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Old 12-07-06, 09:29 AM   #1
John E
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dealing with K-rail and construction zones

OK gang, I am submitting the following as an honest question, for which I do not have a ready "right" answer. This is a 3-month (or longer) real-world situation in Carlsbad, California, not a theoretical scenario.

Before the current construction project (to underground utility lines) commenced, Palomar Airport Road from Palomar Oaks Way to College Bl. was a 6-lane 55mph prime arterial with a regulation 1.5-meter-wide bike lane on each side and a mostly-dirt sidewalk beyond each curb. There is one lightly-used driveway cut on the south side of the road; there are none on the north side.

http://www.mapquest.com/directions/m...&2s=ca&2z=&r=f

On the north (westbound and slightly downhill) side, we now have a continuous string of K-rail in the #3 lane, about 2 feet from the #2/#3 lane line, leaving us effectively with two westbound travel lanes, the outermost of which is perhaps 14 feet wide, from the lane #1/#2 boundary line to the K-rail. Pleas for a reduced construction zone speed limit and/or for "share the road" signage have gone unheeded.

Bicyclists have only a few options I can discern:
1) Take the westbound #2 lane (center? right tire track? other?) in 55mph traffic, hoping not to overrun from behind. Unless there is a (frequent) headwind, an average (gravity-aided) cyclist should be able to exceed 20mph on this link.
2) Share the westbound #2 lane, riding on or near the #2/#3 lane, hoping not to be squeezed between a [concrete] rock and a [steel moving] hard place, so to speak.
3) Ride through the construction zone itself, dodging trucks, pipes, deep trenches, and workers.
4) Ride contraflow in the bike lane on the south side of the street, politely slowing and hugging the curb when encountering eastbound cyclists.
5) Ride a mountain bike or hybrid on the dirt sidewalk on the south side of the road.
6) Detour to either College Bl. or Poinsettia Av. (see MapQuest link; both are circuitous, lengthy, and hilly).

My current preference is #5, but it is not satisfactory on a road bike or in inclemenet weather, unless one relishes mud. I encounter a chap every morning on a road bike, exercising option #2, when traffic is light.
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Old 12-07-06, 10:09 AM   #2
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I was watching the movie, "Ronin," last night w/ Robert DeNiro. Someone was hiring him and some other "professionals" to do a "job." He kept asking about the escape plan. Another thug asks him, "Are you worried about saving your own skin, then?"

"Yes, it covers my body," he replies.

Sometimes when we get construction downtown, various obstacles suddenly appear in my path that were not there the day before, such as steel plates, perpendicular ruts, cones/barriers, hardhat areas, etc. To be "vehicular" to an extreme degree could have me taking bumps head on that might damage my tubes or even crash my bike. Since these obstacles are considered passable by motorists (though they slow down first,) no effort is made to protect cyclists. In these cases, I protect my d'rear-end by diverting onto whatever course is acceptable, often the largely unused sidewalk, until I get around said obstacle. So shoot me. Anyway, I don't consider myself a "sidewalk cyclist," just that you have to do what you have to do when nobody is looking out for you.
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Old 12-07-06, 10:17 AM   #3
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Since this is a construction zone, are they not lowering the speeds in that area?

Can you contact the construction company... work your way to a supervisor and ask about lowering speed limits?

How about if SDCBC calls the construction company and explains it to them? Riding in 55MPH traffic is OK once in a rare while, but as a regular rush hour occurance, it can be intolerable.

I found that a poorly routed bike lane near my office was rerouted as soon as SDCBC contacted CalTrans, after my calls went unheeded.
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Old 12-07-06, 10:47 AM   #4
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That's an annoying situation as 14 feet wide is decent for lane sharing but not when the boundary is a K-rail. I hate to say it, but dynamic lane positioning is probably what would work best here. Ride in the center of the lane until you get a decent backup of vehicles at your speed, then move over and let them pass at a reasonable speed, assuming you don't mind slowing down (I wouldn't want to ride at 20mph one foot from a K-rail). If I had a good head of steam going (say 25mph or more), I'd just take the lane and let everyone change lanes to pass. Of course, being and there and seeing it with my own eyes might change my opinion
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Old 12-07-06, 11:25 AM   #5
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I'd never heard of k-rail. For other such readers, this is it:

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Old 12-07-06, 01:37 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by recursive
I'd never heard of k-rail. For other such readers, this is it:

Looks like a Jersey Barrier to me.
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Old 12-07-06, 01:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
Looks like a Jersey Barrier to me.
Google search results for images of either:
about 9,420 for K rail.
about 513 for jersey barrier

However, "jersey barrier" did come with a definition:
Jersey barrier
n.

A protective concrete barrier used as a highway divider and a means of preventing access to a prohibited area.

And admittedly, the K rail search also returned "K" sites.

But it appears both names are common and used for the same thing.
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Old 12-07-06, 05:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joejack951
That's an annoying situation as 14 feet wide is decent for lane sharing but not when the boundary is a K-rail. ...
I concur, joejack. With a lower speed limit or with a curb instead of K-rail, lane-sharing might work, although 14 feet is pretty marginal.
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Old 12-07-06, 07:07 PM   #9
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"K-rail" is a term only used in California. Everyone else calls them concrete barriers - or in Boston we knew of them as "Jersey Barriers".
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Old 12-07-06, 09:38 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LCI_Brian
"K-rail" is a term only used in California. Everyone else calls them concrete barriers - or in Boston we knew of them as "Jersey Barriers".
In Jersey they just call them "barriers."
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Old 12-07-06, 10:50 PM   #11
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In Santa Barbara we would have had some members of the coalition attending the planning meetings prior to construction to ensure that cyclist mobility was not impaired. And when the inevitable impairments were installed, those same members would be causing a stink with the city and construction company until things were rectified. There is no reason they cannot move the barriers over so that there is a bit more room in the outside lane.

I would not do option #3 because the construction guys will chase you out anyway. I think the only viable option on your list is to use the right lane however you feel comfortable #1 or if that turns out to be a hassle, #6 - the detour. The detour actually sounds like it would be a pleasant extra workout for the time being.
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Old 12-08-06, 12:14 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LCI_Brian
"K-rail" is a term only used in California. Everyone else calls them concrete barriers - or in Boston we knew of them as "Jersey Barriers".
Even the Hawaii DOT calls them "Jersey Barriers".
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Old 12-08-06, 12:42 AM   #13
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I would avoid riding through the construction area - some hazards are hard to see (like from cranes) and cyclist are not expected in these areas - especially since we move faster than workers on foot.

The alternate route appears to only be a half mile longer, so I would us it while pushing for a lower construction zone speed limit and better placement of the barriers.

Waiting for a gap and using the lane is OK even in a 55mph none freeway lane, but the construction zone may confuse some motorist. That is why I would choose the alternate route until the lower speed limit and better placement of the barriers are in taken care of.
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Old 12-08-06, 01:40 AM   #14
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#5 or #6. There's a similar construction project (sewer and oil/gas lines) on my commute and everybody is using the sidewalk on the opposite side until one gets by the construction area. In my case, the biggest difference may be that the construction is taking place in an industrial/warehouse district where there is very little, if any, foot traffic. Plus alternate routes mean riding additional miles out of the way and the speed differential, IMHO, on those alt routes is too high (55 mph+ vs whatever bike speed one can muster on any particular day) and very little room for error (no parking or bike lanes and narrow 9 ft wide lanes). Add in the morning rush with all the cutting in and out of the cars and one would have to think about safety first rather than insisting on exercising one's lane rights, which many drivers don't even bother to notice you until they are right on top of you. The local police dept understands the situation and as long as you aren't flying on the sidewalks, they don't have a problem.
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Old 12-08-06, 05:53 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LCI_Brian
"K-rail" is a term only used in California. Everyone else calls them concrete barriers - or in Boston we knew of them as "Jersey Barriers".
In Ontario, Canada they are often known as @!#$%&* concrete barriers, usually because they have been put to temporarily turn 3 4.5m wide lanes into 2 3m wide lanes, while someone decides to do some work....
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Old 12-08-06, 09:33 PM   #16
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Slightly OT, those concrete barriers (K-rails) made for one of the funniest endings of a car chase LA ever had. The guy being chased swerved and got into a median strip construction zone with a line of K-rails on one side. He did not look ahead and see the second line of barriers converging with the first one. He got trapped between the two lines of concrete walls and came to a screeching halt, jammed in so tightly he could not open his doors. The CHP had to break a window to free him for the arrest.
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Old 12-09-06, 12:22 AM   #17
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Definetly not #3 or #4.

Anyway, yeah, these situations are lousy. Get a cross bike with some 700x32s or 35 HP slicks on it, ain't scard of a little dirt or gravel for option #5.

I'd also try taking the laneish for options combo #1 and#2, if traffic was not too agressive or heavy. I've ridden long stretches like that and it is uncomfortable unless you get a patient driver behind you willing to ride it out thru the zone..... how long is the construction anyways?

You can make your bike look MORE like a slow moving vehicle, by attaching a safety triangle on it. (Add a High vis ANSI class 2 or 3 safety vest and couple of Superflashes, you'll wind up looking like a low powered street sweeper or one of the construction crew doing something important!) I'd recommend a safety triangle jiggered off a spoke attached to your rack to the left.

you could also look at the detour as your chance to do a little more hill work while exercising option #6.

(Boy, i can't help but wonder if Serge or John F.'s influences had anything on this being enough 'accomodation' in construction zones for bicyclists, I remember Serge going on and on about him 'taking the lane uphill in a construction zone.....')
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