Wednesday, December 02, 2009
9700 E. Lake Highlands Drive, north bound
9800 E. Lake Highlands Drive, north bound
9700 E. Lake Highlands Drive, south bound
9800 E. Lake Highlands Drive, south bound
E. Lake Highlands Drive is a tree-lined residential collector in my neighborhood that connects Plano Road to Buckner Boulevard. It was built as a two-lane divided thoroughfare with on-street parking, 30' from curb-face to curb-face, and meant to be configured 11'/11'/8' (the parking lane).
To improve intersection flow, it is striped as a three-lane (six-lane divided) road, 10'/10'/10', from Buckner to Peavy Road (and a block beyond), and from Northwest Highway to Easton Boulevard (and again, a block beyond). This leaves about a half mile between Easton and Peavy oddly striped as a two-lane roadway, 10'/20'.
I recently took Kimberly Thorpe on a short bike ride on this street to demonstrate how easy it is to ride on a collector-thoroughfare, and to show what a bike lane on this roadway (and many others) would look like unless it was swept weekly ($1000 a mile every time). The regular maintenance schedule for collector street sweeping is less than once a year. Get used to it.
The only difference in the two sets of photos above is the road striping. Where there are three lanes striped, cars "sweep" the roadway clean... even on a low volume collector like Lake Highlands, keeping the lanes clean. Where the automobile travel lanes are removed, debris accumulate. Underneath these leaves you will find sand, mud, branches, broken glass, drink bottles and cans.
Now even though State law requires a cyclist to use a bike lane if present, it also allows you to leave it for safety reasons (like too much trash or debris). So what's the point? Aside from the increased hostility encountered by cyclists who leave a bike lane ("Stay in your own lane!"), I guess I don't know. Leaves and mud do help to complete any street, organically.
Roadways are set up to allow for predictable behavior by all users. This is what makes them function with the high level of safety they enjoy (and it is a high level, so enjoy!). But a bike lane (as I have extolled ad nauseam) creates situations that defy predictability. A travel lane that can be expected to need to be vacated frequently doesn't add to safe operation. Remember, the bike lane advocates like to praise the studies that show cars pass cyclists both closer and faster if the cyclist is in a bike lane, reducing the margin of error for any sudden movements... like having to abandon a lane because of debris accumulation.
This is one of the reasons that motorists who hit cyclists while overtaking them often claim "the cyclist suddenly swerved in front of me". Far better (and safer) for the overtaking vehicle to change lanes to pass, but that might mean that we cyclists have to truly share the whole road, not just take our share in the gutter.