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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Now This Is A Bike Path

Posted by on Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 12:53 PM

Christopher pointed out yesterday that a few fading "sharrows" on the pavement makes for a pretty lousy bike path.


I agree with Christopher: that's not really much of a bike path. Sharrows are better than nothing, but not by much. They do let drivers know that the city, at least, expects them to share the road; they also remind drivers that cyclists may be present even if there aren't any around at the moment. But they don't really do that much to make biking safer for cyclists. Now check out this bike path in New York City...


Instead of putting bikes—and sharrows—in the road between parked cars and moving cars, a dedicated bike path has been created by moving parked cars away from the curb. The line of parked cars forms a barrier between cyclists and drivers; it also makes the sidewalk feel more open. And note that there's space left—clearly marked space—between the bike path and the passenger side of the parked cars in order to prevent cyclists being "doored" by people exiting cars on the passenger side (and to prevent passengers being "biked").

Now that's a bike path.


Comments (44) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
We have right lane bicycle lanes in Baltimore in a few places and I've leaned the hard way not to use them. Drivers see you even less and make right turns right on top of you. A line of parked cars is going to make that even worse. The only safe bike lane is the regular travel lane.
Posted by Baltimoron on June 10, 2009 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 2
One day it'll be safe to bike home via day...
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on June 10, 2009 at 12:52 PM · Report this
Nice. Personally, I drive and bike, and think there's good reason to do both. IF we ever get good public transit to go anywhere we want anytime we want, cars might become obsolete, but not before then.

Still, mixed mode thoroughfares don't work well. I don't like cars when I'm on a bike, and I don't like bikes when I'm in a car. This is a fine solution, that only costs a couple of feet of street width.
Posted by Anonymous and Proud! on June 10, 2009 at 12:54 PM · Report this
heywhatsit!? 4
Whoopdee fucking doo.
Posted by heywhatsit!? on June 10, 2009 at 1:00 PM · Report this
So after countless posts we finally have one that presents an idea that actually looks like it makes some sense. Not blatant douchebaggery, not whining, but an actual suggestion for a way to make it easier for both bikes and cars.

Well done good sir.
Posted by giffy on June 10, 2009 at 1:01 PM · Report this
exactly. seattle's failed bicycle policy of bike lanes in door zones and sharrows where they never ever should have been placed (on 45th through the u-district? on the six lane highway which is called 15th ave w out to ballard?) needs to be critiqued, re-imagined, then re-done.

where are the city planners, the bicycle advocacy orgs, the creators of the bicycle master plan? asleep at the handlebars it seems.
Posted by bike separatist on June 10, 2009 at 1:03 PM · Report this
@1: What you're saying makes some sense, but we could limit parking before turns (at least to vehicles over a certain height, like SUVs). Driver education and licensing tests need to include this stuff too, though. I'm not optimistic that driver/biker education is enough to overcome mixed mode lanes, but it seems like it could work well in combination with this.

Also, I'm sure someone will disagree, but I'd hazard that Seattle drivers change lanes a bit slower than Baltimore drivers. :P
Posted by Anonymous and Proud! on June 10, 2009 at 1:04 PM · Report this
Sir Learnsalot 8
Bike path's are a fool's errand. It's best to have bike boulevards like Portland or Berkeley. They are roads which run parallel to main arterials. They are much much safer. Obviously we have some roads which must have paths on them. Eastlake is a fine example. Fucking geography.
Posted by Sir Learnsalot on June 10, 2009 at 1:14 PM · Report this
Now THIS is a constructive post on biking policies. Chris, take note!
Posted by jinushaun on June 10, 2009 at 1:18 PM · Report this

I spent my childhood bicycling around Queens and Long Island.

The best bicycle paths are those no where near cars.

Unlike the Puget Sound, the streets are in a grid system, so you don't have to ride on an artery, just take a sleepy side street.

Then, you hook up to a bike path like the fantastic one's that run from Flushing Meadows (Unisphere, World's Fair) and go east via the green belts through miles of interconnected parks.

Cars and bikes don't mix. Building a better "bike lane" is just a way to cause more people to put themselves in harms way.
Posted by WWAGD? on June 10, 2009 at 1:21 PM · Report this
w7ngman 11
And as you can see in the first picture, there's TOTALLY enough room to implement this.
Posted by w7ngman on June 10, 2009 at 1:26 PM · Report this
Um, sure, it looks nice, I guess...

Motorists are still at risk of being "biked" because they have to get from the parked car to the sidewalk (and vice-versa) somehow.

The green paint is likely to make it more slippery in the rain.

How are bicycles supposed to turn left on this road? How are motorists supposed to turn right? Is either action going to be safe?

Obviously the bike lane is going to get blocked by motor vehicles, either doing a reverse-double-park or trucks making deliveries or the like. When this happens, what do bikes do? Go up on the sidewalk? Weave between parked cars into the main lane?

Most importantly, are there any actual studies that show making bike paths like this improves safety for anybody? Or is this just a case of people appointing themselves experts on traffic design?
Posted by Nobody Really on June 10, 2009 at 1:35 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 13
If you just removed parking entirely and reserved it along arterials for bus, taxi, and HOV use, then we wouldn't need a dedicated bike lane.
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 10, 2009 at 1:39 PM · Report this
elenchos 14
This has my support. The more segregated, the better. This shit is a hoot, but can we be serious?
Posted by elenchos on June 10, 2009 at 1:40 PM · Report this
Greg 15
It would be fairly easy to restripe arterials like Beacon Ave S to do this.
Posted by Greg on June 10, 2009 at 1:43 PM · Report this
How would one safely make a left hand turn from this lane?
Posted by scott on June 10, 2009 at 1:56 PM · Report this
You turn left from a cycle track by making a "Copenhagen left" -- you go straight across and then turn left from the corner. Yes, sometimes you have to wait for the next light. Google it and you'll see some videos.

The only way to get cycling numbers up is to make it safe enough and feel safe enough for regular people to bike. Holland and Denmark have lots of segregated biking facilitates. That's what people need. Lecturing them about sucking it up, getting macho, and riding in traffic isn't going to work.

There's a great bike blog written by an English guy who lives in the Netherlands. Here's his posts tagged "safety." You'll see lots of segregated biking:…
Posted by chrismealy on June 10, 2009 at 2:00 PM · Report this
Let's try that link again:…
Posted by chrismealy on June 10, 2009 at 2:02 PM · Report this
memorex 19
We could really use some rethinking about our bicycle traffic down here in San Diego. The weather is bike friendly almost every day of the year, but the roads aren't. We need more and better bike lanes in a lot of places around the city.
Posted by memorex on June 10, 2009 at 2:20 PM · Report this
yeah, that's a bike path.


except the bikers don't use them.

now NYC and Bloomberg in all his genius are replacing the distance between the bike path and the parked cars (the white striped section in the pic) with concrete sidewalk-type barriers.

and the bikers STILL aren't using the bike paths.

so fuck 'em.
Posted by dev on June 10, 2009 at 2:20 PM · Report this
Cracker Jack 21
@12: Actually, I've yet to see those lanes blocked anywhere here in NYC and yes double parking is RAMPANT.

The turning issue is a little tricky -- on Broadway, they reduce the size of the bike lane a bit and send it to the inside (left) of right hand turning cars near the corner of the alternate streets (for those who don't know in NYC just about every other street is one-way in opposite directions so this only affects half the intersections). I'm not sure where this pictured lane is (lower 9th Ave?). A left turn means a) merging through traffic (messenger style) or b) waiting for the light and crossing with the cross traffic (sane person style).

As to being biked, you just have to look both ways -- there's not a constant stream of bikes here yet. Lastly, the green paint doesn't seem any more slippery than regular asphalt, but honestly, I haven't ridden it, so I can't speak to it from a rider's perspective.
Posted by Cracker Jack on June 10, 2009 at 2:23 PM · Report this
Tingleyfeeln 22
Really, 21 posters before me have failed to notice on infrastructural difference between the streets in the 2 pictures? Look again! The one with Sharrows is a 2 way street, the one with a bike lane is a one way street, which of course has room to play with to create a car door free bike lane.

I agree that education about keeping an eye out for cyclists should be a part of all traffic education. At 36, though, I wouldn't know what they are teaching the kiddies in traffic ed, or what is part of the drivers tests in the state, having had my license for nearly 20 years.

Any insight from the youngins and other new drivers?
Posted by Tingleyfeeln on June 10, 2009 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Yes that'a a great bike path. now why not get a map and show us every arterial in Seattle that's currently 6 lanes wide so you can have a car lane, a parked car lane and a bike lane each way.

Are there many?
Posted by PC on June 10, 2009 at 2:46 PM · Report this
Segregated bike lanes: BOO! You're stuck in this little tiny lane that gets invariably taken over by garbage trucks, taxis, idiot bike salmons, scooters, clueless peds and God knows what else. Give me a whole lane with a nice shoulder to share with cars. That way I can pass and get around obstacles.

I do like bicycle boulevards though. Motor vehicles still share the space with bicycles, but it is expected that bicycles rule there. My limited experience with those in Vancouver was nothing but positive.
Posted by Lilting Missive on June 10, 2009 at 2:51 PM · Report this
Doesn't really count as a fully separated path, as there's no difference in grade- but it will add to the perceived sense of safety. In reality, it's not going to happen everywhere in Seattle at least for a couple decades. If you want to get to places on arterial streets, you'll have to learn to ride on them.
Posted by kurisu on June 10, 2009 at 3:00 PM · Report this
Eric F 26
@11, @22, you're assuming the street depicted at top needs parking on both sides. It doesn't--what a waste of roadway! The NY street depicted at bottom has but a single line of parked cars.
The Dutch streets and German streets I've ridden with dedicated bike lanes use both the roadway and the sidewalk to carve out bike space. The cities also don't have much car parking on arterials. All this involves some creative thinking, and it requires us to not take the status quo for an eternal fact.
Posted by Eric F on June 10, 2009 at 3:03 PM · Report this
oh, THAT 27
The Federal gov has done a lot of research on bike path safety. Here's just one study...…
Posted by oh, THAT on June 10, 2009 at 3:10 PM · Report this
jvm 28
Lest y'all get too embarassed, most NYC biking paths lick donkey nuts, just like the Seattle ones. I don't understand... they draw paths on the driving side of the street which theoretically takes up the same amount of space as putting them on the sidewalk side of the parked cars where they are actually respected, why would you ever not do that?

Montreal did a pretty good job making almost all their biking paths look like that one pictured above. Their mayor is actually impressively dedicated to the 3 right-of-way model. And, @20, people actually use them in Montreal, as I'm sure they would in Seattle. I think it's just a little too terrifying to bike in NY at all (especially considering you usually have excellent alternatives).

They have the ass-kickingest public bike system in north america too! (I dunno if you guys have slogged about it)…
Posted by jvm on June 10, 2009 at 3:16 PM · Report this
a-friggin-men, Dan.

just to show that human creativity isn't totally lost. and that things we see done in the way of a solution can usually be done better.
Posted by happyhedonist on June 10, 2009 at 3:19 PM · Report this
emor 30
okay. i am a dedicated bicyclist, riding five hundred miles a month at least, in town and in the country. my take on those segregated bike lanes? bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

in order to operate a bicycle safely, quickly, and efficiently, the way you do when you are skilled and using the bicycle to get places on time, you need room. You need space to dodge the myriad threats and hazards that are ubiquitous on the average city street.

this is why you see fast moving bicycles cruising in the middle of the lane: some call it the "buffer zone." with a segregated lane, there is nowhere to go if danger strikes, and the danger in that lane, of course, is pedestrians wandering obliviously into your path (not trying to point fingers, but really, peds, LOOK before you walk into traffic more often).

So of course, the only safe thing to do is to slow waaaay down. Which is not necessarily bad, unless you are actually using your bikes to get places more than a few blocks away.

this is why i personally believe SHARROWS are the best, as they have all the advantages of bike lanes. They are usually placed on streets with an extra wide curb lane, which is basically another way of saying a street has a bike lane. They also (theoretically) raise the awareness of the average motorist of the possible prescence of bicycles in the lane. They leave out most of the problems of the bicycle lanes, as well: there's no expectation for bicycles to stay glued into the door zone, which is typically the most dangerous place to be at any given moment. They also don't let drivers assume the "Why is that fucker not in the bike lane? Fuck him" attitude.

Plus, segregated bike lanes would only work on a handful of streets in Seattle. Sharrows are much better. Of course, I see hilariously, disastrously placed sharrows all over Seattle. Conclusion: Paint on the street does not make us safer. Our brains, and how we use them to navigate the streets is what keeps us alive.

All that said, segregated bike lanes are perfect for inexperienced cyclists, who usually are not skilled, assertive, or fit enough to ride a bicycle in the manner I suggest as safest.

You are on of the reasons people fight the addition bike lanes. Just because they're there does not mean we have to use them. Frequently debris and other things make a bike lane too dangerous to use.
Posted by emor on June 10, 2009 at 3:25 PM · Report this
Abel Kitchen 31…
Posted by Abel Kitchen on June 10, 2009 at 4:19 PM · Report this
Tingleyfeeln 32
@ 26, actually, since the road in the top picture doesn't look like a main arterial-in fact, judging from the apartments lining the street-I'd say that that is a road where parking on both sides (which run in opposite directions) is at worst acceptable. This, being a side street, not a major arterial, would be the kind of street where sharrows would be acceptable.

@30 great post. Using your brain on the road, whether you are biking, walking, or driving, is far more important than any of these government expenditures. Want to avoid getting doored? Try looking in the side view mirrors of the cars in front, usually you can tell if someone is sitting in the drivers seat, you might even be able to tell if they are about to get out of the car and if they are checking the mirror first. This has saved me more than once. The only time I have been doored I was drunk, riding a borrowed bike that did not have a lamp on it, and it was 10 at night in Roosevelt. Also, show some courtesy to drivers when biking. I absolutely hate cyclists who ride side by side during rush hour, causing one to be in the right of way for cars section of the road. If there is a bike lane, stay in the fucking bike lane unless it is necessary to dodge a pothole or opening door, make a turn, or get a better look at how the seatbelt is accentuating the curves of that chick who just passed you in the VW.
Posted by Tingleyfeeln on June 10, 2009 at 4:23 PM · Report this
Now that is a fucking bike lane.
Posted by Bean on June 10, 2009 at 4:35 PM · Report this
Sadly, the City of Seattle's official Bicycle Master Plan specifically rejects physically separated lanes (like the one pictured in Dan's post), for the reasons stated below (from Bicycle Master Plan Appendix E, page 95 at…).

Motor vehicles entering the arterial roadway from a side street
must cross through bicycle traffic to view arterial roadway traffic around the parked cars. This takes driver attention away from bicyclists and blocks bicyclists.
• Drivers of motor vehicles crossing or turning from or to the road with bicycle lanes are primarily focused on motor vehicle traffic on the roadway. Bicyclists in the bike lanes are not in their primary line of sight.
• To make a left turn, bicyclists must merge into the travel lanes from behind a line of parked cars, creating a situation with poor sight lines between motorists and bicyclists. If parking is fully-utilized, this may not even be possible.
• Motor vehicle passengers are not accustomed to looking for bicyclists when they open their doors on the right side of the vehicle.
• If the facility is a two-way bicycle pathway, bicyclists are encouraged to ride in the opposite direction of adjacent motor vehicle traffic, making them vulnerable to motor vehicle drivers who only look to their left when turning right from a side street.
• Roadway space is not used efficiently. Roadways with on-street parking require some space for car doors to open safely. When one line of cars is moved away from the curb to make room for the bicycle facility, several feet of shy distance (e.g., lateral space) are needed on both sides of that line of parked cars, rather than just on the drivers’ side. Overall, more roadway space is needed for car doors to open, so less space can be used for other purposes.

These are fair points, but these concerns seem manageable, and they don't seem to override the benefits of physically separated bike lanes.

Dan, when you do endorsement interviews, please ask City Council and mayoral candidates about this.
Posted by Friends of Seattle on June 10, 2009 at 4:38 PM · Report this


Posted by HURRRRRRRRRK on June 10, 2009 at 4:38 PM · Report this
The guy who rides five hundred miles a month illustrates the problem. If that's how cycling is going to be, riding in the "danger zone", constantly vigilant, stress hormones pumping, you're never going to get more than 1% of people cycling.

If you want cycling for everyone, look at places where absolutely everyone cycles (including seven-year-old kids, grandmothers, even disabled folks): Holland and Copenhagen. What do they have? Lots of segregated cycling. You've got to think about of the cyclists of the future and not the daredevils of today.

BTW, here's an example of a Dutch cycle path/local access road. Cars are allowed, but bikes take priority:…
Posted by chrismealy on June 10, 2009 at 4:57 PM · Report this
Here's a great slideshow about cycle tracks (that's the term for full-on bike lanes):…

(It's a PDF)

Page 32 illustrates the Copenhagen left.
Posted by chrismealy on June 10, 2009 at 5:02 PM · Report this
Tingleyfeeln 38
@36 Holland and Copenhagen are also about as flat as flat gets. I just think anyone proposing these solutions should think about that before making these comparisons. What are some hilly cities with a climate similar to ours that have a high % of cyclists? By the way, the daredevil cyclists are paving the way for the next generation as much as any law abiding safety-concious stayin in the bike lanes type. I see more cyclists every year, and I call them the next generation for a reason, most of the new cyclists seem to be in their early 20's. They're catching on, and as more do we might start to see real progress, but with the economic issues we need to be willing to compromise in some streets, not rely on a one size fits all aproach. Dexter-good place for bike lanes, 15th west (the road to and from Ballard) we should probably encourage cyclists to use the trail instead. Fremont ave, Sharrows are probably best.
Posted by Tingleyfeeln on June 10, 2009 at 5:20 PM · Report this
lizzie 39
I'm pretty sure jailing car commuters for domestic terrorism would solve this problem. As long as you accept car commuters' antisocial and deadly behavior as normal, what can really change?
Posted by lizzie on June 10, 2009 at 5:53 PM · Report this
This is a neat idea, Dan. As others have mentioned, though, it's currently only an idea that's feasible on one way streets. You also have to slice street parking in half on a given street and create a wonky arrangement where the two driving lanes are crammed on one side of the street and the leftover parking lane plus the bike lane are on the other.

Then the motorists start screaming about losing their precious street parking and ohhhhh man. Still, it's something you could do at least Downtown and on wider thoroughfares like Dexter where there's enough space to keep everything and put down the curbside bike path.
Posted by Gomez on June 10, 2009 at 7:16 PM · Report this
Yeah, but, is it safer than 99? THAT was the stoopid question.

When Seattle has the density and transportation infrastructure of New York we'll have pretty biking lanes too. Just wait and see.
Posted by BLUE on June 10, 2009 at 8:18 PM · Report this
More pictures of real-life cycle tracks (and lots of big two-way streets):… [pdf]

I know it's natural to fear change, but really, there are places where 30-40% trips are by bike instead of Seattle's 2%, and those places have lots of cycle tracks. It's not some hippie fantasy. It's been done already. We just have to copy it.
Posted by chrismealy on June 11, 2009 at 12:09 AM · Report this
Assholes who ride bikes in cities deserve to get run down. They don't obey the law, they cork intersections, they risk other's needlessly with a ridiculous sense of 'entitlement' because they're being 'envirokosher'.

Fuck 'em. Run them all down and leave their corpses for the crows.
Posted by DRIVER on June 11, 2009 at 10:16 AM · Report this
There are a lot of cyclists in NYC Dan, but it's not always safe. Have you read about this?…
Posted by Zach on June 11, 2009 at 11:57 AM · Report this

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