Thursday, January 7, 2010

More about bike lanes

Jonathan, in Montreal, commented on my last post, pointing out that in Montreal where there are segregated bike lanes, the trouble is that they're only separate between intersections: at each intersection you suddenly pop back into traffic, most of which hasn't noticed you because you were off in your own lane, possibly even behind parked cars. (That and where the bike lanes are blocked by something, you have to haul your bike up and over curbs and into traffic that's not used to seeing you there, or get on the sidewalk, neither of which is good.)

I can see that: and a lot of people have been mentioning that the real danger in bike lanes is when they end abruptly, shoving you unexpectedly into traffic. Did anyone see Giacomo Panico's video from last summer of commuting down Albert Street? Where the 'posted bike route' ends, Albert goes from a one-way street to a two-way. Dropping Giacomo, who's been traveling on the left side to stay away from the bus lane, right on the yellow line in two-way traffic with no way off the road. Scary.

Something to remember when designing the bike lanes: making them as continuous as possible. Keeping intersections in mind. Maybe signposting them, too, so cyclists have a sense of where they run, and how to get from point A to point B using safer streets... I know I would happily avoid major arteries if I knew how. One of the problems is all the waterways in Ottawa: bridges concentrate traffic, and so far are prioritized for cars. I see that part of the plan is a bike lane across the Pretoria Bridge, to which I say hallelujah. Especially since cyclists converge in that area to get onto the Canal bike path.

Jonathan's suggestion was to create bike-only streets in places: surprisingly, that's the other motion the transportation committee approved yesterday! There's a proposal to close a few streets leading off Montreal Road in the Vanier area to motor traffic. Wow. Here's hoping.

I'm also just happy to see attention being drawn to increased safety for cyclists in the city. It's too bad it took a year of terrible fatalities to make it happen. I've come across this interactive map of the seven most dangerous intersections in Ottawa for cyclist/car collisions: I use most of these intersections regularly. Elgin and Laurier is a nasty one; Vanier Parkway and Montreal is pretty unpleasant too, although I usually just go straight through it on Montreal, so I don't have to turn. Both of those are scary because there are multiple lanes on both roads, and because cars just don't expect us to merge into left-turn lanes and don't know what to do with us when we do. Notice, too, how many of these dangerous spots are in the general vicinity of bridges: where traffic concentrates. The three or so that aren't are near highway ramps, or on major arteries in suburban areas where the multilane street is the only direct route in a tangle of crescents and residential drives. The bikes wouldn't be there if they had a choice, for the most part: but it's just the easiest, or only, way from point to point. Bike lanes here, separate enough to keep us out of traffic and away from the buses plying those major streets, would be welcome: as long as they don't suddenly end, dropping us in some truly scary situation, which is all too often the case.

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