The problem with bike lanes …

Building a city is fraught with competing interests and resultant compromises. Complete streets is no exception.

This short post will have to tide readers over for a day or so, pending time to write a longer series on a very relevant planning exercise. But trust me, this shortie is relevant to what’s coming over the next few days.

The short story: I was pedalling over the Champlain Bridge, going north to Gatineau. It was mid afternoon, and the traffic was busier than I expected. Recall that Champlain Bridge has two painted stripes marking out bike lanes [we all know, of course, that these are really car lanes required to make the bridge four lanes wide, but being held in temporary suspension until politically feasible to implement].

Starting around Bate Island, mid-bridge, I sensed cars were crowding the separating line between the bike lane and the car lane. By time I passed Bate, and hit the long span that crosses the international border, more than their side mirrors were in my lane. Car traffic suddenly sped up a bit, and cars began pulling right into the bike lane and accelerating wildly in their eagerness to get to French Soil.

Sept 2013 042

I was a bit slow in getting the camera out, but I wonder if others find the same thing. Not just here, but elsewhere too. I know on Laurier’s separated bike lane, any flat place is seen by FedEx, taxis,  and others as a stopping zone, and a big FU to the citizen cyclist.

So, are painted line bike lanes respected or disrespected to the point of being of impaired utility or even dangerous? Should we putting more painted line bike lanes in our complete street plans or no?

14 thoughts on “The problem with bike lanes …

  1. Ugh. This is an issue like HOV lane usage that I’m not sure there’s an enforcement solution for. Grade separation is probably the only answer.

    PS: they can “reclaim” those bike lanes for cars over my dead body.

  2. The painted on bike lanes are usually where snow is stored during winter. And where cars park “temporarily” to pick up or drop off people, or pick up coffee. Plus there are bus stops on Lyon. If you are on the Laurier segregated bikepath, you take your life in your hand, especially East of Kent. Cars not only park on the segregated lane as you say but there so many entrances to parking (garages or surface) that one has to look way ahead as she bikes. Still, I am hoping that these markings do provide some visual cues to some drivers that they have to share the road. And the segregation on Laurier prevents the snow dump (though not the flooding) and does provide more protection during the winter.

  3. Notwithstanding the car is clearly encroaching in the bike lane but it begs the question – why would anyone want to cycle in that lane when there is a nice grade-separated bidirectional MUP next to it free of all traffic? I would have to assume those bike lanes are temporary as I am sure the NCC/MTQ/MTO didn’t spend millions expanding that bridge just to put in two wide bike lane and a MUP.

    1. The bi-directional MUP you refer to in the photo above is actually a sidewalk. There are little person symbols painted on at regular intervals. Not sure why a sidewalk needs a dividing line though! Regardless of what it is, I’ve biked on it and when you pass another cyclist, it’s a bit too close for comfort as you nearly whack handle bars. Green asphalt or more bike symbols would make the actual bike lane more obvious to motorists.

    2. Converting it into a MUP would make a lot of sense. The MUP over Portage bridge worked really well for me when I biked across to Quebec. Trying to continue eastbound on Wellington was really tough. I was always very confused on how to actually proceed as a bike since the eastbound lane ends at a light with an island thing. Weird to navigate.

      But anyway, I’d rather see an elevated MUP that piggybacks off an existing sidewalk than a painted bike lane line. This just seems to make better use of limited space on a bridge.

  4. I’ve cycled that bridge a lot and never seen that happen. Was there an accident ahead? And having just returned from a cycling holiday in Germany along the Romantische Straße, I think Canadian drivers are a frustrated bunch, what with all the rules they have to remember and follow. In Germany, car drivers were generally more respectful on the sections we had to share with them (no bike lane and very narrow). The ones who wanted to drive fast were far away on the autobahn.

  5. Just to be a little nitpicky, it’s not French soil, it’s Canadian soil of a province that is predominantly french speaking.

    I see the bike lane on Lyon south of Somerset get abused often by taxis trying to skirt around the speed humps.

  6. Eastbound Prince of Wales just before Preston has this problem. Cars line up waiting to turn north on Preston, they back up beyond the turning lane and create a jam. Drivers who aren’t turning pull into the bike lane to buzz around the clot.

    1. I’ve seen the same thing on Island Park at Byron when there is a car turning left. I’ve seen a truck pull around me when I was turning left, with a cyclist coming down the lane. The cyclist had to get right off and onto the blvd. I don’t think that the truck even noticed. Maybe some little plastic sticks along the bike lane near the intersection would help.

  7. Anywhere where there’s a left turn and cars trying to get around, like @reevely says above. I’m often cut off at Island Park and (Byron / Wellington / Scott) by cars pulling into the bike lane to get around a left-turning car.

  8. ^^^ Scott Street around Westboro station is another spot where people pull into the bike lane without looking to pass left turning cars.

  9. I recently rode across the Champlain bridge several times during the week around mid day. I felt safe and enjoyed the view. If it was rush hour I would expect nonsense the same as if I was driving a car or taking a bus. Rubber side down.

  10. If the lane is wide enough to fit a car then maybe they should narrow it a bit.

    What is the standard for bike lane width?

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