After an 11 year advocacy effort, PENNDOT has finally eliminated the Bikeway Occupancy Permit (BOP) and replaced it with Bike Lane Request/Approval Letters.
The BOP, which had been law up until now, required a municipality that wanted a new bike lane to maintain any bikeway in PENNDOT’s right of way.
For example, if a bike lane existed in a municipality, the municipality was required to plow snow from the bike lane even though PENNDOT routinely plowed the road anyway. They were also required to maintain the signs and keep the right of way clear of vegetation. This has been a major barrier to the inclusion of bike lanes in cities and towns around the Keystone State, even if the municipality had bike lanes in their Master Plans.
This requirement was not applied to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; consequently; bike lanes proliferated in those two cities and were rarely found in suburban or rural counties. (Check out this map we created in 2011 to make the point.)
The policy was inconsistently enforced throughout the state, as other bike lanes were installed without a BOP.
Bike lanes Susquehanna Road in Upper Dublin and Abington Townships were added in 2010 without a BOP. However, when it came for the time for the road to be resurfaced Abington was suddenly required to sign one while the signs and symbols in Upper Dublin were simply removed (although the line striping remains unchanged).
The street connects the Main and South campuses of West Chester University. It was determined that bike lanes would fit in the right of way but the Township refused to sign a BOP for the project.
Since then, BCGP and others have lobbied both PennDOT and the state legislature to address the problem. This blog post summarizes a timeline of BCGP’s advocacy. PENNDOT will still have a fairly rigorous process to get bike lanes installed and state law still requires the municipality to maintain signs and symbols.
The most onerous barriers to bike lane installation have been removed. The Strike Off Letter also mentions separated bike lanes which will require an more formal maintenance agreement prior to construction. We thank PennDOT for finally taking this important administrative step to lowering the bar for installing bike lanes on state roads.
This new policy will make it easier for PennDOT to “pilot” the installation of bike lanes that we reported on earlier this month. We will be working with county planners, DVRPC and PennDOT District 6 to help facilitate a process that will enable municipalities to propose bike lanes to be installed when state roads are resurfaced.