Dude, Where’s My Bike Lane?


Here is another clever video from San Francisco; this one chronicles the case of the missing bike lane. I think it is safe to say that gas stations and bike lanes don’t mix.

  • mike

    This is something of a problem on the 2nd Ave and Hudson St lanes. Based on my understanding of the law, motorists should be waiting in the lane next to the bike lane.

  • steve

    Illegal in NYC. That’s why bike lanes are dashed at intersections and bus stops–the striping indicates that motor vehicles can pass through the lanes when safe to do so. You are also allowed to pass through a solid-striped bike lane when in process of accessing or leaving a parking spot between bike lane and sidewalk, or if neccessary to due to a pinch-point in the roadway (again, only when doing so does not interfere with bike traffic in the bike lane). Otherwise, no dashed line, no thru-traffic in the bike lane. 34 RCNY § 4-12.

  • There’s a danger in pairing technical wizardry with faulty reasoning.

    While the macro “too many cars” problem is well communicated by the video, it’s only fair to note that the motorists portrayed therein are acting in accordance with California state law and normally accepted driving practices. CA law (rightfully) requires motorists to merge into the bike lane before turning. Do we bicyclists really want to pass to the left of left-turning vehicles or to the right of right-turning vehicles? I think not.

    The bicyclists portrayed in the video seemed to handle the situation quite well; they temporarily merged into traffic and moved back to the bike lane when able.

    It’s not really that big of a deal.

    Maybe the video’s implicit argument is for separated bike lanes.

  • Like Steve and Chris, I also don’t see the big deal. Motorists are *supposed* to merge into the bike lane for right turns. I as a cyclist *want* them there. The other option suggested by mike — that motorists should stand in the “car” lane adjacent to the bike lane — is dangerous for cyclists.

    The cyclists in the video are merging into traffic passing to the left of the right-turning traffic, just like they’re supposed to. This is safe and reasonable.

  • MrManhattan

    Just like NYC, a bike lane is only a bike lane until a car wants to be there.

    Since the cops are overwhelmingly suburban car drivers, they don’t see it as a problem.

  • steve

    Actually, Fritz, I would rather cars not merge into the bike lane before turning, although it is not a big deal to me compared to, for example, standing or parking in the bike lane.

    I like the video but it is the atypical circumstance–cars waiting for other cars to leave a gas station so they can enter it, mid-block. The typical situation (at least in NYC) is a car is waiting for a red light to turn green before making a left or right turn. In that scenario, everyone knows when the waiting car will turn–when the light changes–unlike the gas station scenario. Given that predictability, you can slip past the waiting car safely in the bike lane while the light is still red, and position yourself to enter the intersection first.

    And even when the light is green and the turning cars are waiting for pedestrians to clear the crosswalk before turning, there is some predictability as to when they will actually turn. I like the turning cars to keep out of the bike lane in this scenario, too, so I have the option of crossing the intersection within the bike lane trajectory in the intersection or merging into the next available lane.

    Bear in mind that I tend to use bike lanes only when I am with my kids or carrying something big. When I’m on my own, I generally prefer to ride in a traffic lane, and pass right-turning traffic on the left, and left-turning traffic on the right, like you say.

  • bicyclebelle

    Chris + Fritz,

    It seems to me that a bike lane should be treated like any other traffic lane. When a car wants to turn left on a 2-way road, they don’t pull into the oncoming traffic lane and sit there until the crosswalk is clear. They wait in their own lane. I think those cars should also be waiting in their own lane until the route is clear and they can pass completely through.

    When a turning car does this for me in NYC, it doesn’t make me feel like I’m in danger. It makes me want to get off my bike and hug the driver.

  • ddartley

    This is why bike lanes should be somewhere in the MIDDLE of a road, if it’s a multi-lane thoroughfare, like the one in the video (or, say, a wide NYC Avenue).

    As far as physical separation of bike lanes–in NYC, with its millions of pedestrians (bless them), I don’t see physically separated bike lanes being respected by pedestrians. You’d need lots more cyclists first, ready to use them, or else peds will overrun them. Just look at the physically separated bike lane on Broadway in Herald Square. It’s very well designed, as far as physically separated lanes go, and yet most cyclists there just avoid it: peds are constantly in it, so even if you tried really hard to ride in it properly, to avoid peds, you’d have to weave in and out of its plastic bollards–which, by the prevailing wisdom, are very well placed–yet in reality they make that lane hard to tolerate!

    So again, if we want physically separated lanes, we need more cyclists FIRST, and before that can happen, we need safe indoor parking!!!

    (Yes, most of my bike-lane thinking is Manhattan-centric. Maybe my thoughts don’t apply so well to the other boroughs.)


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