I was over the Lloyd District the yesterday shooting photos of new pavement markings near the 12th Avenue overcrossing (story later today), when I happened upon an interesting scene: A man on a bike was queued up at a red light, waiting in line behind someone in a big SUV. What made the situation catch my eye is that the intersection had just been painted with a shiny new green bike lane and bike box.
To me, this image is symbolic of a big issue in American bike politics today. While planners and major advocacy groups push for separated facilities, there remains a portion of people who ride that don’t seem to need and/or want them.
While separation as a design and planning concept has been promoted in U.S. bike planning circles for many years, I can say (because I’ve heard it myself from local politicians) that one of the reasons we’re aren’t moving ahead with building more separated bikeways is because, “Even the bicyclists aren’t all for it!”
In other words; in a political atmosphere where bicycling isn’t a political slam dunk (at least according to some people), careful politicians need a big push from constituents to do innovative things. If they can’t count on full support from a specific interest group (which is how politicians see bike advocates), especially if that group has proven controversial in the media and among some of the public, they are much less likely to act.
Here’s another shot a bit closer up…
(By the way, it turns out I know the person in the photo. His name is Ed. I’ve emailed him to see if he’d like to explain his motives and I’ll update this story when I hear back. — JM)
UPDATE, 10:55am: I heard from Ed:
“I think the bike box is great if you’re heading East on Lloyd, makes it easier to merge over than before.
But when turning onto 12th, since it becomes two shared lanes on the bridge, I like to merge over earlier. Maybe just a habit from when the right turn lane was a “standard” lane and the through bike lane was to the left.”
UPDATE, 11:20 am: Back at my desk after leaving to cover an event. Just realized I should have pointed out that this bike box is sort of strange in that it occurs at a T intersection. In other words, there’s no right-turning traffic. I think PBOT must have installed it to give people on bikes a jump on other traffic in order to more safely take the lane over NE 12th.