Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How not to do it

There are several intersections in the area, where the striped "bike lane" conflicts with a motor vehicle turn-only lane.

They - Ada County Higway District - have corrected some of those problem intersections, either eliminating the bike-stripe approaching the intersection, or angling it out so it's between the straight-ahead lane and the turn-only lane. But problems remain.

This intersection deserves special recognition. Check it out.

Notice the painted stripes and the signage. (Click on the photo for a larger view, if you'd like.) The "bike lane" proceeds straight through the intersection (at 27th and Fairview). Inside of it is a left-turn-only lane - obvious conflict there. But inside of the turn-only lane is a turn-optional lane. So distracted left-turning SUV-Mom or iPhone-Lexus-Junior-Executive can be a lane removed from some poor head-in-the-clouds slob on his bike.

Accident waiting to happen.

Do our traffic engineers just assume everybody (in 2 lanes) will be paying attention, and know that they're potentially crossing paths with a straight-ahead bicyclist? Who has the right of way? (On the bright side, this intersection is almost exactly in between St. Alphonsus and St. Luke's Hospitals, both of which have excellent trauma centers.)

I've complained to ACHD about this intersection before, and have been anxiously awaiting to see if they'd fix it. It's got fresh paint. No fix this year, apparently.

How do I handle it?

I ride through it all the time. Never in this bike lane. Occasionally in the turn-optional lane. But usually over on the right-hand side of the roadway. (Where motorists routinely use the striped bike-lane as a right-turn lane. I've been honked at before by impatient motorists waiting to turn right, and queued up behind me IN THE BIKE LANE! But that's a different topic for a different day.)


Anonymous said...

Why does ACHD insist on bike lanes on both sides of the road when the road is one way? It is confusing for motorist and bikers.

Motorist need to know where to look for bikes and these inconsistencies do not help.

Bikeboy said...

It might make sense on a road like this one, Clancy... just because the road is 5 lanes (I believe) wide. I have to do some advance planning to cross all 5 lanes to go through the intersection, and then cross back, once I've cleared the hazard.

Your reply (which I agree with) illustrates the main problem with striped bike lanes. Since there will never be consistent, striped bike lanes on all roads, it requires everybody to be paying attention and to know the rules. (And THAT will never be achieved, either.)

Anonymous said...

Good post. Regarding motorcyclists queuing up behind you in the bike lane to make a right turn, I don't know about the Idaho vehicle code, but in California, that's the law - motor vehicles must safely merge with traffic in the bike lane and then turn right from there. Of course only about 5% of motorists actually do it - instead they turn right across the bike lane, occasionally checking to see if someone is there first. Or they pull up to even to you and then stop, hanging there like a bad smell, until you are past so that they can make a turn. I'd rather have them queued behind me.

Of course if it's an intersection, I'm not in the bike lane, I'm in the vehicle lane. At driveways, if I see someone behind me planning to turn right, regardless of their lane position, I get out in the vehicle lane. I'm not risking a right hook.

It would be better, of course, if there wasn't a bike lane in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Motorist, not motorcyclist! DOH!

Bikeboy said...

Welcome, vcspinner, and thanks for the feedback.

In these parts, striped bike lanes are exclusively for bicycles. Typically (as you can see in the photo) they are too narrow to be occupied by any but the smallest vehicles. Occasionally, the law enforcers will set up a "sting" at a heavily traveled intersection, and ticket offenders in the bike lane. But mostly it's a law that's ignored.

Conflicts inherently arise at intersections, between straight-going cyclists and turning motorists. Miraculously, you don't hear of many accidents. (One of my pet peeves is motorists who don't seem to realize their vehicle has a turn signal. If motorists are signaling their intentions in advance, I can pick a good spot and glide through the intersection without impeding a soul. However, one turning but non-signaling motorist can spoil the road-ballet.)

Apertome said...

Maybe it makes sense in this situation, but I've seen a few bike lanes on the left side of one-way roads around here, and they always make things more difficult. That said, we don't have any five-lane roads that I know of.

That really is a terrible intersection. I'm dumbfounded just thinking about all the ways something could go wrong there.