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Posted by on May 18, 2009 in Uncategorized | 23 comments

Mills Avenue: Then and Now

In October, I made the case for why municipalities should not divide existing wide lanes with bike lane stripes. Wide lanes already accommodate cyclists of all speeds and riding styles. This post is a follow-up with video showing the dramatic decrease in comfort to cyclists who are accustomed to riding assertively.

Just for fun, here’s another video of a cyclist (well, 2 cyclists, one is wearing the camera) riding assertively, safely and comfortably in a wide lane (Goldenrod Rd, south of University Blvd.):

Comparing the videos, is it not clear who really benefits from the bike lane?

Step back from the all-consuming need to “promote cycling” and ask yourself, how does it benefit cyclists to punish the competent and knowledgeable in an effort to offer a hollow illusion to the uninformed and fearful?

If advocates could get over the bike lane distraction, perhaps they would focus on the real problems of connectivity.  Winter Park has exacerbated those problems by converting asphalt to rough, unevenly-laid bricks on most of its already-limited quiet connector roads. Routes I used regularly 15 years ago are now virtually unrideable. But in the name of symbolism, they’re intent on wrecking the thoroughfares, too. Thanks.

The Goldenrod Road and Mills pre-bike-lane videos were shot by Brian DeSousa of CyclistView. The Mills post-bike-lane video was shot by John S. Allen.

23 Comments

  1. Mills Ave is a real tragedy. 15 ft of space in which a bicyclist could choose lateral position with impunity based on personal preference has now been partitioned into what looks like 3 ft (less than a sidewalk) “for” bicyclists and 12 feet for motorists.

    Bicycle drivers are sequestered to what is really a narrow shoulder with a name. A more apt name is Bike Reservation. Motorists are gifted with their own space sanitized of those pesky bicyclists. Motorists love shoulders! They enable higher speed more safely due to the space buffer whether bicyclists are there or not.

    The Bike Reservation has more debris, poorer sight lines, and reduced buffer from emerging vehicles. Bicyclists can now be obscured by two lanes of large vehicles to their left, making a Left Cross collision more likely. Left turns for bicyclists are now more difficult.

    Bicycle drivers have to ride there, or else be persona non grata in the newly created motor vehicle lane. Motorists no longer have to move over or change lanes, resulting in closer passes at high speed.

    It’s painfully obvious that bike lanes are for the benefit motorists, law makers, and planners.

    Wayne

  2. Yes, debris and poor sight lines are definitely an issue now. Where the road curves to the right, there is a street entrance from which a cyclist in the bike lane will not be seen. And the grade is slightly downhill at that point, so it’s quite easy for the average cyclist to go over 20mph.

    If you want to chase people away from cycling, bike lanes on a busy road are a great way to do it. Nothing will reinforce a person’s fear of traffic faster than luring them into a compromised position like this. Heck, it scared the crap out of me and I’ve ridden safely and comfortably on this road!

    There is an alternative to Mills that is mostly quiet and scenic and certainly less intimidating.

  3. The second video confused me at first. I did not (and do not) see a bike lane. I see a very narrow paved shoulder. Certainly not wide enough to be considered a safe place for a cyclist.

    I did some research recently, somewhat on behalf of a tandem rider. South Carolina has a mandatory bike lane law, but does explicitly define a bike lane as being striped, marked and signed. The laws also allow for “as far to right as practicable” but that always means arguing/discussing with law enforcement, in my limited experience. I’m saddened for this particular rider, as he’s indicated that he won’t ride on roads with traffic!

    Some time ago, I attended a FL DOT meeting in which the topic was a road paving and re-striping project. The lanes will be going from two lanes in each direction with parking spaces, to two lanes, 12′ wide, a two foot left side stripe and a four foot “bike lane”. They call them bike lanes, but they won’t mark them as such, because municipalities have learned that maintenance responsibilities and liability accompanies such markings, according to one of the FL DOT engineers (or contractors). It’s US1 in Daytona from US 92 south to SR 400, about two miles. The road surface is a bit rough and the parking area are much worse now, so the new paving means 2 mph faster for me. Removing the parking areas means other drivers will not expect me to ride in that section of the roadway (which I do not) and the four foot paved shoulder means that I won’t be riding there either. One would think that a four foot width of striping is a good thing, but I’m low, drivers don’t stay in the lane, tailgaters don’t see me, and I just don’t like to be passed at twelve inch clearance. It’s a four lane road and drivers perform passes just as they do in Keri’s video above.

    Keri, from what I saw, the video could have been what I see in my rear view camera on a daily basis. It’s very supportive to see such images from elsewhere, and I thank you for your efforts.

  4. I realize now that I should have watched the entire first video before my post. That was frightening! I can’t imagine that the two cyclists were at all comfortable with operating in that manner. I can understand if it was done as a demonstration, but not as a regular basis, especially since it’s not marked as a bike lane. Even it is was, the risk level is so high as to be impractical (or not practicable) to ride in that manner!

  5. Was another video made in which the cyclist treated that bike lane as what it was – a wider shoulder – and assertively rode in the outside traffic lane? Off the reservation, so to speak.

    In such a case, the motorists have an easy time passing and are spared the worry about what dim bulb maneuver the cyclist in the bike lane might pull. I’d be VERY interested in seeing such a video.

    The situation is very similar to what I encounter daily for about a mile, except the shoulder isn’t labeled as a bike lane, and there’s a cute MUP off to one side of the road.

    Depending on the circumstances, I’ll either ride obviously in the traffic lane or three feet to the right of it. I’ve not experienced any overt hostility in either riding position, though this WAS the location of “the 45th pass” at a time I was riding a foot or two to the left of where Keri was riding. And she called ME brave!

  6. i dont get the 2nd vid.. it looks like the rider is riding almost in the middle of the lane.

    but i’ll admit, the bike lane in the 1st vid looks very narrow, with gaps between pavement and road where road tires may get stuck.

  7. Kenneth,

    In the Goldenrod Rd video, the rider is far enough into the lane to compel motorists to treat her as a vehicle driver and change lanes to pass. If the cyclist rides farther right, the cars buzz past within the same lane which is far less comfortable and safe. The cyclist has less room to avoid obstructions and risks being side-swiped by large vehicles because the lane is not wide enough for a box truck or utility trailer to share with a cyclist.

    The purpose of the second video is to reinforce how much safer and more pleasant it is to ride in a traffic lane rather than be pinned on the edge of the road in a bike lane (especially a substandard bike lane — what results from a WCL conversion). A proper bike lane requires a minimum of 17 feet of total lane space to give cyclists a reasonable buffer. But WCL conversions are done to advertise cycling and accumulate brownie points for bogus awards, not make things better for cyclists.

  8. ah.. i see. thanks for clarifying.

    just wondering though, is that considered road hogging?

  9. No. The motorists have another lane to use.

    Is it road hogging when a Lynx bus stops to discharge passengers in the lane?

  10. The more I ride and learn, the less I’m liking bike-related paint. It seems to be implemented in so many poor ways that the good ways aren’t worth it. Too many cyclists will interpret lines like these as “law”, and so assume more risk than they should.

  11. Keri, I have been using the “City Bus” analogy in conversation with people for a long time, because it is a good one. Nobody resents buses for moving more slowly, stopping often and “hogging” a lane to do it… why would they resent bikes for travelling almost as fast (sometimes faster!) and using a lane too?

  12. “Nobody resents buses for moving more slowly, stopping often and “hogging” a lane to do it… ”

    They don’t? Is that why signs are posted on the left rear corners of Lynx buses saying “Let the Bus Out! IT”S THE LAW!!!”?

    Motorists resent anything that slows them up for a even a second. They resent traffic lights, buses, trash trucks and each other. Since yelling at buses and traffic lights doesn’t get them anywhere, they yell at us and blame us for all their problems. We are easy marks.

  13. of all the things Eric listed, bicycles cause the least delay. Other motorists actually cause the most delay. And yet we are treated as interlopers.

    We need a paradigm shift and it has to start with bicyclists thinking of themselves as legitimate road users and acting as such. As long as cyclists cling to (and promote!) the inferiority complex, we’ll get nowhere with changing the culture.

  14. Kenneth,

    Part of the problem is a need to correctly define “road-hogging”. A cyclist consume approximately 10 sq. ft. of road space, whereas an automobile consumes almost 100 sq. ft. (or more), usually carrying only one person (the driver). 10X the road space, traveling at 3X the speed = under-utilized road capacity.

    You can play games with numbers like these, but the bottom line is that a few cyclists never delay traffic enough (except in EXTREMELY rare situations… I’m thinking of an odd print ad BikeFed use to put out showing a cyclist climbing a hill while blocking dozens of cars vs. a cyclist merrily pedaling along on an empty bike path) to impact road capacity/speed negatively.

    PM

  15. How should one cyclist pass another cyclist when both are controlling the lane, right side, left side, do we have to keep 3 ft of clearance???

  16. “It’s painfully obvious that bike lanes are for the benefit motorists, law makers, and planners.”

    But, Wayne… soon those bike lanes will be overflowing with bicyclists, and the traffic volumes of evil-cars will drop so low (due to people abandoning their Escalades for Electras), close passes will be a thing of the past.

    [/sarcasm]

  17. Ralph asks; “How should one cyclist pass another cyclist when both are controlling the lane, right side, left side, do we have to keep 3 ft of clearance???”

    In the same manner all road users are required to overtake slower traffic- With due care and in a safe manner.

    Pass to the left, even merging into the next lane or oncoming lane when safe to do so. It really is never that hard to pass a bicycle!

    As for the tree foot Clarence laws, don’t sweat it. They are never enforced, so there is really no three foot law at all.

  18. Passing another cyclist?

    Isn’t that what bicycle bells are good for?

  19. Recently, I’ve been experiencing wide-lane passes which none of Keri’s videos really address. In a wide lane such as that illustrated, it’s quite easy for a motorcycle to pass a cyclist without changing lanes. So far, they’ve invariably passed with plenty of clearance, but the noise can be quite startling. I’m not sure I buy into that “loud pipes save lives” mantra…

  20. Steve A, I’ve never bought into that aspect of motorcycling, especially after taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. The classroom stuff could almost be a perfect match for the Traffic Skills course, allowing for small differences. I was a bicyclist when I took the MSF course and throughout, I was thinking, “this is bicycling with a more powerful motor” and it applies even more now that I know how to take the lane.

    I also have experienced the overtaking motorcyclist being a surprise. It’s usually going at a higher rate than other traffic, and isn’t a pleasant experience.

  21. I don’t understand the hype over bike lanes. Here in Columbus, they want to go the bike lane route and have a bunch of disjointed bike boulevards along with signing high-speed roads with “bike route” signs. As an avid cyclist who went from sidewalk to the middle of the lane I can attest that had I hugged the curb/edge of the lane I would have been hit and possibly killed in numerous instances.

    How fast was traffic going? Here, they put bike lanes on 50MPH strip-mall, drive-thru lined Morse Rd way up north.

    http://columbus-ite.com/2009/01/14/why-morse-road/

  22. My guess on the traffic speed is ~40-45mph. The speed limit is 35. Your Morse road looks like a lot of roads around here.

    The hype over bike lanes is koolaid-soaked group-think. The detriments both physically and socially far outweigh the benefit of illusive comfort. Especially when real comfort and safety can be attained with assertive riding.

    There are a few places where using bike lanes to relieve bicyclists of pressure is the most feasible solution (like where an at-capacity 2-lane road can’t be widened to 4 lanes AND there are not many intersections). Otherwise, we should focus on physical solutions that improve access and a quality riding environment (quiet route connectivity!), as well as social solutions that force motorists to grow up and deal with the fact that roads are for the conveyance of PEOPLE and goods, not cars (bike lanes do the opposite of that, sending the message that the best place for us is out of their way).

  23. Keri said:
    “There is an alternative to Mills that is mostly quiet and scenic and certainly less intimidating.”

    Which streets are you using now?