Thursday, December 7, 2017

SAIF Work Brings new Bike Lane on Church Street

I haven't been following the project at SAIF very closely, so it was a surprise to discover that the work included - or coincided with - an additional segment of new bike lane on Church Street between the bridge on Pringle Creek and Trade Street.

Start of a new segment of standard, door-zone bike lane
On the one hand it's great to see this as a partial connection and continuation to the buffered bike lane north of Trade Street.

But it reads a little like a perfunctory treatment consisting of a vintage 1980s standard bike lane. The designers may not have given enough thought to how it logically connects with Church Street on the south and north. So much more could have been done!

It starts, pretty much ex nihilo, just north of the bridge at the pump station on the corner of Bellevue.

There is curbside parking and it's pretty tight. If drivers don't hug the curb, they really encroach on the bike lane.

Encroaching on the bike lane
The center medians look like they are enlarged, and there's a new crosswalk.

A new crosswalk with refuge median
At the north end, the bike lane terminates well before the intersection. There is a lot going on at the termination, in fact: A bus stop, a lane split with a new right-turn only lane, and a south-bound left-turn pocket with cross-traffic into the Robert Lindsay Tower of the Salem Housing Authority.

The end of the bike lane at a bus stop and start of right-turn lane;
people on bike have to merge left (see the yellow sign)
As I read it, things got a lot more dicey and complicated. I don't like this solution at all. It's no solution.

I have always taken the lane on Church Street, and insisting on the lane protects me when I want to go straight and others might want to use the right-turn only lane. Taking the lane means I mostly just have to look for the south-bound left turn into the Tower lot. It lets me eliminate car movements that might threaten me. Sure you have cars running up on your rear, but there are fewer side or turning movements to consider.

The new configuration means I have to merge left in order to proceed through the intersection to continue with the buffered bike lane north of Trade. The merge left makes for additional car movements to monitor: cars going straight north, cars turning right onto Trade, in addition to the south-bound left turn into the Tower lot. Plus buses if present. It requires a lot more vigilance, even a paranoia. Where is a car going to whip by or whip into me?

This fails to meet a family-friendly standard and does not represent much improvement, if any, over just taking the lane.

On paper, on a map, it looks like there's now a bike lane through the intersection. But the maneuver is such that there is actually a gap there. It's a barrier.

And let's go back to those medians.

Church Street here has only two auto through lanes, one north-bound, one south-bound, and there's not a continuous center turn pocket. So the space those medians occupy is basically wasted. I guess the refuge area in the crosswalk is nice, but Church Street here doesn't have that much traffic. The most recent traffic count was for 2200 car trips a day. The recommended upper limit for a bike boulevard is 1500, with exceptions up to 2000. So this is close to a low-traffic street, and it's hard to think that crossing it on foot is actually very difficult.

I think that the space occupied by the medians might instead more usefully have been allocated to a more thoughtful and comfortable kind of bike lane, and one that has a better approach to the intersection at Trade Street. There was lots of room here for creativity.

So there was potential here, and the designers weren't very imaginative. The solution was very much "off the shelf," not at all customized.

The new bike lane isn't bad per se, but it's a missed opportunity for a better Church Street. It really could have been better.

(And of course there's still the segment on the bridge itself down to Mission Street and the link to Bush Park and High Street.)

1 comment:

Drew said...

This is how I feel on Edgewater street. The bike lane isn't bad, but when there are a lot of cars parked on the street, I take the lane.

When I'm riding with my kids, we take second street. This works until Patterson and then we ride on the sidewalk.