COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NO-BIKE-LANE BIKE PLAN “There’s even a more simple plan: Make the right lane 12 ft. (or more) and the left lane 10 ft. Don’t stripe new bike lanes or overly alter existing regulations. Don’t plan. Don’t get approvals. Don’t p/o motorists with the silly bike lanes that bikers fear and never use. We just need a little extra space for cars to pass us by. And: Motorists will like having buses and other heavy vehicles in the larger right-lane, too . . . you don’t even need signage.” [Chris M(2)., commenting on Comment of the Day: Houston’s New Bike Plan Is Just a Plan] Illustration: Lulu
A 12 foot right lane is not safe for a bike and a car to share. If there is not room to put a 5 foot bike lane plus a 10 or 11 foot main lane, then there should not be a bike lane at all. State law says that any lane less than 14 feet wide is considered “substandard” and not safe for a cyclist and motorist to share. In such a case, the cyclist should take the lane. But in Houston, many bike lanes are so narrow that if you add the bike lane width plus the adjacent main lane width, the sum is less than 14 feet. I take the lane in that case since there is no way for a car to pass me safely if I am in the narrow bike lane.
The wider the lane, the faster cars will drive and the less safe it will be for cyclists, pedestrians AND other motorists. This is a proven psychological effect which has been studied endlessly. 12-foot lanes are horrible idea anywhere but on a grade-separated interstate. With that said, I agree that dinky 3-foot bike lanes with a white stripe are pretty pointless and dangerous. Do it right, or don’t do it at all–but preferably, do it right. That means at least a 4 foot lane, with some kind of physical buffer that will discourage drivers from crossing into the lane, whether that be an actual curb, or at least just those little armadillo bumps.