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November 5, 2009 8:54 AM   Subscribe

The world's worst bike lanes according to readers of the Guardian.

The Flickr group where readers submitted their candidates.
posted by Toekneesan (43 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
A gallery of some prime examples.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:59 AM on November 5, 2009


You have bike lanes?

Wow. All I have is the road itself filled with frustrated and angry drivers.
posted by rand at 9:02 AM on November 5, 2009


You have bike lanes?

Yeah, but they're uphill and into a headwind both ways.
posted by maudlin at 9:04 AM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apparently a law was enacted here in TN awhile back that requires significant road improvements to include bike lanes. Hooray for that and all, but it means that our bike lanes are sort of a patchwork. A road will have one for a half mile or so, then it will just sort of end wherever the roadwork terminated. Over time, I suppose, the whole area will have them, but for now, they're sort of sucktacular. They're also where all the gravel, glass, nails, bagged leaves, garbage cans, and dog shit tend to locate.

So, on the whole: meh.
posted by jquinby at 9:05 AM on November 5, 2009


I'm not sure if this is better or worse than not having any. A lot of places around here we have signs that say "Bike Route" but no pavement markings and the roads aren't particularly low traffic or wide. I guess drivers aren't allowed to run you over in those stretches.
posted by ghharr at 9:06 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


jquinby: There are a few decent long bike lanes in Nashville. For example, you could probably ride from the Belmont Blvd. and Woodmont Ave. intersection to Five Points in East Nashville mostly in bike lanes. God help you if you're trying to go beyond Green Hills from downtown though and I don't think any of the major routes into town have lanes or would be very safe to ride on.
posted by ghharr at 9:15 AM on November 5, 2009


I really hate bad bicycle lanes. A housing development I ride through has one that is like one foot wide and the pavement on it is so bad that my road bike has trouble. Meanwhile, the road is beautiful and smooth. So I just ride there. Fortunately the speed limit is low (20 mph) so I can keep up with traffic in the area fine, so motorists don't seem to mind.

Basically, for a bicycle lane to be better than nothing, it must be:

A. Clean. Random crap and broken glass is death to bicycle tires.
B. Outside of door range. Either you have to have it at the edge of the road with no parking, or a good distance out of the parking range. If the bicycle lane is in the door-opening-zone, it is actively unsafe and worse than nothing. This is a big pet peeve of mine, since I almost never see a bicycle lane in an area with parking that actually does this right.
C. Reasonably wide. I need about two feet of space to feel secure. Increase this if the bicycle lane is dirty, uneven, or slanted. Which they usually are.
D. Smooth. I've been on some honestly god-awful bike lanes that a road bike can barely traverse. However, the people this really sucks for is the in-line skaters - often the bicycle lane is too rough to ride on, the sidewalk is missing or uselessly obstructed, and the road is the only place to ride. But everyone who passes you doesn't know you can't use them...

Honestly, if you're not going to do it right, just don't do it at all. I'd much rather ride in the road because there's no cycle path than ride in the road because the cycle path is trash and piss off all of the drivers who think I belong in it regardless.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:20 AM on November 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


If I understand the development of the new "contraflow" (against traffic) bike lane to accompany the existing lane on a one-way stretch of 15th street here in DC, the plan will put one lane outside the parking lane and the other inside the parking lane on the other side. It may be complete already, but I've been locked in the library for a week, so I'm not sure. In any event that strikes me as a shit idea because you're defeating the expectations of drivers and cyclists when the traffic situation already sucks. Either both lanes should be between the curb and the parking area (preferable) or between the parking area and the travel lanes (acceptable). Yes, people will continue to drive and park like assholes, but at least it'll be a consistent type of asshole behavior susceptible to various workarounds and types of retaliation.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:24 AM on November 5, 2009


Yeah, but they're uphill and into a headwind both ways.

To be fair, unless you're slow or in a very windy locale, you're always biking into a headwind both ways.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:26 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


haha the note on this one is great:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emsplem/2933486299/in/pool-cyclelanes/
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:29 AM on November 5, 2009


...and types of retaliation

This. This is part of the problem.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:30 AM on November 5, 2009


I dunno, you've got to admire the effort put into building this one. It looks like a pretty fun/scenic route to me
posted by Think_Long at 9:34 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is my favourite - from San Diego I think.
posted by Flashman at 9:36 AM on November 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


If we get snow this year, I should carry my camera while commuting. All of the local businesses with parking lots use the bike lane on the adjacent street to store their snow, forcing cyclists out into busy, slippery, scary roads. Fucktards.
posted by klanawa at 9:36 AM on November 5, 2009


What Mitrovarr said.
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:40 AM on November 5, 2009


A gallery of some prime examples.

Does this gallery only have one photo or am I missing something?
posted by smackfu at 9:52 AM on November 5, 2009


Looking through the group, it seems like a lot of people equate "short bike lane" with "worst bike lane". I personally ride out in the traffic lane far more than in bike lanes, and a short, protected stretch that connects to areas where it is relatively safe to ride in the traffic lane can be quite useful.

Short bike lines make for OMGROFL pictures, but they may in fact serve a useful purpose.

I would love to have a bike lane about 50 feet long to connect the service road of a limited access highway (that loops around under a bridge rather than crossing a train track) with the residential street that actually crosses the train track. This is a popular bike route, but you get to practice your cyclocross technique because to go from the one road to the other, you have to jump curbs both ways and carry your bike over two cable fences that are about 2 feet high.
posted by Doohickie at 9:55 AM on November 5, 2009


Fun bike lanes I rode on during a recent ride:

Bike lanes that suddenly veer onto the sidewalk. Painting a line in the middle of the sidewalk does not magically make it into a bike lane.

A rails-to-trails conversion that crosses traffic in the middle of every block with a stop sign and a helpful sign telling bikers to walk their bikes through the intersection.

Bike lanes that end whenever the road gets narrower (i.e. exactly when you need the bike lane).

Bike lanes that end on one side of a freeway interchange and pick up on the other, leaving one to guess at the route to get through (hint: the way through starts with a dark unsigned tunnel that you'd never find unless you follow someone else).

Bike lanes that are generally regarded as a great place to double park.
posted by ssg at 9:58 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Inspector.Gadget -- the 15th street plan is better than ticketing cyclists for going the wrong way at the intersection of U, 16th and New Hamsphire NW. The street is one way for one block, which makes for a horrible commute.
posted by autopilot at 10:06 AM on November 5, 2009


We had a manhole cover that was persistently faulty outside my work building. It got fixed about 3 times in 3 weeks. Each time it did, the workmen barriered off the area from the kerb out a couple of yards, which meant that the bike lane was no-go.

So they put out a sign, which said "cyclists dismount" as if any cyclist is going to get off his bike, wheel it onto the pavement and the 5 yards past the roadworks and then rejoin the road just because some poxy sign tells them to.

Which is the problem really - until planners stop thinking about cycle paths as stupid coloured strips of tarmac next to the curb and more like proper roads for people who don't like being run over by trucks, the problem will persist.*

* And by contrast, doesn't exist in many parts of Germany and the Netherlands, where the thinking is much more geared towards cyclists as equal partners on the road.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:08 AM on November 5, 2009


ssg: A rails-to-trails conversion that crosses traffic in the middle of every block with a stop sign and a helpful sign telling bikers to walk their bikes through the intersection.

Oh, I hate this one. My town has a very nice 18 mile bike path that is crossed by roads in only one segment, but on that segment, every. last. one. has a stop sign. Which is universally ignored by cyclists. And it's not even the real 'roads' which I understand even if I don't agree with - it's even stuff like driveways and business entrances. No, I'm sorry, but the extremely well-traveled bike path superceeds your driveway in importance. YOU stop.

Bike paths should only have stop signs if the road they're parallel to has one, and in all cases, public thoroughfares (including bike paths) should have priority over private ones in terms of who has to stop and who doesn't.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:09 AM on November 5, 2009


The best part about bike lanes is how being off to the side makes it harder for drivers to see you at intersections, making you more likely to get hit than if you just stayed in a regular lane.

Just use the street.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:22 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is my favourite bad cycle lane, which regularly offers me a choice between dismounting or pulling out into oncoming traffic. Technically terrible driving rather than a terrible cycle lane.
posted by penguinliz at 10:28 AM on November 5, 2009




my favourite was supposed to be a bypass for a traffic calming chicane, but they ran out of money...
posted by twine42 at 10:31 AM on November 5, 2009


More here.
posted by Acey at 10:31 AM on November 5, 2009


@Pope Guilty: I couldn't agree with you more, and that's how I always ride. The problem this creates is, in the mind of the ignorant drivers, you're now in their way when there's a perfectly good bike lane.

Here in the Pioneer Valley of western, MA, we have a bike trail that's paved with glass. Seriously. They used an experimental pavement that incorporated recycled glass bottles for the base layer. Problem is, they ran out of money and never got to the intended top layer. Now, for years, we've been left with a bike path with lots and lots of protruding glass. For a road bike with skinny tires, it's deadly. Supposedly a plan to fix it is in the works, but I haven't seen much progress.

Keep in mind that this is a VERY bike-friendly community, and it's rare for there to be tension between cyclists and motorists -- except for where we have poorly laid trails and bike lanes. I can't tell you how many times a driver has yelled at me to get on the trail and out of the road! In places where there's no trail, I never have that problem.
posted by TurkishGolds at 10:45 AM on November 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


That is pretty hysterical though. Broken glass!
posted by smackfu at 10:46 AM on November 5, 2009


If I understand the development of the new "contraflow" (against traffic) bike lane to accompany the existing lane on a one-way stretch of 15th street here in DC, the plan will put one lane outside the parking lane and the other inside the parking lane on the other side. It may be complete already, but I've been locked in the library for a week, so I'm not sure.

Not complete; last I heard, wonderful councilman Jim Graham took it upon himself to get the construction stopped, saying residents weren't notified that (gasp) they'd lose a block worth of parking for a week, despite the fact that everyone was notified.
posted by inigo2 at 11:06 AM on November 5, 2009


Here in the Pioneer Valley of western, MA, we have a bike trail that's paved with glass.

The confusion comes from the fact that it's not actually a bike trail, it's an Annie Lennox walking trail.
posted by inigo2 at 11:08 AM on November 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


Cyclists dismount fuck off
posted by anthill at 11:08 AM on November 5, 2009


They used an experimental pavement that incorporated recycled glass bottles for the base layer. Problem is, they ran out of money and never got to the intended top layer. Now, for years, we've been left with a bike path with lots and lots of protruding glass.

This is the sort of thing that makes it hard to suspect incompetence sometimes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:33 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I take the first 16' - 2 1/2" half of this route nice and easy, but really haul ass on the second half.
posted by digsrus at 11:49 AM on November 5, 2009


Cool article, but I had previously thought that the term "fit for purpose" went out with the Blair government. That and "joined-up thinking". I guess I was wrong. Sigh.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 11:50 AM on November 5, 2009


gharr: unfortunately, I'm based in the 'Boro. Generally speaking, I'm doing my long rides out in the countryside between here, Woodbury, &c., so the bike lane thing doesn't bug me too much. Just sort of annoying/amusing to see so many BIKE LANE ENDS signs.
posted by jquinby at 11:56 AM on November 5, 2009


Part of my bike commute takes me through a very nice, old-money neighborhood here in Asheville. The road has million-dollar homes on one side and the Grove Park Inn golf course on the other. It has what appear to be bike lanes, but they are worse than nothing.

They are constantly full of debris, which isn't really anyone's fault but is still dangerous. When the road was repaved they didn't pave all the way to the edge, so now the bike lane has an uneven paving seam winding through it, and half needs repaving. Worse, some sections have been completely obstructed by new decorative concrete planters full of flowers. It goes without saying that the lane merges back into the street suddenly and without warning.

I've finally given up and just bike on the street, but then I feel like a jerk because, hey, there's a bike lane right there.
posted by Who_Am_I at 12:05 PM on November 5, 2009


The problem this creates is, in the mind of the ignorant drivers, you're now in their way when there's a perfectly good bike lane.

Absolutely. I've been shouted at by a driver before and informed that "you should be using the bike lane, so I don't have to AVOID you!!!" (I cheerily told her to Have A Nice Day, being annoyingly unable to think of a cutting retort.) I'm sure a lot of drivers feel the same way, even the ones who aren't swivel-eyed loons.


I've finally given up and just bike on the street, but then I feel like a jerk because, hey, there's a bike lane right there.

Why a jerk? Because you might delay car drivers for, oh, 10 seconds till they can safely get past? Poor lambs. Take your space.
posted by Dali Atomicus at 12:22 PM on November 5, 2009


I'm not sure why they think this is a bad cycle lane. To me it seems sensible in that it helps prevent getting right hooked at the intersection.
posted by vespabelle at 12:46 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm amazed at how few honks or angry drivers I have when I take a lane. There is one stretch of road with no bike lane and lanes narrow enough that I fear for my safety when someone tries to pass me when I am as far to the right as I can get. So I just get right in the middle and nobody seems to care. The only time anyone has honked has been when they were honking at other drivers cutting into their lane so they wouldn't have to wait for a gap in traffic.

Riding on the road is much more stressful; if I had the time, I'd ride along the canal every day. So much more pleasant.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 12:48 PM on November 5, 2009


>: * And by contrast, doesn't exist in many parts of Germany and the Netherlands

I can sing praise for European bike lanes until I'm blue in the face. They have bike/pedestrian underpasses under most busy roads! They have dedicated bike paths that cut through the woods where you need it! They have bike lanes at stop lights, and if you're a pedestrian the "Push to cross" button actually works!

I don't even want to think about it anymore. America is just so shitty in almost every way in comparison.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:54 PM on November 5, 2009


A decade ago I was active in Glasgow's cycle campaign. Some of their lanes were just dire: Glasgow's Crappy Bike Lanes.
posted by scruss at 7:43 PM on November 5, 2009


Another annoying bike lane design that I was fooled by many times on my ride today: "Bike Lane Ends" signs that actually mean the bike lane ends 30m before the intersection and begins again 30m after it. While it is surely bullshit that there can't be a bike lane through the intersection, they could at least have the courtesy to put up a sign that tells riders that the bike lane starts up again. Again and again, I pulled over to consult my map (did I miss a turn somewhere?) and then realised that the bike lane didn't actually end.
posted by ssg at 10:35 PM on November 5, 2009


A lot of these involve construction. Like it or not, construction is going to inconvenience everyone. Bikers are not alone in this.
posted by Monday at 5:48 PM on November 6, 2009


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