I’ve been corresponding with local planners in Flagstaff regarding summer construction and bicycling improvements, and am writing this post to provide an update on developments on Lone Tree Road. On northbound Lone Tree Road just north of Zuni, and on southbound Lone Tree Road just south of Pine Knoll, a bicycle symbol was set by the markings contractor in the shoulder after the pavement was preserved with a chip seal coat, but the shoulder is too narrow to qualify as an official bike lane. The City of Flagstaff emailed me yesterday indicating this marking was a mistake. They are not intending on widening the shoulders into bike lanes. And the bike lane marking was deemed too difficult to remove without damaging the pavement, so they are just going to let it deteriorate over time I guess. Sounds subversive, but we should assume our City is genuinely encouraging bike friendliness. The City has installed nice “share the road” signs up and down Lone Tree road which help raise driver awareness that the lane is too narrow to be safely shared by a car and bicycle side by side. So overtaking drivers must slow down and wait until there is no oncoming traffic to move over into the adjacent lane to safely pass bicyclists with the recommended passing distance of five feet from the outermost point of a vehicle, including mirrors and wide trailer tires, to the outermost left point on a bicyclist.
As a bicyclist, where should you ride on Lone Tree? Bicycles are a regular part of traffic when riding on the road. Anybody can ride this way and be confident. For the driver of a car it takes increased concentration to negotiate around slower moving vehicles. One may understandably therefore desire for bicyclists to be riding as far onto the shoulder as possible, but this is not the safest way for bicyclists to ride. Riding too far right can be hazardous to bicyclists. Plus squeezing yourself right as a bicyclist can open up the option to a passing motorist of trying to squeeze by you even if there is oncoming traffic, which can result in a sideswipe or a scary too close pass. Generally bicycling curriculums teach one to ride where the pavement is good and the road is swept clear of hazards such as sand, cinders, dirt, gravel, and free of other surface irregularities. The law instructs bicyclists to ride as far to the right as practicable, not possible. Most of the bicyclists I see error on the side of riding too far right because they are afraid safe riding behavior including proper lane positioning will be interpreted as discourteous by passing motorists. Ride where you feel comfortable and safe adapting to the conditions around you, and don’t compromise your safety for the convenience of speeding traffic. You are an equally legitimate part of traffic. You are not required to rush or go faster to be respected. Bicyclists are allowed to use the general travel lane in the direction they are traveling in.
We all feel proud when seeing our neighbors out riding a bicycle and accomplishing things in life with pure human power. It isn’t an easy pleasure but it is a deeply rewarding one, a super fun one, that is deserving of much respect, garners the admiration of our healthy minded community, and inspires others to bicycle! It is a satisfying feeling knowing that you can connect parts of your life together by bicycle, work and home, home and school, errands and trips for fun. Further resources on “where to ride” on the road include our own Arizona Bicycle Street Smarts publication, which is truly excellent. Another excellent instructional site is Cyclingsavvy. Enjoy your bicycling, Flagstaff! You deserve it! Many thanks and huge kudos for the city and county planning, engineering, law enforcement and maintenance teams that keep our roads safe and accomodating for all the diverse types of transportation modes people choose.