Friday, August 27, 2010

Atlanta's Magic Disappearing Bike Lanes

Getting bike lanes around here is like "two pedals forward, one pedal back". We've had on-street bicycle lanes removed on two street segments in the past couple of years, one replaced with sharrows and one replaced with a (much less safe or convenient) side path. Elsewhere, new lanes or sharrows have been added, but almost always with some sort of defect.

Exhibit 1 is the bicycle lanes on Fifth Street/Ferst Ave and on Ivan Allen Boulevard. Apparently, these lanes were marked with very low quality paint, that has completely worn off in the past year. Below is a photo of the lane on the Fifth Street bridge over I-75/85. You can see how worn the inner line is compared to the marking on the edge of the road, which is probably thermoplast. This section is actually in better shape than the blocks to the west, where you can't even tell that a bike lane ever existed!

Ivan Allen Boulevard is in the same condition, even though it is newer. You can barely see the markings at all. It's there, I swear. You might have to look really closely. Up near the delivery truck, which is parked in the lane, you can see a "bike lane ends" sign.

And now, the fate of this lane gets even weirder. The state DOT just finished reconstructing part of this street, from the top of this hill over to Northside Drive. And this project actually involved continuing the bike lane through the intersection and across the bridge to the Georgia Dome. They had to know it was there, but maybe the absent markings confused them. Because the reconstructed section on this side of the nearest intersection has no bicycle lane. The lane starts again on the opposite side of the intersection.

This means that the bike lane and the right-hand general purpose lane merge unexpectedly, without any signs or markings. This could create a really dangerous situation, since there is now warning and no way to determine who has the right of way. Sure enough, while I was stopped there taking pictures, a cyclist came along in the bike lane and an SUV approached in the right-hand lane. The cyclist (circled in the photo, and partly obscured by an aggressive crape myrtle tree) was only a few feet ahead of the car when they reached the point where the lanes merged. The car gave way to the cyclist (which was correct relative to their positions), but also swerved slightly into the left lane. Fortunately, there were no other cars nearby. The car then slowed down, merged behind the bicycle, and made a right turn.
The DOT is aware of the mistake, but it will probably take a very long time and some taxpayer dollars to fix. Hopefully the intersection will be repaired before there are any serious incidents. In the meantime, the City of Atlanta needs to inspect and restripe any faded bike lane markings on their streets.

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