Monday, October 3, 2011

Motorists: When turning right, take the bike lane

NOTE TO CYCLISTS: If you want to make public comments on this, please show up at this week's Transportation Board meeting!

Meanwhile, good letter from a local cyclist (Milan Gadd, if I recall) in yesterday's Monitor on that interesting stretch of northbound Diamond Drive bike lane between Trinity and Canyon. I hope Council read it, along with the earlier post here.

Perhaps Council should, in the future, not unintentionally (or intentionally) confound engineering and politics. Ask staff for the best designs given the desired constraints, choose one, and then get out of the way.

We should perhaps also read this one: City to settle with injured bicyclist over North Portland intersection
 A bicyclist whose run-in with an automobile two years ago helped spur the city to install green bike boxes around Portland stands to get a $32,500 settlement from the city this week.  Cyclist Siobhan Doyle and driver Lisa Wheeler were both headed south on North Interstate Avenue. Doyle, in the bike lane, went straight when Wheeler took a right turn in front of her.  The collision happened at the same intersection where another bicyclist, Brett Jarolimek, was killed two weeks earlier in 2007.

Meanwhile, the northbound bike lane on Diamond at Central continues to confuse. I see motorists moving into what used to be the turn bay to make right turns, and others making wide turns across the bike lane. Cyclists have noted some unsafe situations (see comments after earlier blog post) but nothing catastrophic.

As far as making that right turn? This is what County law says:

Sec. 38-268. - Required position and method of turning at intersection.
The driver of a vehicle intending to turn (right) at an intersection shall do so as follows:
(1) Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the righthand curb or edge of the street.

(a) No person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection unless the vehicle is in proper position upon the street as required in section 38-268 or turn a vehicle to enter a private road or driveway or otherwise turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a street unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety. No person shall so turn any vehicle without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided if any other traffic may be affected by such movement.

(b) A signal of intention to turn right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning. 

So it sounds like those motorists taking the bike lane are correct. Further, they keep you from getting cut off. But they do have to signal and yield to you if you are already there. 

I'm not saying this is the worst possible design, but it is really troubling. The problems are twofold:  First, frankly, it invites mistakes, as would the picture below. The motorist is turning right and you as the cyclist are in the motorist's "blind spot". That's a great way to set us humans up for error.  Secondly, it is a very busy intersection with a lot of right turning traffic, a downhill slope (meaning cyclists are moving fast) and a fair amount of cycling. Sure, we have similar situations going downhill in the northbound bike lanes just north of Conoco Hill. We have had close calls there too, and with far less traffic.

But the law is on your side, at least. If anyone bothered to read and obey it. Put that quote on your hospital wrist band.

More on the "Coffin Corner" here, from the Charles River Wheelmen.

What is wrong in this picture?


Steve A said...

Round my parts, most our bike lanes are dual purpose (motorists are allowed when no cyclist is in the bike lane) and about 12 feet wide. I occasionally see motorists turning right without merging into the bike lane first, and it is clearly unwise for them to do it. Unlike with the stingy bike lanes in places like New Mexico, avoiding the motorist is a simple matter of a minor speed or course change. I guess things are just bigger in Texas.

Albert said...

So the major problem I see with this situation is where the cyclist is continuing north through the intersection and the car passes and pulls over into the bike lane in front of the cyclist ( I know, this never happens) and then stops for a pedestrian in the sidewalk. This forces the cyclist to slam on their brakes to avoid running into the car.

Khal said...

Yep. Call it the "right hook", i.e., the motorist turns without giving ROW to a cyclist who is already there. If you are lucky, you can brake or take an instant turn. If you are less lucky, you can end up like Brett Jarolimek: dead.

Jerry M. said...

Seems there are many possibilities for disaster at this intersection. I have talked with several experienced LA cyclists this weekend that were oblivious to this problem. Guess they don't read this blog? It seems to me some re-painting is in everyone's best interest here to allow cars and cyclists to use this lane. Maybe a dashed bike lane next to he straight through lane and re-instate the right turn car lane.

An issue with avoiding right hooks is the fact that many drivers are too lazy to use their turn signals. Best avoidance technique (IMO) is to judge speed and the car's position in relation to your passage through the intersection.