Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Calvary Cemetery Tour and Imaginary Infrastructure (If I Were King of the Forest....)

I have been meaning to post here since so very shortly after my last post! As I seem to mention often these days, I always think summer will be a time to slow down and appreciate simpler things and longer days. In my case? I tend to cram them chock full and wonder why I'm so exhausted! Melissa mentioned in her blog this week that the disruption to routine is really difficult for her, and I am inclined to agree. While I tend to be pretty fully-scheduled during the "school year" (I still think of my life in semesters, even though I haven't attended school in nearly a decade), I know exactly where the spaces are, and I can fill them or guard them as I need to. In summer, everything is so dang inviting, and it's far too easy to say yes! I want to do that! and here I sit at 9:30 on a Tuesday morning in early July and it's all catching up with me. I fell into bed last night, and despite sleeping nearly eight hours both nights, I feel as though I've been beat about the head and neck with an exhaustion stick. Eep. A good warning to slow down, for sure, if only I can heed it!

So, what have I been doing since June 20th? 

Calvary Bike Ride, June 21, 2014, St. Louis. Here's a little photo tour of a ride through Calvary Cemetery, one of the oldest and most beautiful cemeteries in the area. Many, many famous (locally famous and nationally famous alike) people are buried here, many associated with the Civil War, slavery and emancipation, the founding of St. Louis, and many of the industries that helped the city grow back when rivers were the nation's highways.

Beyond that, I haven't been riding a lot. It seems when the weather has been ideal (like preceding the July 4th weekend, when it was actually in the 70s for highs? Unbelievable), my schedule has been crammed. And when the weather in summer in St. Louis isn't ideal? I can barely handle being in an air-conditioned car. Yesterday, it was stormy and the high peaked around 97 or so, with humidity so thick the air was like soup. Erm, I sweat just existing when the weather is like that. 

I'm also figuring out quickly that I prefer to ride with traffic, but I don't like to ride very far by myself when I'm being traffic. I think there is added safety and visibility in numbers, and the ride is more fun when you have someone to share the experience with. This is a stark contrast to the joy I have riding Grant's Trail alone, where I don't have to worry as much about interacting with motorists (most intersections are signaled nor next-to-defunct and the trail is off-limits to cars). I haven't been riding to work much - I simply exert too much effort trying to keep up with motorists and it utterly ruins the experience for me. When I have the option to mosey, I ride happily. When I'm pushing myself, I end up hot and sweaty and stressed, and it undoes the benefits. A lot of this is truly about finding my limits, and for me, some type of well-designed infrastructure, a better network of multi-use paths, or at least designated bike highways would make travel between home and work much more pleasant. These, together with better education for all road users, would help to get to the shared-road, pleasant culture that we all want. 

From an ideal infrastructure standpoint, I don't know how to make things perfect any more than the next guy, but here are some things I'd do if I were in charge. And had an unlimited budget.

  • 1" of sidewalk per traffic lane. 3" buffer/curb per traffic lane (between sidewalk and traffic lane). (A 2-lane road would have a 2' sidewalk on each side with 3" of curb and 3" of grass or plants on each side; a 4-lane road would have a 4' sidewalk on each side with 9" of grass and 3" of curb between sidewalk and street.) 
  • No bike lanes between parked cars and traffic lanes; use a properly-placed sharrow
  • Residential street speed limits not to exceed 20mph, residential "arterials" (2-3 lanes) not to exceed 25mph.
  • Residential "arterials" to offer 5.5' bike lane, not overlapping gutter, no parked cars, along outside of traffic lanes with a 6" painted buffer. Lanes to end (force merge) at intersections.
  • Major arterials (4+ lanes) to have 6' bike lane with 6" buffer zone (paint only) on either side, between lanes of traffic, to allow faster traffic to flow around bicycles. A turning bicycle would have to merge with the appropriate traffic lane in order to complete the turn, but would be able to stay in the designated lane to continue straight. Within the bike lanes, slower bicycle traffic would stay on the right, just like in normal traffic conditions. 
As an example, let's consider a bike commute from downtown Kirkwood (Kirkwood Road and Adams Road) to downtown Clayton (the courthouse) using a direct route when it makes sense (a "car" or "arterial" route) and the scenic route when it makes sense (multi-use paths, for example, through a neighborhood or park). The total route is about 8 miles each way and takes us North on Kirkwood/Lindbergh to Clayton, where we would head East on Clayton Road before going left across the mall into the Francis Place neighborhood to cut under the highway and connect with Shaw Park to get to downtown Clayton. Under my plan above, the cyclist would have a dedicated place on the road (around which heavier and faster vehicles may travel) until merging into the right turn lane at Clayton Road.There, the cyclist would have similar infrastructure until they merged into the left-turn pocket at Francis Place. Francis Place is 2-lane traffic with on-street parking, so the cyclist would ride down the middle of the lane until reaching the bike path that cuts under Highway 170, which connects to the bike paths in Shaw Park. Take that to Parkside Drive on the NW edge of the park, which is again 2-lanes with on-street parking and you'd have the same rules (ride in the middle of the travel lane) until reaching Forsyth, which is 2-4 lanes with on-street parking. So here, we'd again find a middle bike lane to allow cars to pass us in multi-use lanes and to turn when we're going straight. When we get to the side of the courthouse we want (East or West), we'd signal to merge into the right multi-use travel lane and make our turn, etc. 

I'd do this. I don't mind the travel differential so much when I have a place to allow my speed to be comfortable and allow faster folks to go around me. You'd certainly have to watch out for cars changing lanes, but for those merging left, you're on the driver's side and pretty visible, and for those merging right, they are already looking for traffic on their right to avoid. You'd never have to worry about getting doored, and I think access to/from the bike lane would be pretty easy, since you'd almost certainly be coming at it from a signaled intersection, or a road that is slow enough that traffic is easily avoided. It might take some getting used to to get passed on the right by faster traffic, which is the only real issue I'd have with this sort of plan. But the increased visibility and access to all multi-use traffic lanes is appealing and offsets that downside. 

What do you think? If you ride with kids, would you be comfortable in a dedicated lane between two travel lanes of faster-moving traffic? What if you're older, or ride a recumbent? Would you prefer this to a door-zone travel lane, or no designated lane at all? I suspect the answers will vary widely. My only rules for comments: please do not disparage those with a different viewpoint from you. Whether the idea of riding in and as traffic appeals or repulses, your feelings are valid here and should be respected and respectful of those who disagree with you.


  1. Hmmm... your imaginary infrastructure sounds very interesting, but I think I'm having a hard time picturing the bike lane between lanes of traffic with a 6 foot buffer on both sides. Wouldn't that mean that a bike lane would take up the equivalent of 18 feet? I'm having trouble picturing how that could possibly leave any room for the cars. Maybe I don't have a good idea of how wide a traffic lane normally is...

    Also... what does "properly placed" mean in terms of sharrows? I have never understood those things other than that it's some sort of a warning to drivers that they might encounter a bike and should be careful. Do tell... :-)

  2. 1. Six foot lane / six INCH buffer (total width 7'; just gives a little extra room for passing and comfort).
    2. Residential traffic lanes are usually 8-10', Arterial 12'-14'.
    3. Properly placed meaning not in the door zone or under the parking lane. So, basically, right in the middle.

    Hope that helps! Sorry for any confusion. The 6' + 6" buffer is based on the idea that if you're in either bike lane, you'd mostly ride close to the center line in the right lane, and that would allow for room on either side of the cyclist. Realistically, if a bike is 2' wide, you'd want to either make the bike lane a touch wider (to accommodate passing bikes with 3' clearance on either side) or make the primary lane wider than the passing lane within the bike lane.

    It's totally weird. But I just get this feeling that something outside the box of what we've been doing might work better than what we've been doing. Placing bike lanes to the right of motorists hampers visibility, makes intersections dangerous, marginalizes the rider, and makes access to left turn pockets, etc, difficult and dangerous. But asking all riders to be traffic, while safer, isn't particularly comfortable for everyone, due to speed differentials. I wonder if this would resolve those things.

    Randomly - I'll be in Colorado later this month. I'll wave in your general direction while there! :)

  3. Ha! Well, that makes more sense - guess those little hash marks were too small for me to see. I don't think I'd mind riding between lanes of traffic per se... it's just that people tend to drive crazy, changing lanes all the time, so that would make me a bit nervous. I'm also nervous about the idea of merging with traffic in general. Is that why bike lanes tend to end at intersections? It's very confusing to me... especially if it's a green light situation. Am I supposed to merge with traffic to go straight?

    Anyhow, in terms of sharrows... does that mean that bikes are supposed to ride where the sharrows are? I always just thought it was a head's up to drivers that there might be bikes on the road.

    Hmmm... I guess part of what this points out to me is that we are in desperate need of more public education on this topic. I mean, if I don't know the answers to these questions - and I have more than a passive interest in this subject, how on earth can we expect that the general public will know this stuff?

  4. If a bike lane does not end at an intersection where turns are permitted, it creates a conflict -- if you want to go straight (in a right-side bike lane) and the car in the right car lane wants to turn right, you are at a very high risk of right-hook, because you are hard to see, hard to predict, and not relevant to the motorist until the collision. And people on bikes are squishier than people in cars.

    Sharrows are to indicate shared spaces, but one of the arguments against poorly placed bike lanes and sharrows is that even if they don't suggest proper or legal behavior, the create an assumption about the proper placement of bicycles on the road. A sharrow or lane in a door zone creates, for some motorists, a presumption that the cyclist does not have a right to be in the main part of the lane.

    EDUCATION FIRST. The rest can follow after meaningful debate! :))

    1. Hmmmm.... I'm musing over the bike lane intersection thing. I totally agree that it's dangerous because you're in the path of turning vehicles - this is why I generally hate bike lanes. But here in Denver, all of the bike lanes I know of are on streets where turns are permitted at every intersection.

      Sooo... playing devil's advocate for a moment here... that means that technically I'm supposed to ride in the bike lane for the inner part of the block and then merge with traffic at the end of each block? That can't be right... I mean especially if you were travelling east/west - on the short side of the blocks, you'd basically be weaving in and out of the traffic lane every 50 feet or so! There MUST be a better way!

  5. This is a big part of why anti-bike lane people don't like bike lanes. What's safe is not intuitive. I do appreciate the option of a bike lane for "releasing" cars that are stuck behind me. Instead of traveling in the bike lane, I can travel in the regular lane, but if faster traffic is accumulating behind me, I can move into the bike lane for the middle part of a block and let them pass, returning to the primary lane when it's clear again.

    But yes, traditional bike lanes, if you stay in them, ensure there is a conflict or confusion at every intersection.

  6. Not sure about the bike lane between two travel lanes thing, since motorists would be crossing through the space, perhaps frequently. If everyone were really traveling 25mph, i.e., your suggested speed limit, maybe it would work. But, if all motorists were really traveling 25mph, the need for such a space is reduced quite a bit, except perhaps on uphills.


Let the bicycle talk begin...