A while ago I wrote about how to use door zone bike lanes. In which I posited the following argument: Bike lanes are good because they draw out more cyclists, and if you are against door zone bike lanes you can either use them properly (as outlined in the article), use streets without bike lanes, or lobby for the removal of on street parking. For the most part no one disagreed with my arguments.
However, some of you responded, “But what about Columbus Ave!” The Columbus Ave. bike lanes are completely door zone (!!), or so some of you said. Being the person of science that I am, I decided to go investigate for myself.
First off I want to set the scene: Wednesday, mid-day. Slightly overcast, with a threat of rain, your typical October day in Boston. I rode down most of the bike lane on one side and did a bit of track back on the other, overall I covered most of the new bike lane.
I have to say that I was pretty shocked by how poor the enforcement was of parking the bike lane, I saw dozens (literally) of cars parked in the bike lane.
The other thing that seemed strange to me was that the bike lane came and went, replaced in portions with sharrows. For those not “in the know” sharrows, are street markings to indicate that cars are supposed to share the road with bikers (share arrows). These also seemed to be, umm lets say, poorly placed…
Frankly I was appalled with just how much a disaster the sharrow placement seems to be…how is allowing parking OVER the sharrows (not to mention the rampant double parking) supposed to help bikers? I mean…why waist the paint? I think something must have gone wrong someplace because these don’t look like they are placed correctly, or the parking ordinance hasn’t been updated to remove on street parking in these locations…right? This couldn’t have been planed this way? Please someone tell me this was not the plan.
Ok but what about the first question. Is the entire bike lane on Columbus Ave. “in the door zone” as so many have claimed. Lets see.
It did look pretty narrow, I would estimate from the picture above that the door zone would be something like this.
But that wasn’t enough for me, I didn’t want “probably door zone” I was hunting for “actual door zone.” I needed some hard science, so I started asking people “hey can I take a picture of you with your door open?” A normal enough thing to ask people, right? And they were more than happy to help out. I want to make it clear, each of these people opened their door for me, at my request, they are all helpful nice people and were not trying to kill me. (I have highlighted “actual door zone” on each of these in red, the green would thus be the “non-door zone”)
But “that’s a car” you say, but “he is pulled way over” you say. What about a truck? Well I was lucky enough to run into this guy, who was very helpful and actually really nice.
As you can see even with a truck door there is still space on the left hand side for a biker. When I explained to this guy what I was doing he did something that really made me happy.
He got out his freaking measuring tape, seriously this is my kind of guy. Here is what he found.
It’s kind of hard to see, but there was 26 inches of clearance from the end of his door to the left of the white line.
So what does all this mean? Basically there are some serious problems with double parking and sharrow design on Columbus Ave. But the Columbus Ave. bike lane is NOT all door zone. It is narrow, but it most certainly is not all door zone. If you use the same strategy I suggest in my first post about door zone bike lanes you should be just fine. I would recommend you ride on the left white line when using this bike lane, if used in this way you will easily avoid opening doors.
I have talked to a lot of people and a large majority (almost all of them) want more bike lanes. The bike lanes might make them safer, they might not (I honestly don’t know) but what I do know is that painting bike lanes makes more people feel comfortable riding. And that is a very good thing. Clearly however poorly designed infrastructure (sharrows with parking on them?!) can lead to confusion and injury, but a “door zone” bike lane, even a narrow one like Columbus Ave. can be safely used if the people are educated. In a perfect world, all bike lanes would be wide as the street and no cars would be allowed to park near them. We of course do not live in a perfect world, so we deal with what we have. It is embarrassing how poorly laid out the sharrows are and how bad the double parking is on Columbus Ave. But that in no way makes the bike lane “all door zone” or unusable.
Because education is needed to use these facilities safely (you had to get educated to drive your car safely as well) and not everyone is going to read this blog, I suggest that for all door zone bike lanes a sign like this be posted.
Ride to the left people, stay out of the door zone!
Tags: bike lane, car in bike lane, cop in bike lane, door zone, dooring, how to, sharrows
Posted in education | 34 Comments »