What’s wrong with this picture?
This probably wouldn’t work out too well, would it? If something like this showed up on the road, it would surely be the result of a brainfart on the part of the painting crew and not something intended by the traffic engineers. And it would be removed ASAP.1 Imagine the liability!
Now look at this picture:
When the light turned green, the first 3 cars turned right across the bike lane. That is what this road design encourages. A bicyclist approaching this intersection in the bike lane is at risk for being right-hooked.
The above bike lane is not striped according to AASHTO recommendations. The line should not be solid all the way to the intersection.2 But even when bike lanes are striped properly, the majority of motorists and cyclists do not know the proper and safe way to handle the approach. And how would they? Were there any questions about bike lanes on your driver’s license test?
The Basics of Intersection Safety
- Intersections are where crashes occur because they are where all the conflicting traffic is.
- On a normal, unadulterated roadway, crash risks are ahead, not behind us.
- Because it is the responsibility of every driver not to crash into the things in front of him, both cyclists and motorists need to maintain forward attention through intersections. They should not have to worry about hazards coming up behind them.
- Where the roadway has been complicated by a bike lane, additional understanding and precautions are required to prevent crashes.
Understanding the limitations of bike lanes can save cyclists from constant conflict… and getting clobbered. When motorists understand the proper procedure, they can discourage cyclists from riding up into their blind spots as they enter an intersection.
Motorists and cyclists should look, signal and merge before the intersection. Establish proper destination positioning early, so you can pay attention to what’s ahead in the intersection. Don’t allow the stripe to lull you into an unsafe lane position or maneuver.
1Sadly, when bike lane markings are placed incorrectly, there is less impetus to fix them. This bike lane on Lake Margaret Dr. is to the right of a right-turn-only-lane. It’s been like this for years.
2It is not uncommon for cities/states to ignore the AASHTO guideline for breaking the stripe before an intersection. Exacerbating intersection conflicts results in an endless spiral of problems that require solutions that create more problems.