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City Says Bike Lane May Have Made Intersection More Dangerous

— San Diego road crews have scrubbed out a brightly painted bike lane on a busy road near San Diego State University after realizing the lane made the area no safer, and possibly more dangerous.

Aired 1/22/13 on KPBS News.

San Diego officials say a bike lane on a busy road near SDSU made a nearby intersection no safer, and possibly more dangerous.

Montezuma Road is a common bike route leading to the SDSU campus. But its mile-a-minute car traffic is very dangerous to people on bikes. Most notorious may be the corner of Collwood Boulevard, where cyclists on Montezuma have to cross a fast line of right-turning cars.

City of San Diego road crews painted a diagonal path on Montezuma Road to help bikes cross a fast-moving turn lane near the corner of Collwood.

Four months after it was created, the city painted over the diagonal path, saying it may have made the section of Montezuma Road even more dangerous.

Last fall the city painted a diagonal neon-green bike lane to show where the bikes should cross through the right-turning traffic, thinking it would alert motorists and make cyclists safer. But now that bike lane has been painted over.

City traffic department spokesman Bill Harris said traffic engineers decided it wasn't a good solution.

"We were a little concerned that drivers were not going to slow, not going to notice the bicyclists as much as they should,” he said, “given the fact that we seemed to be encouraging the bicyclists to cross through that lane non-stop."

Harris said the city is working on other solutions for Montezuma Road and its Collwood intersection.

“It may include a dedicated bicycle crossing light. It may include a buffered bike lane, which is a separate bike lane. It may include changing the signal timing,” said Harris.

Last year, a cyclist was killed by a car on Montezuma Road. I was hit by a car while riding my bike at Montezuma and Collwood six years ago.

Comments

Avatar for user 'wpstoll'

wpstoll | January 24, 2013 at 12:26 p.m. ― 1 year, 2 months ago

Slow down the traffic as far back as Fairmount Avenue. What a waste of time, money, and material! This whole area should be treated as a school zone with one lane in either direction for motor traffic. This is not a freeway, but traffic engineers seem to regard it and Fairmount as extensions of I-8. These are surface streets. High speeds and uncontrolled merges have no place here.

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Avatar for user 'billdsd'

billdsd | January 27, 2013 at 11:33 a.m. ― 1 year, 2 months ago

This was never a good design. As wpstoll says, treating surface roads like freeways is dangerous. This is an inherently bad road design.

A big part of the problem is that one lane is so wide that it effectively becomes two lanes, a right turn lane and a straight through lane a long way before the paint demarcates them. It then tries to deflect straight through traffic from the bike lane to the left across a turning lane. They put up a sign that turning drivers have to yield to bikes but too many don't even see that sign, much less respect it.

The right lane should be narrowed all the way back and the bike lane should be made to go straight all the way. When the right turn lane actually begins, drivers should be the ones deflecting their movement across the bike lane. The drivers will be much closer to their turn when moving into the right turn lane, which makes them slower at that point and it tends to make them more careful as they are thinking about crossing the bike lane. The speed limit should also be lowered and it should be enforced.

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Avatar for user 'jsallen'

jsallen | March 21, 2013 at 8:03 a.m. ― 1 year ago

The painted-out design violates a fundamental rule of the road, which is that drivers must hold their line of travel when others are overtaking. I call the design the X-merge or double-cross merge, because it instructs motorists to merge across a lane from left to right while bicyclists merge across the same lane from right to left. The green paint was supposed to indicate that the motorists must yield to the bicyclists, but that doesn't work when the motorists also are merging.

Too many bicyclists are likely to assume that designers knew what they were doing, and too many motorists won't understand what they are supposed to do, even if bicyclists happen to be in view of the motorists' rear-view mirrors. That may not be the case, and especially not if a bicyclist is going faster than a motorist who is waiting in a queue or has slowed to turn right.

A short helmet-cam video showing how I had to outsmart this type of design to avoid a risk of collision is here: https://vimeo.com/55674540 .

Commenter billdsd has suggestions which seem reasonable, though I don't know the specific location well enough to make any definitive judgment, or make detailed suggestions myself. I can also suggest that traffic signals might be timed at the previous intersection to take advantage of the difference in typical speeds between cyclists and motorists, so as to make merging easier.

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Avatar for user 'jsallen'

jsallen | March 21, 2013 at 8:38 a.m. ― 1 year ago

Additional comments, after looking at the photos again: Safe merging requires checking for overtaking traffic and moving across a lane when and where a gap in traffic permits, or after signaling and getting the cooperation of an overtaking driver to slow down and be let into line. Instead, here, bicyclists are instructed to follow a specified route, lemming-like. The painted-out design attempts to require overtaking motorists to yield to the bicyclists moving diagonally across the lane, which is opposite the usual arrangement. The situation here could only be resolved by both bicyclists' and motorists' following the merging rules, by traffic signals which prevent the streams of traffic from conflicting with one another, or, very expensively, with a grade separation.

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