Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why you need to stay out of the door zone.

Fortunately, we have few situations with bike lanes next to parked cars.  Urban Park is the only one I can think of. But Central Ave is one of those places a cyclist might be tempted to ride too far right and too close to parallel parked cars in order to be nice to overtaking traffic.Bad idea.

Take a look at the discussion of this chilling video on Prof. Andy Cline's site and over at Commute Orlando. One video is worth anything I could say here. Plus, its not just hitting the door and getting splattered. Its being flung out into traffic and being splattered a second time.

Stay farther than a door width from parked cars. That is generally about five feet. If a bike lane stripe tells you otherwise, ignore the bike lane and show the nice person beeping at you this video.

A longer video put together by LCI and longtime cycling educator Dan Guitierrez with some real and simulated crashes is on Youtube. I've embedded it here. Enjoy the Stones music.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beware the right hook (and left cross) at Diamond and Canyon/Central

Beware of that right turning SUV. 
Check traffic on your left as you approach
Don't let an otherwise fine bike lane system lull you to sleep in a busy, complex, and not always optimal Phase IV.

"...In response to right-hook crashes, cities are trying to move bicyclists away from the curb at busy crossings...." --Seattle Times

Cyclists travelling northbound on Diamond Drive may now have to deal with a "right hook" hazard at Diamond and Canyon. The current configuration of the northbound bike lane puts it far to the right of thru traffic, separated from the thru lane by a buffer, and located in the place where the right turn bay used to be. I see this as a hazard because there are a lot of right turning motorists at this intersection and a lot of thru cyclists headed north on Diamond Drive. In this configuration, thru cyclists in the bike lane, who may be moving quite briskly due to the downhill slope, will be overtaken by motorists turning right from the cyclist's left. Alternatively, bicyclists will be overtaking motorists, who are slowing to turn right, in the motorist's "blind spot". In addition, cyclists riding that far right will be less visible to southbound Diamond traffic turning left onto Canyon/Central. To see examples of potential turning and crossing conflicts, go to the Mass Bike Law Officer Training page and watch the videos under "Motorist Errors..."

Here are the most relevant Mass Bike videos for the right hook and left cross. Both of these are more likely the more 'invisible" the bicyclist is to motorists. Check out the Mass Bike page for others. Most are posted on Youtube.

In addition to the crash scenerios mentioned in these videos there is a third type--a car-car collision, i.e., a motorist suddenly stopping short after seeing a cyclist riding on the right (15 seconds into the first video) could be hit from behind by an inattentive or tailgating motorist, or, a motorist stopping short while making a left turn (south on Diamond to East on Canyon) and realizing he is going to hit an oncoming cyclist could be t-boned by an oncoming motorist going too fast.

So be aware of these hazards and watch for overtaking cars that could turn in front of you. Alternatively, since this is a downhill section, and if you are travelling at the speed of traffic, you may want to take the (travel) lane and forswear that section of bike lane until you are past Central. There is no law against it, i.e., a mandatory bike lane use law. "As far right as is practicable" generally applies if you are going slower than other traffic. In this section, I'm usually humming right along and it is not considered prudent or practicable to be T-boning right turning cars with a 'cross bike.

Neale Pickett and I have both commented to the County DPW on the pitfalls of this design in this particular location and requested it be changed.  Neale has suggested, at minimum, to move the bike lane to the left of what used to be the right turn bay, suggesting the present design is awfully close to that of a sidepath. Some relevant AASHTO verbage follows on sidepaths: "...The most common crash type in this category involves the failure of a left‐turning motorist to yield to an oncoming bicyclist; the second most common involves a right‐turning motorist who strikes a through bicyclist (often referred to as a “right‐hook” crash). (5) Measures that encourage bicyclist conspicuity can be helpful, as can geometric modifications that limit vehicle turning speeds (e.g., reduced curb radii). A bike lane provided along the left side of a dedicated right‐turn lane can also help reduce the incidence of such crashes..."

Compare to this description of a "dangerous" bike lane in Portland, OR, which was changed to avoid the right hook.

Stay Tuned, and please be careful out there. Slow down and be vigilant in this section of bike lane. My preference is to reinstate the right turn bay and put sharrows in the thru lane or share the right turn bay with a bike lane dashed on its left side.  But the paint, as I was told today, is now dry.

To cyclists who want bike lanes, please remember that they are not always the right treatment. There are no good one size fits all solutions. Interestingly, County Staff reminded me that it was some cyclists who insisted on continuous bike lanes in this area. Combining that with Council's directives to staff (below) put the design in a very awkward box. Putting bike lanes in the right turn bays sacrifices the right turn bays and forces motorists to pass a cyclist on the left while they turn right. That is not optimal. Optimal is having bike lanes between the thru and right turn lane, or as a dashed part of the turn bay on the inside of the turn lane. Or, simply taking the rightmost thru lane in the direction you are going and not worrying about bike lanes.

This is what Council, in 2006, said to do:

Council passed the following motion on March 28, 2006:

Councilor Hall moved, seconded by Councilor Bowman, that Council direct staff to move forward with design of the Diamond and West Road, Trinity Drive, and Canyon Road intersections with traffic signals, no additional lanes to accommodate traffic queues, and bicycle lanes using the existing right turn lanes; in an effort to stay within the existing right-of-way. I (Hall) further move that streetlight design along the Diamond corridor conforms to Roadway Lighting Design Category for continuously lighted roadways (RLDC-5), using opposite lighting, as described in Ordinance 02-029. I (Hall) further move that staff evaluate the feasibility of pedestrian tunnels and overpasses to avoid potential conflicts with traffic at Trinity.

Interestingly, as I stopped to take the picture seen above, a motorist came barreling down this new bike lane, oblivious that it is no longer a right turn bay. Go figure.

Interesting discussions here:

Danger in the bike lane

(The Seattle Times)  Matt Corwin was pedaling home from work on his usual route when he approached the University Bridge. A line of cars waited at the red light...

Fatal Right Hook Hazard From Right Turning Motorists 

By Ray Thomas, Portland bike lawyer

Woman injured in right hook at NE Couch and Grand

I suggest those who are concerned about this call the County Dept. of Public Works or make a comment to the Transportation Board. Or, call Council. This was to some degree decided on 28 March, 2006. Above all, as a cyclist, be careful. Also, I suggest that the take home message is that these things can't be decided five years in advance without doing a detailed re-analysis of the final design.

countycouncil at lacnm dot us
kyle.zimmerman at lacnm dot  us
Transportation Board:  tb at lacnm dot  us

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

(Congrats to) Santa Fe, a Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community

I was more than a little surprised to find out yesterday from State Bike/Ped Coordinator Tom Trowbridge that Santa Fe was going to be awarded the League of American Bicyclist's Bronze Level Bicycle-Friendly Community designation. That was made public today. Congrats, City Different!

I was a reviewer of The City Different's application almost exactly one year ago (I just checked) and in my final analysis, couldn't recommend anything higher than Honorable Mention to the League from an outsider's perspective. I was not told that a new application was being considered this fall (hmmm...conspiracy theorists can run with that one).
Tinfoil hats rule
Now seriously, folks. Last time around when providing my own evaluation, I spoke to several other in-state LCIs and the decision to recommend Honorable Mention was apparently not unique on my part. I'm not sure what has changed in the interim, but certainly don't begrudge Santa Fe its designation. I simply hope they live up to it. My concern is that LAB needs to keep its standards for BFC's very high and Santa Fe must live up to the award by continually improving, especially in its often dicey roadway connectivity.

As I reported to LAB last year (Sept. 2010) in my review of Santa Fe's application, and again mentioned yesterday to Andy Clarke of the League, many of Santa Fe's problems are not of its own making: the designs and changes implemented on Cerrillos Road, St. Francis Drive, and at the Railrunner crossing at the St. Francis and Cerrillos rail crossing are severe impediments to cycling which were provided by the NM Dept. of Transportation, which "owns" those State/Federal roads. That agency is infamous to NM cycling as neglecting or destroying bicycling-related infrastructure (partially paved roadway shoulders, intermittent bike lanes, etc).  Perhaps that consideration was taken into account by the Bikeleague, as well it should be. In its favor, Santa Fe has a very bicycling-friendly administration, a growing system of offroad trails and bikeways, and was one of the test cities for Sharrows. But that sharrow story has its own twist: when Santa Fe installed sharrows, the police were not briefed and had to be told after the fact what they were. Tim Rogers has also emphatically stressed to me the feverish work that is currently being done by the Santa Fe government and cycling community. Change is rapid.

For anyone thinking I'm dumping on Santa Fe and the LAB with such faint praise, rest assured, its a matter of disagreeing about details, not about principles. I've not pushed a BFC award application here in Bombtown (yet) as I thought we had too much work left to do before we were ready for prime time (added note: I've just requested that this be added to the T Board agenda). Indeed, the concept has been part of recent Transportation Board work plans (put there by a couple local LCIs who have served on the Board), which County Council, of course, has approved.  With Diamond Drive just about done, a very helpful and bike-friendly police force, and bicycling issues formally made part of any road design review by virtue of Council having approved our 2005 Bike Plan and our recently adopted formalized design guidance for streets and roads (see earlier posts and sidebar links) I think its about time we considered applying too. Now, if we can get LANL fully on board...

But let's give three cheers and lift a cold one to our cycling friends down the road in Santa Fe and to the League of American Bicyclists for recognizing Santa Fe's efforts. The City Different has definitely worked for this, even if much remains to be done. Besides, grumpy as I am as a hard grader (and I've always been a hard grader),  I'm not omniscient.