Friday, January 16, 2015

Riverside's First Two-Way Bike Lane

It's not quite a cycletrack, because it's not protected along most of its length, and it's only a block long, but it's a pretty major improvement in the cycling infrastructure around UCR. It's Riverside's first two-way on-street bike lane!
It runs from the Bannockburn Apartments on Canyon Crest to here, the intersection of Campus Drive and University:

Except that, as you'll notice from the directional arrows there, it doesn't quite do that. The lane is designed to funnel cyclists headed southbound on Canyon Crest into the UCR campus, and so the contraflow lane ends at a point where the lane intersects a major campus walkway:
I should be clear, I like this facility. I ride it almost every day. I think the concrete curb protecting cyclists is awesome and long-overdue, especially since it prevents the (illegal) passenger loading operations that regularly blocked the bike lane and walkway portal at this corner. That said, I think that there are major problems on both ends of the lane.

The lane starts basically mid-block on Canyon Crest, at the north end of the stoplight at Bannockburn's driveway. I cannot see any way for cyclists to legally and safely transition between riding in the traditional, southbound with-traffic lane on the west side of Canyon Crest to entering the contraflow lane. The only thought I could come up with is that cyclists are supposed to dismount, use the crosswalk at Bannockburn, and mount up again to enter the new lanes on the east side of the street.

What actually ends up happening in practice is this:

Cyclists either simply ride the wrong way down the existing northbound bike lane, or they cross the street somewhere in the middle and ride in oncoming traffic to get to the new lanes.

Something similar happens on the Campus Drive section of the bike lane, with cyclists from campus ignoring the fact that the lane is one-way (eastbound) at that point, and proceeding westbound behind the new curb and all the way down to the University Village.

Granted, both of these maneuvers were happening long before this facility went in. In putting in the contraflow lane, the City painted what cyclists were doing anyway. But I fail to understand why the lane was stopped at Bannockburn, rather than extended at least to Linden St., or ideally to Blaine St. That way, cyclists could enter the lanes when they turned on to Canyon Crest, and they would be able to ride legally and safely the entire length of the street. To my (admittedly untrained) eye, the street width looks pretty constant from UCR all the way to Blaine St.

Furthermore, I strongly advocated for the extension of this facility down University to the University Village. The City could have removed the existing westbound lane, shifted the whole street over, and added that lane back in on the south side of University. I even rode with Charlie Gandy to outline such an option, back when he was working with the City. As-is, I have to dodge several salmoning cyclists (and worse, scooter-riders and skateboarders) every time I ride from the UV up towards campus. The new cycletrack only encourages this behavior.

Lastly, there is one major safety issue with the lane-- the lack of bollards on the Campus Dr. side. Cars are used to turning right around that corner, and some still do so, only to find themselves on the wrong side of the concrete barrier. Once a car is in the lane, there is no way for them to leave but to drive through it, which many do in a panicked hurry. I myself nearly got run over by a Jeep Cherokee in the lane while taking the pictures for this article.

So, in summary, Riverside now has a two-way on-street bike lane. It is flawed, but it is a step in the right direction. We need to keep the pressure up on the City so that they extend this facility to its rightful conclusions on both ends.

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