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, sometimes called a “Combined bike/turn lane”; It doesn’t eliminate the negatives, but it does address some of them. E.g. it makes it explicitly legal to proceed straight through the (otherwise) RTO [see below info from Bruce Friedman for details]. From the FHWA page Bicycle Facilities and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices:
Allowable through the 2009 MUTCD… Shared-lane markings in exclusive turn lanes
Disallowed… Combined bicycle lane/turn lane where the lane attempts to establish a bike lane
[On older versions of that page, it used to allow for a BL combination experimentation which is now disallowed, and SLMs are ok] Here’s what it used to say:
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 note that they show illustrations that are explicitly not permitted by showing a bike lane marking rather than a shared lane marking; And a paper evaluating similar scenarios is at bicyclinginfo.org
Would this be better? (I mean better than doing nothing?) I think so.
Just some examples
Here’s on from Los Alamos via labikes blogspot. I need to check: is the right-arrow stencil a specified/standardized size?
Here (slide 9) is a pic of Miller Rd at Osborne, Scottsdale where they have installed a sharrow into a formerly RTO lane.
[ UPDATES: most of this info is superseded by an article dedicated to the issues at/near Warner and Kyrene. Also note this area was completely overlaid in late 2016 at which time the striping was changed dramatically. I left the original text here in
strikethrough for posterity ] 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. 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. The CA requirements are as far as I can tell very unusual; it’s not in AZ, nor is it in the UVC so don’t expect CA-style language anytime soon in other places.