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The importance of this issue is becomming increasingly apparent. PSA's are urgently needed. Nag your favorite TV station, Dr. Gridlock, and commentators that owe us one.

Hmmm, by my experience, most motorists follow the proper procedure - which is, incidentally, underlined by the fact that the bike lane markings are dashed rather than solid lines near intersections - with one important step missing: they don't look to see if there's a bike in the lane.

The same procedure is true for a road without a bike lane, of course.

Hi Chris. Not sure where your experience is, but every morning on 11th Street NW south of Rhode Island Avenue I am seeing about half the cars make the right turn from the auto lane, yielding to bikes. And in many locations the solid gives way to the dashed less than 50 feet before the corner. There seems to be no rhyme or reason whether the dashed line starts about 200 feet or 40-50 feet before the corner

My own observation, both riding and driving, is that on streets with bike lanes many, perhaps most, drivers make right turns directly from the general traffic lane, crossing the bike lane without any merge. This makes streets with bike lanes more dangerous than those without, and I consequently avoid riding on them.

Unfortunately right turns from well to the left, crossing the space bikes occupy without a merge, seem to have become more common in general in the last year or two. I have to wonder if the bike lanes are contributing to this bad habit and thus making cycling in DC more hazardous in general, not just on the streets with bike lanes.

One comment I made on earlier postings is how to encourage better truck design for urban environments. Trucks with engines out front, or sitting very high up, might be appropriate for the highway, but I question their appropriateness for the city. One can look at the newer Metro buses, with large wrap-around windows, as the sort of design change that we should encourage in trucks used in urban environments.

OK, I guess I'm confused by "crossing the bike lane without any merge." Is there a requirement for how long the merge must take, because the bike lane markings end at the intersection and what *I* see as a merging car may be what others see as "crossing the bike lane."

Regardless, I do agree with your observations about the safety of streets with bike lanes versus those without.

I practice this and have noted that other cyclists do not always do this....which is extremely dangerous. I am basically on constant watch for the "posture" of cars next to me in the bike lane (position of car, signal, bobbing heads, etc.) and I nearly always slow quite a bit in anticipation of them making the turn in front of me.

It has kept me alive thus far, and honestly I think all cyclists should exercise this caution at intersections when traveling in bike lanes.

This is something that many cyclists certainly need to work on - just need to get the word out.

Good post Wash.

Chris. From the cyclist perspective, if you find yourself saying "d___ why is that slow car blocking my lane" instead of "f___ he just right-hooked me" the car is doing it about right.

From the perspective of the driver, if you feel like you just took the bike lane (a feeling basically similar to a bike taking a regular lane) and then turn, you probably did it about right.

I think that basically means that you completely change lanes before you slow down (other than incidental speed adjustment if there is already traffic in the right-turn bike lane).

2220.4 Vehicles, other than those to which a lane is restricted, are prohibited from continuing through an intersection in a Restricted Lane.

I find many cars violating this one as well.

Basically - if a car can reach any pavement they will use it regardless of any lane or sign markings.

Bike lanes are a ruse. They are only there to corral cyclists to the side and out of the way of the "real" road users.

Maybe it's a difference in the suburbs, but I almost never see cars merge into the bike lane to make a right. They hang out in the right unrestricted travel lane and wait for me to clear instead of getting behind me. If they are ahead of me in their lane, they just cut across the bike lane.

Talking to a coworker about this one day, she said she has gotten a ticket (VA) for merging into the bike lane to turn right. So she doesn't do that anymore, even though she thought it was the safest thing to do.

I don't see how we can expect to educate drivers when the officers enforcing the law don't even know the law.

Much as Frank Sinatra sang between the notes, I try to go through intersections between the cars. I don't give them a chance to decide that they need to turn right into me.

Excellent post. Agency traffic engineers, bike-lane advocates, and urban cyclists must all realize that bike lanes are safest when they don't undermine fundamental principles of traffic operation, especially destination positioning (aka channelization) at intersection approaches (including driveways and alleys, not just signalized and unsignalized cross streets).

While better motorist and bicyclist education would help, better bike lane design treatments at intersection approaches--to *consistently* promote the early rightward merging of right-turning motorists and to clearly discourage bicyclists from overtaking on the right of other traffic--would be most effective. As other vehicular cyclists have said elsewhere, bike lanes often provide powerful traffic *mis-education* with pavement markings.

Unfortunately, the current national bike lane design guidance issued by FHWA (MUTCD) abd AASHTO is seriously inadequate, ambiguous, and readily misinterpreted. Until better bike lane design guidance is effectively developed at the national level, local agencies and advocates will be left groping in the dark while the current bike lane designs create new bicycling hazards.

On wide streets, this problem can be avoided by having a right turn only lane to the right of the bike lane. Traffic merges into and then beyond the bike lane, into the right turn lane. There is no ambiguity. Here's an example.

At the risk of seeming combative, NeilB, I would say that the problem is not really avoided with that design. It certainly removes ambiguity, but it's still just drawing lines on pavement that drivers will cross over at will. The example you provide is a nice straight road, but take a look at that exact same configuration on Adam's Mill Road curving around into the Columbia Road/18th Street intersection and you'll see how many times motorists actually pay attention to the bike lane.

Chris, to tell you the truth, I personally prefer to move to the left of anyone turning right, regardless of any bike lane pavement markings that might lead me to be on the right side of the intersection. If there is a bike lane, I merge into the "regular" lane to continue straight. If there is no bike lane, I make sure that I am left of center in the right-most lane. If there is a right-turn-only-lane, I'll be in the right-most through lane. That makes the most sense to me.

But recognizing that a lot of (especially inexperienced) cyclists won't leave a bike lane for anything, it seems safer to me to move right turning vehicles to the right of the bike lane.

I can't picture in my mind the intersection you mentioned (I've only been there once) and I couldn't see what you were referring to in Google Maps. The configuration that I'm suggesting doesn't work everywhere.

@NeilB: Yeah, I do the same thing as you do (move to the left of anyone turning right). Part of my obsession on the topic of bike lanes and cyclist safety is exactly what you're talking about - cyclists who won't leave the bike lane for anything - we talk about getting the word out about motorist safety, and that's good; but I feel like we should also be getting the word out about cyclist's safety. As you well know, sometimes (often, even) the safest place is outside the bike lane.

As I pointed out in a comment on the GGW post, the issue is dealing with conflicts at intersections and designing conflicts out.

The way to do it is by shifting the bike lane left in advance of the intersection. I have a photo in my flickr account of an example in Philly.


I don't have a photo of the intersection of southbound 650 (NH Ave. in Montgomery County) at Lockwood in White Oak, where SHA has done a very good job of this.

I am not familiar with any such intersection treatments in DC.

Bike boxes are another example of doing something along these lines.

I said southbound, I meant northbound 650.

Allen: If you see this can you post the Virginia code on this issue for the sake of Deb and others with a similar experience?

In Maryland, surprisingly, there is no law prohibiting cars from driving in the bike lane. But the law does specifically require one to make turns from as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or right side of the roadway. And "ยง 11-151. Roadway. (a) In general.- "Roadway" means that part of a highway that is improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, other than the shoulder."

But this rule does not seem to apply to driveways. That's probably because people like to swing wide into them. Clearly the statute has not been written to address bike lanes, but rather to address general situations and we then have to see which of those situations apply to bike lanes. Moreover, bike lanes are sometimes part of the shoulder, in which case they are not part of the roadway. 21-101(e). So if there is no curb and the bike lane is in the shoulder, then the California rule does not seem to apply either--there is no rule in that case

Maryland has relatively few bike lanes so this is less important. Cyclists have focussed their energy in the past on trying to repeal the requirement to ride in the bike lane (that effort has not succeeded though the shoulder requirement has been repealed effectgive Oct 1) rather than on whether and how cars drive in the bike lane.

Richard, can you apply your idea to the DC lanes? Typically the lanes are already as far left as the lane you show becomes after the transition. That is, the lanes are to the left of the parked cars and to the right of (often) a single through lane. And of course there is no parking near the corner.

Looking at that picture, I wonder why the DC bike lanes have to have lines all the way to the intersection. Really bad idea for solid lines to go to the intersection--but maybe the lines should go to dashed at 200 feet and stop the last 50 feet with a big right arrow as shown, which makes it obvious that you should have moved over before the intersection.

you probably have to remove a couple of the parking spaces and/or considering doing what you suggest in your second paragraph.

This would allow for cars to move to the right earlier, while keeping the bike lane in position and out of conflict with cars by placing it to the left of the cars turning right.

Bike boxes are another possibility, which would also likely necessitate removing some parking.

It would make sense to introduce bike boxes on bicycle prioritized streets that are actually used by bicyclists.

(I favor putting the infrastructure where it will be used, which helps demonstrate the case for it, and further helps the introduction fo these facilities elsewhere--proof of concept)

You know, I hadn't thought about this until my commute home just now, but this makes the bike lanes at Thomas Circle even more ridiculous than I already thought. Not only do cars rarely use turn signals in traffic circles, there are few times when there isn't somebody turn off onto one of the feeder roads. In other words, if the merging is done properly, it would be a rare occurance that the bike lane wouldn't be occupied by a car.

The lack of small business credit availability is, obviously, a huge issue these days. Lending standards have gotten tighter, banks have reduced their credit offerings ansfdd many small businesses report they can't get the credit they need to operate and grow.

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