i took the reopened broadway bridge into downtown the other day. they have restriped the last block approaching the bridge from the east, between benton and larrabee, so that the bike lane now hugs the right curb, inside the right turn lane.
before all this construction to put in the streetcar tracks, the bike lane had been to the left of the right turn lane for the last half block. there was a half block gap after benton that functioned, however inadequately, as a transition across the turning lane.
of course, i always took the travel lane anyway from at least ross, disregarding the bike lane against the curb, so that the merge to the through lane was a matter of only a few inches and i did not have to compete with motorists merging right. but with the lane striped solid all the way down to larrabee this becomes somewhat more overtly a political act.
there is an advanced stop line at larrabee, and one supposes that this will soon be marked as a bike box.
this was not on greg raisman's project list presented to BAC two weeks ago, incidentally.
when i got home, i sent somewhat intemperate e-mails to the entire crew at BAC (minus one, whose e-mail address i have not been able to unearth) and to rob sadowsky and gerik kransky over at BTA. "another genius move by PBoT," i said, and a couple of people reacted at least slightly negatively.
but it does seem to me that we are careening down a dangerous path with these bike boxes in lieu of proper lane placement and sharrows, and those who are positioned as advocates for cyclists either are silent or have affirmatively bought in to these treatments.
BTA is participating in the ribbon cutting for the burnside/couch couplet next tuesday, october 12. they have been promoting this with a variant of the "build it" logo saying "built." what the hell was "built" for cyclists? a striped lane on couch from 6th down, inside two right hooks and a bus stop, and a sidepath through an s-curve onto the bridge where lane widths and a tight radius at the last right turn pretty much force motorists to encroach. thanks a lot. "built."
oh, and a green box at couch and grand, which accomplishes nothing at all on the green signal phase. again, thanks. that atrocity actually was on greg's project list, at the very top, and no one at BAC said sh*t. but BTA has endorsed it.
but neither his project list, nor any project list anywhere that i have seen, says anything about whatever is going on at broadway and larrabee, and they do not include the reconfiguration of broadway at williams. it is my firm impression that neither of these was even reviewed by the BAC, [not] much less given a rubber stamp.
in a follow up message to rob sadowsky, i said, "i am good with advanced stop lines, and i am good with restricting right turns on red. my issue with the bike box is that it reinforces very forcibly the far to right and mandatory sidepath requirements."
for me, the descent on couch from 14th to MLK, downhill, with the lights timed to something less than 20 mph, is very comfortable. until you get to the lane striping at 6th. then all of a sudden you are told to squeeze to the right and let motorists overtake you in a not very wide travel lane. and then there is a bus stop and the right turn onto grand. i simply take the lane, and i defy anyone to show me that this facility, which was not included in the 1998 bike master plan, and which violates the technical specifications of that plan, can be treated as a mandatory sidepath.
this is what got that woman hurt the other day, not the absence of a bike box. indeed, a bike box would have had zero effect, because what happened to her happened during the green signal phase.
now, of course, i do realize that until PBoT gets these PSU studies squeezed through MUTCD the bike boxes, as such, are not mandatory sidepaths. but (a) they eventually will be, despite the weaknesses in the PSU studies, and (b) even now, before mandatory status kicks in, we have the problem of public perception.
i already get grief from the occasional motorist for not using the bike lane on couch from 6th to MLK or on the s-curve ramp onto the bridge. and i already get grief from the occasional motorist for not using the existing bike lane configuration on broadway from ross down to larrabee.
but if you push the striped bike lane over to the curb and put in a bright green box, even if the mandatory sidepath statute might not technically apply here or there, motorists (you know, those dull-witted motorists we all love to hate) will be led to believe that cyclists "belong over there," and not here, competing for space in the travel lane.
i reminded rob that when he and i first met, at the alice awards, just before he formally stepped into the executive director's chair, i described myself to him as a "vehicular cyclist" by inclination, self-taught, having read forester's book only after the fact, and i said, as i often say to people to explain my perspective, that "forester and i are no longer on speaking terms." there is actually a story behind that, and someday maybe i will tell it.
but the point is, i "get" that separated facilities have a place, and i "get" that we have to make it noticeably less convenient for motorists to run roughshod over all other modes. i do. i got rid of the car awhile back. but we have a very long way to go, and in the meantime we are putting in poorly conceived half-solutions that serve only (or largely) to exacerbate the problems.
people talk about encouraging the newbies, or whatever, and the "educational" function of some of these treatments. by striping a lane on couch from 6th to MLK, or by pushing the bike lane to the curb on broadway from ross to larrabee, and especially by capping these treatments with bright green boxes that serve no function at all during the green signal phase, we are encouraging and educating "newbies" to put themselves in harm's way.
BTA is identifying itself with the wrong side of these issues, and it would appear that BAC has been cut entirely out of the loop.