Bike Blog: Shark Valley Ride Tonight, And What's Up With Green Bike Lanes?

Categories: Bike Blog


Sorry for the late notice on this one, but:

Tonight, the Emerge Miami’s Critical Mass will be riding bikes at Shark Valley in the Everglades. Meet at Coconut Grove Metrorail stop at 6:00, or at Shark Valley at 7:00.

If you’d like to stay closer to home, the other Critical Mass (the punkier one) is having an evening ride tonight. Meet at 6:30 at Government Center.

Last, yours truly has been talking with some folks about biking down the new busway to Florida City tomorrow. It’s an unbroken 22 miles of paved bike path, and there’s always a bus back. Send an email if you’re interested.

Now the News:

Picture this scenario: you’re riding in a bike lane (Miamians might have to use their imaginations), with cars going past on your left. Just as you approach an intersection, still going straight, the car just ahead of you suddenly turns right, blocking your way.

Luckily, you’ve been practicing your triple flip car jumps, and you land on the other side, unscathed. But imagine if you didn’t know Bike Fu – you’d plow right into the car.

Cities around the country are putting in bike lanes on an unprecedented scale. Chicago added almost one hundred miles in the last three years. New York currently has two hundred miles of lanes and plans to double that number by 2010. That’s great news, but bike lanes are still an oddity to most drivers, and that means that striping roadways isn’t going to be enough to protect bikes – and, yes, drivers – from running into each other.

The right-turn problem – the Right-Turn Problem, let’s call it – is one of the biggest problems with bike lanes.

Cars need to cross the lane to turn right, but unless they’re paying attention, its easy for them to cut off – or run over – bikers going straight through the intersection.

Recently, St. Petersburg – which on the League of American Bicyclists list of Bicycle Friendly Communities for its efforts to accommodate bicycles – began an experiment to try and fix the problem.

They’re working with the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to see if painting the danger area will get cars to look out for bikes before making a turn.

They’ve painted the lane green.

“It kind of signals to the driver, ‘Hey, watch out, something’s going on,’” explains Cheryl Stacks, the city’s Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator.

The green lane was painted last March. Florida Department of Transportation researchers installed cameras to see if it was making a difference. When they reviewed the data in spring, they found that, in fact, it wasn’t. So they installed more prominent signage, did a stronger paint job, and tried again. The data is currently being reviewed, with results expected this spring.

Saint Petersburg isn’t the only city trying to solve this problem. Chicago’s installed ‘bike boxes’ in intersections, that allow bikers to move ahead of traffic at red lights. More on that next week.

-- Isaiah Thompson

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