Gone Fishin'


I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!


I Need a Sign!

There is a great deal of discussion happening in my area about transportation improvements. The short version of the story is that a long-anticipated "ring road" has been officially pronounced dead, as in it will not be built. A process has begun to examine improvements to existing roads and intersections in the area the ring road would have served as an alternative. 

Even if you believe, like I do, that there is no way you can build your way out of traffic congestion,*  there is safety to be considered. People do dumb things when intersections are over capacity and crashes happen. Congested intersections are harder to navigate for cyclists and pedestrians, too. So I'm not going to rail against any improvements at all, or advocate a gas tax or that we should punish people for choosing to drive by leaving the roads in poor shape. I accept that work needs to be done.

At intersections this often involves the addition of "turn-only" lanes, and as a cyclist, I get worried we'll get left out of the equation, despite the adoption of "Complete Streets" as policy in Vermont.

This morning, I biked on a road where one lane becomes two, with the right lane designated as a "right-turn only" lane:
The graphics department at re-turn LLC is on strike, what are you going to do?  

Your first instinct as a cyclist is to "keep right at all times."  The law generally requires it, with a whole pile of exceptions that most cyclists and even a few motorists understand.**

On this road, "keeping right" is going to put a cyclist on a path to make a turn they do not want to make (unless they want to go to Old Navy!). If you are going to go straight, the best (and legal) option is to stay reasonably to the right in the "straight ahead" lane. It is arguable whether that "straight ahead" lane is a "take the lane" situation or not. I usually try to keep as far to the right in that lane and let people pass, but I wouldn't fault anyone for "taking the lane" there either. 

This morning as I made my way through this piece of street, a frustrated motorist behind me who did not feel he had room to pass me honked his horn. It was a pretty aggressive gesture, given his proximity to me and the duration of the "honk." I looked back and yelled "I"M NOT TURNING!" and continued in my lane as before. The motorist faded away behind me, never passed me. I'm not sure where he was headed but I was glad our time together had passed so quickly. I'm sure he had no idea that not only did I have a right to be in the lane I was in, but I was in the ONLY lane I should have been in as a safe responsible, legal user of the public roadway. I found myself wishing there was a sign explaining my actions. 

Lo and behold:
I'd be looking for sign "R4-4."

Now, that sign does presuppose the existence of a bike lane. Which I'd be totally in support of as well. Here is an example:

This brings me back around to the dead ring road proposal, the study of intersection improvements, and "Complete Streets." We are talking about spending an incredible amount of money to improve streets and intersections to make up for the ring road we are not going to build. As a state, we have adopted a policy that says all users of the road should be considered when we make these improvements. We also know that getting more people on bikes will reduce the burden on our streets and intersections and will lessen congestion.

So, if you want people on bikes, you have got to fix places like the place where I got honked at today.  This kind of "right-only' lane is everywhere, and we might be building more of them. A lane configuration like the one above (without the signs and bike lanes) coupled with motorist misunderstandings about cyclists' rights is the sort of barrier that turns a first-time bike commuter right back into a single-occupant vehicle driver. This stuff is important, not just to me as a cyclist but to me as a user and beneficiary of the entire transportation and to me as a taxpayer. If we are going to spend even more money on roads, let's do it right!***

*Short version again: building better roads causes people to decide to drive more, and the new de-congested roads rapidly become congested again, absent some other factor like higher gas prices.
**Summary of the exceptions here.
** And yes, even if you don't pay gas taxes, you pay for roads out of income and property taxes. Link here.