)(3) it is not practicable for a person on a bicycle to ride to the right where there is a substandard lane width. This Ordinance section defines substandard lane width as a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane. Measured at mile marker 50 on State Route 4, the lane widths are 11 feet. 

LACO §38-545(d) provides that a motor vehicle passing a bicycle rider must do so at a distance of no less than 5 feet. With the required 5-foot minimum safe passing distance and the width of the lanes on State Route 4, a bicycle and a vehicle cannot travel safely side by side within the lane, even when the bicycle riders are not traveling two abreast as both state and county laws permit. The lane widths of State Route 4 are therefore substandard under LACO §38-545(b)(3) and persons riding bicycles may use the full traffic lane. 

Accordingly, we request the removal of the signs stating Bicycles Keep Right Ride Single File Only (please see attached image) as these signs do not accurately express existing law and therefore confuse road users and make this highway less safe. There are two of these signs co-located on the eastbound and westbound lanes just west of mile marker 50. Another single sign is located close to mile marker 55. A fourth sign is located just east of mile marker 61 on the eastbound lane. Finally there is another sign just west of the intersection of Pajarito Road / Grand Canyon Drive and State Route 4. 

In place of the above-referenced signs we request that Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs be installed (see attached image). These signs are designated R4-11 under the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The clear and unambiguous message of the R4-11 sign will promote safety and help deconflict motor vehicle encounters with people on bicycles. 

We also request the removal of the Share the Road signs on this section of State Route 4.These yellow advisory signs under the MUTCD are not regulatory and again do not clearly and accurately express existing law and don’t fully and completely serve the safety needs of road users. We would like these signs also replaced with the R4-11 Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs. 

Lastly, placement of Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs would provide consistent messaging to road users with the recent adoption and use of these signs within the Los Alamos National Laboratory federal facility. 

Thank you very much for your assistance with this important road safety matter.