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

A standard sign with placard, “legalizes” thru-bike usage.

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.

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

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.

Tempe 311 / CouncilCommunicator

(sent thru cc email because rich text is easier) Please pass along to your streets people AS WELL AS POLICE DEPARTMENT.

Warner at Hardy Dr, Tempe. Dropped Bike Lane

Many major intersections in Tempe (particularly south Tempe), on roads with bike lanes use a configuration where the BL stops a few hundred feet before major intersections and the road widens where the space formerly occupied by the BL becomes a Right-turn-only (RTO) lane. This configuration is concentrated in south Tempe, there is a list below. All drivers of vehicles, including bicyclists, are prohibited from using the RTO lane as a through lane. This creates conflict between thru going bicyclists and motorists sharing the road.

I have occasion to traverse such intersections thousands of times a year  riding a bicycle… a small fraction of motorists will harass a bicyclist here, and a small fraction of a small fraction of drivers will slip into criminal behavior: Threatening & Intimidation, and/or Endangerment, and/or outright Assault. It begins with unnecessary (and illegal) horn-blowing, and can escalate to intentional close passing, driving towards the bicyclist (i.e. to force the bicyclist from the bicyclist’s lane), etc. Rare but it happens.

Example of shared-use RTO lane

Happily, there is a VERY INEXPENSIVE engineering fix, which ameliorates these troubles, and as far as I understand is as safe or safer. This treatment is fully compliant with the MUTCD.

List of Intersections in Tempe…where this treatment would be appropriate and desirable. The cost would be minimal, in each direction one “EXCEPT BIKES” placard to be added to the existing RTO sign, and one (or two) Shared Lane Markings:

I don’t ride as much north, there are only a few places i can think in north Tempe where combined use would be appropriate, one being Broadway westbound at Rural where notably there is already an “EXCEPT BUS” placard due to the bus bay on the far side.

For more on the use of combined Turn lanes, please see http://azbikelaw.org/should-warner-road

Just some examples

Los Alamos circa 2011

Here’s on from Los Alamos via labikes blogspot.  I need to check: is the right-arrow stencil a specified/standardized size?

Slide 9 in this presentation* shows Miller Rd at Osborne, Scottsdale where southbound they have installed a  sharrow into a formerly RTO lane; and added the except bikes placard to the RTO sign. The same treatment is at Miller and Thomas. (for some reason, Miller Rd is sometimes known as 76th St). Also in Scottsdale, more recently 68th St at McDowell was sharrow’ed (though i don’t see a placard?). In the latter example, the sharrow is placed in the center of the effective lane width, which is the preferred placement. The Sharrow on Miller is placed at the extreme left of a quite-narrow lane. Also notable on 68th is a bike-specific loop detector.

*Also of note, the presentation referenced above contains a couple of out-of-state examples (one is from OR, the other HI) currently dis-allowed “lane within a lane” configurations.

This sign from NACTO conflicts with MUTCD

The city of Phoenix has installed some combination lanes circa 2013 on Galvin Parkway, e.g. near the Phoenix Zoo, this is very near border with city of Tempe, I think this was done at same time as the area was re-striped with a left-buffered BL. Note that this is the wrong symbol; there is only one correct shared lane marking symbol, and the “helmeted cyclist” is not it (image of correct symbol). The it’s unclear to me if the dotted line is permitted, see MUTCD Part 9 FAQ #11.  At this time, the only allowable configuration for combination is to end the BL before the RTO; at which point shared use (for bicyclists) can be allowed through SLMs, and “except bikes” if there’s RTO signage. The signage at the Galvin installation is this overly-elaborate affair that, again, implies there’s a BL between a thru, and an RTO lane.  (see email reply about this treatment in comment below)

Here’s another City of Phoenix installation, 12th Street at Camelback, it was mentioned on the City’s recent improvements page as being done March 2016. This uses similar features as the Galvin installation mentioned above; as above, the dotted line seems like a bad idea… there’s no reason or point to trying to separate thru bicycle traffic from right-turning traffic within that narrow lane; and the sign implies there is a BL between the thru and RTO lane. Along that same project, there were some combined Bus/Bike Only Lanes, e.g. 12th around Northern.

Portland, OR: N Rosa Parks Way at Albina. Installed ~ 2015. Longer explanation at bikeportland.org, and note that OR laws are distinctly different regarding bike lanes. Portland has some history with doing sketchy installations; however this seems fully compliant with FHWA recommendations; including a correct sharrow (SLM) and also has signage making it legal for bicyclists to continue straight in what would otherwise be a RTOL.

A Strange Conversation

LTO lane, two thru, and the dropped Bike Lane becomes a RTO lane

There was light traffic, it was a holiday-Monday morning, and relatively early, pre-morning rush. I was eastbound along Warner Road approaching a red signal at Kyrene., Tempe AZ. As is the usual case along this arterial, the BL drops ~ 300′ before the intersection. I had no trouble merging from the right into the right-hand through lane. I was first-up, stopped at the signal, a short time later a driver in a large white luxury SUV pulled up alongside me in the left through lane, and got my attention by a light tap on his horn, he wanted to talk, I looked and nodded. Thus began an odd ~ 20 second conversation:

driver: I just want to ask you a question. Why aren’t you in the Bike Lane?

me: (short delay; somewhat puzzled) There is no Bike lane here.

driver: I’m just asking, why aren’t you in the Bike Lane? (motions toward the far side of the intersection, where the bike lane resumes)

me: oh. To my right is a right-turn-only, I’m going straight ahead… I will be in the bike lane once it starts again.

driver: what makes you think you’ll make it across? (or something, this one was particularly strange) Why aren’t you in the bike lane?

At this point, it’s gotten like an Abbott and Costello routine; thankfully the light turned green and he roared away. His demeanor wasn’t aggressive or loud or anything obviously negative. Was he being rhetorical? Snarky? Smarmy? Hard to know!
During our interchange, two drivers used the RTO lane, and made a right on red.

The UVC Right-Turn clause

This is a bit confusing, and doesn’t apply to AZ anyway (see here for a long dissertation on AZ’s FTR law), but here goes…

The UVC’s FTR (bicyclist-specific Far to The Right law) as well as some other states contains a FTR exception, that alludes to right-turning. Nota Bene: that although these sound similar they are each different from one another:

  • UVC § 11-205(a)(4) When riding in the right-turn-only lane
  • CVC § 21202(a)(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized
  • DE § 4196(a)(3) When proceeding straight in a right-turn-only lane

The UVC and CA versions have been around forever, at least decades.

The UVC version is the most mysterious to me. E.g. does it apply, or matter, if the bicyclist is going straight or intending to turn right? Does it imply a bicyclist may legally go straight through in a RTOL? (It doesn’t seem so to me).

The CA version says nothing of RTOLs, and clearly gives bicyclists, who wish to exercise it, the most protection because it explicitly allows them to move away from the right edge anywhere a right hook could occur, even if the lane is wide. In states like AZ, you would have to rely on the implicit “as practicable” to protect yourself in the same way. Note also that in CA, in many urban areas with frequent driveways and intersections, this clause effectively completely neuters the FTR law.

The DE one, though, is quite recent; it was a bill passed just in 2012, SB-120. Advocates for the bill state flatly that the new clause “… gives cyclists the ability to go straight in a turn lane” , eg. see bikede.org; but that’s not exactly what it says… but is that what it implies? (aside: the same bill explicitly allows bicyclists to use paved shoulders — 4196(d) ”Any person operating a bicycle may ride upon a paved shoulder with due regard for any traffic control devices intended to regulate or guide traffic or pedestrians.”

 

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.
[ UPDATES: 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. ]

 

 

 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. See here for a comparison of AZ, CA, and UVC.

15 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
    Details:
    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: http://goo.gl/maps/oiK2h

    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.
    http://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/Asset49278.aspx

    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:
    https://www.google.com/maps?ll=33.334961,-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. In August it was noted that a trendy new, experimental, green (the green is difficult to see in the pic) bicycle lane (in Minneapolis) 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, link now dead
    “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”

    current page bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/design_guidance/mutcd/
    “Disallowed… Combined bicycle lane/turn lane where the lane attempts to establish a bike lane” and
    “Allowable through the 2009 MUTCD… Shared-lane markings in exclusive turn lanes”
    —-

    From: “Bruce.Friedman@dot.gov”
    Sent: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 6:05 AM
    Subject: RE: combined RTO lanes

    There have been no changes to our thinking on the combined use of a lane for right turns by motor vehicles and straight-through movements by bicyclists. This is a lane that is being shared and shared-lane markings may be used. Carving out a bike lane from a right-turn lane that is not wide enough to accommodate both (the motor vehicle lane becomes very narrow in situations where this has been tried or proposed) is not acceptable.

    Some States have revised their rules of the road to allow bicyclists to proceed straight through an intersection from a right-turn lane. In those States that have not revised their laws, an EXCEPT BIKES supplemental plaque below the RIGHT LANE MUST TURN RIGHT sign or the Right Turn Only sign may be used to inform motorists, bicyclists, and law enforcement personnel of this exception.

    I hope that this information is helpful to you.

    Bruce
    __________________________________
    Bruce E. Friedman, P.E.
    Transportation Specialist, MUTCD Team
    Office of Operations
    Federal Highway Administration
    1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
    Washington, DC 20590

  8. There’s a discussion of this treatment in the “Bicycle Facilities” chapter 14 of ITE Traffic Control Devices Handbook, 2nd Edition (“The Handbook augments the 2009 Edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The Traffic Control Devices Handbook, 2nd Edition provides guidance and information to implement the provisions of the MUTCD. The objective of the Handbook is to bridge the gap between the MUTCD requirements and field applications . . .
    See Figure 14-12.
    This chapter was written by Richard Moeur and John Ciccarelli.

    Also it turns out Gene H was involved back in 2007 w/the whole issue of “except bicycles” placard — there are a bunch of placards in the city of Phoenix at the time as noted here, that were in the process of being removed, and at more or less the same time, the City of Scottsdale was in the process of adding them.

    Mark A found this post from John Allen Right-turn lane as dual-destination lane?

    I completely agree that it is foolish and hazardous for cyclists to ride near the right side of a right-turn lane when headed straight across the intersection. That is the “coffin corner” situation that we lament when it kills a naive cyclist. But, on the other hand, I consider treating an empty right turn lane with a receiving lane or shoulder after the intersection as a dual-destination lane, and riding in its center or toward its left side, only to be a variation on the decades-old advice to choose lane position according to the rules of motion, and ignore the bike-lane stripe. I’m not alone in this, not at all. Installations formalizing this treatment have been made in a number of places in the USA.

  9. Gene H has a photo album of a whole bunch of “Right Lane must turn right / Except Bicycles” around downtown Phoenix.

    Many (all?) have since been reconfigured, eliminating the sign.
    E.g. 5th Ave SB at Roosevelt, the RTO lane was eliminated and replaced with a right buffered bike lane

    In a different configuration, a shoehorn BL was inserted at 5th Ave SB at I-10; the existing space of 3 lanes (2 thru and one RTO) was reallocated to squeeze in a ~ 4′ BL between the (now narrower) thru lane and RTO.

    Street view history shows the change happened between 2011 and 2014.

  10. Kirschner, David (FHWA)
    Hi Ed –
    Your understanding is correct about this treatment. Item 11 in our Part 9 FAQ, as you noted, details the compliant solution for this design. I will let our Arizona Division know and they can work with AZDOT or the City, depending on who is responsible, to correct this location.
    Thanks –
    Dave

    Dave Kirschner, P.E.
    Transportation Specialist, MUTCD Team
    Federal Highway Administration
    1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, E84-407
    Washington, DC 20590
    (202) 366-6054
    david.kirschner@dot.gov
    http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/

  11. On Monday, August 25, 2014 11:31 AM, "Dresang, Julian" wrote:
    Mr. Beighe,
    Thank you for contacting the City of Tempe regarding your concerns with bike lane/edge line markings.
    At the locations you identified on McClintock at Elliot, you are correct that these are edge lines and not bicycle lanes.  They are too narrow to meet our standards of bicycle lanes.  All bicycle lanes will have bicycle lanes symbols and also generally have signage as well (both per the MUTCD).  We will be repaving McClintock in this area soon and at that time we will reevaluate the current striping.
     
    Your concerns with “dropping” bicycle lanes at major intersections are similar to other concerns we have received.  We are currently in the process of updating our Transportation Master Plan and this is an issue we are looking at addressing.  A link to Tempe’s Transportation Master Plan can be found at ...  The concept of a “combined bike/right-turn lane” is being explored.
     
    I agree that Tempe’s bicycle infrastructure is not perfect, but I do believe we are doing a lot of good things and are moving in the right direction.  Your input and feedback is very important, so please continue to alert us to these issues so that we can continue to improve.
     
    Sincerely,
    Julian Dresang, P.E.
    City Traffic Engineer
    Traffic Engineering
    City of Tempe

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