Should Warner Road bike lane have a “Combined” Turn Lane?

Disappearing Bike Lane; Warner Rd at Hardy Dr, Tempe, AZ

it is a common occurrence — familiar to every bicyclist — where you can be riding along a perfectly nice bike lane only to have it disappear for various reasons.

Bike lanes are highly prized for making cycling “more comfortable”; so I think it’s safe to say disappearing bike lanes would be considered quite stressful, and an impediment to cycling for many cyclists.

I have, over the past year, had occasion to regularly ride along Warner Road in Tempe (this area is sometimes referred to as “south” Tempe. Here’s a map of the general vicinity) between I-10 (the city limit) and McClintock Drive; it’s about 3.5 miles. The road is very much an arterial road with two fast through lanes (45mph, if i recall correctly) plus a bike lane each way plus some sort of middle lane throughout (it’s usually a TWLTL; two way left turn lane; it becomes a left turn lane at major intersections). The difficulty is at every intersection where there is a right turn only lane, the bike lane is dropped ~ 250′ from the intersection. This dropping occurs asymmetrically at some, but not all, of the major intersections. It is most prominent westbound: the lane drops at McClintock, Rural, Kyrene, Hardy, and Priest Drive. That is FIVE TIMES in three miles!

On the plus side; it mitigates the problem with bike lanes where through-cyclists being right hooked (by eliminating the bike lane altogether; drastic but effective). On the negative side, for through-cyclists… 1) it creates legal ambiguity between obeying the RTO traffic control device; and riding AFRAP (AZ has no enumerated exemption for RTO lanes) 2) it can be very difficult, if not harrowing, to merge into the right through lane with high-speed through traffic 3) riding in the RTO raises conflicts with oncoming left-turning traffic.

There is an alternative, called a “Combined bike lane/turn lane”; It doesn’t eliminate the negatives, but it does address some of them. E.g. it makes it explictly legal to proceed straight through the (otherwise) RTO. From the FHWA page Bicycle Facilities and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

Combined bike lane/turn lane     Experimental if bike lane markings are used, but can be implemented at the present time if Shared Lane Markings are used instead of bike lane markings

Also discussed at NACTO; And a paper evaluating similar scenarios is at

Would this be better? (I mean better than doing nothing?)

Here (slide 9) is a pic of Miller Rd at Osborne, Scottsdale where they have installed a  sharrow into a formerly RTO lane.

Other troubles

Large lip between concrete drainage, and asphalt portion of bike lane (which shrinks to a very substandard ~ 2 feet) [this areas has since been “ground down”; i’m not sure that helps, here’s an updated pic of same area.
There are a number of specific localized problems on this bike lane revolving around its intersection with Kyrene Rd; these can be seen on google maps. There are both maintenance issues, but also engineering ones. The problems seem to have their genesis in the fact that Warner road “shifts” at Kyrene; and the intersection is wider than normal, e.g. warner road is wider at kyrene than it is at Rural, or McClintock. The extra width has ironically taken away width from the bike lane (but why?); rendering it sub-standard for a relatively long stretch westbound; and has created “pinch points” of sub-standard width eastbound both east and west of the intersection.

The maintenance issue is the  road/asphalt portion being sloppy and way higher (perhaps as much as 2″) than the gutter. This problem is acute on Warner, eastbound, just east of Kyrene for a couple of hundred feet; where the asphalt portion of the bike lane shrinks to perhaps a mere two feet (bike lanes are supposed to have a minimum of four feet of usable width). See pic to the left, and also this one which is closer to the seven-11. [Update Aug 2014; the city DID address this by removing and replacing about 18″ width of asphalt next to the flat concrete gutter nearest the intersection; there is a bus pullout there. Unfortunately they tried to fix the portion further east, which is already problematic because it is substandard width, by “grinding” the asphalt down… Here is a current pic of the “pinch point” EB, east of Kyrene.

substandard-width designated bike lane in Tempe, AZ

The second problem is more insidious, and seems tied to places that want to be perceived as “bike friendly”… though this is shockingly poor design. For several hundred feet, westbound just west of Kyrene, there wasn’t enough room to make a bike lane along with all the other lanes, so what did they do? Made it anyways, of course… this causes all sorts of opportunities for horn blowing and side-swiping. (This is also the case at McClintock, northbound just north of Elliot Rd — which is actually worse, there it is narrower, and longer in this unacceptable condition). There is no particular reason there must be a bike lane stripe — if there’s not enough room to do it right, DON’T DO IT.

Tempe badly botched Rio Salado at 101; see pics here. Is it Tempe, or ADOT? You know what, I don’t care; I care that it is botched. This has it all, the ridiculously narrow “bike lane”; the huge disparity in height between the asphalt and gutter pan; the drainage grate in the “bike lane”. Is this a designated bike lane, or not? You know what? I don’t care — I care that it looks like a bike lane; because that’s what matters to bicyclists and motorists; it also happens to be contiguous with a designated bike lane, so for all intents and purposes, it is a bike lane.

Continuous Bike Lane?

Here is Dan Gutierrez’s diagram of converting from  dropped to continuous bike lane. So, the novelty here is that essentially he’s saying there techically is no RTO Lane, and traffic turning right merges into the BL in preparation for the turn. The bike lane is simply wider; in fact it’s as wide as the RTO would have been. The hitch is, as far as I can tell, that this is specific to CA because of the way they’ve explicitly written their manner of turning right statute which requires drivers to merge into the bike lane. A secondary hitch is that this scheme conflicts with the experimental guidance, in spirit, anyways — i mean the intention is to combine right-turning traffic with BL traffic.

9 thoughts on “Should Warner Road bike lane have a “Combined” Turn Lane?”

  1. This was the result of my Tempe 311 incident, it was closed but nothing was ever done. At first i got a phone call saying the field guys couldn’t locate; i replied with more specifics, yet the incident was simply closed…

    Request Id: 166095
    Case Access Code: 508453
    BIKE Lane has large height difference between asphalt and concrete. Creating a fall hazard. Also in same area, the asphalt portion of bike lane is sub standard in width.
    Closed On: 08/05/13

  2. The fundamental issue is that the arterials (1) are posted for high speed limits but (2) have many intersections. These two attributes work against each other. High speed limits facilitate traffic throughput, but a high frequency of intersections prevents that; a high frequency of intersections create a destination for traffic, but fast, noisy traffic make a place unattractive for walking, dining, and other land uses.

    Reducing speed limits approaching intersections would make merging less harrowing.

    It would be helpful to mark the merge zone by extending a dotted line from the end of the bike lane to the beginning of the turn lane.

  3. Here’s kind of what I’m talking about:

    Notice that turning cars first need to change lanes, across the bicycle lane, before they can make their turn. That implies checking for traffic, etc. whereas the Warner at Hardy photo implies that drivers can just head straight for the turn pocket without checking for bicyclists.

  4. I ride Warner often and notice the same things.

    I wish Tempe would do something more like page 10 (Eugene, Oregon),,
    rather than the page 9 example.

    I would agree with Derek, I wish Tempe would extend a dotted line from
    the end of the bike lane to the start of the turn lane.

    The biggest problem that I have with this stretch of Warner is the
    southern entrance to the ASU Research Park.
    There is a westbound car travel lane that transitions to a right turn
    ramp into the research park. The bike lane totally disappears.
    There is also a nonexistent bike lane on the west side of this
    intersection, where Research Park car traffic is allowed to
    merge onto Warner.
    Looking toward the intersection from the East:,-111.895028&spn=0.004722,0.005&t=h&z=18&layer=c&cbll=33.334947,-111.895156&panoid=9JjBXHCLqtNWjr9duq2ytg&cbp=12,274.11,,0,30.61

    I wish Tempe would spend some time to ensure that are bike markings do not disappear to intersections
    or where it is insufficient space to continue a marked bike lane.

  5. Hi Dave,
    Thanks for the comments.

    There is definitely much messy business around the ASU research park; I rarely ride on that section just because i live to the west.

    Regarding the proposed RTO treatment being, in effect Sharrows (what was done in Scottsdale at Miller and Osborne) vs. a dotted bike lane stripe continuing through the RTO lane (the example from Eugene, OR) — preferences notwithstanding, there’s a very good reason to NOT do the dotted bike lane treatment because that is “experimental” (requires a whole bunch of paperwork) whereas the sharrow-style is pre-approved…. “Combined bike lane/turn lane Experimental if bike lane markings are used, but can be implemented at the present time if Shared Lane Markings are used instead of bike lane markings”.

  6. I do not live in Tempe but frequently ride there, in particular in southern Tempe.
    1) all “fake” bike lanes should either be removed or made standard; e.g. Rio Salado between Priest and Hardy.
    2) Existing dedicated Bike Lanes should be fixed:
    a) McClintock north of Elliot (both directions) is severely sub-standard width for perhaps 500′
    b) Warner Rd at Kyrene has pinch points and other engineering problems. It is also sub-standard width westbound for several hundred feet
    c) Rio Saldo at 101 is a dangerous mess. Don’t blame adot — it’s in tempe!!
    3) I would *recommend* making existing bike lanes that are discontinuous due to right turn only lanes (examples i know of are Warner Road and Guadalupe rd) into “combined right turn lanes”; these now have interim approval from NHTSA see (this page)

  7. I reported in August that a trendy new, experimental, green bicycle lane was adjacent to a 5.5ft RTO lane (6.5 feet if you count the gutter), in an industrial location (railroad tracks on that block). The RTO arrow doesn’t even fit in the lane, it’s partially on the gutter.
    Supposedly it’s one of the “combined RTO+bike” lanes, as possibility which had never occurred to me, and which seems to be poorly implemented, since there’s a (dashed) longitudinal line and a bicycle symbol in it. “Combined” lanes are allowed (non-experimental) by the MUTCD, if an SLM is used, but BL markings are not allowed. (old/original page)
    Experimental if bike lane markings are used, but can be implemented at the present time if Shared Lane Markings are used instead of bike lane markings
    Disallowed Combined bicycle lane/turn lane where the lane attempts to establish a bike lane

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