Monday, September 15, 2008
Today's bike lane picture (from the More is Better school of thought).
A common problem with bike lanes is having the lane within the arc of an opening car door. It's called "The Door Zone", and it's a new leading cause of cyclist injuries and fatalities. This is New York City's solution to the problem, as demonstrated on 9th Avenue. It certainly shows that NYC is willing to dedicate more money and right-of-way to solving this inherent bike lane problem than most cities encumbered with them are willing to do.
However, a serious new problem has been created in how pedestrians are treated. A shopper/customer of the small shops/businesses on this street, who parks in the parking lane, will walk directly from the sidewalk to their car, perhaps with both arms full of merchandise bags, or some other bulky item (drycleaning, perhaps). They may or may not see a cyclist coming down the sidepath bike lane. Collisions between pedestrians and cyclists are guaranteed by an application like this, and the collisions can be deadly for the pedestrian.
A general rule of thumb in facility design is "simpler is better". The more convoluted a design is, the more it tries extravagant measures to overcome initial design shortcomings, the more likely it is the design was a bad idea to begin with. This design is a poster child for "Occam's razor", which is often paraphrased as "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best."
This is a fairly heavily traveled street, although the traffic congestion you see is perhaps doubled by the removal of two lanes of available capacity (or perhaps it had originally been a two-way street. Due to the intervals of traffic signals, traffic flows at a relatively low speed. Previously, a cyclist could ride on either the left or the right side of the street (or across lanes as they position themselves to turn), depending upon their destination. Now, the cyclist can ONLY ride on the left side (NYC has a mandatory sidepath law... cyclists must stay in the bike lane). They can't turn right at an intersection. They can't access shops and businesses along the right side of the street. In order to do so, they must dismount and become pedestrians, or they must violate the law.
Which do you think they'll do?