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Life in the Bike Lane column

Separate, restricted, shared and buffered

By: Tom Frady
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As jurisdictions work toward greater public safety on streets and highways, we have begun to see more signage, special lanes and special paint designed to keep bicycle riders and automobiles from direct contact. 

I wrote a few weeks ago about my experience riding in Marin County.  The little towns with narrow streets have special challenges when it comes to retrofitting bicycle safety measures.  It takes time, money and vision (and probably some pressure) but those bright green bike lanes and bike/pedestrian bridges over busy streets are a great help in increasing bike commuting and fitness-related cycling.

Lincoln is a perfect town for bike commuters. It’s flat in a lot of places.  It’s also a perfect area for the recreational rider. There are miles of scenic roads with varying degrees of difficulty (read: not flat).  It is my view that Lincoln is a bit behind on improvements but I am encouraged by the publication in May of the Bicycle Transportation Plan Update.

As the area has developed, the wider boulevards (i.e., Joiner and Twelve Bridges) came with wide bike lanes.  Wide city streets, like 7th, which has just been repaved, will hopefully receive bike lanes. 

As Loomis has spruced up its downtown, bike lanes have been added on Taylor Road.  Cyclists must ride in the bike lane (which is different from a bike path) when traveling at a slower speed than vehicular traffic, with some exceptions. 

But what constitutes a bike lane or a bike path?  The California Vehicle Code is specific. Here are some basic definitions.

A Class I Bike Path is a completely separate right-of-way for bikes and pedestrians only.  It must have a minimum of eight feet of pavement and be at least five feet from the edge of a paved road.  The path on Ferrari Ranch Road near Lincoln Hills is an example. 

What we most commonly associate with a “bike lane” is a Class II Bike Lane, which is a minimum of four feet (gutters don’t count), paved and separated from vehicular traffic by a six-inch white line.  It is designed for semi-exclusive, one-way bike travel on a street or highway, such as Joiner Parkway.  Cars may cross into the bike lane 200 feet before an intersection to make a right turn (the line becomes broken). In fact, drivers should make right turns from as close to the curb as possible, which may require slowing down and pulling in behind a cyclist.

“Sharrows” on the pavement or “Bike Route” signs designate a Class II Bike RouteBikes and cars share the same space.  There is no line or any kind of protection for the cyclists.  Riders must ride as far to the right as is safe and drivers must give riders a minimum three-foot buffer. 

Class IV Bike Lanes provide a protected one- or two-way bike lane separated from the road with some sort of physical barrier, such as a curb, landscaping or bollards. 

Finally, Buffered Bike Lanes are used where physical barriers or Class I bike lanes are not possible due to terrain, cost or maintenance issues.  Usually, such bike lanes are buffered by a painted “island” at least two feet wide.  This has the effect of slowing traffic on wide, busy streets. 

I believe it is important to make the distinction between bike lanes and shoulders. Shoulders can be any width, down to non-existent, paved or unpaved.  Shoulders are not considered part of a maintained roadway and cyclists are not required to ride on the shoulder at any time, albeit it is often wise.  Cars are not allowed to drive on the shoulder.

Look for changes in your local streets in the next several months. 

Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.