Lessons from Mission Street
Santa Cruz, CA
In the past year, two experienced cyclists were killed on Mission Street. Both were riding near the curb in a lane too narrow to share. Both were hit by trucks.
In recent weeks there has been a battle between cycling advocates and police/city officials to have Bikes May Use Full Lane (BMUFL) signs installed. The hope was that the signs would encourage cyclists to use a safer lane position and inform motorists of their right to do so.
I’ve been following this story with interest on several cycling advocacy listservs.
The resistance from city officials came from the traditional cycling-phobia argument that the street is too dangerous to encourage cyclists to use it.
But here’s the kicker:
Mission Street is a 4-lane road with a 25 mph speed limit. Twenty-five! That’s a residential speed limit. More than likely, traffic signals keep the average speed well below that.
So what’s the problem?
When traffic is light, motorists speed between the traffic signals. And the speed limit is not enforced.
It is not the street design, lane width or speed limit at issue here (a 4-lane road with narrow lanes and low speeds is an ideal cycling facility). The problem is 100% bad motorist behavior and an unwillingness to correct it.
And as always, the vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians pay the price while officials shrug and act as if the danger is due to some uncontrollable force of nature.
The sign issue is not entirely resolved. The city council voted to use this “Bikes in Lane” warning sign. Unlike the BMUFL, this sign is not approved by Caltrans, so there will be more hurdles to clear. However, it is expected to be approved.
I certainly hope there will come a day when bikes in the lane are considered a normal part of the cooperative transportation mix and not something needing a warning or requiring a fight. Especially on a 25 mph urban road.
Perhaps then motorists won’t feel compelled to blare their horns in my left ear as I ride 24 mph on the short stretch of Aloma with a 30 mph speed limit and cautionary signs that recommend 25 mph.