Why unprotected 2-way bike lanes are a bad idea, in 15 seconds

August 7, 2017

Michael Andersen, PlacesForBikes staff writer

There’s been a disconcerting trend in the last year or so: Even as debate continues about the merits of two-way protected bike lanes, some cities are installing or considering two-way unprotected bike lanes.

The 15-second video below shows what this looks like in practice in Philadelphia. (Spoiler alert: the audio from this incident is not safe for work.)

As Cunicelli suggests, the person driving could probably have been more careful but the street design is also to blame. Without any sort of vertical road element to set off the bike lane, the striped yellow line down the middle of the two-way bike lane is almost the only indication that it’s a biking space, let alone that someone might be biking against auto traffic in what’s effectively a contraflow bike lane on an otherwise one-way street.

Unfortunately, problems like this one were predicted almost as soon as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation installed the lane in June. The Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia actually urged the state and city to remove the two-way bike lane and instead create a low-stress one-way bike lane with a buffer on each side. (A true parking-protected bike lane would be even better, the Coalition noted.)

Another solution, of course, would be to find room on the street for vertical elements like posts, planters or concrete curbs that could directly channel car movement. These might also reduce double-parking, also a major problem on Spring Garden Street. But vertical elements would require, among other things, road space to put them in–and on this street that would require converting auto parking spaces to bike lane space.

Philadelphia has long been one of the country’s best big cities for biking. Its state and city governments can and should do better than designs like this.

PlacesForBikes helps U.S. communities build better biking, faster. You can follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about building all-ages biking networks. Story tip? Write [email protected]

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