Equipment and On Road Behaviour, Laws and Rules. Cycling Promotion and Advocacy
The local council are redesigning a local street and are adding some curb build outs; curbs designed to narrow the road at a point to slow traffic. They are proposing having a 400mm gap between the existing curb and the build out for cyclists. These already exist in other areas of town, and I find that I just take the lane through them rather than go through the gap.
My advocacy colleagues have concerns with this idea, because they feel it forces cyclists to pull out into the middle of the lane at the pinch point, and they feel that this is a bad thing. I'm not so sure. I feel that taking the lane through these sections is more predictable and safer than popping through the narrow gap. I think we'll be trying to argue for wider gaps, say, at least 1200mm, but I'm not sure how much conviction I have for it. Why not just take the lane?
What do you think?
Here's a link to the plans.
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400mm? Tell 'em they're dreamin'
Such a small gap is totally impracticable. Have a look at the speed hump installations along HERE and the half baked method of preventing smokeboxers bypassing them. I always take the lane along there because the design prevents streetsweepers getting in there and they consequently contain more crap than parliament house during a late sitting.
...whatever the road rules, self-preservation is the absolute priority for a cyclist when mixing it with motorised traffic.
London Boy 29/12/2011
firstly my issue with back streets is that I can not aways claim the lane. I can sit in the middle of my "imaginary" lane and drivers will over take on the "imaginary" lane for the other side of traffic. And obviously sitting bang in the middle of the road, drivers can overtake on either side.
The problem *I* have found on roads with the curb build out is I can't claim the lane between build outs for the above reason. This then means I need to look both backwards and forward when approaching the curb build out section, not ideal. And also some cars zoom to the curb cutouts to get there first, both oncoming traffic and traffic behind. The design also forces the cyclist to ride right into the path of oncoming traffic.
Another situation is I have slowed down to one side (not stopped) to let oncoming traffic through, then rear ward traffic will shoot through after the oncoming traffic has gone through leaving me on the side about to turn out to go through (either impatient or thought I had pulled to the side). Add a leafy street to reduce visiblity at these points, its not a great situation. This is the one I have trouble with sometimes, I don't ride there often any more.
If talking about patient/most drivers not particularly a concern especially if the cyclist is also such minded, but if either the car or cyclist is trying to zoom through it can be less safe than a road with no cutouts.
Here's an example of what most of the curb build outs are like around the area. I usually just take the lane as I go through them.
Here's a spot that already has curb build outs, but where a new crossing point will be added (pedestrian refuge in the middle of the road, between the curb build outs).
This is a place where the want to build a curb build out on the corner of an intersection. There will be a build out on the corner on the left there, and another one coming out from the curb on the right.
Again, the way I tackle these is by taking the lane through this point. These areas are low traffic areas, although the second one is on a bus route.
I'm undecided how much effort I personally want to put into lobbying for a 1200-1500mm gap in the build outs. Maybe because I'm used to the idea of not having a gap, I feel OK with the status quo. On the other hand, maybe it would be better to just zoom through the build outs without taking the lane. I wouldn't want anything like this at an intersection though.
P.S. - Isn't street view brilliant!
OK, for the majority of my career I have worked as an urban planner/town planner around the world. I’m also a cyclist .
I don’t like kerb build-outs for the reason that cyclists would be forced to either
a) move into the main traffic lane, or
b) pass in the small section left in the gutter
If you are an experienced cyclist then moving into the lane probably won’t be a problem, but for many less experienced cyclists it could be dangerous.
Of course, even for experienced cyclists, there is always the potential for a bogan driver to object to a cyclist merging to the main lane of traffic….
This is exacerbated by having these build outs every few hundred metres as you have stated – as this means that cyclists will move in and out of the main vehicle path over and over – this makes some drivers agro, and does not assist in harmonious relations between cyclists and car drivers. And does nothing for the less experienced/less assertive cyclists.
Further, less experienced cyclists should not be taught the habit of ‘weaving’ in and out of the main lane of traffic, it makes you unpredicatable and more likely to be hit. We are always told to try and hold your line - don't weave in and out of parked cars - yet here they create a situation where thats exactly what you have to do.
Then again, the other option would be to ‘hold the line’ and ride in the middle of the lane so that you are being obvious/riding big – but this would only further aggravate drivers who see you as taking up ‘their’ space.
Similarly, passing the gutter has too many obstacles, as these areas collect debri/rubbish, are never cleaned. Street sweepers don’t get in there, and it is just creating a lot of work for Council if they are expected to keep them clean.
Plus, these are areas where pedestrians congregate to cross the road.
In summary, these bits of infrastructure force cyclists to make the decision of either entering the main lane of vehicle traffic (with all the problems associated) or passing through the small gap between the build out and the gutter (with all the problems associated).
Its lose/lose from a cyclist point of view.
It’s a really odd situation, because traffic calming devices are meant to slow the spend of traffic, to ensure a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists….. but here we have a situation where the traffic calming devices are actually making things worse for everyone…
The best option would be 1.2 - 1.5m cycle lanes painted up the entire road, and the road design providing a place for these to continue through the build out area - at the moment it would appear that (if there was a cycle lane painted on the road) it would basically vanish before the build-out and re-appear somewhere after....
That is designed to require you to merge with traffic. Claim the lane as early as you can to establish your position.
That slot on the left is simply a drainage slot, not a place to ride a bike.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
The issue with a continuous painted lane is that it would have to be right in the door zone. Parking either side of the curb build out needs to be limited as well, to make room for cyclists to go through the gap.
True. But the council are selling them as a gap for cyclists. We aren't convinced. But I'm not convinced that a bigger gap will make this infrastructure more usable. I feel that claiming the lane is the way to go, but I'm experienced and we're supposed to be representing all cyclists, and potential cyclists, so maybe I'm not thinking the way I should be.
I agree with the various comments above that encouraging cyclists to weave into and out of the main traffic lane is not a good idea & that the proposed 400 mm gap fills with debris that is not cleaned by street sweepers.
An additional problem are those bikes that are not a traditional form - in my case I am often towing a trailer with the small boy on board that is wider than 400 mm. Despite travelling at a lower pace, in such circumstances I would have no option but to move out into the main traffic lane.
The same concern would also apply to most trikes.
They also fill with destabilising sand as well.
Should the thread title be changed to "curbing the use of kerb build outs?
I agree with several posters above, these are horrible for cyclists when they create the weave. They are good if there's a bypass (that is kept clean - streetsweepers not fitting is NOT an excuse for Councils, they are just lazy and don't care about cyclists) or if the cyclist is claiming the lane the whole way. One of my local routes is built like that and I hate it, especially as it is combined with a solid median island.
The ends of the pedals on a bicycle are 300mm apart. This is forcing cyclists to ride with 5cm clearance either side otherwise risk pedal strike on their kerbs. Not only that, the pedals are not in the riders eyeline, and the bars are considerably wider (my bars are 650mm wide), the space is easily plugged by debris, will certainly collect leaf material, and will have at least 1 and potentially 2 kerb seams running down it. In general a cyclist should stay 1m away from kerb seams and other parallel hazards to accommodate all riding factors including wet weather and wind conditions.
its absurd to presume a cycle will always track within 5cm. Hell in order to initiate a turn the front wheel or even just balance the bike, the front wheel will track that far from the nominal center of course, which means they are designing a facility with NO clearance.
I learnt two things today: (1) What a kerb out is and (2) that we are meant to ride that narrow gap ... It has never occurred to me to ride a narrow gap like that, instead I simply claim the lane. I would have assumed it was there for rain run-off purposes not cyclists. Stupid idea in my view.
It might be also helpful to review the Austroad guidelines on cycling infrastructure. May provide some guidance/weight to your position.
Cyclists definitely shouldn't use the gap in that example - you had it right the first time (and Darwin Clowncil have it wrong).
Very good idea.
A format like this would probably be OK
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
Sydney street sweeper
I have speed humps like that in my street where the street is only 7 metres wide. there is a gap on the kerb side to get through but that's a very dangerous place to put yourself. cars always try to swerve to get a good line through them, often right after giving in to that urge that they simply have to get in front of the bike at all costs. when I ride through the streets with those humps on them the only option I can take is to completely clock the road, riding right up the centre so no car can get past.
I'm still working with council on a better option. narrowing for one car at a time passing with side access for bikes is about the only thing that is practical on such narrow roads. state department is proving to be the stereotypical public servants - we've got guidelines,never mind if those guidelines are causing the problems.
All up though those speed humps are far more dangerous than any problem they were originally designed to address.
i have a street with kerb build-outs on my commute. it has no gap on the side - i need to share the middle of the road with other traffic. i find it works well - as there is only enough room for one motor vehicle to fit through the gap. however, a cyclist can safely squeeze through with an oncoming (or overtaking) motor vehicle. they're a good idea, as they prevent cars from squeezing you into the kerb when they need to move over for oncoming traffic.
I dislike kerb build outs at the best of times, but when Brisbane City Council changed a normal Zebra crossing to add one, it scared the bejeesus out of me:
This is on my commute. It's a fairly fast road, two lanes in each direction, and now cyclists not only have to take their lane, but merge (while going through a junction) into the right lane, so there is no open lane for cars to pass.
Am I right to be concerned, or is this okay?
The one good thing is that that crossing is in a dip, so you can get up some decent speed to merge with the traffic. However this doesn't help slower/less experienced cyclists, and in any case, making cyclists stamp on the gas before entering a zebra crossing seems counter-intuitive at best, and dangerous at worst.
To be fair to the council, I'm fairly sure they did this to make the crossing safer for school children (out of shot top right is Glenala High School) but it is just badly designed. The fact that the left lane ends before the junction means cyclists (me!) end up riding on the shoulder in the approach, which then magically becomes a lane for 80 metres through the junction, then magically becomes a shoulder again, then disappears completely. As for the crossing itself, if the kerb build out stopped about 1.5m earlier, there would be room for cyclists to ride without having to merge into the main lane.
I nearly complained immediately after this was introduced...feeling like perhaps I should have done now.
Terrible design - done without any thought whatsoever to cyclists. There's no excuse for not leaving a 1.2-1.5m wide cycle lane through the junction.
Having a 'bypass' like at other traffic calming devices would not have worked though as it would have conflicts with the children crossing.
Yeah you couldn't bypass the island down the left hand side, I was more thinking have a green cycle lane start before the junction, and continue to the crossing. Make the islands stop a little earlier (so they leave enough room down the right for the car lane and a bike lane). Then after the crossing have the cycle lane move towards the edge of the road and end.
There should be a cycle lane heading southbound as well, obviously. It's not as scary as the northbound direction as the junction is after the crossing, but it's still not great.
Does your area have a bicycling advocacy group, like a BUG or something?
I started this topic because our local council is consulting with us (Bicycle NT) about the changes planned for this street. We're at the stage now where we're meeting with the infrastructure guys at the site on Friday. I wonder if there is an equivalent group that was consulted about this infrastructure change, if not, maybe there should be, and that only happens if people do it.
To be honest, I'm still not convinced that these build outs are that bad, at least in the design proposed in this instance here in Darwin. Yes, they push the cyclists into traffic, but I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing. In regards to the level crossing in the Brisbane example, I can see the rationale for adding the crossing there. Perhaps there could have been a bike lane added on the lateral sides of the build outs, but they'd also need to have zebra crossings. I guess this would be preferable, but I don't see merging at this point as a particular problem. My problem with feeling like this is that perhaps I'm not giving enough consideration to less confident cyclists.
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