Bicycle lanes can be a contentious issue, depending on how city planners carry out their design. When there aren’t bike lanes on the road, there are two perspectives taking place simultaneously.
You’re running late for work and see a bicyclist edging into traffic. You wonder why they don’t take the sidewalk (it’s illegal). You honk your horn when they get too close, and they veer close to the right curb, narrowly avoiding a parked car’s side mirror. You blow past them, speeding ahead until they’re a speck in your rearview. You get to work on time.
You don’t have a car, perhaps because you cannot afford one, don’t have a license or choose not to drive in order to combat the effects of greenhouse gasses. Traffic is increasing, and a giant truck is riding uncomfortably close. They honk and you jump, nearly clipping a car’s side mirror. Your nerves are shot, as they zoom past without a glance.
The Solution: Bike Lanes
This situation—alongside more tragic ones—is what Richmond representatives are trying to avoid with their new cyclist-friendly initiatives: bike lanes to protect cyclists, and floating parking for motorists.
As Richmond’s bike lanes are being built to stretch across the city, new signs and symbols are popping up like wildflowers. The signage is meant to preserve the safety of everyone on the road, but its success is debatable. Many consider these markings to be more muddling than clarifying, potentially resulting in deadly consequences.
Recently, a letter to the editor was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch regarding the bike lane on Malvern Avenue. The author calls this maze of bike lanes, car lanes, and seemingly arbitrary parking “a ludicrous and irresponsible proposition that could become deadly.” Motorists are confused by the dizzying paint and patterns on the pavement – especially at the intersection with Patterson Avenue.
There have been instances of drivers using bike lanes to pass other motor vehicles, which is illegal and highly dangerous to everyone on the road. The signage does not seem to help the situation, with broken green paths, green boxes with arrows and bike symbols, and floating parking, which are all brand new and cloaked in mystery. Floating parking has been particularly confusing to some residents, who tend to view these cars as a slow-moving traffic lane, when in fact the cars are parked. Others are reluctant to park their cars in these lanes, for fear of being overexposed and struck by a passing vehicle. The time constraints on these parking spaces do not help to foster participation.
Richmond representatives released a video on YouTube, describing the purpose of these new symbols. But this single posting is not sufficient enough in reach to educate all drivers in Richmond. Motorists are still confused, bicyclists are still anxious, and both parties are still in danger.
Pedaling—Or Driving—Through the Learning Curve
Maintaining the safety of the public is contingent on education and understanding. Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians must be sure to take note of all road signs and symbols. Study up on those that are unfamiliar, and always treat others on the road with respect.