Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New Bike Accommodations

The new striping on Winchester, Nahanton, and Beacon Street is only part of the plan. There will be signs. DPW Commissioner Rooney is evaluating possibilities.

I suggest a new sign: Bikes by Right. In fact, that should be the underlying message of all bike accommodation efforts by the city. Bicyclists have a right to be on the road and travel safely.

I also think the best strategy would use more than one sign type. Nirvana (the section of Beacon Street between Washington Square and Cleveland Circle) has a "Share the Road" sign every block or more. The quantity is right, but the message loses its effectiveness with repetition. I'd mix in a few "Share the Road" signs with my "Bikes by Right" signs.

At last night's Bike/Pedestrian Task Force meeting, I spoke at some length with a bike-lane opponent. His "ghetto" argument is compelling (though I'm not entirely sold). If you create bike lanes, you create the expectation that bicyclists will only travel in those lanes. However, bike lanes can be dangerous (and sometimes blocked). The woman who died in Central Square a few years ago was travelling in a bike lane when a driver opened the car door into her path (knocking her into traffic).

But bike lanes/no bike lanes should not end the on-street marking debate. The new bike accommodations need some clarification. Cars can't go over the line. Bikes can travel on either side (though they will, out of self preservation, stay in the gutter when its safe to).

I don't have the complete answer, yet. But, I think that on-street markings should be an important tool in the effort to get the "Bikes by Right" message across.


Charlie D. said...

The bike lane/no bike lane debate is one that I am convinced will go on as long as there are bicyclists. The general consensus at this point seems to be that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Having a marked place on the road where bicyclists of almost all abilities can ride out of the path of motorized traffic is a good thing. It makes it more pleasant to bike, hopefully encouraging more people to try it, gives motorists (and bicyclists) a visual reminder that bicyclists are allowed on the road, and helps both types of users to position themselves on the roadway more easily. In addition, it give bicyclists an edge when there is congestion, as they can (carefully) pass slow or stopped traffic when riding the bike lane. Of course education is an important component... a bike lane alone is not enough. Bicyclists and motorists both need to know that bicyclists should always operate in a safe location, which is not always in the bike lane, and are expected to position themselves appropriately based on their destination. Also, motorists need to know that parking in a bike lane is not appropriate... ever.

Anonymous said...

charlie d. said:

"It makes it more pleasant to bike"
Perhaps for some people.
It rarely make a positive change for me. It's either neutral or negative.

"a visual reminder that bicyclists are allowed on the road"

I think there are better ways to impart this knowledge.
Not that you don't have a good point.

"it give bicyclists an edge when there is congestion, as they can (carefully) pass slow or stopped traffic when riding the bike lane"

They can do this with or without a bike lane. Bike lanes do not necessarily keep car drivers from operating within them, as I think many readers of this blog have experienced. A lack of bike lanes does not prevent cautious passing on the right.

"Of course education is an important component... a bike lane alone is not enough."

Amen! Hear hear!

The more experience, skills, and knowledge I have gained have served me far better than bike lanes.

I'd trade the money value of paint and implementation costs for classes for schoolkids and adults, for city-approved printed materials to distribute, and access to server space on public websites.

And thank you both for caring enough to get involved. I think we all want better conditions for cyclists, developing some consensus as to what the best improvements are and how to get them implemented will be a focal point.

Now seems to be a good time, as negative attitudes towards cycling for transportation and utility purposes are softening, but there is a very small population of politically involved transportation cyclists. So please keep at it!

Sean, please contact David Loutzenheiser at drl(AT)thecollaborativeDOTcom> as they are developing a comprehensive GIS-layer resource of bike-specific facilities. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.