Friday, December 10, 2010

Trapped in the Bike Lane: Right Turns and Dead Ends on the Parkway

The other day two of us were riding north to Keizer Station for a meeting, and though we were bicycling separately, we both had to cross the Parkway.

The Parkway has no good crossings for people traveling by bicycle. Intersections are purposefully spaced far apart, the intersecting roads are all busy, and in order to facilitate right-hand turns towards I-5 all the intersecting roads have right-turn-only lanes that trap bicyclists.

In her October 11, 2009 Statesman LTE, Jackie Lefevre wrote about one of these intersections, Cherry at the Parkway:
As I stopped my bicycle at a red light on Cherry Street in the lane to the left of a "right turn only" lane so that I could continue straight, a women came up alongside me, rolled down her window and admonished me for not being in the bike lane.

The woman obviously holds a misconception about bicyclists' use of bike lanes.

There are a number of exceptions to the requirement that cyclists stay in the bike lane listed in ORS 814.420, including one allowing a bicyclist to leave the bike lane when continuing straight at an intersection where the bike lane is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right.
Not only did she have to navigate the tricky merge left from the bike lane, she has to endure the sometimes aggressive complaints from auto drivers.

Every intersection on the Parkway going north offers this problem to people who bike!

Here's Broadway at the Parkway after it was paved, but before the striping was applied.

In many ways it is the best candidate for a bike lane or other pavement markings for people who bike. Broadway has somewhat lower auto traffic volumes than Liberty or Cherry, and it connects to the increasingly human scaled neighborhood just north of downtown. Why it was not striped appropriately is a mystery.

Liberty at the Parkway is the most problematic of the three. It has not just one turn-only, but it has dual turn lanes. The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway signing is nice and all, but it is positioned ambiguously and suggests a person on bike might need to remain in the bike lane.

In every way the Parkway crossings are set up for people in autos to make right turns; conversely, in nearly every way, the crossings are made difficult for people on bikes.

The Parkway is a major barrier.

Back to our ride to the meeting, the topper, more ironically amusing than actually perilous like the Parkway, was the incorrectly installed bike rack at Starbucks.

One half of it was positioned without enough clearance in front of a pillar.

1 comment:

Daniel Evans said...

Thanks for covering this. These Parkway crossings going north are AWFUL. As you know, I just covered this in a recent post also. I have to use the darn Liberty crossing regularly (3 times a week at least) and as you point out it actually has two right turn lanes that tend to trap the bicyclist to the right in the bike lane.

A further complication is added here by the way the signal is set. The right turn only lane on Liberty still has the green signal arrow while traffic continuing straight on Liberty has the red. This causes the traffic heading north on Liberty for a right onto the parkway to bomb along really fast, making it even more difficult to get to the left to go straight, and not get trapped in the bike lane. After I do catch a break and make it over to the second lane I am usually first in line at the red light. It always makes me uncomfortable to have traffic (including lots of trucks) whizzing by my right onto the Parkway while I have to wait to their left on Liberty (sometimes for a long time).

I also have been honked at, yelled at etc. by motorists at this intersection who want to turn right onto the Parkway from the second lane. They seem not to realize that they would have to wait if it was a car in front of them too. But because it's a bike (and the timing of the light is interminably long) they often get impatient.

One more nasty thing about this crossing. The way the light is timed you have to go like hell, if you have managed to get in the left (straight) lane early enough, to make the light. Also, after waiting at a red (forever), the light is so quickly timed that the cars behind you get a very quick yellow and want to come charging up your ass to make the light. GEEZ!

LOVE the Starbucks bike rack btw:-)