Some weeks ago, your correspondent “broke” the story on Raleigh’s new bike lanes. I’ll grant you, it wasn’t a Woodward and Bernstein sort of thing. The fellas have nothing to worry about, and no presidential resignations resulted, although given the rabid Republicans on Capitol Hill, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, called for a congressional investigation to see if there is a link between President Obama and Raleigh’s traffic changes to accommodate bicycle riders:
“The president clearly is behind a bike lane conspiracy in Raleigh. Therefore, we intend to subpoena his phone records, and to confiscate his Schwinn and those belonging to Mrs. Obama and Sasha and Malia. And the president will not be allowed to establish any new bike paths at Camp David for the remainder of his term.”
In any case, in pursuit of that story weeks ago, we of this space interviewed Eric Lamb, Raleigh’s transportation planning manager, who was sort of in charge of the addition of bike lanes and the painting of green stripes in some of the lanes. Lamb is one of the most competent and personable people in City Hall, and he acknowledged that the changes would take some adjustment but he believed were good for the city and most certainly for bicycle riders. On that he was and is emphatically right.
The ensuing weeks, however, have not shown a diminishing of confusion over which lanes do what and how vehicle drivers are supposed to make right turns and what exactly is the purpose of some of those lanes to the right of the bike lanes. (More about the mystery lanes in a second.)
Bottom line: The city’s changes are worthwhile, but City Hall, meaning the council, needs to do a better job, and right away, to promote the changes and explain to drivers and cyclists what they mean and how they change traffic flow.
It’s not the first time a government entity made a change but forgot to provide enough information to people.
So what happened was that on Hillsborough Street and Salisbury and Glen Eden and other places, these boldly defined bike lanes appeared to the right of traffic lanes. Then there were the phantom lanes to the right of the bike lanes, seemingly undesignated.
Are the phantom lanes for right turns? For space? Can people park in them?
What’s up with the green paint in the bike lanes? Do they signify something for bike riders and drivers?
When in the lane to the left of the bike lane ... are people supposed to turn right out of those lanes at stop lights, or should they move over to the phantom lane?
Where was President Obama when this policy was being developed — and have Secretary Clinton’s emails been scoured for the keywords “Salisbury Street” and “Sir Walter Raleigh”?
OK, I was just kidding about that last part.
But seriously, Raleigh needs to clarify this with a promotional campaign, ads and commercials and perhaps a song (I know a guy) and for the safety of everyone, the campaign should be ongoing.
I tried all the lane options recently, just to test them out. Coming to Dawson Street from Hillsborough Street, I turned right onto Dawson out of the center/right turn lane; other cars were turning right out of the phantom lane, a near-hazard. Going up Glen Eden from Glenwood Avenue and cresting the hill at Ridge Road, I didn’t know what to do so I kept going straight and wound up having a milkshake at the Char-Grill in Olde Raleigh just to calm my nerves.
Confusion about these changes may be understandable, but the city needs to invest more in getting the word out.
Finally, a personal note. Four experienced cyclists continue to deal with injuries sustained on a ride in Johnston County when they were, according to state troopers, knocked off their bikes by a car that struck them from behind. May they return to the road. Prayers going up, please.
Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at email@example.com