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Old 06-30-09, 02:05 AM   #1
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Bike Lanes Say Bicycles Belong

The easiest place to paint a new bike lane is on an existing wide outside lane (WOL) street. These streets are most likely to be the first to get painted, the “low hanging fruit” as it were.

In many metropolitan areas, the roads that have WOLs are also busy, high-speed arterial streets with a lot of commercial truck traffic. These are not attractive streets for non-cyclists. Painting a bike lane on them will not make a newbie any more likely to ride there. (The targeted user class.) Having trucks roar by at their elbow isn't likely to boost their traffic confidence.

Bike lanes do not legitimize a cyclist's right to the road in motorist's eyes. It tells them that bicycles belong on the edge of the road, out of the way. Should a cyclist need to venture away from the curb, he is considered a scofflaw for leaving the area that the authorities have -at great expense- indicated where he should be riding his bicycle. This perception persists even if there is no bike lane on that particular road!

By indicating that the far right position is where cyclists belong also instructs bicyclists to ride in safety compromised positions on roads without Bike lanes, even where riding further away from the curb is warranted. Motorists get the notion that there is always enough room to pass a cyclist when he is at the edge of the road, and bicycle operators often position themselves poorly at intersections and junctions.

Bike lanes are not the clearest, nor are they the most effective means of conveying the idea that bicycles are legitimate road users. The side effects of “bike lanes as education” are too costly. There are better ways to encourage bicycling.

In what other part of the transportation system are traffic control devices used as advertisement?
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Old 06-30-09, 10:16 AM   #2
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I disagree that major arterials are the easiest places to find pavement width to retrofit bike lanes. The unfortunate reality here in Cary, NC is that our existing, beautiful residential through streets with 32 feet of pavement were much easier to find space on than our existing arterials with 12-14' outside lanes. So, the city striped bike lanes on lots of low-volume 25 mph residential streets where lots of on-street parking, driveway and intersection conflicts existed. These bike lanes quickly filled with debris, refuse for collection, parked cars, runners, pedestrians walking dogs, wrong-way cyclists, etc. There has also been a backlash from residents upset over the parking prohibitions.

I probably stay outside of Cary's bike lanes for about half of the distance of these roads that I ride, either to avoid obstructions or debris or to deter right hooks and give myself more maneuvering room when traveling at speed, especially downhill. I've studied Cary's car-bike crash statistics and I've never seen record of an overtaking type collision on one of these roads before the striping was added. Nor was there ever any harassment of cyclists as far as I know. The stripes installation was motivated purely by marketing; the local planners and engineers know better now than to make safety claims about them.

HOV and bus lanes are other examples of mode marketing with either neutral or negative safety implications.
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Old 06-30-09, 12:19 PM   #3
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Bike lanes are a relatively recent innovation in the 50+ years I have been relying on a bicycle as my primary means of transportation. Here is my impression of them:

Well designed bike lanes:

- Can be advantageous for both cyclists and motorists when placed on longer stretches of roadway with high velocity/high density traffic and no intersections.

Poorly designed bike lanes:

- Violate intersection destination positioning rules by channeling straight-through cyclists to the right of right-turning vehicles.

- Position the cyclist where cross-traffic collisions are more likely, due to diminished sightlines and reduced cyclist conspicuity. Motorists don’t always look that far to the left.

- Place cyclists in the door zone of parked vehicles.

- Are too narrow and/or contain tire-swallowing drainage gratings or other surface hazards.

Poorly maintained bike lanes:

- Accumulate debris that can degrade braking performance, puncture tires, and cause a potentially catastrophic loss of control.

All bike lanes:

- Create an illusion of safety resulting in inattention blindness for both motorists and cyclists.

- Encourage closer passes by overtaking motorists, a cruel irony since it is the unwarranted fear of overtaking collisions that has popularized these facilities.

- Add costs to roadway construction and maintenance, money that would be better spent on education and enforcement for motorists and cyclists alike.

- Reinforce motorists’ prejudices that cyclists do not belong on the road and provide vindication for the harassment of cyclists who are traveling on the roadway in a safe and lawful manner.
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Old 07-04-09, 09:20 AM   #4
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BLs have been a mixed bag of results from my personal view. Some sections of BL's put me in the gutter, then a few blocks later, have me riding far into the roadway. Quite a few motorists give me wide berth while in a BL, but mostly it's due to my riding close to the inner line as in avoidance of being "doored" when there are parked vehicles to contend with.

On more than one occasion, I've been "chastised" by motorists who feel that bicycles belong in a BL when it's present. Case in point, a couple of days ago I moved left out of a BL a half block ahead of a realignment in the roadway making the BL move 6 feet to the left, a motorist in a pickup truck passed me, then slowed down, then moved right and started driving in the BL ahead of me for almost a block.

Sometimes "good intentions" just don't pan out, and when poorly planned, make a bad situation worse.
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