Problems with Bike Lanes Striped Solid to the Intersection
Some of our friends in other states, as well as some local advocates have asked me about why bike lanes shouldn’t be striped solid at intersections. Here’s a picture of just such a facility in Florida, care of our friends at CommuteOrlando.com:
- Bike Lane Striped Solid at Intersection in Florida
Here’s a slide that gives a visual representation of the problems created by this bike lane treatment (and even a wide lane under Far To Right law guidance): http://www.cyclistview.com/uploadedphotos/Incompatible-Destination-Lanes-Draft.jpg
- Problems with Incompatible Destination Lanes
And here’s a detailed explanation in terms of Engineering and Planning and the Legal/Operational issues that result:
1) Engineering Mistake – Striping a dual destination exclusive use roadway lane such as a bike lane, to the right of dual destination roadway travel lane is a fundamental engineering error that creates a conflict between the legally allowed users of these two lanes:
a. A collision conflict is created when a right turning travel lane user desires to turn right at the same time a bicyclist desires to ride straight through the intersection, or when such conflicting movements ensue when the motorist and bicyclist, both stopped side by side at a red light, both start to move and cross paths when the light turns green.
b. The fact that a bike lane looks like a shoulder, creates operational confusion, with motorists and bicyclists both acting like the bike lane is a functional shoulder, with the bicyclists riding in it up to the intersection stop line, and the motorists turning across it, instead of merging into it, as if it were a shoulder (which motorists cannot legally use for normal travel movements). Here’s a video clip exemplary of this problem at a faded (but dashed) bike lane in Irvine, CA: http://www.cyclistview.com/equitablepdintro/slide29.htm (full presentation below…)
c. Legal Problems – The placement of the lanes is fundamentally incompatible with the standard traffic laws, and requires patches to the law to make these facilities function more safely than described in b., above.
i. Some states like CA, have patch laws that require drivers to merge into the bike lane portion of the roadway to make right turns, as this allows turning drivers to literally physically block overtaking bicyclists in the bike lane from passing on the right; thus forcing them to either queue, or pass on the left per the exceptions in the CA mandatory bike lane use law. Many motorists and cyclists do not understand this legal requirement, and act as described in a. and b. above.
ii. Other states like Oregon, have given up on treating bicyclists as drivers and treat the bike lane as a kind of shoulder that motorists cannot legally enter to make turns, and have non-standard right of way rules that allow later arriving through bicyclists priority of earlier arriving motorists waiting to make a right turn across the bike lane. This legal posture encourages bicyclists to pass motorists on the right at intersections when they have the green light, or otherwise wait alongside stopped vehicles at intersections when the light is red; thus requiring both motorists and bicyclists to act as described in a. and b. above.
iii. Other states have not even bothered to resolve the incompatibility and are “hoping for the best”; this is unprofessional behavior on the part of transportation professionals.
2) Planning Mistake – It is a mistake to think of bicyclists IN THE ROADWAY, as something other than a driver, and create facilities that, often in concert with mandatory use laws, encourage/force them to act as something other than a driver; since this creates the operational/legal crossing conflicts [the leading causes of car-bike crashes] identified in 1). If the goal is to separate those bicyclists not wishing to use the roadway as drivers from other traffic at intersections, then re-define bike lanes as a non-roadway part of the highway, and establish special traffic laws and controls to deal with these de-facto (or in cases with mandatory use laws de jure) one way sidepaths, and allow those bicyclists who can act as drivers to use the roadway travel lanes as drivers. This means eliminating discriminatory laws that force all bicyclists onto the non-standard/non-driver facilities, while simultaneously making these facilities optional for cyclists. The League of American Bicyclists Equity Statement describes how this can be achieved working in each of the 6Es (Equality, Engineering, Enforcement, Education, Encouragement and Evaluation): http://www.bikeleague.org/images/equity_statement_1-05-09.pdf
In addition, this approach recognizes that not all cyclists choose the same behavior, and that this behavior spectrum must be understood and accounted for by planners. Here’s a presentation that describes the behavior spectrum and how to equitably plan for cyclists through the 6Es approach embodied in the Equity Statement: http://www.cyclistview.com/equitablepdintro/index.htm
See also this previous post: http://www.cabobike.org/2009/11/02/bike-lanes-and-motorist-right-turns/