Friday, June 11, 2010

New bike accommodation to consider -- priority bike lanes

Friend of NS&S Professor Peter Furth wants, as he said in a recent comment, to bring bike accommodating innovation to local streets. He's done just that with new priority bike lanes on Longwood Avenue in Brookline. On Biking's Jonathon Simmons gets local reaction from bikers and drivers*.

Priority bike lanes are like super-sharrows. Like sharrows (which are incorporated in the design), they identify that bicyclists are entitled to ride in the travel lane. Unlike sharrows, they delineate a clear path for cyclists, out of the way of the threat of being doored.

When is a priority bike lane appropriate? When road width and parking preclude a proper bike lane. Unless the city reverses its position on parking on Walnut Street north of Forest Street, the stretch where parking is allowed would be a good application. Sticking in Newton Highlands, the blocks of Lincoln Street with on-street parking would be another good candidate. Union Street in Newton Centre. Any other candidates?

As Simmons column points out, bike priority lanes will require some getting used to. But, the basic premise is good. The travel lane belongs to motor vehicles, unless there is a bike in the road. In which case, the cyclist is entitled to safely navigate the stretch that requires accommodation.

*Still no sign of a permanent home for On Biking on


Nathan Phillips said...

Langley Street between Centre and Beacon, Newton Centre.

Chestnut Street

Grove Street between Auburn St. and 1-95.

Washington St., West Newton in the village center (e.g. around the movie theatre).

Anonymous said...

You should try to keep up on this stuff more. Like I said 3 days ago: There is always the bike priority lane. Hopefully a few brave souls will risk life and limb to make it better for the rest of us. Who is going to step up and take the challenge? The law be with you. Hopefully it will work.

dr2chase said...

Problem is, it only requires a single inattentive driver to ruin your day, and drivers have more distracting toys than ever before. Until we get semi-smart cars with anticollision detectors built in, it's a hard sell to get people to ride in front of cars. And to judge from the comments, not every single person out there recognizes the right of cyclists to take the lane in tight spaces; they're rarely dangerous, but they sure can make things unpleasant with their horn.

Steve R said...

Since many bikers and most drivers were confused by the road markings, perhaps a sign that says "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" would help. Examples:

Herzog said...

I don't like this idea. Longwood is fast, extremely narrow, and full of frustrated drivers. I don't feel comfortable holding up a line of cars there and this doesn't help much.

Anonymous said...

Herzog, the reasons you gave are exactly why this is needed.

With or without the markings, the safest place to bike is in the middle. If you dont feel comfortable holding up cars, you will ride next to the parked cars, increasing your chance of being doored and killed.

Now, you can ride where you're supposed to, and some (maybe even most) drivers will understand and not honk.

The enxt step is to get these treatments added to the RMV drivers guide, and make people take the written test every 10 years so they can read about these changes.

Herzog said...


I didn't express myself well.

I simply meant that I don't feel comfortable with a long line of frustrated (the Longwood area is a pain to all) behind me, plus I don't like to ride fast.

Thus I find Longwood Ave a horrible street to ride on. However, when I do ride on a street like that, I DO ride faster and take the lane.

The reason I don't like this treatment is because it doesn't address the conflict between frustrated cars and cyclists on a narrow road and introduces non-standard and legally redundant markings.

A real solution, that would make the road safer for all users, would be the removal of the parking lane and wider bike lanes.

Steve R said...

@Herzog. You're probably right about a more thorough solution. But try pitting parking against a bike lane.

The trouble on Longwood is that you have a traffic mix tailored for frustration: cut-through traffic getting from Huntington to Beacon, out-of-towners following gps directions to a hospital, night-shift nurses and residents heading home, Red Sox fans, people trolling for parking near Coolidge Corner...

Maybe what Longwood needs is a set of signs that say "Chill. You're on a city street. You'll get there."

No, but seriously. Maybe Longwood needs the opposite of what you're saying. If the problem is speed & impatience, maybe it needs some engineering re-design to reduce drivers' illusions that it's a fast cut-through: some pedestrian islands, speed tables, a few bumpouts (with bike cuts)...

Anonymous said...

And when are the bicyclists going to take a written test Sean?

Herzog said...

@Steve R. You're 100% right about the parking vs. cycling problem.

It's very difficult to wean people off of subsidized services.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Steven. Removing parking says "this is a road for speeding".

Leaving parking, making a marked shared lane, and adding barriers that reduce speed is the solution. I like the cambridge raised intersections.