“Bike lane meets MUTCD standards”

Westbound Central, approaching Atrisco, in Albuquerque

For bicyclists traveling in a conventional bike lane … the approach to an intersection with vehicular turn lanes can present a significant challenge. For this reason it is vital that bicyclists are provided with an opportunity to correctly position themselves to avoid conflicts with turning vehicles.

– National Association of City Transportation Officials

The Better Burque Transportation Infrastructure Research Team (BBTIRT) rode out west Central this morning, past the Rio Grande, for field research in response to this report by McBikeface regarding the new bike lanes associated with the street’s redesign as part of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project:

Unsafe bike lane transition; throws you into traffic; very dangerous;

McBikeface’s haiku nails this one. There’s no way a person using a bicycle as transportation in this part of town is going to do what the stripes on the pavement suggest. The response from the city of Albuquerque to McBikeface’s observation? The request for a change was closed in the city’s bug reporting system with this:

Bike lane meets MUTCD standards

That would be the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, which provides standardized design guidelines for stripes and signs and signals and such.

A couple of observations from the BBTIRT. The first is that this design does not, in fact, seem to comply with the MUTCD, which offers a helpful example of how to negotiate the situation encountered above:

But even if the design in question had met MUTCD standards, the MUTCD is not the only crazy transportation acronym that applies here. City code, as adopted by the Albuquerque City Council in January 2015, specifies that “design and engineering of streets, sidewalks, bikeways and other facilities shall follow the relevant standards set forth in the … Urban Bikeway Design Guide of the National Association of City Traffic Officials Traffic Officials, (NACTO).” MUTCD is a floor, not a ceiling, and suffice to say the design as built doesn’t meet NACTO standards.

This is one of the great challenges in moving from well-intentioned City Council policy to on-the-ground implementation – a traffic engineering culture whose first inclination when presented with McBikeface’s concerns is to dismiss it with a “Bike lane meets MUTCD standards”.

To the city’s credit, when the BBTIRT raised the above-noted discrepancies, the staff at the Facility Maintenance Division of the Municipal Development Department said they would give it another look. We will keep you apprised of the results.

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