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Bike lanes are useless

Old 02-03-13, 09:38 PM
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Bike lanes are useless

That's what I used to think: I thought bike lanes were an expensive luxury that didn't actually improve the ease or safety of cycling in urban areas, and alienated motorists besides. I thought it was just as easy to use car lanes, and that the money was better spent on road maintenance. I have gradually changed my mind about this. Bike lanes are cheap compared to maintaining car lanes, newer bike lane designs are safer, and their very presence encourages novices to give transportational cycling a try. Most importantly, they give cyclists a much-needed, dedicated small patch of real estate on more heavily-traveled arterials. On busier streets with no bike lane, sometimes you have to take the lane for safety reasons, and drivers who've never bicycled before think you're making an obnoxious statement and get irate; with bicycle lanes, these petty little conflicts simply don't happen.
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Old 02-03-13, 10:16 PM
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Where I live to get anywhere you have to ride on 55 mph roads with no real shoulder, and there is nothing at all for bikes in any town for over 50 miles in any direction.( I just read that Arkansas is dead last in cycling? I believe it.) Actualy, some of the roads here have a pretty decent shoulder. The riding is pretty nice in the country.

Anyway, when I first drove to Chicago, I took a bike. Based on all I had read, I expected it to be a war zone, with cyclists swinging Ulocks defending their right to ride in a special lane from enraged texting soccer moms with mad max style razor hubcaps on thier Lincoln Navigators. It was shocking to find that it was pleasant, and drivers mostly saw me, cause they were used to seeing cyclists.
Denver rocks, with all the off road paths, and many other citys that I travel to with a bike. coming home is always kind of funny, cause I feel like I have been cast out of some cycling utopia and back into the maw of the dually truck drivers who are enraged, texting, and wish they had razor hubcaps like in mad max.

So when I read about how much bike lanes stink I kind of chuckle.

Recently I was in Tallahassee, and they have added lots of bike lanes that were not there while I was at FSU. It was pretty awesome, and even though I rode for the two years I was there without them, it would have been a lot nicer with them.
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Old 02-03-13, 10:35 PM
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Bragi, by "bicycle lanes" do you mean just painted lines? Perhaps you could post a photo or two of the newer designs you're talking about. I prefer cycle tracks that are physically separated from automobiles.
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Old 02-03-13, 10:54 PM
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I'm not fond of bike lanes, especially the door zone and gutter variety. I happen to like sharrows if they are centered to ASSHTO standards, in which they get continually swept clean by through traffic and give a cyclist a better choice on lane position rather than being boxed in by a striped line.
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Old 02-03-13, 11:02 PM
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The idea of separate cycling lanes with actual physical barriers between the two paths is a good one. It just won't work in snowy areas unless the local government is willing to buy specially adapted snow removal equipment for them. There are some bicycle lanes and multi use paths in the Helena Montana area. The snow plows don't plow the bicycle lanes until the car lanes are cleared. Usually that takes a couple of days after the snow has stopped falling. There are some smaller snow plows for the multiple use paths but they don't come out right away. It takes a week or so to get the paths cleared. Even then the skinny sections on overpasses won't get cleared at all because their machine won't fit in it. Only warm weather will clear those sections.

Some very nice guy with an ATV and plow blade cleared the multi use path three weeks ago. It was about two miles long. It was easy to tell because the width of the cleared patch was less than four feet wide. He was unable to clear the overpass section because it was just thick ice from previous snow falls.
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Old 02-03-13, 11:25 PM
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Here in south Orange County, California, most of our streets have wide, clean, well paved bike lanes. I cannot understand why anyone would be against such things. They make for some of the most pleasant riding I have enjoyed anywhere in the world.
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Old 02-03-13, 11:26 PM
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This is one of my favorite bike trails/Paths. https://www.santaanarivertrail.com/SART-about.php I will be happy when it is finished. It has taken a long time to get the middle section finished. But the upper and lower sections are great. Many use the lower section to Commute to work in the industrial parks of Santa ANA and then ride home to Anaheim and even as far as Corona. I have ridden it from San Bernardino to Huntington Beach but had to use city streets in the middle section.
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Old 02-03-13, 11:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
Here in south Orange County, California, most of our streets have wide, clean, well paved bike lanes. I cannot understand why anyone would be against such things. They make for some of the most pleasant riding I have enjoyed anywhere in the world.
+1 Huntington to Mission Bay on PCH is a great ride as well. Though I normally pick it up in Ocenside. People living in many of those cities could work and commute by bike pretty easily if they wanted.
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Old 02-04-13, 12:38 AM
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If the purpose of painted bike lanes is to allow ordinary (read: not especially atheletic or determined) folk to ride bikes as practical transportation vehicles in places where bicyclists are not usually made welcome, they are utterly worthless. For a rider who will be riding at 7-12 mph the first time they get on the bike, that little strip of paint does absolutely nothing to reassure them that riding a bicycle on a four lane road with traffic roaring past at 40+ mph is safe or practical.

I'll be the first one to agree that a road with a bike lane is nicer to ride on than one without, especially when the lane helps guide riders to paths that they would otherwise not never find or marks the boundaries between travel lanes and on-street parking, but then again I'm already fast and confident enough to ride on a busy road without any kind of bike lane. But when the average person isn't going to give riding enough of a chance to discover these benefits, those side benefits aren't near enough to justify the effort involved in adding the lane markings.

Physically segregated paths are the only kind of bicycle infrastructure that make good sense, on-street bike lanes make sense as an adjunct to such pathways, but when painted lines are the only consideration provided for bicycles they are essentially useless.
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Old 02-04-13, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
Here in south Orange County, California, most of our streets have wide, clean, well paved bike lanes. I cannot understand why anyone would be against such things. They make for some of the most pleasant riding I have enjoyed anywhere in the world.
When they're built to minimum standards, swept once or twice a year, shoved up into spaces that make no sense in that a savvy/experienced cyclist would not want to ride in, they end up being an uncomfortable experience and end up rarely used.
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Old 02-04-13, 09:11 AM
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Here in Rochester they're pretty useless. There is 1 good stretch that I can think of on St Paul, otherwise they're the 'after-thought' style, or the kind that only show up for 30 yards at intersections, then disappear again.
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Old 02-04-13, 09:37 AM
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There's a brand new bike lane by my house. It's on a busy 4 lane street (well, 3 lane since they put the BL in) with posted speed of 35 mph. It consists of a 5 foot lane with a 6 foot buffer lane between the bikes and motor traffic. Pretty nice, and it connects my house to the very useful MUP that's about a mile away.

I wouldn't say that this BL is useless, since I like it and use it a lot. However, I have noticed that most cyclists continue to ride on the sidewalk, about one foot to the right of the shiny new facility that was provided for them. Apparently they don't find it to be very useful, as lasauge said.

https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ffic-corridors
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Old 02-04-13, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
Here in south Orange County, California, most of our streets have wide, clean, well paved bike lanes. I cannot understand why anyone would be against such things. They make for some of the most pleasant riding I have enjoyed anywhere in the world.
On my commute in to work, I ride ~ 4 miles on a residential street (Los Padres in Santa Clara, CA). The street is ~50 ft wide, divided into a 12' right hand section which is marked as a bike lane, but in which parking is permitted, and a 12' travel lane, then a double yellow line, and the same on the other side. Because riding within the marked bike lane places a cyclist within the door zone, the safest place to ride is outside the bike lane, in a travel lane which is not wide enough for a motorist to pass in without crossing the double yellow - which here in CA is not legal. Because there is a marked bike lane, many motorists feel that cyclists should be in it, and will harass cyclists who are not - this is a good example of a bike lane which would be better off not being marked. (it would also make sense to replace the double yellow on this road with a simple yellow dashed line to allow safer passing.
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Old 02-04-13, 06:04 PM
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I agree that there are all sorts of ways to make bike lanes useless or worse. My point is only that bike lanes can be well done and pleasant. Frankly, I often find them safer and more useful than separate bike paths. We have a lot of those here too, but they often are playgrounds for dog walkers and skateboarders and fixie idiots trying to perfect their skidding - it is often more mentally fatiguing to ride a separate bike trail than to ride a nice bike lane on the street. I also can find a bike lane to take me anywhere I'd like to go in the city, but a separate bike trail takes me where it takes me and that's that. So I consider bike trails to be more for recreation than anything "serious".
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Old 02-04-13, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
I agree that there are all sorts of ways to make bike lanes useless or worse. My point is only that bike lanes can be well done and pleasant. Frankly, I often find them safer and more useful than separate bike paths. We have a lot of those here too, but they often are playgrounds for dog walkers and skateboarders and fixie idiots trying to perfect their skidding - it is often more mentally fatiguing to ride a separate bike trail than to ride a nice bike lane on the street. I also can find a bike lane to take me anywhere I'd like to go in the city, but a separate bike trail takes me where it takes me and that's that. So I consider bike trails to be more for recreation than anything "serious".
Of course, that depends on the trail. The Lansing Rivertrail is useful because it's the most direct route between several important destinations. It's also scenic and relaxing to ride on. Like you say, it can be a little hairy when a lot of recreational users are out, especially on nice summer weekends and evenings.
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Old 02-04-13, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by squegeeboo
Here in Rochester they're pretty useless. There is 1 good stretch that I can think of on St Paul, otherwise they're the 'after-thought' style, or the kind that only show up for 30 yards at intersections, then disappear again.
If the bike lanes are really useless, you should make your opinion known and recommend some changes. Frequently bike lanes can be re-routed or changed next time the street needs paint.
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Old 02-04-13, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by gerv
If the bike lanes are really useless, you should make your opinion known and recommend some changes. Frequently bike lanes can be re-routed or changed next time the street needs paint.
That's a good point. I think city planners are more open to public input than they used to be, and I've heard that younger ones have been taught more about multi-modal planning in their training.

The main public input on cycling sometimes comes from local cycling clubs. These folks do a lot of good, but they tend to be the more fit and "dedicated" cyclists, including recreational cyclists and long distance commuters. The club cyclists might be quite comfortable using painted bike lanes, compared to many utility or everyday cyclists.
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Old 02-05-13, 01:19 AM
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I don't think painted bicycle lanes are that intimidating or useless at all, especially when you compare them to the alternative, which in the US is usually nothing. Older bike lanes in Seattle are seemingly designed to get cyclists doored, but newer ones, with buffer zones between the lane and parked cars, or the ones on routes where parallel parking isn't permitted, are safe and make even novices feel pretty good about it. It may be a chicken vs. egg situation, but bicycle use in Seattle seems to have increased dramatically during or shortly after the introduction of our primitive painted lines. European-style, separated, raised bike lanes aren't going to become the norm here any time soon, and, as mentioned, totally separate MUPs can be very pleasant and sometimes very practical, but if you're using a bicycle for transportation, they simply can't be counted on, especially in Seattle, which has a surprisingly limited MUP network to begin with.

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Old 02-05-13, 07:20 AM
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I don't have much experience riding on unseparated bike lanes. I'm sure they're better than nothing, but I think the system we have here is better--not perfect, mind you, but better:

https://lcc.org.uk/pages/seville-goes-dutch

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Old 02-05-13, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by gerv
If the bike lanes are really useless, you should make your opinion known and recommend some changes. Frequently bike lanes can be re-routed or changed next time the street needs paint.

Our city is stuck in a bike lane rut, after 25 years of putting down their first bike lane, were sharrows even considered and only because they could not make a bike lane to meet ASSHTO standards in certain sections of a newly paved roadway. I seen one photo, I not sure if it was in Portland Or. or Seattle, but it was of a street with bike lanes going uphill and sharrows going down hill, which made sense for having slow going uphill cyclists having their own lane letting faster traffic go by, while the much faster downhill cyclists had more control of the lane, avoiding opening doors, and motorist extending their vehicles into the intersection.
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Old 02-05-13, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by dynodonn
I seen one photo, I not sure if it was in Portland Or. or Seattle, but it was of a street with bike lanes going uphill and sharrows going down hill, which made sense for having slow going uphill cyclists having their own lane letting faster traffic go by, while the much faster downhill cyclists had more control of the lane, avoiding opening doors, and motorist extending their vehicles into the intersection.
We've got that in a few places, like here. The linked example isn't the greatest, as the "bike lane" is really just paved sidewalk, but it is nice having the separated lane for the slow uphill grind. Also, the sharrows on the downhill side are too close to the curb, implying that bikes should be riding off to the side where it's typically full of gravel and slush. I take the lane on this road... it's pretty darned steep, and it's quite easy to match the speed of traffic. There's a playground zone right at the bottom too, which means that if I ride off to the side, cars tend to speed to pass me and then slam on the brakes in front of me. Much safer to stay in the middle.
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Old 02-05-13, 03:31 PM
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Reading many of these posts causes some questions to come to mind. It seems as if some are suggesting club/recreational cyclists and long distance cyclists are somehow braver than utility or commuter cyclists. I don't think I understand that reasoning. When I use my utility bike I tend to be going to the same places every time. I go to the grocery store, the big box store, maybe down town or the pharmacy. I do dislike bike lanes where cars are allowed to park so I don't tend to use those roads. But even on roads without any indicated bike lane I seem to do just fine. I refuse to retreat to the sidewalk however unless the sidewalk is designated as a "bike" path for what ever reason some communities decided to do so. (yes I understand some states allow bikes on the sidewalk but I still don't like riding on them.)

But still I wonder, are some suggesting utility and "everyday" (whatever that is) cyclists are more timid than recreational or touring cyclists? If cars can pass each other going in different directions with less than three feet to spare and learn to live with the combined speed of 130mph every day shouldn't the average person on a bike be brave enough to ride their bikes in a painted lane seperated from traffic by at least three feet if not more? I totally agree seperate bike paths/trails are better as long as they go to the same place you would go on the street. But still if a 80,000 pound truck can pass a old lady in a smart car and be expected to stay in their lane shouldn't the same reasoning be applied to cars and bikes with painted bike lanes?
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Old 02-05-13, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Mobile 155
Reading many of these posts causes some questions to come to mind. It seems as if some are suggesting club/recreational cyclists and long distance cyclists are somehow braver than utility or commuter cyclists. I don't think I understand that reasoning. When I use my utility bike I tend to be going to the same places every time. I go to the grocery store, the big box store, maybe down town or the pharmacy. I do dislike bike lanes where cars are allowed to park so I don't tend to use those roads. But even on roads without any indicated bike lane I seem to do just fine. I refuse to retreat to the sidewalk however unless the sidewalk is designated as a "bike" path for what ever reason some communities decided to do so. (yes I understand some states allow bikes on the sidewalk but I still don't like riding on them.)

But still I wonder, are some suggesting utility and "everyday" (whatever that is) cyclists are more timid than recreational or touring cyclists? If cars can pass each other going in different directions with less than three feet to spare and learn to live with the combined speed of 130mph every day shouldn't the average person on a bike be brave enough to ride their bikes in a painted lane seperated from traffic by at least three feet if not more? I totally agree seperate bike paths/trails are better as long as they go to the same place you would go on the street. But still if a 80,000 pound truck can pass a old lady in a smart car and be expected to stay in their lane shouldn't the same reasoning be applied to cars and bikes with painted bike lanes?
The passing isn't the problem. The 400 cars behind you are forced to motor at 112mph and they are often annoyed. That's the beauty of a bike lane... although often you have to stop for door opportunities.

I don't think there is any difference between ultility and road cyclists.
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Old 02-05-13, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by gerv
The passing isn't the problem. The 400 cars behind you are forced to motor at 112mph and they are often annoyed. That's the beauty of a bike lane... although often you have to stop for door opportunities.

I don't think there is any difference between ultility and road cyclists.
Maybe we can ignore whether there are certain hypothetical classes of cyclists, while recognizing that there is a number of cyclists who don't find bike lanes useful--as evidenced by observations that many of them continue to ride on sidewalks right next to a bike lane.

I was just wondering if these sidewalk cyclists feel that they have any voice in a world where organized cycling clubs, meeting regularly with city planners, advocate strongly for new bike lanes.
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Old 02-05-13, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Mobile 155
Reading many of these posts causes some questions to come to mind. It seems as if some are suggesting club/recreational cyclists and long distance cyclists are somehow braver than utility or commuter cyclists.
Certainly not 'braver,' but I do think people who are already recreational cyclists are going to have a lot more confidence if they choose to commute by bike than someone who does not ride recreationally.
1. Someone who rides for fun and health already has the confidence in their fitness to ride for considerable distances, to deal with flats and minor mechanical issues, and to handle their bicycle safely.
2. The discomfort of being passed at speed, passed to closely, and interacting with automobile traffic is bound to be lessened for the recreational cyclist because they are will probably already have some experience dealing with these events, and because they will tend to be faster on the bike than the person who doesn't ride recreationally, therefore the relative speed (and perceived danger) of passing automobile traffic will be lower.
3. Recreational cyclists as a group tend to be younger, healthier, and more male than the population as a whole, producing a demographic more likely to engage in risky behavior than the general population. As long as bicycling on practical errands seems dangerous or difficult, it's going to be the same sort of people willing to give it a try.
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