There is no excuse for improperly engineered bike infrastructure. It takes on two forms, 1) simple straight-up wrong, and 2) “fake” facilities, those which masquerade as something they’re not; they’re in reality nothing more than shoulders, yet they are intentionally tarted-up to appear to be bike lanes.
The reason there is literally no excuse is that there is no requirement ever to have dedicated bicycle infrastructure (for the purposes of this article, that means designated bike lanes). “Every lane is a bike lane” is more than a slogan — it’s true. Bicyclists have a right to use the roadway and not merely its edges (with exceptions for limited-access freeways).
Thankfully, most egregious examples have been either eliminated or never built in the first place in the Phoenix metro area; e.g. placing a through bike lane to the right of a right turn only lane.
There are, unfortunately, isolated examples of poor engineering. Even in, or perhaps particularly in, “Bicycle Friendly Communities“. The LABs criteria for select and awarding the designation suggests they weight the “5 E’s” but anecdotally they appear to heavily weight in favor of any dedicated bicycle infrastructure.
Bad Bike Lanes
As I said, the designated bike lanes around here by-and-large adhere to proper engineering standards. There are instances where this is not the case, however — this pictured designated bike lane, is southbound McClintock Drive approaching Elliot Road, Tempe. This is not just a short distance, it extends from McNair to Elliot, perhaps 900′. The whole corner is odd, Tempe frequently drops the bike lane approaching intersections to provide space for a right-turn-only lane. On this corner, for some odd reason somebody decided that McClintock needed three through lanes in each direction, but only for a short distance. The same issue exists on the other side; i.e. northbound McClintock, north of the Elliot intersection.
This arrangement is far too narrow to ride within safely with any sort of bicycle; and beyond creating a hazardous situation for bicyclists, creates a liability for the City of Tempe.
If there’s really not enough room to make a properly-engineered bike lane, then don’t have one; as was done on the other side of Elliot (so, northbound McClintock approaching Elliot; the bike lane was discontinued).
The Warner Road bike lane is similarly, but not as badly, screwed up at Kyrene, see should-warner-road-bike-lane-have-a-combined-turn-lane. Ironically the substandard width there seems to be due to a widening of the Warner Road ROW near the intersection with Kyrene; coupled with either engineering mistakes, or as-built problems.
Below is the full official response from City of Tempe; as I feared, officially speaking they claim this isn’t a designated bicycle lane, rather the white stripe is an edge line (see the difference?). I still consider this a “bad bike lane” as opposed to a “fake bike lane” because it is contiguous with a (real) bike lane; this is perhaps a distinction without a difference. In any event an edge line there would almost certainly be unwarranted per MUTCD.
Roosevelt Street, Tempe
In a separate example, the BL on Roosevelt, south of Broadway Rd is severely sub-standard width for about 1,200 feet. It’s about 2.5 feet of usable space. The road otherwise is one through lane in each direction, perhaps 11′, plus a center continuous two-way turn lane. The center lane often doubles as a place for semi’s to dwell, e.g.while waiting to unload. Placing a too-narrow BL next to a narrow lane where there’s heavy semi/truck traffic, such as along Roosevelt is particularly ill-advised.
South, and north apparently?, the road is a couple of feet wider allowing for a normal-width BL. This is a particularly idiotic place to put too-narrow BLs; because of the industrial/commercial nature of the area, and because Broadway access to the interstate, there is copious heavy, semi-truck traffic. One October weekday mid-morning, I counted 6 semis in less than 10 minutes. This might actually be a fake bike lane, I don’t think there’s any symbols (at 40″, though wouldn’t fit; i.e. they would be on the gutter pan). This area appears on the MAG Bike Facilities Map as blue/”Bike Lane” (retrieved Oct 2016).
Fake Bike Lanes
More pervasive and more insidious is placing stripes where they shouldn’t be placed in the first place. These stripes then look virtually indistinguishable from Bike Lane stripes. However if they are, for example, too narrow to be a bike lane (a typical situation) or any other defect the official answer is simple: they’re not bike lanes. Motorists expect/demand bicyclists to use these fake bike lanes, though there is no legal duty to do so and best safety practices call for bicyclists to avoid them altogether.
As documented in some old emails in the comment below, the City of Phoenix has a policy to install edge lines when there’s not enough room to make a bike lane; thereby creating a fake bike lane. This is an improper use of EL, not allowed by the MUTCD. Historical note, Greg Stanton was the councilperson at the time, and is now Mayor of “Complete Streets” Phoenix. Here’s a few in City of Phoenix, who seems particularly fond of this, at least in my area of the city, these are Chandler Blvd near 24th St, and Ray Rd around Sun Ray Park area:
Here’s a couple, the first from Guadalupe Rd at bridge over I-10 (below, See this comment for ADOT’s official response), and the second (below; click through to get other views. Dangerousness abounds at this mess) at Rio Saldo Pkwy at the 101 in Tempe. Both have to do with ADOT due to the freeway right-of-way. Rio Salado Pkwy has a designated bike lane both east and west of 101, that stripe sure looks like a bike lane stripe:
ADOT / Frontage Roads: Here is a classic ADOT shenanigan; seen on urban streets… An (apparently unwarranted) edge line makes a fakebikelane — Price Road in the vicinity of Warner Road. Scene #1, southbound; looks wide enough to be a bike lane, but isn’t; plus there are drain grate that further narrows the usable width. Scene #2, northbound; width varies, it’s particularly narrow here with maybe 2′ of usable space; and that’s next to a relatively (about 11′) lane. Also weirdly the gutter pan is narrower than usual (ADOT pans are usually 24″ wide; these are only about a foot, which is again weirdly even narrower than the normal 17″ typically used throughout MAG cities)
Rio Salado between Priest and Hardy, City of Tempe (no ADOT to point the finger at this time) is a flaming fake bike lane. Why not a designated bike lane? Well there just wasn’t enough room (to have 2 lanes in each direction plus a bike lane) so someone thought it would be a good idea to use an (I presume) unwarranted edge line. Sure enough, a CoT staffer told me this was not a BL but rather a “wide curb lane with shoulder stripe (edge line)” — what a cute phrase, I had never heard that one before. I noticed this when i was riding in the (fake, as it turns out) BL and a transit bus passed me within inches without bothering to change lanes. #fakebikelane #adot #edgehazard
Mill Avenue, Tempe: Mill Avenue, just south of Broadway Road. City of Tempe. Has drainage grates taking up most of the space in the fake lane. Apparently unwarranted. This area appears on the MAG Bike Facilities Map as purple/”paved shoulders” (retrieved Oct 2016).
Bad Designated Bike Lanes
The closest and most harrowing pass I’ve ever received on my bike in my lifetime was on Hardy Dr just south of Southern, City of Tempe. This is a designated bike lane. This is an example of a very poor design, the one general purpose lane is maybe 9′, the BL is maybe 3′ and the gutter is 1.5′; and that’s all between vertical curbs, because of the center island/median. This is presumably an example of a “shoehorn” BL; where the love of painted stripes drives people to do bad things, see this page for a diagram of why this design only works when the vehicles are mid-sized cars or smaller. Unfortunately heavy trucks and buses ply this street. The close pass I mentioned above was from a heavy-duty dump truck (SRP if i recall correctly).
Just north of this are incorrect SLMs (“sharrows”); click here for a streetview and here for what an SLM is supposed to look like. To add insult to injury they are not placed properly; they are placed too far to the right. And why would a straight going cyclist want to be to the far far right approaching a right turn only lane? And this is typical of the handful of SLMs on Hardy; it’s as if whoever did this had no idea what they should be doing.
And further north is an odd “innovative” sidewalk bicycle sidepath. Sigh, so much butchery to one little relatively quiet street.
ADOT / Sedona Bad Bike Lane SR89A
Here’s a very new brief(?) stretch of bad designated BL on SR89A in western part of the Town of Sedona. This road still belongs to ADOT (not the Town) at this time, from what I understand. The BL appears on street views in Oct and Nov 2016; there’s a big time gap before that so I can’t tell from google when it was striped (here’s a Sept 2011 view where there is no stripe); Google street view in the area SR89A and Pinon Dr.
This particular area has a dramatically-undersized usable width in the BL, of about only two feet (the stencil is 40″ inches wide), and the whole thing is about only 4′ wide from the curbface.
The AASHTO Guide recommends a usable width (gutter pan seam to center of stripe) of four feet; and specifies the overall minimum width of a BL at 5 feet. This BL misses on both specifications. And those are minimum recommendations on normal streets, if very fast, and/or heavy truck traffic is expected (and I expect it is), more width is recommended.
Compounding the width problem is it’s next to a narrow travel lane; tempting motorists to squeeze by, instead of properly changing lanes. How wide is the travel lane there? I’m not sure but note how the dump truck pictured (dump truck’s body is 8′ wide) appears to nearly fill the lane; I would guess it’s 11′.
Also compounding the width problem is the area pictured looks like it has a significant downhill grade, demanding more width for safe operation.
[update 5/2017: it appears as though they were supposed to be 5 foot (3 + 2 gutter). This wouldn’t be great but it would be far more reasonable that what’s there, pictured, now]