Monday, June 22, 2009

You Be the Judge: Queens Ave. Bike Lane, London, Ontario

I posted something recently about being undecided regarding bike lanes. Keri, a vehicular cycling aficionado and funky Floridian, requested some measurements, so I went and got 'em, and I have put together a video that contains some of my own observations as well.

I liked having my own space to ride in, but the paint conflicted with my instincts sometimes. I'm still undecided. You be the judge, while my own internal jury takes a nice nap. All comments welcome, as always.

Insane in the membrane; Insane in the Lane!



Rollz said...

you measured the road and the gutters but did you get the measurements of the blond just before the school bus in the first section?

RANTWICK said...

I approached her with my tape measure, but then got scared and ran away.

Steve A said...

I imagine Keri will have lots of observations...

RANTWICK said...

I have no doubt, Steve! I was going to do some "analysis" of my own, but I figure I'll leave it to the master.

Keri said...

LOL! Steve, how did you know? Cripes, it didn't even fit into one comment.

BL #1:
1'4'' gutters + 7'4" parking + 5' bike lane
12'4" car lane

First of all. Did they add any width to this street, or just pain lines on it? If the width existed, what's the advantage to the lines?

Regarding the specs. 13'8" is better than average and far more than AASHTO minimum. When cars park all the way at the curb (wheels in the gutter) you can ride at the left edge of the BL and be safe. However, you can't ride in the middle and be safe when passing a large vehicle.

So here's the ethics issue: Defining a lane area with lines DOES stimulate a person to split the difference. You're a mindful rider and you know about the door zone, so you're not going to ride down the middle. But a novice has no idea. And novices are the very people bike lanes are designed to attract.

Even planning professionals fall into this trap!

Is it legal to park at the edge of the gutter seam, vs against the curb? The first van is parked against the curb with wheels in the gutter... if it was on the seam it would be close to the line - the strike zone for its door is probably 3.5 - 4 ft - a cyclist/handlebars is 18"–2' wide. That puts you on the line to avoid being hit, but you need to be farther out to avoid being startled into swerving.

Another issue is the sight lines. You can't see past the van, truck or school bus. A pedestrian could step out into your path — they perceive the bike lane as a "safety zone." Personally, I keep several feet more buffer between me and parked cars than the bike lane allows. (My first ever bike crash involved a child on a bike blowing across the street mid-block in front of a parked van.)

The van that passes while you're on the line passing the parked vehicles is closer than 3 feet from your body — looks about 3ft from the line you're riding on (I'm comparing it to the known width of the bike lane). I'm rarely passed that close, so it freaks me out.

I'm glad you're reluctant to pull up along side the truck. That gut feeling could have saved a lot of lives had it been engrained in our culture. I will pull up like that in some bike lanes, but I do a lot of double-checking of that first vehicle (like you did). I NEVER do it if the first vehicle is a box truck or similar vehicle with blind spots.

Keri said...

here's the rest ;-)

BL #2:
1'7" gutters, 3'6" bike lane, 10'5" R, 10'8" L

Ugh. That's heinous. The freaking bike stencil doesn't even fit! It's a substandard shoehorned conversion. 10'5" is a very narrow traffic lane, roughly the width of a commercial vehicle's mirrors. So that gives you — what? — one foot of clearance from a large vehicle? A "decent" bike lane requires 17ft of right lane + BL width (12ft lane + 5ft BL) The gutter is NOT part of the bike lane. Gutter seams can be a crash hazard.

Good lane position at the intersection! The stripe is broken there to encourage you to do exactly what you did, but most people don't know that.

BL-free road:
11'5" R lane. Claim it. It's not wide enough to share. Take it for yourself, all of it, it's yours. The motorists have another lane they can use to pass. Look how much of the lane that bus takes up. Same would be true for a utility trailer or a box truck... potentially driven by a dumbass who can't judge clearance. The cars may be able to squeeze by, but it's the trailer that will nail you. Trust me. I've almost been hit by trailers.

If you command 11' lanes like that, you'll very quickly lose any interest in bike lanes (especially substandard ones) because they'll feel cramped and the passing clearance will feel too close (even when its 3-4ft). It happened to me.

Honestly, I'm OK with riding in a 5ft bike lane next to a 12ft traffic lane if the BL is clean (not next to parked cars!) and there are few intersections. But otherwise, the things make me feel compromised.

Yes, I know I'm nuts for measuring lanes... I do try to do it at off-peak hours :-)

Thanks for the video... and for measuring and satisfying my geeky curiosity!

RANTWICK said...


While reading your comments I was mostly nodding, thinking "yep, true, yep, yep, I know I should take the whole lane there, yep..."

The first section was formerly two lanes. They added the parking spots and little "side islands" as a traffic/speed calmimg measure because residents were complaining that it was a something of a drag strip during rush hours, and made the rest into the one lane / bike lane combo.

Point taken about newcomers riding in the centre of the lane, thinking it safest.

Thanks for the anaylsis we knew was coming!

GeekGuyAndy said...

I'd say the second bike lane is not worth it. Possibly sharrow markings could indicate that bikes do have a right on the road and that they need not ride in the gutter, but trying to make a tiny lane is just asking for close calls. If you are 5ft into the road instead, motorists will have to wait for a good time to pass instead of trying to squeeze by.

RANTWICK said...

I agree Andy. I think Keri put it best... that little strip is "heinous"!

Post a Comment