Door Zone Bike Lanes Again

John Ruch finally published his story about bike lanes in Jamaica Plain, only half of which made it to the print edition. As usual, Ruch mangled the quotes. The worst one came up front:

That little stripe is not going to protect you,” Schimek said, explaining he is worried the bike lane message will be, “‘You novice cyclists, come out here. You see that bike lane, and you’re safe because that’s what a bike lane is for.

I believe I was trying to say that that the bike lane tells new bicyclists that they will be safe riding in it, even though in the proposed design they will be smack in the danger (door) zone. And this summary also got mangled:

Bike lanes suggest that bicyclists have to use them, when in fact they do not, Schimek said. That confusion can lead to more car-bike conflicts, and some research shows it leads drivers to come closer to bikes in the lane, he said. Bike lanes also lock riders onto the right-hand side of the street, when they should be on the left to make left-hand turns safely, he noted.

What I was saying is that most people act as if there is a legal requirement to use bike lanes, even if there is not. It is the bike lane stripes that can cause more conflicts, by encouraging motorists to keep left when turning right, encouraging bicyclists to pass on the right, and even suggesting that bicyclists should turn left from the bike lane. And then there’s this one:

An illusion is exactly what 5-foot bike lanes on Centre Street would be, Schimek said. He blasted the idea that bike lanes are good because they make potential riders feel safer as a “backhanded…indirect and disingenuous argument.”

The argument that I “blasted” is the one repeated in the article: even if door-zone bike lanes are more dangerous, having more bicyclists on the road will make all bicyclists safer.

Another mangled point:

Schimek noted that the city’s own design illustration for Centre Street bike lanes showed people riding down the middle of the lanes. In fact, riders are supposed to ride along the left-hand line in a bike lane to avoid dooring. Without education, new riders attracted to the bike lanes are set up for disaster, he said. And even if there is education, the lanes may be so narrow that riders are in the dooring zone anyway, he said.

Ruch had a copy of the illustration showing bicyclists in the door zone with bike lanes and outside the door zone without (see previous post). He did not communicate that point. Riders are not “supposed to ride along the left-hand line in a bike lane,” they are supposed to ride in the middle of the bike lane, following normal lane use expectations — and several studies show this is what they actually do. I don’t use the meaningless term (in this context) “education,” I prefer to talk about learning from experience (i.e., being doored, or narrowly avoiding a door), and training (from friends, books, or formal classes). The final point is that riding outside the door zone will probably put the bicyclist at least partly outside the bike lane. And thus we end up with the paradox that the only safe way to use these bike lanes is not to use them.

Ruch also makes this blooper:

The dispute is over methods—especially whether it makes sense to slightly reduce the width of car lanes on Centre and add 5-foot bike lanes.

Where are those “car lanes” on Centre Street? All I see — and all the law sees — is a road shared by cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and, yes, bicycles.

News about the famous Hampshire Street Bike Lane study coming soon.

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