The news doesn’t seem to have made our Paper of Record, somewhat understandably kicked to the journalistic curb by more vociferous discussion regarding “$2.7 million in financial incentives” to a golfing Dave & Buster’s, but City Council last night did unanimously pass Councilor Isaac Benton’s ordinance changing the traffic code:
To add bicycle lanes to the list of places where no person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or traffic control device. Amending the traffic code section §8-5-1-15 parking not to obstruct traffic, to clarify that bicycle lanes are traffic lanes.
And that “clarification” specifically added to the Traffic Code is that:
Bicycle lanes are traffic lanes, therefore, automobile parking or motor vehicle use of a bicycle lane as a driving or passing lane is prohibited.
As you see/hear here in case you missed it (discussion starts right at 1 hour and 43 minutes into the session), discussion on the measure was scant. Councilor Diane Gibson brought up that on-street parking was encouraged on a few streets in her district that also have bike lanes, and Councilor Benton noted clarification and tweaking would be needed to resolve some current conflicts (noting Campus between Girard and Carlisle as a specific case).
Sponsor Benton also noted that ordinance language as passed includes a 6-month moratorium on enforcement until such conflicts are resolved. I don’t believe this latest version of the ordinance is currently online, as no mention of the 6-month delay can be found here.
So that happened. This long-discussed piece of legislation now goes to the Mayor for very probable signature. Now what happens?
First, now armed with a deadline, the 6-month period will give us a chance to resolve long-festering conflict points (and yes, I am looking at you, Campus between Girard and Carlisle), and with a slightly different, yet importantly so, mindset in thinking about the role of bike lanes.
As the tight-fisted public policy grip of “vehicular cycling” (i.e., no bike lanes; cyclists always take “the lane,” with definite exceptions) has relaxed over the years, the pendulum has, at-times, swung toward putting bike lanes “everywhere,” including residential streets with features (25-30 mph, very light traffic, wide lanes) conducive to safe cycling without bike lanes.
One wrinkle in this has been the development of a roadway engineering/policy idea that such residential street bike lanes perform a “traffic calming function,” as bike lane stripes narrow the driving lane. Neighborhoods hate speeders (although, obviously, some of those neighbors ARE speeders). From this, conflicts have developed in at least three aspects:
- On-street parking has been lost on residential streets;
- Everybody, drivers very much included, are confused on whether such striping is bike lane or parking lane; and,
- Many cyclists don’t like the idea of indirectly being used as human “traffic calming devices.”
One very likely outcome of the ordinance will be a move away from residential bike lanes to use of parking lanes instead. Yes, even, perhaps/maybe/it could actually happen, retroactively so (i.e., loss of bike lanes around town). And yes, education, as always, will be important in terms of informing all users that, no, the parking lane is not a bike lane, and that cyclists very much can use the driving lane.
That’s where a bunch of signs like this will at least help a bit:
Some may be concerned that we are now entering a definite period of transition with regard to bike infrastructure, but a look at roadway design history shows us that we’re always in a period of transition to some degree. More broadly, a look at history in general shows this to be true, regardless of the topic or issue. It’s one truism about the subject that tends to make historians rather smug and unpopular.
So “onward” with implementation of the bike lane ordinance. It’ll be fun to see how things develop. At least if you’re a historian, amateur or otherwise.
Meanwhile, speaking of history…
Mere hours before passage of the ordinance, a BB reader sent along the following photo taken along 5th Street downtown, just north of Copper. It is presented here without comment (which, I gotta say, is VERY hard to suppress):