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The first part of this post reminds me of riding on Independence Avenue, west from Lincoln Memorial to USDA and beyond, where there are two lanes that veer to the right and a cyclist must get in the middle lane among a bunch of vehicles, some wondering how to navigate to the highway again now that they've seen the sights or are going home from work. No bike lanes, and some additional guidance for drivers would be nice so that we can coexist more easily for those few moments.

Good long explanation on how bike lanes are laid out.

You point out that for a cyclist to remain safe from being doored they should use only the very left edge of the bike lane (the left stripe).

I might add that both DC and MD also have a 3 foot passing law. So if a knowledgeable cyclist chooses to only ride in the safest portion of the lane, and we also allow 4 feet for passing (1/2 of 2 foot cyclist width + 3 feet passing law) then is there sufficient room for vehicles to now safely pass?

I suspect that if we took the tape measure to some of DC's streets with bike lane the answer would be no.


More reason not to like bike lanes. They don't flow into other bike-protected zones, and they're less proected than they seem. Better to have the expectation that the roadway is to be shared.

Personally, I'd also like all bikes sold in the US to have integral flashers like the CaBi bikes. If they're integral, self-powered and go on automatically, there is no issue of convenience.

Personally, I'd also like all bikes sold in the US to have integral flashers like the CaBi bikes. If they're integral, self-powered and go on automatically, there is no issue of convenience.

It's long past time for the CPSC reflector rules for bikes to be revisited. Blinkies didn't exist when they were put in place. A set of blinkies now costs about the same as a set of CPSC-compliant reflectors and is far more effective.

I think it's insane that they can require the use of lights, but not the sale of bikes with lights.

Imagine buying seatbelts or headlights after-market. Ludicrous.

In Europe, bikes are required to have lights as original equipment.

The way traditional DPWs are likely to respond to your argument, is that in places where "there isn't enough room" they shouldn't attempt to create a bike lane if that means removing parking.

The AASHTO basic recommendation is 5 feet. But I think a 4 foot lane is acceptable if that means there is no bike lane at all.

The issue is transitioning. It will be a long time before we get equality. But we will continue to get nothing if we seek perfection out of the box.

S***, I hate to be saying that, because when people like Cheryl Cort or David Alpert criticize my suggestions as "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" it pisses me off, but the issue is one of phased improvements, especially in places where ROW limitations are real.

@JeffB. Thanks. I think that the issue about 3-foot passing law plays out differently in Prince Georges County than in DC.

In Maryland, § 21-1205.1 of the Transportation Code requires cyclists to ride in the bike lane. The three-foot law includes an MDOT-sponsored exception for cyclists violating § 21-1205.1. So one reading of the statute is that a cyclist loses the statutory right to the 3-foot buffer against moving traffic, the minute she opts to not ride in the door zone. The counterargument is that the cyclist who rides outside a bike lane to avoid the door zone does not violate § 21-1205.1. No one really knows whether Maryland law requires a cyclist to ride in a bike lane that is entirely in the door zone.

PS: Sorry about the length. I was planning to tighten it up and organize it with below-the-fold features but but accidentally posted the draft. I'll plan to post a more user-friendly version of this post once enough time has passed for all to have forgotten this post.

Is there a problem using sharrows in lanes that are wide enough that a bike lane would be striped in a door zone? I think sharrows get the point across that there may be heavy bike traffic, but do not, from an ignorant driver's perspective, force the cyclist into a lane in the door zone.

I think sharrows would be more effective in neighborhoods like those in Capitol Hill where there are bike lanes. I spend most of my time outside the bike lane because of UPS/FedEx deliveries or cars waiting for passengers in bike lanes anyway. It would further the notion of "Share the Road" rather than "this is my lane of the road, that's yours."

Might not work with CaBi bikes, though, since those are the bikes I most see on the Hill and most who ride them don't seem to travel 12-15 mph or more. I could be wrong, and speed's not the only point of bike commuting for many. But it does aggravate some people in cars (and some bicyclists stuck behind a slower bicyclist).


I might add that both DC and MD also have a 3 foot passing law. So if a knowledgeable cyclist chooses to only ride in the safest portion of the lane, and we also allow 4 feet for passing (1/2 of 2 foot cyclist width + 3 feet passing law) then is there sufficient room for vehicles to now safely pass?

DC takes the position that traveling past another vehicle in a separate lane is not "passing." So, for example, the law that prohibits passing a car that has stopped for pedestrians in a crosswalk does not apply on a multi-lane road. DC has no law prohibiting "passing" a stopped school bus -- instead it reads: "The driver of a vehicle approaching from any direction a school bus on which a warning light is flashing, shall prepare to stop the vehicle and shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop not less than fifteen feet (15 ft.) from the school bus."

Since a bike lane is a lane, the three-foot passing law would not apply when a cyclist is in a bike lane and the motorist is in another lane.

@Richard Layman: The situation in Prince Georges County is different than DC, in that we talking about rebuilt streets with 12-foot general lanes and grass buffers on the other side of the parked cars. So setting a higher bar would have a variety of results, which would include wider bike lanes, striping the hazard zone and going without.

Even when a higher standard means no bike lane, is this really letting the perfect be the enemy of the good?
Perhaps it is really letting the safe be the enemy of the bad.

On other thing that is different in PG. DPW&T opposes share-the-raod signs (or R4-11) in any situation where taking the lane is needed, out of a fear of liability, for having implied that someone might ride a bike there. Clearly, a door-zone bike lane falls far below the duty or care, compared with posting a share the road sign. So for consistency's skae, if PG-DPW&T wants safety first, a door zone bike lane would not be consistent with their mission.

@Contrarian: Your analysis of DC law really is in stark contrat to Maryland--each absurd in its own way.

Jim, a minor correction: when you say, "which NACTO illustrates with this photograph http://nacto.org/wp-content/gallery/convbikelane_3d/conventional-bike-lanes_street.jpg " you are linking to an illustration not a photo. That is, unless there are some funny looking white cars somewhere in biker heaven.:)

I understand your point about the higher bar. I guess I was referring more to roads where it would be possible to stripe a bike lane now, as opposed to having to rebuild the street/extend the right of way. I don't have enough experience riding throughout PG County to be able to make my normally "authoritative" and "sweeping" statements. My riding is in the US 1, Queens Chapel, Riggs Road corridors only.

@Richard. Thanks for your comments. I am just glad that you are making the effort to scrutinize what is said here about Prince Georges County. The county is a bit of a backwater when it comes to bike-ped accommodation.

I failed to really give the context in the post, which is mainly oriented toward the county, rather than SHA (or the City of Laurel).

My hope is that, even in the retrofit cases you mention, the hazard zone within the bike lane can be striped. The roads you mention have portions where parking is not allowed so the door zone hazard is not a problem; but when you come to a stretch where there is a door zone, my view is to just mark it as such.

If the entire bike lane is in the door zone for a stretch, then make the entire bike lane diagonal markings. Drivers will better understand why some cyclists are not riding in such lane--and cyclists will be warned.

Jim, this is a very good article, and I'd love to see the tightened up version, if the Powers That Be don't throw a bolt of lightning your way first.

(Door zone) bike lanes are the only lanes where the users are expected to know it is not really safe to treat them like a regular lane and travel in the middle of the lane. Instead, bike lane users should intuit that to be minimally safe, they have to put their wheel just to the right of the leftmost stripe, with half of their vehicle and body intruding into the travel lane to their left. And be careful if the pavement is wet -- that stripe will be slippery. So, remember, watch for potential opening doors ahead, and try not to be freaked out by motorists passing too closely to your left -- after all, they are using the bike lane stripe to know where to position their vehicle, because a bike lane should work like a regular lane so why don't you stupid bikers keep your Lycra-clad asses inside the lines?!

You have really interesting blog, keep up posting such informative posts!

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