Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cars allowed in bike lanes, lanes identified as advisory

After reading this over a number of times I have some opinions (surprise) on the subject.
I would appreciate some comments though to get your opinions as well.

Turns from bike lane legal
Benjamin Lanka | The Journal Gazette
FORT WAYNE – An increase of bicycle use in Fort Wayne means drivers and cyclists alike must be more alert when on the streets.
Q. Can we remind people at the corner of East Wayne and Clinton streets the right hand lane is designated as a bike lane only? We have attempted to turn right from the correct lane and see a driver trying to turn right ahead of us using the bike lane. – Sandra Barleben, Fort Wayne
A. Hopefully, we can do a bit of teaching, Sandra, and the answer may surprise you and many other city drivers. It is actually OK to use the bike lane, if just for a short moment.
Shan Gunawardena, city traffic engineer, said with more bike lanes being installed in the city, it is important for both drivers and cyclists to know how to use them.
Drivers wanting to turn right from a road with bike lanes and no right-turn-only lane should line up behind each other and use signals to make their intentions known.
Gunawardena said a good way to alleviate the potential for conflict with cyclists and other drivers is to line up as close to the right curb as possible, even if that means crossing into the bike lane while waiting to turn. This may seem counterintuitive to drive on the bike lane, but he can explain his reasoning.
Marty Bender, deputy Fort Wayne police chief, agreed with Gunawardena that drivers should use the bike lane as a turn lane after first checking to ensure no cyclists are present. Bender, who said the bike lanes are more advisory than anything, said this is a much safer method than having drivers turning from the through lane with bikes or even other drivers trying to get by on the right.
“By all means yield to bicycles,” he said. “If they aren’t there, feel free to use that as a turn lane.”
Using the lane makes it clear the driver intends to turn and prevents other cars from trying to squeeze by on the right. It also makes the road safer for cyclists by eliminating the potential for a “right hook.” This happens when a driver turns right from the travel lane when the signal is green while a cyclists moves through the intersection.
While a cyclist has the right of way in this scenario, that fact won’t help him if the driver doesn’t see him.
This may add some delays to people on bikes downtown, as they should then wait behind the turning vehicle, but that is a worthy sacrifice to ensure everyone remains safe. Of course, drivers making such a maneuver should always check to make sure their path is clear of cyclists.

One of my major concerns is why this wasn't sorted out prior to the bike lanes being installed. Could there been engineered improvements that would make these areas safer to the cyclists? Obviously drivers are going to yield to cyclists in front of them, Right? But what happens when there is a cyclist riding in the bike lane (that according to this article, which are Advisory more than anything? Wait...What???)and a driver remembers that they are allowed in the bike lane, dives into the bike lane and sideswipes me or you.
If the drivers are allowed to be in the lanes then why do we even have them?
I thought that the bike lanes were to protect the cyclists, make them more comfortable, and increase transportation by bike? Wrong again. Won't be the last time.
Lastly, this policy is just that, a policy. There is not a state or local ordinance that governs this policy. If I get hit and killed in a bike lane by someone who remembers reading in the Journal Gazette that the Bike lane isn't just for bikes, watch out for the wrath of my Red Headed Wife!

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