So the bike lanes on Fifth Avenue have been painted and, good news!, they’re solid lines (at least that I’ve seen) not dashed. It’s good that the city isn’t expecting them to double as car lanes.
Unfortunately, though, drivers already expect to be able to commandeer them. I’ve seen cars driving in and blocking the lanes multiple times over the past few days. Hell, once driver couldn’t even wait until the paint was dry, smearing his right-turning tire tracks through the intersection.
Clearly, we’re not quite done with fixing this intersection, so yesterday, I contacted the local councillor, outlining what needs to happen, here’s what I wrote:
It’s great to see that new bike lanes have been put on parts of Fifth Avenue. This is a really positive development that should help make our community safer and more livable.
I wanted to inquire about the state of the project. I hope it is not quite completed, as it seems like there are some points of conflict that still need to be ironed out. My main concern is with the intersection of Fifth and Bank. It seems to me the following things need to be done to ensure the street is as safe as possible for all users:
1. We need bollards. I’m by the intersection multiple times a day, and most of the time over the past couple of days, I’ve seen a car in the bike lane. Even if we can’t have bollards all along the bike lane, putting one right where the bike lane meets the stop line would force cars to remain in their lane while entering the intersection. (You can even see tire tracks in the paint of the westbound bike lane where a driver just couldn’t drive straight.)
2. Speaking of stop lines, it would be great if the stop lines for the car lanes could be moved back a bit. When going westbound, there is a tremendous pinch point on the other side of the street (actually two: first the curb, then the parked cars). Getting bikes ahead of cars would help them get across safely and help them be seen by drivers, especially those looking to make a quick right turn.
3. Can we get bike boxes? Once the stop lines are recessed, I’d love to see bike boxes so that that bicyclists that need to turn left can get ahead of traffic and not be trapped in the bike lane.
4. We also need to ban rights on reds. This will protect bicyclists who are going straight from being right-hooked or bullied by right-turning cars. It would also provide added protection for pedestrians.
5. Finally, can we get an advance bike (and pedestrian) light? (I imagine this might take a bit more time than the other needed improvements.) This will help let bicyclists clear the intersection before cars begin turning or darting through. As mentioned, there are potentially dangerous pinch points, so letting bikes get ahead of the car traffic would be really great.
As I said, I view the new bike lanes as a definite improvement for the neighbourhood. The city appears to be trying to do the right thing to keep bicyclists safe and accommodate all road users. I think with just these few extra tweaks, we wouldn’t just be doing the right thing; we’d be doing the right thing properly.
Now, maybe you think I’m being a bit presumptuous or a little demanding. The city just put in a bike lane and now I’m demanding they do five more things…something about gift horses and mouths.
But what I’m asking for should be the minimum we the city should do–the minimum we should expect–when putting in a bike lane that crosses a major street. These should be extras or nice-to-haves. These should just be done by default.
I’ll keep y’all informed if anything comes of this.