BentRiderOnline : My bike lane is HORRIBLE!!!

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My bike lane is HORRIBLE!!!
I’d like to get your views on how to deal with the bike lane outside my front door. It’s a 4-lane thoroughfare called Briar Forest, on the west side of Houston, very easy to look at on google maps and street view. Here’s the deal: The bike lane is narrow and often really, really crappy, basically just a rutted gutter with seams and huge holes/seams that can take out a skinny road bike tire/wheel in an instant. Even worse, it will often go from being very nice to very poor in an instant, then be nice again a few moments later.Normally I would think it would make perfect sense just to ride out into the vehicle lane. I often do this on the Carbent, to avoid danger and since I’m often going at a pace not too much slower than the traffic.However, here’s the catch: The aforementioned strategy works fine when riding recreationally on the weekends and whatnot, but for commuting it’s a different story altogether. There are actually a pretty good number of bike commuters on this street, and unfortunately basically every single one of them rides in the bike lane even at its worst. Thus, the drivers on this street are conditioned to just drive by bikes at full speed. Since I feel pretty uncomfortable on many stretches of this road, I have taken to riding other nearby routes, including Westheimer, an 8-lane monstrosity that would make Los Angeles proud. I feel much safer taking the lane on a major road, or riding on dedicated paths, than on my own personal gutter…I mean bike lane, har har.

Today I commuted on Briar Forest (on the beater EZ-1) just to give it a fair shake, but was buzzed by cars right at some of the worst spots, places where even the huge Big Apple tires are asking me to take the lane. It’s very irritating, and I really can’t blame the drivers in this case, as I’m the glaring “odd man out” from all the other cyclists if/when I take the lane.

What, if anything, should I do about this? I’m OK with my other route choices, but it might be nice to ride on my own street more often. I don’t want to teach my son to ride on this road as it is now, and I don’t want to do family rides on it either. Should I put together an expose and lobby the city to either:

  1. Remove the bike lane and make the vehicle lanes wider?
  2. Make it a 2-lane road with the right lane & bike lane becoming parking/bike area?

Honestly, I doubt either one would ever happen, but maybe enough pestering would get the city to improve the bike lane…

That illustrates one of my objections to bike lanes. Even, or maybe especially, when bike lane use is not mandatory or when the bike lane is unusable, drivers have been conditioned to it and EXPECT cyclists to stay in it anyway. After all, it was put there to get bikes the he11 out of the cars’ way, and don’t they understand the concept of sharing??? Why do they want the cars’ slice of the pavement in addition to their own???I guess about the only thing pro-active I can think of for you to do is to write a letter to the road department, with a copy to the Mayor perhaps. Tell them that due to the substandard width, and the inconsistent and overall poor condition of the lane, you consider it unsafe to use, and that its presence has created its own set of unsafe conditions relating to traffic interactions. It sure sounds like you’d be better off if they removed the line and painted sharrows.
One of the drawbacks of recumbents is the greater need for a good riding surface than what is acceptable on a DF with larger wheels, quicker, more sure footed maneuverability, and the ability to unload the wheels in a pinch.I would definitely call upon the city for better services but I suspect that lack appreciation for your needs and the acceptance of the cycling community of these poor conditions would not help your request.George

Get your camera and take detailed photos of the worst spots. Shoot some video, if you can, of people buzzing you too closely as you try to ride. Then, make a personal visit to your representative on your city council, evidence in hand. Invite them to come ride with you to see it for themself. Make copies of the material and send to whomever is in charge of street repair for the City of Houston. The Dallas newspaper has an advocate on staff to whom you can submit service complaints such as this. That person contacts the city, submits the service request, then follows up with the city until the job gets done. Check with the Chronicle to see if they have someone like that. The final possibility would be to contact one of the local TV stations as there is usually someone that likes to do stories of this nature. Marvin Zindler may be dead but I’m sure someone took his place.
this is an example of a city thinking they are being so open minded about alternative transportation and making and unsafe bike lane for the sake of saying they have a bike lane!Probably got federal grant money to buy all that paint.I think one would have to determine for yourself if this is even a street you want to ride on, but I would ride in the right center of the lane, watch my mirrors and be ready to ditch right if they were not slowing and passing safely in the other lane.I ride on a three traffic lanes each way street in the mornings… with moderate traffic sometimes. but there is no bike lane and no shoulder. Generally drivers have little trouble figuring out that they need to slow and change lanes. Occasionally I get some moron who does not know how to change lanes or what to do other than slow… but at lest they see me and slow.

There is another street I ride that has a substandard bike lane … not quite as bad as this one. I was nearly right hooked and smashed into the curb while I was in that bike lane. Now… I ride in the traffic lane on that street as much as possible.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the minimum operating width of a bicycle is 48″. As such, I sincerely doubt that is a legal Bike Lane. Cities fear lawsuits…just sayin’.
They’ve done the same thing here in many places in San Mateo County and I’ve been wondering if they illicitly got grant funds to do it. Ours are generally not quite as bad as that picture but they’ve painted “bike lanes” that have parking permitted in the lane, that include the 12-18″ gutter in a 36″ wide “lane” and therefore have you either riding on a ridge, in the gutter, or halfway in the road, etc.
I *want* to say the document is the CA Higway Design Manual or something very similar?..A “bike lane” is a class II bikeway in CA if that helps w/the searching. There are additional required widths and so forth as well, depending on things like whether there is parallel parking next to the bike lane, the gutter pan has to be a certain width, if there is no GP the bike lane has got to be a minimum of 4′ (I *think*), etc. All sorts of good stuff in there.Edit: Heck, I just found it instead: like they’ve switched to metrics since I last read it!


Google View of the Bike Lane

I’m thinking the sidewalk is looking pretty good given what that bike lane looks like. And I agree with everyone else, that road looks narrow enough justing be two car lanes let alone squeezing in the obvious after thought of a bike lane. It would be better not to have that fallacy drawn on the road and just deal with riding in the right lane.