Now that West Rosemary Street has been milled in preparation for resurfacing, Chapel Hill’s temporary plan is to restripe it using temporary paint with the same dangerous 600-foot-long temporary bike lanes that were counter-indicated when they were temporarily placed more than a year ago to address some non-existent problem. (http://nando.com/48m)
Bike lanes still are not advisable, and we should not have to put up with this temporary hazard for another year while a “holistic study” of tradeoffs is undertaken.
The 0.66 mile long West Rosemary Street has 34 to 36 feet wide usable surface from gutter pan edge to edge. It is posted at a low 25 mph, the same as neighborhood streets (But 5 mph faster than downtown Franklin Street. Why is that?). There are numerous closely spaced commercial driveways (and intersections), resulting in many crossing conflicts.
West Rosemary Street is moderately steeply downhill in both directions to the low point at the new Shortbread Lofts “luxury student apartments.” Bicyclists can relatively easily achieve the posted speed limit descending.
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High speed bicycling at 29 feet per second (20 mph) or more in a “lane” the width of a sidewalk at the edge of the road where it is most dangerous due to vehicles exiting driveways and those turning left across the bike lane to access the driveways are intractable reasons bike lanes should not be placed on West Rosemary Street.
There is little lateral clearance from and stopping distance with motor vehicles emerging from driveways, and thru motor vehicles in the adjacent travel lane are moving screens hiding bicyclists from Left Cross motorists entering driveways. These crossing conflicts make collisions likely, especially with fast moving bicyclists.
Shortly after the bike lanes were placed, a bicyclist descending eastbound was seriously injured by a motorist from the opposite direction turning left, a Left Cross collision. This mechanism of collision was very predictable given the predisposing conditions.
The most appropriate striping pattern for West Rosemary Street is a three-lane road: two thru lanes and a center two-way left turn lane with strategically placed raised islands. This design manages and stores left-turning vehicles, including bicycles, and accommodates crossing pedestrians. Where bicyclists are slower on the ascents, motorists can pass in the center lane, which can be engineered to best manage that movement.
A three-lane striping scheme doesn’t manufacture conflicts via unwarranted bike lanes on a street that bicycle facilities advocates and the Town misidentified as “low hanging fruit.” What we got with the bike lanes was rotting fruit on the ground.
The three-lane design is consistent with East Rosemary Street and East Main Street at the west end. In contrast to the four lanes of a bike-laned street that excludes motorists from the rightmost lane (the bike lane), a three-lane road conforms with well-worked-out traffic movements.
Shared lane markings should be placed in the centers of the thru lanes, which should be kept relatively narrow at 11 feet wide. Properly placed, these markings help educate the unaware that bicycles are a normal and reasonable movement of traffic and bicycle users are drivers of vehicles.
If a temporary striping arrangement is needed, a simple center line is the easiest and least offensive pattern. It can be bulged in places to create pedestrian refuge areas. To again place the previous bike lane that ended westbound barely in advance of parked car obstructions is a trip down nightmare lane we should avoid like the plague.
Wayne Pein has been a daily bicyclist in Chapel Hill for 30 years.