Dexter is going to be pretty nice once the new plans are paved. First, look at the image above. For those who ride across the Fremont bridge to Dexter, you know this spot pretty well. Usually there are no cars from Nickerson turning right onto Dexter. But when there is one, you never know if they are going to yield or not. You want to believe they will, but every once in a while, someone just kinda blows through and you have to do your best to avoid it (or take the lane through the intersection).
But not after SDOT’s changes. Now, there will be a green lane crossing the entrance from Nickerson to Dexter, and cars will have to wait until all traffic has cleared before turning onto Dexter and going up the hill. The bike lane will turn into sharrows near the bus stop before turning back into a bike lane, so you will still have one bus conflict spot.
Basically, from then on, there is a bike lane. There is a buffered lane whenever there is no turn lane, and a 6′ lane for segments where there is one.
The only parts I am having trouble envisioning are the bus islands, probably because I’m not used to them. Here’s how it works. Whenever there is a bus stop, you have sidewalk, bike lane, then bus island. The buses will stop in the traffic lane to load passengers, allowing them to run more smoothly because they do not have to merge back into traffic after each stop and do not get caught leapfrogging a biker up the whole hill.
I’ve been tossing the plans around in my head for a few days now, and I think the changes will work well. On the uphills, there is absolutely no issue. But for the downhills, my first thought was, Oh man, if a biker is going down the hill at 25 mph as a bus unloads passengers, someone might get hit. But I think that is probably not true. After all, if a bus is stopped and people are moving around, I think bikers will slow down and be cautious.
Brian Dougherty, SDOT Outreach Coordinator for the project, said they are planning to paint a bike symbol in the lane next to the bus stops so that people are aware it is a bike lane. People have to look for cars every time they cross a street, and the bikes and people will behave accordingly. There is a crosswalk painted in the bike lane, so bikes will slow down, people will cross, and everything will be OK. We deal with much more complicated traffic situations all the time.
The Cycle Track
To catch up anyone who missed this whole debate, the original proposal for Dexter had parking-separated cycle tracks in each direction. While I am not necessarily against cycle tracks, Dexter seemed a little dangerous to me and some other bikers. It has a big hill, so bikes would be going pretty fast, obscured from the view of moving motor vehicles by parked cars, past driveways, parking lot entrances and some streets.
Cycle track safety is largely dependent on how intersections are handled. One drastic (and very expensive) idea for mediating the danger is to have the cycle track at a raised level and painted a bright color so that cars actually have to drive up and over the track. This forces them to be aware of potential bikes. But this would be outrageously expensive, and I am not sure there is even enough car traffic on Dexter to warrant such a big effort to separate cars and bikes (however, let’s talk about a cycle track on Westlake…)
I think the buffered lanes offer the right balance of both actual and perceived safety. Bikes will have fewer battles with buses, and there will be fewer stopped cars and trucks completely blocking the bike lanes (hopefully). Meanwhile, bike will still maintain good visibility to turning motor vehicle traffic. And I think the painted buffers do a lot to make the space more inviting to new riders who may have been scared to use the beat-to-death, often obscured bike lanes that exist on the road today.
Download the Dexter plans (large PDF)