A Primer on Modern Bike Lanes

We had some great comments in an earlier post referencing concerns about bike lanes. With that in mind, BFOC wanted to post some images of poor and well planned bicycle infrastructure. As stated in a prior post, most US cities were well behind the curve in attempting to develop a bicycle friendly network. The planners we’ve interviewed noted that their first designs weren’t always perfect, but with time, they were able to adopt changes in their engineering to better improve these systems. As any engineer will tell you, a problem only represents an opportunity.

Here are some of the solutions we’re advocating:

The Door Zone

Bike lanes that are set too close to car doors, represent a problem for potential open door incidents. Several solutions have been developed to overcome this. The paint-only method is to stripe a buffer zone, as seen here:

Our preferred solution is to take this one step further and create a dedicated, or bounded bike lane:

The Right Hook

Another problem was presented at intersections. If cyclists were left in a drivers blind spot at a stop, the potential for a right-hook collision could occur. Portland found four troublesome intersections and looked to Copenhagen for a solution. What they returned with was simple…the Bike Box. As Roger Geller pointed out in a prior interview, there have been no incidents since their application:

And here’s a video primer on how to use a bike box.

Debris in the Lane

A third problem referenced has been potential for debris in a bike lane. This can definitely be a problem, but one which also allows a simple engineering solution that Dallas already implements: the street sweeper. Dallas sweeps all streets in the CBD 5 nights a week, and its secondary thoroughfares once a month. If more is needed, another solution would be the creation of a private/public partnered “Friends of” group, similar to the “Friends of the Katy Trail”. Without the FKT, the public mainstay in Dallas would be little more than a gravel topped road. This organization not only raises private funds for the completion of the Trail, but helps the City of Dallas plan, build and maintain Trail improvements. And why would we assume private institutions would be willing to assist with upkeep and maintenance? Because the amenity of a good trail system is seen as a net plus for the neighborhood.

21st Century Planning – Putting People First

Lastly, we would like to focus on the overall implications of adopting a people-over-cars strategy for city planning. As noted in other BFOC articles, the number one worry Vehicular Cyclists have in regards to bike lane development is the lack of freedom to ride in any given lane with a car. While this may be a valid concern, the philosophy not only enables car-over-people planning, but promotes it. For years, we engineered humans out of city streetscapes to allow for faster, more efficient car travel. What we’ve been left with is 4 to 6 lane concrete moats that separate out communities, and leave people stuck in a perilous game of Frogger to simply walk to the store. The idea of putting people first in city planning has proven to not only increase economic development, but to bring culture and activity back to former concrete jungles. A planner from Vancouver recently visited Dallas and made the simple counter-intuitive statement, “Congestion is a GOOD thing.” And why? Slowing down traffic allows people to take in their surroundings, makes streets safer for crossing, and creates inviting sidewalks that people drive past and want to stop and walk around on. Imagine Greenville Avenue widened into a 6 lane road. Would you still want to walk along it, or dine at its patios? Where would you prefer to setup your small storefront on McKinney Avenue or Royal Lane?

And lastly, looking at the picture above, which would you as a beginner cyclist prefer to step out on?


  1. […] Friendly Oak Cliff posted a nice primer on bike lane basics, which is important, because bike lanes are often installed haphazardly and this can lead to more […]

  2. […] 11, 2009 in EditorialTags: Bike Lanes, city planning, urbanism Something we covered in the Bike Lane Primer article that I wanted to focus more on here is the concept in Urbanism known as Transect Zones. […]

  3. Steve A · ·

    There’s one real big problem with the bounded bike lane shown in the third picture. That problem is the curb, which the cyclist has no choice but to ride near. Should any problem occur (such as a stray dog) that caused the cyclist in the third picture to swerve 1.5 feet to the right, the cyclist would suffer a diversion fall. At least with pure paint, if you have to ride over the line, you aren’t dumped unceremoniously onto the road. If two cyclists abreast tried to use that lane, a much smaller swerve would produce the same effect.

    If, on the other hand, in the same picture, you take away those space-hogging curbs (leave the orange rubber things if you wish), and you have a nice wide lane to ride down. At least with the orange rubber things, I can merge left into traffic prior to executing a left turn.

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