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In mid-May, at the height of the most hectic part of the Texas legislative session, BikeTexas staff were very pleased to receive a letter from Mr. John Barton, P.E., Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Director of Engineering Operations. Mr. Barton announced that TxDOT is now seeking to accommodate cyclists through better practices in the application of seal coat (TxDOT’s term for what most cyclists call “chip seal”) on Texas highways.
As many of you have personally experienced, the aggregate used in seal coat can be a hazard to cyclists when it accumulates on shoulders and in bike lanes. To address this, Mr. Barton’s main recommendation to TxDOT district engineers was to use smaller aggregate, and to sweep the excess off the road in a timely manner. Mr. Barton also encouraged the TxDOT Districts to work with cyclists to identify the safest routes in the district, plan specific bike corridors, provide signage and create bicycle route maps for the TxDOT website.
Mr. Barton’s cover letter to BikeTexas and his April 13, 2009 memo to TxDOT District Engineers, “Accommodating Bicycles in Seal Coat Construction,” can be viewed here. The 2008 inquiry on seal coat practices by BikeTexas and Mr. Barton’s immediate response then can be viewed here.
How soon and how much will it take for the TxDOT memo to translate into improvements for cyclists?
This is guidance for best practices, not a regulatory mandate. Nonetheless, guidance does go far in many highly regulatory and technical environments. Many cyclists are well aware that AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) recommendations as guidance amount to de facto standards for roadway construction.
Texas cyclists have of course been communicating with TxDOT state and district engineers on a regular basis long before this exchange of letters. BikeTexas views this as the next step in getting mainstream acceptance of cyclists in Texas as a legal and normal on-road vehicle operator. We see this guidance as a great tool to further this acceptance not only at the state and district level, but at the regional (Metropolitan Planning Organization or MPO), county and municipal level.
BikeTexas offers its sincere thanks to Mr. Barton, TxDOT Statewide Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator Paul Douglas and others at TxDOT who worked to produce this end product while they also managed TxDOT affairs during a very busy legislative session, including TxDOT Sunset Review. We look forward to continued collaboration with TxDOT on the issues outlined in this memo as BikeTexas and Texas Cyclists continue to work with TxDOT and other public officials.