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Readers Like Bike Lanes, Overlook Design Flaws

December 18, 2013 Bicycling, Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation 6 Comments

An overwhelming majority of readers like bike lanes, at least according to the unscientific poll last week:

Q: Which of the following best fits your view of bike lanes:

  1. Bike lanes are important, should be incorporated into street designs 75 [48.7%]
  2. Bike lanes are a great idea that needs to be taken to the next level 44 [28.57%]
  3. Bike lanes help keep cyclists out of my way when driving 16 [10.39%]
  4. Bikes are traffic, shouldn’t be segregated to the side 10 [6.49%]
  5. Bike lanes aren’t needed, give novice riders a false sense of security 3 [1.95%]
  6. Bicyclists should use sidewalks, not have their own lane 3 [1.95%]
  7. Doesn’t matter to me 2 [1.3%]
  8. Unsure/no answer 1 [0.65%]

This is despite some serious flaws in how they’re often implemented, especially in St. Louis.

Sign posted on westbound Lafayette Ave just before Jefferson Ave.
Sign posted on westbound Lafayette Ave just before Jefferson Ave.
Eastbound on Olive just before Jefferson the bike lane becomes part of the right turn lane
Eastbound on Olive just before Jefferson the bike lane becomes part of the right turn lane

The bike lane often becomes part of the automobile right turn lane, novice cyclists move over the right instead of holding their position. A cyclist going straight ahead shouldn’t be to the right of a car turning right — that’s a formula for conflict. Other cities do a much better job.

The places where cars are allowed to cross bike lanes for right turns are very clear in Portland OR.
The places where cars are allowed to cross bike lanes for right turns are very clear in Portland OR.

Bike lanes are great at keeping the cyclist to the right of vehicles, but leave the novice cyclist at a loss as to how to make a left turn. To turn left a skilled cyclist on the roads will make their way from the right lane, to left lane, to the left turn lane — just as you would if driving a car.  However, with bike lanes present, motorists get upset with cyclists who don’t stay in their bike lane.  How do you get from point to point without left turns?

If we’re going to have bike lanes I think they need to be designed far better, not just be a way to deal with excess roadway width.

— Steve Patterson

  • Even worse is the 100 ft bike lane on S Broadway heading north just north of Park Ave. Completely useless and actually dangerous to use due to its length and forced merge at the end. The southbound sharrows are not much better.

  • moe

    Reads to me as if you are in favor of dumbing down to novice bike level. At least novice bikers know what a stop sign means and are careful at intersections. But look…Portland has problems with dumpsters and such blocking the sidewalks and unfriendly crosswalks as well. Oh Myyyy.

    • Bike lanes are dumbed down roads for the novice. If we continue building infrastructure to lure the novice cyclist onto the road they need to be designed much better to compensate for lack of on-traffic cycling experience.

  • JZ71

    I’ll repeat – we don’t have a lot of need for the bike lanes that are added just because they’re “easy”, because we have excess capacity on too-wide city streets. What we need are bike facilities that connect the easy parts (wide primary streets, parallel secondary streets) by providing safe connections through the “tough” parts – across freeways, rivers, active railroads and other physical barriers. It’s these “missing links” that really discourage both novice and experienced riders!

  • JZ71

    For those who want more bike lanes, here’s one resource worth pursuing: http://www.peopleforbikes.org/green-lane-project/pages/greenlaneproject2

  • dempster holland

    After reading the pros and cons of various types of bike lanes, I have concluded that there is no feasible
    way of constructing acceptable bike routes. Therefore those who like to ride bikes will just have to put
    up with the fact that there will be difficulties..

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