What’s This?: It’s a Very Tiny Bike Lane

Now that I have a camera, I’ll be taking pictures of inexplicable things I spot around the city and posting them for discussion.

First: Why this tiny bike lane in Adams Morgan? The bike lanes on Columbia Road are a hiccupy disaster that look as though the city was rationing paint. They start for a few feet, then end, then start again, then end again, all within two blocks. This is bike lane part II: my bike and I were standing at the start of the lane. The lane ends at the crosswalk, where the cars are stopped, and does not continue after the intersection, so the cyclist must merge into traffic once again.

bike lane

I find this irksome. If there is enough space on the road to have a bike lane for part of the way from 16th St. to 18th, why didn’t they continue painting the lines for that stretch? Why end it again after the intersection?

While taking this photo, I ran into a friend on a bike who told me that, rather than finding this abrupt lane ridiculous and dangerous, he thought it was a delight. I was surprised, but he pointed out that it splits up the cars and give him a place at the front of the line to start when the light changes.

That’s not good enough. Rather than actually promoting bike safety it comes off as a perfunctory addition, casually included at the last minute. If DC wanted to get serious about making the roads safer for cyclists and the drivers who use the roads with us, they might try an innovation that Portland and New York have embraced in the last year: bike boxes.

Here is a photo from one of the first bike boxes in Portland that was installed in March of 2008:

Photo Courtesy of bikeportland.org
Photo Courtesy of bikeportland.org

The bright green paint of the bike lane and bike box is enough to alert even the distracted cellphone talking and texting driver to the presence of cyclists on the road. The car’s front tires are parked over the sign that says “Wait Here”, but they stopped with enough space for cyclists to be at the front of the box.

Portland’s Department of Transportation explains their rational for using bike boxes: “The main goal is to prevent collisions between motorists turning right and cyclists going straight. It’s all about visibility and awareness. At a red light, cyclists are more visible to motorists by being in front of them. At a green light, the green bike lane through the intersection reminds motorists and cyclists to watch for each other.”

Bike boxes indicate a more serious commitment on the part of the government to the safety of all road users. Rather than a token 20 foot lane insertion, DC should follow the lead of some of our more progressive transportation cities and begin implementing bike boxes as well.

For more information, the hard-working, creative folks at Streetfilms have an amusing video on the usage of bike boxes.

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