Friday, January 7, 2011

Beware of ice

Little bit of a case of tight nerves riding in Friday morning after being voluntarily trapped in the car for most of the week. Lotsa ice and snow still out there in the bike lanes, including black ice and thin sheens of ice on pavement. Some side roads have been plowed out leaving big ridges of snow at bike lanes where they intersect with side streets. I thought of calling to have these features removed, but wonder if it is a better idea to leave them there so cyclists and motorists both realize that the bike lanes are still pretty sketchy.

There are definitely places you will need to merge into or shade towards the travel lane, including a few southbound sections between Conoco Hill and the H.S. flyover, while headed north/east between Conoco Hill and the golf course, when headed northeast towards the roundabout where the concrete barrier along the golf course shades the bike lane from the sun, and eastbound on Central Ave. All these locations are shaded from the low winter sun, leading to a large accumulation of ice.

The County version of the "As far right as practicable" law that regulates the riding of bicycles on roadways specifically takes into account that sometimes as far right as possible is actually dangerous and is therefore not practicable. I've excerpted:
Sec. 38-545. - Riding on streets and bicycle paths.
(b) It shall not be considered practicable to ride as near to the right side of the street under the following circumstances:...(3)  When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the righthand curb or edge. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane;

Addenum: Today (Saturday), a local LCI was harassed when riding left of the bike lane stripe to avoid ice. Police were called. See comment #3.

Be careful out there. Any thoughts?
Eastbound, Central near St. Thomas More Center

Eastbound, Central near Reel Deal


9 comments:

Mike said...

Riding in, I saw the county's driveable snow thrower clearing a bike lane on Central by the aquatic center heading towards Diamond. I use wider tires and coast whilst on the ice. Also , leaning back seems to help on the "choppy" ice.

Khal said...

I put cyclecross tires on in the Winter.

Amy said...

Central still has lots of stretches of ice in the bike lane running along the shady south side of that road. As a matter of fact, I was on that bike lane this morning, and had to get out into the regular travel lane a few times because of the ice. A motorist decided he didn't like me there, and honked at me to get over onto the ice patch, and proceeded to pass me with about 7 inches to spare (possibly closer - I could've reached out and touched his car). So, I paid a visit to the police station with license plate number in hand. Enough is enough - I'm tired of being passed with inches to spare, and this time had I swerved I would have been on the ground and possible under someone's tires.

The officer I spoke to said he'll probably forward this onto a lieutenant, who *might* work with the county on clearing the rest of the ice from the bike lane. To me, I think it's more important that people just exercise patience and caution. Bikes are NOT relegated to the bike lane! We are allowed to get out into the lane of traffic, folks! And I'll just keep reporting whoever tries to intimidate and harass me!

Khal said...

Good response, Amy.

I've discussed this general matter of "unplanned" bike lane obstructions with Chief Torpy and specifically the snow and ice issues with Kyle Zimmerman. I've thought that Tom Roach's crews have done a pretty good job plowing the bike lanes, but face it, snow has to melt.

NO ONE in county government whom I have spoken to would advocate that a cyclist ride on glare ice just to stay in the bike lane. There is no better way to get a cyclist sideways and possibly under a car (or to have bicyclists vote against having bike lanes) than to have the cyclist feel pressure to ride on glare ice, through snowdrifts, or God knows what else.

Furthermore, the County version of the "As far right as practicable" law specifically takes into account that sometimes as far right as possible is actually dangerous:

Sec. 38-545. - Riding on streets and bicycle paths.

(a) Every person operating a bicycle upon a street shall ride as near to the right side of the street as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.

(b) It shall not be considered practicable to ride as near to the right side of the street under the following circumstances:

(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or roadway;
(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the righthand curb or edge. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane;

Since it is almost impossible, and probably not cost effective, to constantly be removing ice from the bike lanes in all locations as it melts, everyone needs to just be patient. Or, stand in front of our judge.

Amy, please let me know if the motorist is cited for a five foot violation or for careless driving.

Amy said...

Thanks for posting that law - will tuck that under my belt. Were those pictures on Central taken today? That's what we experienced this morning.

And I agree that keeping parts of roads ice-free can be very difficult, and I don't expect perfection in that department when I'm on the road. I do expect fellow road-users to obey the law and to be respectful. I have gone out of my way in the past to pull to the side and let cars piling up behind me pass on Central and other places, and it's extremely frustrating when motorists can't give the same kind of courtesy. Just because there's a huge engine in front of your steering wheel, that's no reason to act like an impatient ape. I'll also add that there are lots of motorists who will slow down or give a passing space of 5 feet or more, and I do notice and appreciate that.

Khal said...

Amy, I shot those pictures after reading your post.

Amy said...

Thanks for taking the pictures.

Jon said...

The media on the west section of Canyon makes the situation worse, of course. Those lanes have been changing on a daily basis as they thaw and refreeze; no matter how good a job of clearing was done after the storm, any remaining bits anywhere on the road will wind up frozen in the bike lane.

It would almost be better if the lane were unusable for the whole length. As it is there are plenty of opportunities to let a car or two pass, but then get pinned over by the rest of traffic.

I'll bring this up at the 502 meeting tonight--if the plan is to use a separated facility for the eastern section, I hope there's a good snow plan.

Jon said...

Er, that is of course mediaN...