A lot of you have contacted me recently about South Street between East and Park Marina asking a lot of questions. Here is a sampling of questions I have received over the last month...
"Where do I ride?"
"I ride between the bike symbols and the cars, right?"
"This isn't right is it?"
"So, I am supposed to ride where people open their door?"
"They put the sharrows in the wrong f$^*ing place!"
"Why can't we have bike lanes?"
"Shouldn't these (sharrows) be in the center of the lane?"
This pleases me greatly for two reasons: 1- you are paying attention to what happens on our streets, and 2- you know that in fact, something is just not quite right on South Street.
We do recognize the street is constrained here with no easy solutions. It is not quite wide enough to maintain parking on both sides, two travel lanes for cars and bike lanes. We also recognize that Redding Bike Action Plan does call for South Street to be at a minimum a "Class II" bike lane (from Court Street to Park Marina).
So why didn't the City figure out how to install bike lanes like the Plan says, you ask? When it comes to roads and streets without "easy" solutions, this takes time, planning and often some community engagement effort to do it right. In this case, there were trade-offs that needed to be made and it seems that the City did not have time or resources to take advantage of this striping opportunity and engage the neighborhood about street changes that would benefit all people that use the street. We recognize the need for an Active Transportation Planner, as a part of their responsibilities, to coordinate efforts to turn words in the Bike Action Plan into bike lanes on our streets. With dedicated staff resources, I am afraid we will not get very far...
It is sad that this seems like an opportunity missed and it was decided to keep South Street a class III (bikes must share travel lane with cars), despite the bike plan calling for a class II bike lanes, giving bikes their own space to ride. Ride Redding has been informed by City staff that there is still intention to stripe bike lanes per the Bike Action Plan, but not determined when that will happen.
Many supporters of Ride Redding have concerns about the placement of the shared lane markings (sharrows). On behalf of the concerned South Street cyclists we would like to outline our concerns and illustrate the experiences that can result from improperly shared lane marking placement:
A ten-foot travel lane is too narrow to share.
The travel lane of 10’ is too narrow to be shared legally by a bicyclist and motor vehicle, so drivers must cross the center of the road to pass safely and legally. The use of the double yellow centerline causes driver confusion as the double yellow lines indicate that crossing over the center is dangerous and illegal.
How can a person driving legally pass a person on a bike traveling in a lane too narrow to share? Will they choose to break the law by crossing the double yellow? Or squeeze out the cautious or inexperienced cyclist that rides on the edge? Keep in mind that drivers must legally give three feet to pass cyclists.
The placement of the sharrow on the edge of the edge line reinforces to the uneducated motorist the myth that cyclists always belong riding on the edge of a roadway.
Experienced and savvy cyclists will continue to ride the center of the lane, as that is the safest place to ride in the context of this segment of South Street.
This can cause anger among uneducated drivers that think cyclists should ride on the edge (where the sharrows are), these drivers may drive aggressively around them, speed and/or “buzz” the person riding a bike passing closer than 3 feet. In fact, that is exactly what happened when we took these photos, the driver sped around them aggressively.
Placement of sharrows should indicate to cyclists proper lane positioning. This placement on the edge line is skimming the door-zone, and in some instances traveling on the sharrow would place an inexperienced cyclist in the door zone.
The above concern for less experienced cyclists riding on the sharrow placement are concerns of dooring and unsafe passing by motorists that attempt to stay in their lane while passing, oblivious or unaware of how close the cyclist is to their passenger mirror. At the very least, these interactions cause uncomfortable situations that may affect if that person decides to ride a bike on South Street again, or worse, injury.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials make many recommendations and provides guidance about how, where and when to use shared lane markings (sharrows) including placing it center of the lane to encourage proper and safe lane positioning by the cyclists, discourage door-zone riding, and encourage safe passing by motorists. Center of lane positioning also increases the longevity of the marking and reduce maintenance costs over time to benefit of the cyclist and to City Hall.
Mixed messages of narrow travel lanes with sharrows on the edge/door zone. We are concerned that the City Redding did not feel comfortable using guidance from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) on an often misunderstood bicycle treatment and use the most up-to-date guidance on shared lane markings. The NACTO preferred placement on low-speed residential streets is the center of the travel lane, we do not understand why the City did not feel comfortable following guidance in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide that is also endorsed by Caltrans.
Most disappointing is that the City had an opportunity to install Class 2 bike lanes. To echo NACTO, shared lane markings should not be considered a replacement for higher class facilities such as bike lanes or protected bike lanes.
We understand that this could not have been done easily, without some public engagement as likely some trade-offs would have had to be made. But if not now, with this opportunity, when will the 2010 Action Plan be implemented here on South Street? Will we miss more opportunities in the future?