With a Little Touch of Paint

“Bicycling offers a higher trip quality than most other forms of transportation.”  — Cycling Savvy

I got a little lost while bicycling to the San Pedro press conference yesterday and stopped to ask directions at an autobody shop.  I was told Christy Mae’s–the location of the conference–was a few blocks north.  “Go down San Pedro, past Lomas, and Christy Mae’s is on the east side of the road two blocks north.”  Great!  Traffic was clear so I got in the right hand lane of San Pedro Rd. and headed to my destination.  Just past Lomas a vehicle passed me and the passenger hollered out the window: “get in a bike lane!”  Moments later I rolled up to my destination and listened to City Councilor profess how San Pedro would be redesigned to make it more walkable and bikeable.

The repainting does not make bicycling any more legitamate than it already is.  But the reconfiguration of lanes is supposed to communicate through design what is already supposedly understood, that bicycles are just another vehicle on the road.  The trick is using design to promote accepting attitudes and bend our perceptions toward anticipating a more diverse mix of traffic types.  There are currently two lanes in each direction and the right lane is not wide enough for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to share side by side.  So faster traffic simply can change to the left lane and move past.  The new configuration will be one bicycle lane and one general travel lane in each direction, giving bicycles a “preferred” space along the road and heightening awareness to the presence of bicyclists and pedestrians resulting in calmer traffic.

Here's the current configuration of San Pedro Rd. south of Menaul

Here’s the current configuration of San Pedro Rd. south of Menaul

Will the redesign help?   I think so.  Right now it feels like a cars gone wild environment with the all too tempting long stretches of wide open and vacated blacktop.  The calmer and more accommodating lane configuration brings our attention to the life happening on the streetscape and makes it easier to access the many businesses.  Bike lanes should encourage “bicyclists to operate in a manner consistent with the legal and effective operation of all vehicles” according to the AASHTO guide to bicycle facilities, 4th addition.  Delineating space in the roadway for bikes should reduce wrong way riding and sidewalk riding, dangerous behaviors which escalate when bikes are not properly accommodated in the road.  Enhanced predictability and inclusiveness makes a more comfortable and friendly environment for everyone.

Even with the new paint we have a lot of work ahead changing the driving culture to being more thoughtful and careful.   “Bike lanes are not intended to accommodate all bicycle use on a roadway; bicyclists may leave a bike lane to pass other bicyclists, make left turns or right turns, avoid debris or other objects, or to pass buses or other vehicles momentarily stopped in the bike lane” (AASHTO).  Bicyclists still have to make good judgments on where to ride in the roadway and how to respond to conditions.  Motorists still have to take bicyclists into consideration, assess when it is safe to pass and think carefully to make good judgments in changing traffic situations.  All of us aspire to relate courteously and empathetically while imbuing good will.  It is a great makeover to get us thinking about these things and together I think we can make San Pedro Rd. a better quality environment, one that we like to be in, one that our children will like to be in, one we can be excited to take visitors through.

References:  AASHTO stands for American Associate of State Highway and Transportation Officials.  Their 2012 Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities is a standard guide manual.

A good summary of some key elements:  http://azbikelaw.org/blog/aashto-guide-for-the-development-of-bicycle-facilities/

Update (11/1914): today I snapped a photo of San Pedro north of Menaul which is already in the current configuration of one general travel lane in each direction, one bike lane in each direction, and a center turn lane.

in spite of it being recycling and trash day the bike lane on San Pedro north worked great.  I like this configuration.  Orderly and people drive decently

in spite of it being recycling and trash day the bike lane on San Pedro north worked great. I like this configuration. Orderly and people drive decently

the center turn lane provides a nice buffer when not in use.  Cars comfortably and courteously move left to give me extra room to navigate obstacles

the center turn lane provides a nice buffer when not in use. Cars comfortably and courteously move left to give me extra room to navigate obstacles

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