Monday, September 27, 2010

Biking to work - striping ideas

Last Wednesday evening, instead of mountain biking after work, I attended a bike class. This class was put on by and taught by John Ciccarelli. I knew John from work, so I was excited to hear him talk - he is a super bright guy.

One thing I took away from the class relates to bike lanes next to parallel parked cars. I have designed striping plans like this, I'll admit. Now that I have biked to work and a short stretch of road includes this striping layout, I don't know that I will implement this design anymore. Riding to work, I am always scared that I will get doored. I try to look at sideview mirrors and through windows to see if anyone is about to get out, but it's almost impossible to tell, especially at 15 mph. John calls this a form of russian roullette. With that analogy, I decided my next ride would not put me at this risk. The solution is to basically ride on the lane line, or along the left side of the bike lane - outside of the door zone.

The problem with this solution is that you're riding closer to the moving cars. I was actually more comfortable with this than I thought I would be - the differential speed is minimal, plus I was super stressed out playing my game of russian roulette. The only other issue is what are the drivers thinking - "hey, this guy's got a 5' bike lane, but he's riding at the very edge next to me... I'll get him and drive real close". I would agree. As a driver, I think things like that.

So, the real solution is to start implementing different striping - don't do the standard 5' bike lane next to an 8' parallel parking space. As I usually do, I had some good ideas in the shower. When I got into work, I did some googling and found these two examples that are pretty much what I was thinking. You have to delineate something that gives direction to the bike of where they should be riding (outside of the door zone), limit the amount of parking area, and give the drivers an expectation of where the bikes should be riding. I like the idea of a wider bike lane with the diagonal stripes in the door zone, myself.

The problem with these solutions, as shown, assume that you have 12', 13', or 18' to work with... and that it's a sufficient amount of space. I would go for the 7' parking lane, but think you would need another 7' (3.5' for door zone, and 3.5' for bikes) for a total of 14'. The trouble is, we're lucky to have 11' or 12' to work with, after narrowing the vehicle lanes. Where do you find the additional 2 or 3 feet?

Other alternatives include sharrows (I think these are too infrequent, hard to see, and too detailed), no striping just a wider lane (this doesn't give the driver an expectation of where the bikes should be, or tell the bikes where they should be), or a bike boulevard with a painted lane (too much maintenance).

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