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  1. #1
    just pokin' along desertdork's Avatar
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    Cycling safety jeopardized by local law enforcement?

    Do police in your area find it necessary to regularly travel at an unsafe speed & distance from you?

    It appears to be the culture here.

    The majority of my cycling miles are on four- to six-lane roads with posted speed limits of 50 & 55mph. Fortunately, the bike lanes are decent overall, the traffic is often light, and courteous drivers will usually move to an inner lane for safer passing.

    Except for police cars. I seldom ever see them move to an inner lane. Of course that wouldn't bother me if they could just pass safely. Rather than serving as an example for responsible, safe driving, they tend to pass at relatively high speeds at an uncomfortably close distance (less than 3'...often much less).

    And this happens frequently. Today was more of the same, except it occured on a long block where the bike lane is narrow and traffic is more concentrated. Almost all traffic was traveling in the two inner lanes when a police car takes advantage of the open right lane and busts right through. It happened so fast and so close that I had to work to maintain my line. As the officer passed, I watched as his right wheels tracked directly on the white line for as far as I could see. And, no, there wasn't an emergency; s/he waited at the next red light.

    Is this really necessary on their part? Are they exempt from safely sharing the road all users? Am I wrong to have concerns about their driving abilities/judgment (based on the cyclists fatalities caused by law enforcement)?

  2. #2
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    cops are just a more privileged class of JAMs

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    Rider
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    Don't suppose you've triedringing up the staion to express your concern?
    Current stable: Sun Atlas X-type (mine), Trek Navigator 3 (wife), two Sun Revolution cruisers (wife, daughter)

  4. #4
    Arrogant Safety Nanny
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    How narrow is the bike lane? Any pictures? Maybe a google maps street view? There's a bike lane in my town that narrows down to 6" to the left of the gutter pan at one point. I usually move out of and take the lane there. Since the bike lane doesn't conform with the California MUTCD it's in violation of the California streets & highways code and legally is not a bike lane. You may want to become a "would be traffic law scholar" as some around here might say and look up your local laws. Here's the streets & highway codes I'm thinking of (for california...found at leginfo.ca.gov)
    890.6. The department, in cooperation with county and city
    governments, shall establish minimum safety design criteria for the
    planning and construction of bikeways and roadways where bicycle
    travel is permitted. The criteria shall include, but not be limited
    to, the design speed of the facility, minimum widths and clearances,
    grade, radius of curvature, pavement surface, actuation of automatic
    traffic control devices, drainage, and general safety. The criteria
    shall be updated biennially, or more often, as needed.

    890.8. The department shall establish uniform specifications and
    symbols for signs, markers, and traffic control devices to designate
    bikeways, regulate traffic, improve safety and convenience for
    bicyclists, and alert pedestrians and motorists of the presence of
    bicyclists on bikeways and on roadways where bicycle travel is
    permitted.

    891. All city, county, regional, and other local agencies
    responsible for the development or operation of bikeways or roadways
    where bicycle travel is permitted shall utilize all minimum safety
    design criteria and uniform specifications and symbols for signs,.
    markers, and traffic control devices established pursuant to Sections
    890.6 and 890.8.
    I'm assuming the "criteria" mentioned are those in the California MUTCD, which states that a bike lane stripe should be a minimum of 3 feet from the gutter pan, or 4 feet from the curb if the gutter pan is more than 1 foot wide. see here: http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/si...UTCD-Part9.pdf (caution: this is a 3+mb PDF file)

  5. #5
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by desertdork View Post
    Do police in your area find it necessary to regularly travel at an unsafe speed & distance from you?
    Are you saying that you are cycling in a marked bike lane and expect motorists to move left out of the adjacent traffic lane into an inner lane in order to give you additional space? If so, I think you expect more than you are entitled, and more than you would see in many places. As long as they aren't driving in the bike lane I don't see where you have a problem or legitimate beef.

  6. #6
    Arrogant Safety Nanny
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    Well the OP said the officer was driving ON the bike lane line while passing. Even in a car if somebody's driving ON the dotted white line while passing me in the lane next to me I'd be concerned... I think the OP may also be dealing with a substandard width bike lane, forcing cyclists to either travel on or near the bike lane line or in the gutter like a few of the poorly implemented/substandard width bike lanes I've seen here.

    Edited to add:

    Maybe the OP just wants the motorists that insist on staying in the lane directly to the left of the bike lane to bias left in their lane to provide adequate clearance, instead of biasing right/driving right on the bike lane line while they pass. This would just be common courtesy if the bike lane is indeed of substandard width, and failure to maintain adequate passing distance (even when multiple lanes are present) would still be in violation of the vehicle code.
    Last edited by JeffB502; 11-14-08 at 05:57 AM. Reason: Edited to add 2nd paragraph

  7. #7
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffB502 View Post
    Well the OP said the officer was driving ON the bike lane line while passing. Even in a car if somebody's driving ON the dotted white line while passing me in the lane next to me I'd be concerned... I think the OP may also be dealing with a substandard width bike lane, forcing cyclists to either travel on or near the bike lane line or in the gutter like a few of the poorly implemented/substandard width bike lanes I've seen here.

    Edited to add:

    Maybe the OP just wants the motorists that insist on staying in the lane directly to the left of the bike lane to bias left in their lane to provide adequate clearance, instead of biasing right/driving right on the bike lane line while they pass. This would just be common courtesy if the bike lane is indeed of substandard width, and failure to maintain adequate passing distance (even when multiple lanes are present) would still be in violation of the vehicle code.
    Maybe the bike lane is substandard width, maybe not; the OP never said. I have doubts about any legal requirement to maintain a minimum adequate passing distance as long as both vehicles are in separate distinctly marked lanes.

    Common courtesy? Sure, give some extra room if its available and no other vehicle is in close proximity to the left, but that ain't the law and the OP won't get too far with reports to the police of a failure to be given an expected courtesy.

  8. #8
    just pokin' along desertdork's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Are you saying that you are cycling in a marked bike lane and expect motorists to move left out of the adjacent traffic lane into an inner lane in order to give you additional space? If so, I think you expect more than you are entitled, and more than you would see in many places. As long as they aren't driving in the bike lane I don't see where you have a problem or legitimate beef.
    While I appreciate your input, I think you may have misread my post. Nowhere did I state that I expect motorists to move out of the adjacent lane.
    Quote Originally Posted by desertdork
    Of course that wouldn't bother me if they could just pass safely.
    I do think passing safely is a legitimate concern and is fundamental to sharing the road. Am I wrong?

  9. #9
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by desertdork View Post
    While I appreciate your input, I think you may have misread my post. Nowhere did I state that I expect motorists to move out of the adjacent lane.

    I do think passing safely is a legitimate concern and is fundamental to sharing the road. Am I wrong?
    You are in the bike lane, the police are in the next lane to your left but you claim they are not passing "safely"? I still don't get your problem/concern.

  10. #10
    Head Chief
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    You are in the bike lane, the police are in the next lane to your left but you claim they are not passing "safely"? I still don't get your problem/concern.
    Maybe you missed the part where he said it was a small bike lane, and the cop was riding the outside white line. I don't think this is passing safely. He could have centered himself in the lane, or hugged the inside dotted white line.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    Desertdork, I'd suggest providing essential information to your chief of police. If he or she is unresponsive, go directly to your council. For many reasons, quality of driving is important to departments but very difficult to maintain.

    How wide is the bike lane? How often have you observed police vehicles driving in lane or on the lane? In what locations? What are the car numbers? On what dates at which times?
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  12. #12
    Senior Member littlefoot's Avatar
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    I'm pretty fortunate that the cops seem to almost always get in the far left lane, on the four lane I ride most, It's the hockey/soccer moms with their cell phones and lipstick(in uber SUV's) that scare the crap out of me daily.

  13. #13
    just pokin' along desertdork's Avatar
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    Here's the section where the most recent incident happened,
    for those that wanted a visual...

    The section of bike lane you see here measures 31" from the inside
    edge of the white line to the edge of the gutter pan. Multiple
    measurements I took along this stretch varied from 28" to 33". There
    are various hazards throughout the lane that make hugging the inner
    edge impossible or unsafe at the very least.

    I don't know if this qualifies as "substandard" or "within guidelines."
    Regardless, the bike lane doesn't seem very generous given the
    relatively narrow width of the right lane in respect to the traffic speed.

    This street functions as the boundary between two cities: one that
    sees road maintenance/engineering as an unnecessary expense, and
    one that is progressive. The other side of the street is better
    maintained with less debris and fewer hazardous obstructions as well
    as a more comfortable combined width of right/bike lanes.


    So back to my original question: Am I being unreasonable when "public
    safety officers" fail to maintain a safe distance when passing, or even
    encroach their vehicle into your lane in the process? Is this something
    you experience in your area?

  14. #14
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by desertdork View Post
    Here's the section where the most recent incident happened,
    for those that wanted a visual...

    The section of bike lane you see here measures 31" from the inside
    edge of the white line to the edge of the gutter pan. Multiple
    measurements I took along this stretch varied from 28" to 33". There
    are various hazards throughout the lane that make hugging the inner
    edge impossible or unsafe at the very least.

    I don't know if this qualifies as "substandard" or "within guidelines."
    Regardless, the bike lane doesn't seem very generous given the
    relatively narrow width of the right lane in respect to the traffic speed.

    This street functions as the boundary between two cities: one that
    sees road maintenance/engineering as an unnecessary expense, and
    one that is progressive. The other side of the street is better
    maintained with less debris and fewer hazardous obstructions as well
    as a more comfortable combined width of right/bike lanes.


    So back to my original question: Am I being unreasonable when "public
    safety officers" fail to maintain a safe distance when passing, or even
    encroach their vehicle into your lane in the process? Is this something
    you experience in your area?
    55MPH eh... and barely 4 feet wide including gutter pan...

    65MPH on Freeways and a whole 8 feet of room there... must be some magic in those 10 feet eh?

    Bear in mind that back when freeways were limited to 55MPH, that road you are talking about was probably a 40 or 45MPH road (if it existed).

    Are you being unreasonable... no, but then I am a cyclist. Remember most drivers have no clue as to the legality of cyclists on the road... and some police flat out think we don't belong.

  15. #15
    just pokin' along desertdork's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    ... and some police flat out think we don't belong.
    That's the feeling I get.

  16. #16
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    those are substandard width and design bike lanes, it seems like they could easily widen the bike lane by 1.5' to 3' by making each of the three adjacent travel lanes 6" to 12" narrower, they look plenty wide to do this.

  17. #17
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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    Is that really a bike lane (i.e. with bike lane signs) or is it really a shoulder?
    The United States of America is the only democratic nation in the world to deny citizens living in the nation's capital representation in the national legislature. District residents have no vote in either the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. www.dcvote.org

  18. #18
    uke
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    ^ That's an example of a bad bike lane.

    Here's an example of a good one:


    JesseDuncan:I just love how "cars will be forced to cross the double yellow lines on dangerous limited visibility roads".

    I don't want to have a head on but oh god, I HAVE to fling myself into oncoming traffic to pass, theres no alternative!!!

  19. #19
    Senior Member pueblonative's Avatar
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    Most of the people around here seem to take "bike lane" as "parking lane", probably because of the lack of markings.
    A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.
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  20. #20
    just pokin' along desertdork's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCCommuter View Post
    Is that really a bike lane (i.e. with bike lane signs) or is it really a shoulder?
    Good point! Thanks...

    Posted signage along this block indicate it's a bike lane, but the size of the lane and the lack of painted markings (wouldn't fit, undoubtedly) give the appearance of a shoulder. The solid, white line becomes dotted before the "bike lane" disappears...er, merges into the adjacent traffic lane 200+ft before the next major intersection. Marked or not, the "engineers" must have intended its use as a bike lane; I dont recall shoulders marked as such on other roads I've traveled.

    With all taken into consideration, I think your observation warrants a call to public works.

  21. #21
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by desertdork View Post

    With all taken into consideration, I think your observation warrants a call to public works.
    When you call them, ask them to look at something called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). You can read about it here: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/...e/swless19.htm

    For your road, the minimum recommended width would be 60".

    The easiest way for public works to bring the lane into compliance would be to take down the bike lane signs, which would make it a shoulder. Odds are, it used to be a shoulder, and at some point it was dubbed a bike lane in a spate of "bike-friendly" activism. There are no standards for shoulders. From a theoretical standpoint, the difference would be that a shoulder is not part of the roadway and a bike lane is. If your local law requires you to right as far right as practicable on the roadway, you would be required to use a bike lane but not a shoulder.

    From a practical perspective I don't see the signs making any difference. A better solution would be to ask them to make the bike lane wider the next time they stripe the road.
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  22. #22
    www.chipsea.blogspot.com ChipSeal's Avatar
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    Where would you ride if the line wasn't there at all?

    That is where you should ride your bike.

    Everyone has the moral and legal duty to pass slower vehicles in a safe manner and with due care. (This is true even if the slower vehicle is not driving in the proper place.)
    Vehicular cycling techniques have not been tried and found difficult. They have been presumed difficult and not tried.

  23. #23
    Arrogant Safety Nanny
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCCommuter View Post
    When you call them, ask them to look at something called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). You can read about it here: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/...e/swless19.htm

    For your road, the minimum recommended width would be 60".

    The easiest way for public works to bring the lane into compliance would be to take down the bike lane signs, which would make it a shoulder. Odds are, it used to be a shoulder, and at some point it was dubbed a bike lane in a spate of "bike-friendly" activism. There are no standards for shoulders. From a theoretical standpoint, the difference would be that a shoulder is not part of the roadway and a bike lane is. If your local law requires you to right as far right as practicable on the roadway, you would be required to use a bike lane but not a shoulder.

    From a practical perspective I don't see the signs making any difference. A better solution would be to ask them to make the bike lane wider the next time they stripe the road.
    Yeah I was going from memory last night since my computer didn't want to download that huge PDF of the California MUTCD section 9, heh. In an area where parking is prohibited the bike lane must be at least 5' wide (including the gutter pan, apparently it doesn't matter how wide the gutter is). If there is no gutter then the bike lane can be 4' wide. Here's the page I was thinking of...



    Note that California has its own "California MUTCD" which is basically the federal MUTCD with some things deleted/changed and with some things added in that don't appear in the federal MUTCD at all.

  24. #24
    Senior Member GoldIngot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by desertdork View Post
    ...As the officer passed, I watched as his right wheels tracked directly on the white line for as far as I could see. And, no, there wasn't an emergency; s/he waited at the next red light.

    Is this really necessary on their part? Are they exempt from safely sharing the road all users? Am I wrong to have concerns about their driving abilities/judgment (based on the cyclists fatalities caused by law enforcement)?
    No. You aren't wrong to expect other people to behave in a safe manner around you. It isn't self entitlement as others have claimed. No more so than if you're driving on the interstate to expect the other cars to not drift into your lane. It's self preservation.

    Law enforcement is not exempt from following the rules of the road if not in an emergency situation. If I found myself in the situations you describe I would definitely contact the police agency and explain your concerns to them. The white line is to separate the lane. If someone is driving with a wheel on the line then several inches of the vehicle and the entire side mirror is OVER the line and intruding into your lane. This causes an immediate threat to your safety and is breaking the law.

    It might not be a bad idea to contact the city/town officials concerning the substandard bike lanes and the resulting threats from using those lanes.

    Good luck.
    Are you going to eat that?

  25. #25
    just pokin' along desertdork's Avatar
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    I appreciate all of you taking the time to reply.

    JeffB502 & DCCommuter, thanks for the links. Reading up should provide more detailed and useful information than I obtained from scanning the CA Streets & Hwy Code in the past. I previously thought municipalities were given leeway as to how each interpreted what constitutes a bike lane. If there are universal standards & expectations, I want to understand them. I don't even what

    After some self-educating, I'll make a point to document the various problem areas as I encounter them and present these issues to the respective departments.

    As for the police issue, my original concern, I'll find a way to deal with that. Identifying a speeding car does present an issue, though. I don't necessarily want to make myself unpopular with the cops on my regular ride, but I do think someone in charge should be aware. At least it's not something that others here encounter.

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