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When is a Bike Lane NOT a Bike Lane?

By gasman - 2 September 2013 55

And before I begin, this is a discussion about bicycle lanes, not a car vs bike thread. To preempt any argument, good bicycle infrastructure benefits everybody, including car drivers.

You may have noticed some unusual bike lanes popping up around Canberra. Unusual, because they run for just few metres near intersections. They do not run the length of the block, and do not provide a continuous and dedicated bicycle lane. They are uniformly provided only where the road is so wide that cyclists don’t really need a painted bike lane. They are a cheap and nasty attempt at satisfying some sort of bike lane obligation or to justify some bike lane statistics.

Here is one in Campbell:

Bike Lane Campbell

And one in Aranda:

Bike Lane Aranda

My question is, are these really bike lanes? Is car parking prohibited along these, even in the middle of the block where the lane is not marked? Or even where it is marked:

Bike Lane Aranda

The pic below is what a bike lane should look like (pics from when I lived in Vancouver, BC). Note the clear signage, the continuous lane, clear of debris, the No Parking signs:

Bike Lane Vancouver

And also from Vancouver, a bike lane going around a corner, protected from cars taking the corner too sharply:

Bike Lane Vancouver

This new style of Canberra bike lane does not comply with Australian standards, is confusing, both unnecessary (as it is only on wide roads) and inadequate (not continuous, not signposted or enforced and don’t provide safe routes when cyclist really need it, i.e. on narrow roads).

If you are interested is seeing how a real first world country makes cycle routes through a busy city, read my photo-essay about Vancouver’s bike system.

What’s Your opinion?


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55 Responses to
When is a Bike Lane NOT a Bike Lane?
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ricketyclik 10:02 pm 06 Sep 13

As a regular user – as a cyclist, pedestrian, car driver and motorcyclist – of Canberra’s thoroughfares for the last 40-odd years, my observations are:

When users are travelling at very different speeds, there is danger. The onus is on the faster users to give way, as the slower users are normally facing ahead and not aware of the approaching faster user from behind.

Each type of user is in their own frame of reference, and shared paths are often populated by recreational users, and as such aren’t focussing on things like keeping left. Commuters/speedsters need to bear this in mind.

The best model I’ve come across for cyclists, used in Europe and America and finding its way in to Australia (I’ve seen it in inner Sydney suburbs) is where the cycle lane is on the road adjacent to the gutter and provision is made for parking between the cycle lane and the car lanes. This separates the bikes from the pedestrians and the cars. It’s relatively rare that a car occupant exits the car on the left. Obviously this isn’t for all situations, e.g. arterials, but it does apply to streets like that in the original post.

On a side note, “fat, unfit” cyclists wearing lycra are wearing it for functional reasons, not because they’re vain. And at least they’re out there doing something about it, rather than sitting in a metal box adding to congestion. Good on ’em!

Aeek 9:16 pm 06 Sep 13

davo101 said :

The cohort of riders using on-road lanes is different to that using shared paths. If you swapped them around I doubt we’d see a drop in the injury rate of the former shared path users; likewise would the on-road users suddenly start have crashes because they are now riding on shared paths?

Yes. Yes I would. I would expect more collisions on the paths as road riders aren’t used to the constant risk of headons. I would expect more cyclists to be hit around green lanes and other intersections as path riders are likely to make bad choices from lack of experience.

Asking riders who chose the paths to swap with those who chose the roads, just seems trouble.

davo101 10:12 am 06 Sep 13

Jono said :

I suspect that your mind is closed on this particular subject, but on the off chance that you might be willing to look at evidence, the ANU and the Uni of Sydney performed a study into the safety of Canberra’s cycling in 2011.

That’s all very nice but they have failed to correct for other risk factors. The cohort of riders using on-road lanes is different to that using shared paths. If you swapped them around I doubt we’d see a drop in the injury rate of the former shared path users; likewise would the on-road users suddenly start have crashes because they are now riding on shared paths?

Jono 9:03 am 06 Sep 13

Cerdig said :

The bike lanes on major roads are just more Corbell idiocy – accidents waiting to happen.

By all means spend more money on cycle paths that keep cyclists away from busy roads.

I suspect that your mind is closed on this particular subject, but on the off chance that you might be willing to look at evidence, the ANU and the Uni of Sydney performed a study into the safety of Canberra’s cycling in 2011. A link to it is here : https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/media/vanilla/file/ACT%20Crash%20Study.pdf

For those not interested in reading the whole thing, here is the first paragraph of the conclusion:

This study confirms the value of on-road lanes reserved exclusively for cyclists as a means of reducing their crash and injury rates but raises questions as to the safety of cycling on shared paths and pedestrian areas.

Cerdig 5:31 am 06 Sep 13

The bike lanes on major roads are just more Corbell idiocy – accidents waiting to happen. By all means spend more money on cycle paths that keep cyclists away from busy roads.

Benaresq 6:46 pm 05 Sep 13

gasman said :

And a patchy system is almost as bad as no system at all.

I disagree, in many cases a patchy system is worse than no system at all. It gives morons an excuse to bleat about people not using the bike paths…

gasman 6:32 pm 05 Sep 13

jett18 said :

Here’s an idea– how about cyclists use the bicycle paths that have been constructed through out Canberra that are off the roads?
Problem solved– bikes are not on main roads, lanes do not need to meet Australian Specs and we can all move on with our lives and not have continued debates about such.

Furthermore, I resent the implication that cyclists should be happy with their lot, given Canberra’s bike paths. By Australian standards, Canberra has a very good off-road bike path system. By (Western) world standards, we are WAY behind.

Lets say you want to get from suburb A to suburb B in Canberra. There is a bike path 90% of the way. Car drivers and Guvmint officials point to the bike path and say “Look at that most excellent bike path. It is shiny and new. Why aren’t the cyclists using it?” Well, because the last 10% that has no bike path is so fricking dangerous and scary that its not worth doing the trip by bike. 90% does not get you to your destination. 10% dead is dead.

I am an experienced, aware, assertive and perhaps foolhardy cyclist. I do 95% of my commuting by bike. BUT I really feel like a second class citizen in Canberra. Actually more than that, I AM a second class citizen. Far, far greater resources are devoted to car roads than to bike infrastructure. To all our detriment, including car drivers. The bicycle system very patchy. And a patchy system is almost as bad as no system at all.

gasman 6:17 pm 05 Sep 13

jett18 said :

Here’s an idea– how about cyclists use the bicycle paths that have been constructed through out Canberra that are off the roads?
Problem solved– bikes are not on main roads, lanes do not need to meet Australian Specs and we can all move on with our lives and not have continued debates about such.

I would love to. Nothing would make my commute happier than to be away from cars.

Unfortunately, compared to roads, there are VERY FEW off-road bike paths. My guess is that roads outnumber off-road bike paths 100 to 1. If you are lucky, you may live right next to one, and your work/school/shop/friends also live right next to one. But chances are you and they don’t.

I ride my bike everywhere – its how I get from A to B in Canberra. Rarely is there an off-road bike path that goes where I need to go. Therefore, for at least part of my journey, I must ride on roads. And many roads are dangerous for bikes, many do not comply with Austroad standards.

So, problem NOT solved. That is why we continue to have this discussion. I’m forever surprised that we need to spell this out to some people.

Jono 5:07 pm 05 Sep 13

troll-sniffer said :

Here’s an idea, but this time with merit. How about constructing bike paths that are equally as convenient as the roads you lazy ones use. On the odd occasion a bike path takes me all the way to where I want to go,I’ll use it, but more often than not the road is far more direct and shorter.

I think that you’re being a touch unfair – the shared paths are a fantastic resource in Canberra, but if you want to get from A to B in the shortest time possible on your bike, the road will almost always be significantly faster. Not just because of the fact that the paths are indirect, but also because of lack of maintenance (tree roots, grass clippings during the summer), pedestrians, dogs, many places where there’s poor vision etc.

Don’t get me wrong, the shared paths are good, and I’m out on them every day either on foot or on my bike, but I can understand why many choose to use the road.

Aeek 3:29 pm 05 Sep 13

toadstool said :

While we are on the subject of bike lanes. Why has the government replaced one of the car lanes with a car sized on-road bike lane on the Monaro Hwy – Morehead Drive off-ramp? They have removed a large section of dual lane road for this bike lane reducing an already congested section of road to one lane. I mean, really! WTF? There is a bike path next to the road, and with all the roadworks in this area I would have thought they would have considered helping the smooth flow of traffic rather than impeding it with a bike lane. I use the road every day and have never seen a cyclist on this part of the road whereas it would take dozens of cars per minute in peak traffic.

There is a fence between that shared path (which is coming from Dairy Flat) and the road so no access coming from Monaro Highway.

Also the entry to that off ramp is only 1 lane, so now it remains one lane rather than separating into two.
Maybe that controls the flow into the roundabout so it shares better with the other entries?
That’s my guess, the traffic engineers wanted to make it one lane. The bike lane was just how they did that.

troll-sniffer 3:25 pm 05 Sep 13

toadstool said :

While we are on the subject of bike lanes. Why has the government replaced one of the car lanes with a car sized on-road bike lane on the Monaro Hwy – Morehead Drive off-ramp? They have removed a large section of dual lane road for this bike lane reducing an already congested section of road to one lane. I mean, really! WTF? There is a bike path next to the road, and with all the roadworks in this area I would have thought they would have considered helping the smooth flow of traffic rather than impeding it with a bike lane. I use the road every day and have never seen a cyclist on this part of the road whereas it would take dozens of cars per minute in peak traffic.

At a guess, and I’m not claiming to be a traffic engineer, the change in lanes is associated with traffic flow control during the construction of the new much improved car-friendly Majura parkway.

troll-sniffer 3:22 pm 05 Sep 13

jett18 said :

Here’s an idea– how about cyclists use the bicycle paths that have been constructed through out Canberra that are off the roads?
Problem solved– bikes are not on main roads, lanes do not need to meet Australian Specs and we can all move on with our lives and not have continued debates about such.

Here’s an idea, but this time with merit. How about constructing bike paths that are equally as convenient as the roads you lazy ones use. On the odd occasion a bike path takes me all the way to where I want to go,I’ll use it, but more often than not the road is far more direct and shorter.

puggy 2:50 pm 05 Sep 13

Jono said :

We don’t have any Bicycle Paths in the ACT, as far as I’m aware. I’m happy to be corrected however.

The new lanes on Marcus Clarke are bicycle only and not on-road, but I have no idea of their official definition.

toadstool 2:34 pm 05 Sep 13

While we are on the subject of bike lanes. Why has the government replaced one of the car lanes with a car sized on-road bike lane on the Monaro Hwy – Morehead Drive off-ramp? They have removed a large section of dual lane road for this bike lane reducing an already congested section of road to one lane. I mean, really! WTF? There is a bike path next to the road, and with all the roadworks in this area I would have thought they would have considered helping the smooth flow of traffic rather than impeding it with a bike lane. I use the road every day and have never seen a cyclist on this part of the road whereas it would take dozens of cars per minute in peak traffic.

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