|Beware of that right turning SUV. |
Check traffic on your left as you approach
"...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:
(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...
By Ray Thomas, Portland bike lawyer
countycouncil at lacnm dot us
Transportation Board: tb