What does it mean to show a photograph of a poorly-designed bicycle lane?
Recent chatter from the lane-painting wing of bicycle-advocacy-land has taken the publishing of such images to task for the oft-imagined sin of over-generalizing about all bicycle infrastructure. For a good example of this, just read my post from yesterday.
Let’s re-visit a photo that I have published before — taken in Springfield by local bicyclist Jim Phillips and originally published on the Bicycle Friendly Springfield group on Facebook — to learn the excellent reasons I have for publishing such pictures.
This is a gutter lane. There might be a more technical term for it, but, basically, I’m using that term to indicate a bicycle lane in which the gutter pan is counted as part of the lane. You can watch the video I posted yesterday to see the measurements (note: the lane symbols had not yet been painted when I made the video).
This is a bad design. It is a dangerous design. The street in question has a less-than-sharable width of 13 feet. The bicycle lane is 4 feet wide with the gutter pan making up fully half of the width. The pan and street surface are angled differently. The seam runs down the middle of the lane. Those who teach, and have taken, bicycle education courses such as those offered by CyclingSavvy (CS) and the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) know that seams are a potential crash hazard.
Now this lane was painted less than a year ago. How did this get approved? With all we know about facilities design, how did this happen?
Let me tell you how (among other reasons/rationalizations), and it has to do with why I show photographs of poorly-designed bicycle lanes.
That lane you see in the picture is not a generalization. It is real. It exists. It is dangerous. But in some bicycle advocacy circles, it’s OK that it is dangerous because the purpose of it isn’t to facilitate safe movement in traffic. The purpose is to attract more people to bicycling and win bicycle-friendly community awards.
But even worse than that, this lane and other dangerous lanes that I have photographed (including newly-painted door-zone lanes) will be counted among Springfield’s achievements in the next Bicycle Friendly Community application to the LAB. If Springfield keeps its bronze-level status or moves up a level, lanes such as the one shown above will be cited as improvements.
In a sane world, the LAB would take one look at that (and other gutter lanes and door-zone lanes in Springfield) and tell us we lose our current status and don’t bother applying again until we correct the errors. In a sane world, that lane would never have been approved and painted. In a sane world, that lane would have been ripped up shortly after its errors were pointed out by the majority of commenters on Facebook when the picture was first published. But the LAB is now one of the primary lane-painting advocacy organizations in America. That lane you see right there in that picture will be praised and counted in our favor.
So what will happen next? Assuming we continue as a Bicycle Friendly Community, you can expect to see more such lanes painted.
And that is why I show photographs of poorly-designed bicycle lanes. If we don’t speak up, we will get more and more of this. The day will come when some politician decides there needs to be a required-use law because, well, we spent all that damned money on those damned bicyclists so they damned well better use the lanes and stay out of the way of motorists.
That is what’s coming.
It will suck.