Monday, March 22, 2010

the outbox

sent the following to mark moline in the city attorney's office:

back in november you sent me the attached letter, taking the position (in effect) that the public hearing requirement of ORS 814.420(2) is met, and a striped bike lane is therefore subject to the mandatory sidepath requirement, if (paraphrasing here) the facility was listed in the 1996 bike master plan, as updated in 1998, and conforms to the design and engineering guidelines set out in appendix A to that plan.

i did already understand that this was the city's position, but it was useful (in my view) to get it out in the open, on paper.

taking this conversation a step further, i would like to suggest to you that quite a number of the facilities mentioned in the BMP do not in fact, paint on the ground, conform to the stated guidelines.

one example would be northeast tillamook at 41st -- a four-foot bike lane sandwiched between a seven-foot parking lane and a ten-foot travel lane, flat out nonconformance with the engineering guidelines. and there are many others.

in the particular case, you might say, well, if it's in the door zone, and ORS 814.420(3) says you can leave the bike lane to avoid a hazard, what is the problem? but you are telling me the bike lane is certified "safe" per 814.420(2), so how can it make sense to disregard the stripe because i think the stripe itself is unsafe? probably subparagraph (3) is limited to the case where someone is actually opening a door.

more generally, where a narrow bike lane is placed alongside a relatively narrow travel lane, an experienced "vehicular" cyclist would simply take the lane, and the argument would be that she is avoiding the hazard of being overtaken too close. as you may know, ORS 811.065, the statute that requires a motorist to leave a safe passing distance in overtaking a cyclist, expressly does not apply when the cyclist is in a striped bike lane.

i would like to encourage the city to re-think this, and to announce publicly that the BMP does not, in itself, constitute a public hearing for purposes of 814.420(2), at least with respect to facilities that do not in fact conform to the engineering guidelines that were the subject of (purported) public hearings.

thank you for your continued attention to this matter.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


awhile back, in an entry called "unfinished business," i talked about a hit and run that happened back in st. louis two years ago. some jerk blew through a red light in a 98 yukon and took out a guy on a mountain bike, breaking his leg and his pelvis and puncturing his lung.

lots more detail in the earlier post, but briefly:

the prosecutor went to the trouble of getting a grand jury indictment, and the perp was required to post a secured bond of $25k. but then he failed to show for some pretrial hearing, because (as it turned out) he had been jailed across the river on a burglary charge (unrelated, unless maybe he was trying to pay off the bail bondsman).

eventually he pled guilty on what they call a "blind plea," meaning the prosecutor was not offering to recommend a reduced sentence. the maximum sentence in missouri for leaving the scene, class d felony, is four years prison and a $5k fine. the judge actually did impose the four years, but then suspended execution on two years' probation. apart from the usual conditions -- weapons, controlled substances, associating with other criminals, checking in with your probation officer before leaving the area, etc. -- the probation order required the guy to keep a full time job.

what prompted the earlier post was that there was a hearing scheduled to revoke the probation. at the time i supposed that he might have lost a job, but from talking with the prosecutor's office i am gathering that this was actually some kind of fallout from the burglary conviction in illinois.

so anyway this is an update.

bottom line, on february 19 of this year the probation was reinstated. if this guy can stay out of trouble until march 25, 2011 (which does seem unlikely), he is clear.

oh, and he is required to pay $46 to the victims compensation fund. not clear whether he has paid that yet. also unable to find whether the victim has sued the guy for his injuries, which were pretty severe . . .

Monday, March 8, 2010

two more examples

recently i posted a piece detailing how the bike lane on northeast tillamook at 41st, outside the hollywood library, very obviously does not comply with the engineering guidelines in the 1996 bike master plan, as updated in 1998.

the city attorney says the public hearing requirement for the mandatory sidepath law is met with respect to facilities mentioned in the BMP because, um, the guidelines were adopted after public comment. or something like that.

of course, the guidelines are for the most part a mere reiteration of AASHTO and ODoT standards. no independent engineering analysis went into this, and it would be a stretch to say that there was any meaningful public input.

but here we have a facility that does not even meet the guidelines. the striped lane is considerably less than five feet wide, and it is sandwiched between a seven foot parking lane and a ten foot travel lane. flat out noncompliance.

so are we supposed to think maybe it is not subject to the mandatory sidepath law?

the easy answer is, hey, it's in the door zone, and ORS 814.420(3) says you can leave the bike lane to avoid a hazard. but that reasoning is too circular even for me. my question was, is the bike lane certified safe per 814.420(2), and the city attorney said yes. so how can it make sense to disregard the stripe because you think the stripe itself is unsafe?


last week L. and i measured a couple more bike lanes.

one was on lovejoy between northwest 10th and 11th. i had wanted to measure the lane coming down the hill on lovejoy from the broadway bridge (which was among those i had specifically identified in my correspondence with PBoT, and which the city attorney specifically acknowledged was covered by the BMP), but there is a sort of jersey barrier separating the road from the sidewalk there, making it a little difficult to get into and out of the roadway quickly (and giving the cyclist nowhere to bail). maybe another time.

but down there between 10th and 11th (again in the door zone), the measurements are these: bike lane 56 inches, a bit short of five feet, parking lane 86 inches, just over seven feet, travel lane exactly ten feet even. the BMP says in no event should a four-foot bike lane be put next to either a seven-foot parking lane or a ten-foot travel lane. does this comply? hard to say. maybe.

does not matter much to me because usually i am making a left at 11th, so i have another justification for not being in the bike lane, and if i am going further north i make my turn at 9th. but this stuff should matter to someone.

the other bike lane we measured was glisan at northeast 28th, out there in front of the laundromat and the cuban restaurant, with the new bike corral and everything.

bike lane 58 inches to the outer edge of each stripe, almost the full five feet. parking lane 89 inches, somewhat over seven feet, but not eight. travel lane 126 inches, ten and a half feet. pretty much no question this meets the stated guidelines, sorta.

but let's look at a couple of other numbers. a toyota prius is 68.7 inches wide, not quite six feet. an f150 pickup if 78.9 inches wide, a little over six and a half. a hummer h3 is 85.0 inches wide, more than seven feet.

let's say the prius driver parks six inches from the curb. a foot you say? probably, but let's give this particular prius driver some credit. so the left side of the car is maybe a foot from the bike lane, if that. if the driver's side door is opened, how far does the door extend into the bike lane? let's say it is more than zero. with the f150 or the h3 it would be that much worse.

so i am going to want to leave three feet or so between my path and the left side of the parked car. at least. maybe four.

could i stay in the bike lane? well, yes, most of the time, but why? we have almost fifteen feet between the parking lane and the center line. why not take some of it, give myself some cushion, and force an overtaking motorist to move a little to the left? what function does the striped lane actually serve here, except to force me to the side?

absent the mandatory sidepath law, would the far to the right law, ORS 814.430, require me to hug the door zone? not a question for the city attorney.