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Thread: Bike lanes in center of street

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Bike lanes in center of street

    As a transportation planner for a mid-size city about five years ago, I designed a bicycle transpo plan that called for placing bike lanes in the center of most two-way city streets. However, people raised hell and said it was a terrible idea. However, I felt that placing bike lanes in the center of the street would reinforce the centrality of bicycles in the local transportation system and force motorists to the margins of the road. To me, this felt right.

    At the time this seemed like a noble idea. But in the end it did not work out so well. Has anyone else tried similarly visionary approaches?

  2. #2
    Boston just put them in along the Back Bay portion of Commonwealth Avenue. They look great and feel safe. But there is a broad median to the left of the lanes.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I'd like to see such a street arrangement in action.

    Would it make sense to allow bicycles to share center left-turn lanes?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Seems like a concept that could work with very limited or no turning movements from or onto intersecting streets. Still, I wouldn't want to be a driver of a left turning vehicle trying to keep track of bicyclists approaching in front of, and behind at the same time.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    New York City has them on the left side of one-way streets all over. This is primarily done to prevent conflicts with right-side bus stops.

  6. #6
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    Downtown Minneapolis used to have one major street, Hennepin Ave, in which the bike lanes were in the middle of the street with vehicle lanes on one side of the lanes and a bus lane on the other side. It was fairly well used, but left hooks were a problem.

    The road was redesigned so the bikes share a bus / turning vehicle / vehicle lane along the curb.

    I wasn't fond of the center bike lanes, but they were much better than the new configuration.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I would also like to see this in action as there are some aspects that confuse me. Right turns by bicyclists seem especially confusing because you have to cut across car traffic that is traveling straight. Unless I am missing something. I also assume there is some sort of protection, buffer or similar for the bike lanes. I would feel a bit vulnerable worrying about two directions of vehicular traffic passing close to me on a bike.

    I do bike in traffic a good bit. We are not particularly advanced here with regards to accommodating bikes, but we have made some recent advances. In my personal experience, I find Seattle to have made great strides in how to accommodate bikes and cars on urban streets. I have not spent a lot of time in Portland, but I know they are similarly stellar. Of course, this is my dream - biking in the Netherlands (ok, they lost the World Cup finals, but they really know how to manage bike traffic!)
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  8. #8
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    Bike Lanes in center of road

    I recently visited Owensboro, KY. While I was pleasently surprised to see sharrows on the road, they were put in the middle of the road. This gave the indication that not only were vehicles to share, ie slow down next to bicycles, but wait for bicyclists as they traveled on the road.

    I don't think this is good policy or what the sharrows were intended for. Maybe in some circumstances, it would be helpful if extra attention was needed. In general, I feel the maximum benefit for a sharrow and bike lanes is on the side of the road.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by crummmountain View post
    As a transportation planner for a mid-size city about five years ago, I designed a bicycle transpo plan that called for placing bike lanes in the center of most two-way city streets. However, people raised hell and said it was a terrible idea. However, I felt that placing bike lanes in the center of the street would reinforce the centrality of bicycles in the local transportation system and force motorists to the margins of the road. To me, this felt right.

    At the time this seemed like a noble idea. But in the end it did not work out so well. Has anyone else tried similarly visionary approaches?
    Lemme guess: you are not an avid cyclist, right? Many call me crazy/fearless/whatever and I'd avoid that street. Too much stress.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    I would also like to see this in action as there are some aspects that confuse me. Right turns by bicyclists seem especially confusing because you have to cut across car traffic that is traveling straight. Unless I am missing something.
    No different than a cyclist wanting to make a left turn. With a right side bike lane, the cyclist has to merge with car traffic that is moving straight to reach the left turn bay.

    The only two examples of bike lanes on the left, towards the center of the road I can think of are:

    Boston, Commonwealth Avenue (along a median park)
    DC, on penn ave, on what was the median before

    As someone else mentioned, most bike lanes in NYC on one way avenues are on the left, as it places the cyclist in a more visible place (drivers side)

    Lanes on the left are theoretically safer.

    On the right, bikes have to deal with parked cars (pulling in and out, opening doors), driveways and constant curb cuts, buses and taxis pulling to the curb, double parkers and right turns.

    On the left, bikes have to deal with left turning vehicles and ONLY left turning vehicles.


    Quote Originally posted by wrimere View post
    I recently visited Owensboro, KY. While I was pleasently surprised to see sharrows on the road, they were put in the middle of the road. This gave the indication that not only were vehicles to share, ie slow down next to bicycles, but wait for bicyclists as they traveled on the road.

    I don't think this is good policy or what the sharrows were intended for. Maybe in some circumstances, it would be helpful if extra attention was needed. In general, I feel the maximum benefit for a sharrow and bike lanes is on the side of the road.

    No, on a narrow lane, the best place for a sharrow is exactly in the middle, because it says "your SUV is larger than you think, you cannot pass a bike in the same lane". It also tells the cyclist "you need to be 3 feet away from the doors of parked cars"

    If the cyclists and sharrow are on the right, people will try to pass in the same lane, thus pushing the cyclist into parked cars.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jass View post
    On the left, bikes have to deal with left turning vehicles and ONLY left turning vehicles.
    Not really, most one-way streets in urban areas have on-street parking on both sides.

  12. #12
    Toronto had proposed to build bike lanes in the centre lanes of University Avenue this year, which is a wide 8 lane road with a median in the centre. These lanes were a bit different in that the City had proposed to close off the two inner-most lanes with bollards and convert them to bicycle lanes. Unfortunately, due to an "accidental" misvote by a city councellor, they were derailed for this year but the proposal may make a return again next year.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    They have started putting these in some of the major downtown streets in DC, what a kooky mess its been. The first night I ran across them I thought someone had been drinking on the line painting crew and made the lanes too narrow (the bike lane was VERY wide) I was not the only confused person as others were trying to figure out driving in them.

    They have spent a lot of money, there has been a few near misses, they still look scary as hell but hopefully folks will get used to them.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Helpful hint on traffic speeds:
    faster road users are on the left, slower ones are on the right.

    Putting all bicycle users in the middle of the street further impedes the capabilities of those who don't know how to navigate an intersection (whether turning or not). The purple word includes all road users.

    Sharrows are supposed to be advisory (similar to a sign), not "bikes go here and cars go there."

    Anyone want an Effective Cycling course? I teach that.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    This is a center sharrow and bike lane on Smiths Street in Brooklyn.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/estherp...arbolesurbanos

  16. #16
    I've biked on the inner bike lanes of Boston's Comm Ave twice now without any problems though they do take some getting used to. Traffic speeds are low so that helps.

    Some friends say they are way too unsafe and they have almost have been hit.

    I keep forgetting to take my phone for picture taking. Not that I can safely ride and take pics at the same time.

  17. #17
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    I gotta say the idea of left side lanes intrigues me. I'm a cyclist. My family is a one car family and I ride my bike to work every day.

    There is a one lane road in Golden that has a two-way bike lane on the left side of motor traffic. I ride a couple of feet left of the dividing line to be most visible.

    Ironically this morning I was thinking that my position in the lane puts me in the MOST visible location to motorists because I am on the side of the car where the driver has the least restricted view of the road.

    As far as making a right turn there is no difference from the left side than in making a left turn from the right side of the road. You have to look back and give a signal.

    I think one of the main keys to safe cycling is being visible (and hyper-aware of the dynamic environment) and to me being on the left would put me in the most visible location to drivers.

    Of course there is the intimidation factor of being between opposing flows of traffic, but if you;re going to ride on a bike lane hopefully you can desensitize yourself to that no matter which side of the drive lane you're on.

  18. #18
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    Why did they not come up with a dotted line running with the roadway instead of sharrows (chevrons)? The rule would be simple, the cyclist stays on one side of the dotted line while overtaking vehicles stay wholly on the other side of the dotted line, straddling dashed lines if needed.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ajaynejr View post
    Why did they not come up with a dotted line running with the roadway instead of sharrows (chevrons)? The rule would be simple, the cyclist stays on one side of the dotted line while overtaking vehicles stay wholly on the other side of the dotted line, straddling dashed lines if needed.
    Because that requires a non-substandard lane width to implement.
    And, iirc according to AASHTO guidelines, in order to safely accomodate the maneuver you describe, that means a lane width of ~16 feet. Maybe more. Especially given that for safety, a bicycle must stay about 4 feet or so away from parked cars so that I don't plow into someone who just finished their makeup and then opened their door at 18 MPH.
    My bike is about a yard wide. I need a couple of feet from me and passing traffic or else i'm not being passed safely.. hey look, i've eaten up about nine or ten feet of lane width! Now add the width of a design car.. nope, on a normal lane, that car is going to have to merge into the other lane to go around me. No point in trying to tiptoe around that fact. Just stick the lane markings in the middle of the road and i'll use it and people will change lanes to pass instead of just pulling halfway into the next lane thinking they're in their lane.

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