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.