(Ed Note: Most information on non-standard design treatments comes from the Technical Design Handbook in the 2010 LA Bike Plan. Though we are happy to present it in bite-sized pieces, we highly recommend you download it yourself and have a good read. These particular treatments can be found on pages 105 and 106. You can download the Technical Design Handbook here.)
This is the second installment of “Thinking Outside The Box,” a new series on non-standard bikeway treatments! This particular post will discuss various alternatives to deal with two infrastructural necessities which are often at odds with one another: bikeways and parked cars. Since parked cars and bicycles share the shoulders of city streets, these design solutions seek to mitigate concerns so the two can coexist. These treatments are ideal for moderately trafficked two-lane streets, and offer innovative ways to accommodate both cars and bikes. Continue reading after the jump.
Bike Lane with Door Zone Markings
A common hazard for bicyclists riding next to parked cars is the dreaded “door zone” where the driver-side door intersects with a bikeway. Often, bicyclists ride inside this “door zone” to distance themselves from fast car traffic. Bike lanes next to parallel parked cars are a fairly common treatment. Where spacing permits, these bike lanes could show the bicyclist exactly where the door zone is, allowing them to maximize their comfort and safety.
Bike Lanes Next to Diagonal Parking
In many of the more populated areas of Los Angeles, diagonal parking has been installed to increase parking supply. These parking features are extremely difficult for bikers because it’s hard for motorists to see cyclists when backing out of these parking spots. A way to mitigate this is to simply reverse the direction of the cars, creating “back in” spaces instead of “head in” spaces. This greatly improves visibility between cyclists and automobile users, which reduces accidents. However, this feature does present a learning curve for drivers, who often prefer the “head in” maneuver. This can be mitigated by informing residents that parking in a “back in” spot is often easier than parallel parking. It also has added benefits for both drivers and cyclists. For example, trunk unloading would occur on the sidewalk rather than in bike lanes. Also, passengers are directed towards the curb when exiting the vehicle, instead of being blocked by their open doors in the “head in” configuration which is particularly beneficial to child safety. Additionally, head lights face the road, not residences and businesses. While this feature has yet to be incorporated into any State or Federal Design Standards, Seattle, WA (it’s the city standard!) and Berkeley, CA (shown above) utilize a “back in” parking configuration.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a standard practice in the future. Adding lane markings to protect bicyclists from the door zone is a no-brainer, and could be retrofitted to existing stripings. It seems that this could offer a next step for many roads that have received sharrow markings. This treatment should definitely be considered in future road diets, it only requires 7 feet to provide a hybrid parking/bicycling lane. They are a great way to allow parked cars and cycle lanes to peacefully coexist.
Bike lanes with back-in diagonal parking would be great for high-density areas with apartment complexes, shopping, or business districts. Diagonal parking provides more parking spaces than parallel parking, and with the addition of a bike lane, everybody wins! While residents maybe slightly put off by having to back-in, it would likely replace parallel street parking which is a definite upgrade.
These non-standard treatments are innovative ways to compromise between cyclists and automobiles. Often, the removal of parking is one of the biggest points of contention for neighborhoods. This often leads to community dissatisfaction, which can damage future political will. By compromising, and even offering increased parking with the back-in diagonal variety, these are political gold mines!