Hal's Orlando Bike Lane Survey

The founder of the Lakemont Ride here in Orlando, Hal Downing, has a great weekly newsletter that goes out to over 2200 cyclists and advocates in the Orlando area. Hal has become a board member of the Central Florida Bike Association and posed the question below about bike lanes. He posted the responses in last week's newsletter. You can read for yourself, but it appears that most riders want bike lanes and want more of them.  

What did you think about bike lanes?  When last we met, we asked you to say whether you liked or disliked bike lanes.  You werent shy heres just some of the responses:
a.      I’m against the actual lane itself but I am for what they generally require which is a wider lane or shoulder to be constructed than the older narrower 2 lane road designs provided. So get rid of the white stripe but still provide the road width.
b.      . . . segregated bike lanes are nothing but debris collectors since motorists will generally steer clear of them. This in turn allows normal roadway junk to accumulate in the lanes instead of being cleared out by a car’s tires like happens on an un-marked road. I’ve always preferred wider road lanes with “share the road” signs.
c.      I support bike lanes.  When I was commuting to work (WP to John Young/Sand Lake), I did 5 miles or so on South Orange Avenue in the bike lane and it was peace-of-mind riding.  I could get a good sprint in and didn't have to negotiate where I was going to ride vis-a-vis car traffic.  Kind of a Detente.  Without the bike lane on Orange, I may have not been able to do the commute.  So let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.  

d.      I am for bike lanes; they do encourage people to ride.

e.      I have no doubt that my incident with the car last year (even from what the driver told me) was directly related to us riding on the shoulder, out of direct visibility.  Drivers, especially oncoming are looking in the lane and it wasn't super light out and he was a bit distracted, so combine that with not even thinking to look at the side of the road and you have him cutting us off.

Another example, last night on the UCF ride we were riding down Lockwood single file in the bike lane or shoulder or whatever it is there and this huge pickup truck pulled up directly in front of us and turned right in front of us.  We had to all jam on our brak
es and barely avoided a collision.  Drivers just don't view us, relegated to the side of the road, as in the road -- I think they just assume that we're going slow and will stop / yield to them as if we are pedestrians.

f.      I like and hope to see more bike lanes. I just don't want to be restricted to ride there.

g.      I like bike lanes sometimes but need to be able to choose when to use them and when to take the lane. What I HATE are sharrows no one knows what they mean . . .

h.      I'll admit to having a love/hate relationship with bike lanes. Where I live, Kissimmee/SW Orlando, there are streets with wonderful, wide, smooth bike lanes [Orange Blossom Trail, the new construction of John Young Parkway, some of the subdivisions] there are areas with narrow, broken, rubbish strewn shoulders/bike lanes [yes, some of the debris filled areas ARE bike lanes-parts of International Drive, south end of Edgewater] and there are roads with NOTHING, roads that slope off into gravel, sand or grass [most of JYP down this way, residential parts of Osceola County].

My personal preference is for a designated bike lane
. . ..  Where there are bike lanes that are safe, I use them, I love them. I wish every road had a decent bike lane.

Of course, I do 90% of my riding alone or with one fellow rider.

Do I feel bicyclists should have to ride in the lane, when in groups, or at other times? No, I like to think we are smart enough to do what is safe and will have minimal impact on vehicular traffic. When I ride with the SC, 12-18 of us, or with Let's Ride, we ride paceline, double pace line, meandering and talking, depending on where we are, how far into the ride,
if there are any cars around, weather and road conditions.

i.      I like the wide shoulders of the rural roads in Lake county as along routes 19 and 33 but they are not designated bike lanes. In an urban environment I prefer the middle of lane. Bike lanes are only slightly better than sidewalks! And I don't go there. 

j.      I stand in full favor of bike lanes and any other bike facility that is designed correctly for their appropriate situations. Bike lanes help provide a greater comfort level in riding with traffic and in turn get more riders out on the roads. Statistics have shown that more riders on the roads make cars more aware of the cyclists and creates a safer environment for them.  Making everyone ride in the road won’t get more kids, elderly, new riders, etc… out on bikes. We have to provide for all users and create the possibility of future users. Watching a video of someone successfully riding down 436 without getting hit isn’t going to entice many sane people to get out and try it. 

k.      I have two main points regarding the use of bikes lanes and avoiding accidents on the road:

(1) We have a societal issue with the lack of acceptance of many motorists as to the place cyclists have on the road.  I cycle almost every Sunday in Clermont with a group of 50+ riders and we typically get one or two drivers passing us in close fashion.  Forget 3 feet, it's more like 3 inches.  Our group is very conscientious and communicates "car back" so that we can get as single file as possible when a vehicle is behind us. 
A small percentage of drivers do not believe we should be in the road in the first place.

What I believe we have here is the general perception that cyclists do not belong on the road and that we are "in the way" and forcing motorists to slow down for a few minutes.  In America, this is cause for outrage.  In Europe, this is seen as "what's wrong with these crazy Americans."  Europeans perceive us as "spoiled" because our roads are twice as wide and have significantly fewer issues.  However, in the USA some believe we have the right to fast cars and fast roads and anything
that slows that down is a problem.  The American public needs to be educated on the great roads we have in the USA, and that sharing the use of the road is truly American.

I use the West Orange Trail during the week, but on Sundays with a group of riders going 22-mph it is just not suitable for us to use the bike trail.  We would wreck with any on-coming cyclists, or runners, or roller-skaters.  The bike trail is simply not designed for large groups.

(2) Bike lanes are very good and I believe the more we have the better.  At the very least they allow cyclists room to maneuver when necessary
. . ..  Shoulders are also good, but it is best to have BOTH a bicycle lane AND a shoulder so that the bike lane is not sloping at an angle and road debris can be pushed out of the bike lane and toward the shoulder.

Only a cyclist knows how much debris resides in the bike lane.  As a motorist you cannot see it, which is another perception issue.  The last thing I want is to run over
is glass, nails, and shaved metal pieces from car accidents when I am 40 miles from where I started my ride and it's 90 degrees outside.

My recommendation is mandatory bikes lines on all new roads and resurface projects, especially Hartwood-Marsh Road between Winter Garden and Clermont which has neither a bike lane nor a shoulder and is used by 100's of riders every weekend.
l.      Friction between motorists and bicyclists needs to be abated. One way to do it is to provide areas for cars and for bikers separate from each other. When there are enough pedalers on the side of the road, drivers will become aware and be attentive to the bikes sharing the roadway. That they are in a separate bike lane will not hinder their safety, rather will enhance the sharing of the roadway. Bike lanes will emphasize to motorist that bikes belong.
That said, bicyclists need to move with traffic in many situations, such as making left turns or on narrow-lane roadways. The key is to coordinate with motorists, not compete. Coordination with motorists includes allowing faster vehicles to move ahead when safe.

m.      As a bike commuter and road cyclist in Orlando since 1986 I feel bike lanes are a huge improvement over not having them.  I agree that in the downtown urban areas with parking areas on the right side of the bike lanes, they can be dangerous if the cyclist thinks he has the right away and is careless.  I have been hit by 9 cars in one way or another while commuting in Daytona before 1986 when there were no bike lanes and of course I was younger and believed that I had my right to the road.  So I am very familiar with many different ways a car and cyclist can cross paths.  I have also had my share of having a gun fired a foot from my head, hit with sticks, beer bottles, big gulps, and all sorts of trash.  I have even had a car of six guys run me off the road and beat the crap out of me in Daytona.

Since I moved to Orlando in 1986 and had to support a family I have ridden as if I don’t have the right of way and I haven’t been hit once in easily over 100,000 miles of commuting and training on roads around central Florida.  There are many rural roads like through Montverde and down SR33 where I used to cringe every time I heard a truck coming from behind; with the bike lane, I don’t worry at all
Now if you are speaking of group riding, which was never the intent of bike lanes, then those with only experience riding in groups will not view riding in bike lanes as a positive idea.  When I lead a training ride of up to ten riders we easily stay within the bike lane and use maybe one foot of the road in addition to the lane while doing a rotating paceline.  So for training groups of skilled riders, bike lanes are still very positive and worth having.

In summary, bike lanes are our best option to deal with traffic.  I do not agree with any law that says it is safer for 100 riders to be single file on roads . . ..  It is safer for everyone and easier for cars to pass when 100 riders are tightly packed using the entire lane making the length of pass very short in comparison.

n.      I believe, overall, they are a good thing because it means the county planners are at least thinking about creating wider roads which ultimately is a good thing for cyclists.  There is nothing worse than a 2 way country road with no bike lanes or shoulders.  Although we try to stay as far to the right as possible (especially when a car approaches from the rear), it is creates a dangerous pass for vehicles whether they are cyclist friendly or not.  Also, bike lanes creates an overall greater awareness to a motorist that there may be cyclists present.

The problem, however is the following:  “Bike lanes” are not of consistent width nor quality, and frequently contain impediments (potholes, glass, sand etc) that require cyclists to move in and out of them I remember riding on Kennedy Blvd between the I-4 overpass and Forest City Road.  The “bike lane” was a joke, chock full of sand, glass, etc that made riding a road bike  in the bike lane completely impractical.  As I was riding to the left of the bike lane, an angry motorist screamed at me to get in the bike lane.  This was simply not an option for me, given the conditions.  With the new legislation that just passed, motorists will be more inclined to feel that cyclists have no rights to the road, only the bike lanes.  This reduction in our rights will cause even more arguments,  “bullying” and ultimately accidents between motorists and cyclists. 

Unfortunately, there are 2 distinct issues here that may be counter-productive to each other.  Creating more bike lanes -  good thing; passing legislation that ultimately erodes cyclists’ rights to the road – bad thing.   One thing should not be confused with the other, which apparently has occurred.

o.      [Bike lanes] help remind motorists to share the road.  We all need to heed our mothers' advice and be polite and respectful. 

p.      I think we are sending a mixed message. First we want [bike lanes], then we do not. We want roads to be wide enough to accommodate the bikes yet we want to ride in the middle of the road. Yes, I understand the need to be seen and the importance of the driver turning into us. However, this is just educating and making the driver aware of the cyclists' rights on the road. To me, lanes are needed. Over the past years, we have convinced planners to add bike lanes so to now say we don't need them is sending the wrong message.  In group rides, riding two abreast will not block the road If anything, the bike lane will provide relief so only one rider is in the actual road. So many times, there are no lanes.  In this case, there is no way for the cars to go around except to slow down and wait until the traffic clears. To have a bike lane is so much safer for the general type of riders out there.  Adding bike lanes is a start. To now say we don't need them is the wrong message to send.