Friday, October 7, 2011

Diamond at Canyon, Continued

My understanding, concerning the Diamond/Canyon bike lane configuration, is that DPW Director Kyle Zimmerman and Acting County Administrator Randy Autio will be discussing it early next week, according to what Kyle said last night at the T Board meeting.

Meanwhile, be careful out there. No system is perfect and lane markers, even excellent ones, don't have magical protective properties.

There is no design of your garden variety bike lane that is free from potential hazards under all conditions seen in an urban environment. As far as the bicyclist's traffic position, bike lanes put cyclists to the right of other traffic. That's fine when everyone is going in the same direction and the bicyclist is the low speed vehicle. But in an urban environment, that means others will be turning right across the thru bike lane at turn points. That also means you will be leaving the bike lane to turn left. 

That right turn issue is why a standard intersection design puts the bike lane between the right turn bay and the thru lane, often accompanied by an R4-4, sign (Begin Right Turn Lane Yield to Bikes) in order to manage lane changing. Council unintentionally put us in a weird box with its 2006 directive, which constrained the total road width and which said explicitly to use the turn bay as the bike lane. I would have preferred to keep the turn bay there and put sharrows in the right travel lane, and said as much last night.

One of the things that Neale Pickett and I both teach is that while a bike lane may be excellent for 99% of the time (and Diamond bike lanes are on balance, excellent close to 99% of the time--thank you, Kyle Zimmerman, Nancy Talley, and Staff!), it is incumbent on the cyclist to know when they are not excellent. At those times when they are not excellent, the situation requires one to either use the bike lane within its limitations or move outside the bike lane. That is a part of the social contract accepted by the cyclist when putting in bike lanes. I've posted on our LA bikes blog that cyclists on a downhill bike lane approaching turning and crossing points (i.e., northbound Diamond at Canyon) need to either:

1. Slow down and keep speed low in cases where turning and crossing conflicts can occur so you have time to react safely to adversity, or,

2. If moving faster than its safe in the bike lane, and especially if moving at the speed of traffic, then check for traffic in the travel lane, signal, and when safe, merge into the travel lane to control the lane and increase one's visibility. Note here: motorists cannot be allowed to get grumpy about this and harass the cyclist.

The choice to the cyclist depends on the cyclist's level of experience and comfort moving into traffic and the cyclist needs to understand the underlying reasons for the choices. Chances are very good that Neale and I will not get hit by a car at Diamond and Canyon. My worry is that now that we have a complete bike lane system, not all the cyclists or motorists are going to have done their hazard analysis and mitigation drill. Not to mention, be thinking.

There are some treatments for intersections that make them a little more intuitive or increase cyclist visibility to cut down on errors. Some are more avant garde and some are still (I think) awaiting approval from MUTCD et al.  Neale mentioned dashing the bike lanes as they approach intersections, which is an MUTCD "should" advisory rather than a "must", and which encourages both motorists and cyclists to understand that they have to work together and expect to be maneuvering around each other as they approach turning and crossing points. Brightly colored bike lanes  and bike boxes are another treatment to catch the motorist's attention, which I think Portland and a few other cities are experimenting with. But these have their own down sides, as discussed elsewhere. Where there is not room for a bike lane or where a bike lane is a lousy idea, Sharrows are now an approved MUTCD treatment. If you haven't seen a sharrow in Santa Fe, check out the picture below.

Nothing takes the place of the skill and experience of motorists and bicyclists, though. We should (must?), however, make intersections as intuitive as possible, and remember that bike lanes are a tool in our toolbox, not the whole box.

Sharrows, i.e., arrows combined with a bike symbol, 
reminding people that bikes will be in the lane
Sometimes, however, installed in door zones.


Anonymous said...

Good comments. Why the earlier council resolution was so specific about creating an unsafe bike lane seems a bit odd. Regardless, the lane needs to be re-stripped along the configuration you've suggested.

Thanks for keeping on top of this.

Khal said...

I'm not sure what in detail Council was thinking and we would have to go back to the transcripts of that session. I suspect they wanted to preserve the bike lane in spite of keeping the road within its existing boundaries, and that was a noble intention in the context of multimodal roadways.

The unintended consequences are the confusion we see today, coupled with the right hook hazard of a downhill bike lane in a busy spot. As I've said before about this stuff, the devils are always in the details.

Joe M. said...


Sorry to hijack this part of the comments, hope you understand. I've been paying a bit of attention to the trial in ABQ this week of the woman that killed David Anderson on the Paseo Bike Path last year. Her trial ended in a hung jury, 11 to 1 to convict.

The comments on the KOB web page about the hung jury are even more anti-bike than the normal for such stories.

I do have some experience with negative commentary, as I followed the stories and comments on Matt's collision and death back in May. I spent way too many hours in the intensive care unit, just reading online as a way to pass time.

Anyway, I just had to vent somewhere about how ignorant the commenters have been regarding the David Anderson death. A stunning number of them talk about David being at fault for riding on Paseo del Norte! Unbelieveable. He was on the BIKE PATH that runs well-off of Paseo. The driver that hit him was (according to trial testimony) speeding and weaving when she 1) ran off the road, 2) jumped a substantial ditch, 3) crossed 60 feet of grassy field, and 4) hit David on the BIKE PATH.

I sometimes reach a point of dispair about the anti-bike commentary you see in the Albuquerque press anytime a biker-death story comes up. Heck, a bit of this even creeps into local Los Alamos sites, including the labs internal readers forum.


Joe Martz

Khal said...

It should surprise no one that there is a lot of ignorance and malice in our nation if you dig just below the polite surface stuff. Even the polite surface stuff is getting hard to find.

So it is best not to read the comments on KOB or several other local outlets. There is no troll filtering so you get the lowest of the low. Why bother even looking? It just makes one sick. Especially when you have a personal stake in this stuff, as many of us here certainly do.