Bicycle lanes are traffic lanes

bicycle detouring around road work sign blocking bike lane
At this point the only thing blocking the bike lane is the “Road Work Ahead” sign.

By John Fleck

tldr; Sure, Vision Zero, whatever. As long as we’ve got a traffic engineering culture that sees bike lanes as a convenient place to dump shit so that we don’t inconvenience people driving cars, we’ll never get there.

Longer: We here at Better Burque love the official federal government definition of “traffic”, as enshrined in the MUTCD – the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices:

Traffic—pedestrians, bicyclists, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars, and other conveyances either singularly or together while using for purposes of travel any highway or private road open to public travel.

Remember the old Critical Mass slogan: “We’re not blocking traffic. We are traffic.”? Straight from the MUTCD. (OK, not actually technically word-for-word, but in spirit.)

Some months ago, Better Burque used the Twitter to reach out to Albuquerque’s Department of Municipal Development regarding traffic control furniture blocking a route used by things that are not cars, but per federal law are definitely “traffic”. We received this helpful reply:

This was exciting news to the Better Burque Tactical Urbanism Team, which is old and has a bad back and is worried about picking up those heavy sandbags and dragging those “Road Work Ahead” signs out of the traffic lanes used by bicycles.

Sadly, this is not going as well as we had hoped. The sign seen in the picture above – the one where our intrepid commuter has to play Frogger with the car lane at a busy intersection – has been blocking the bike lane on Indian School eastbound just past University for nearly two weeks, despite repeated use of the tools the city provides and the promise by our friends at the city of Albuquerque to respond. (See here for the first three, the fourth is now hung up in moderation – perhaps we triggered the AI filter by using “MUTCD” too many times.)

In all seriousness, a reminder – city ordinance and federal regulations require consideration of the needs of all traffic system users, not just cars.

In the parlance of the traffic engineer, what we’ve got here is a “Temporary Traffic Control Zone” (TTC zone). Federal regulations governing what traffic engineers are supposed to do here are pretty clear:

The needs and control of all road users (motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians within the highway, or on private roads open to public travel (see definition in Section 1A.13), including persons with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Title II, Paragraph 35.130) through a TTC zone shall be an essential part of highway construction, utility work, maintenance operations, and the management of traffic incidents. (emphasis added)

The operative noun thingie here is “all road users” and the operative verb is “shall”. The drill here is simple, which city traffic folk know – if you’ve got to close the bike lane for some reason (which the sign above is doing, see cyclist not able to use it), you’ve got to put up the necessary warning signs – “Share the Road”/”Bike Lane Closed Ahead”, some speed control, etc. – so people driving cars and people riding bikes have the necessary safety cues to at least try to more safely share the diminished space available on the road ahead.

During the days while construction work is ongoing, the bike lane ahead is closed completely, forcing cyclists to merge into the traffic lanes without the proper warning signs and traffic controls, violating MUTCD. (Weirdly, for a while the sign company did this correctly in the WB direction, but not EB.) At night, all the construction furniture ahead is moved out of the roadway completely. The only thing left blocking the bike lane is this damn sign, violating “WTF really you moved all the other signs and you couldn’t move this one too?”

It’s this last oversight that really shows the problem. Of course they wouldn’t go home for the evening leaving a bunch of shit needlessly blocking traffic lanes. They did a nice job of opening the lanes back up through the construction zone for cars when they went home for the day. But the people making those decisions didn’t think of this bike lane as a traffic lane.

I guess we’re just lucky the UNM north golf course neighborhood has no herded animals.

2 thoughts on “Bicycle lanes are traffic lanes

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