Monday, August 3, 2009

Stone Walls and Lanes to Nowhere: The Barriers at Bush Park

At Breakfast on Bikes this past Friday, located at Mission and Winter, we saw a city crew striping and marking lanes. Another group had already painted some markings earlier, and this crew was applying "durable" material, a plastic that adheres and conforms after its been heated with a blowtorch.

I came back later after they were done. This is what the approach on Winter street looks like going south. The sign warns motorists to yield to bicyclists, and the striping guides bicyclists from the right hand side of the road to a center position between two lanes.

The two auto lanes are for right-turns and for left-turns. Winter here dead ends into Bush Park at Mission.

But what about bicyclists? The arrow directs them south, straight-ahead.

As you approach the cross-walk to stop, the turn lanes offer clear direction, but the bike lane does not. The bike lane directs a bicyclist right into a curb. The curb cut is aligned not with the bike lane, but with the cross-walk.

Here's the view from the other direction. The curb cut in line with the cross-walk is clear.

What's a bicyclist to do?

If you are making a right-hand turn onto Mission going west, the bike lane is unhelpful. You must stay in the auto lane, either to take the lane or to stay right.

If you are going south, straight into Bush Park, the bike lane is good and bad. On the one hand, the bike lane protects you from a right hook. This is good. On the other hand, the bike lane makes for a crooked move through the intersection and a more oblique angle into the curb cut to enter the park. Once you get onto the sidewalk, you have to execute an immediate 90 degree turn in a confined space, a space you might be sharing with pedestrians. It may be necessary to dismount and walk the bike.

If you are making a left-hand turn onto Mission going east, the bike lane is most useful. Then it positions you to the right of similarly turning autos, keeps you on the outside of the turn, and positions you to take the lane on Mission or move to the right.

So in one case the lane is useless, in one case it is only partially useful, and only in the third case is it unambiguously useful - call it 50% effective? For the main movement through the intersection, straight north or south, the combination of right-angles, mis-aligned curb cuts, and dead-end bike lane makes for confusion and difficulty. It is not a helpful guide to someone who doesn't already have a plan. This intersection is a barrier and needs to be re-engineered.

Church Street going south offers a similar conundrum.

Here there is no bike lane splitting the two turn lanes.

Once you reach the intersection, a low stone wall meets you, a barrier to continuing south through Bush Park.

On the east side, left when you're going south, there is a pedestrian median and cross-walk. Bicyclists who dismount may get traffic to stop for pedestrians, and bicyclists turning left may enter the curb cut awkwardly from the road. But like the curb and cut on winter, the sidewalk is narrow, and a bicyclist must execute a quick turn.

This is the stonework circa 1900. Today's cross-walk is aligned with the larger gate opening, but the narrow paved path up to Bush House remains in the same location. From the larger gate opening runs a flat spot in the grassy hill, and you can still see the old road bed.

(Image: Bush House from the Salem Public Library, Oregon Historic Photograph Collections.)

For bicyclists on Church who wish to continue south through Bush Park, the entry is difficult and mis-aligned. Here, the stone wall is a literal barrier.

Because Commercial/Liberty and 12th/13th couplets are very busy, and even High street is too busy (even though it's signed for "local traffic only," some call it the "High street by-pass") for many bicyclists, Bush Park is an important N-S connection for bicyclists. The edge conditions on Mission street make for problematic connections to Winter and Church streets. Bush Park is a bit of a black hole for bicyclists, and in a second post, we'll look at its west, south, and east edges.

1 comment:

Stephanie Matlock Allen said...

I love these bike-lane-analysis posts you've been doing. Keep up the good work!