Sunday, December 07, 2008

Follow-up: Hoboken bicycle lanes

I promised not to beat this specific topic to death but I received confirmation that the first bicycle plan for the city of Hoboken does indeed call for the placement of a bicycle lane along the left side of one-way Madison and Grand Streets.

The situation in Hoboken City politics with this entire bike plan is very delicate and the final plan including the proposed treatments for Madison and Grand Streets came after a long period of negotiation. The last thing I would want is to disrupt the good work that was done in Hoboken to get to the point they are now. Hopefully this will be a fairly bold first step (of many) for the city as it strives towards bike friendliness.

Heck! They are even going to try using Sharrows. Sharrows! I don't know of another location in New Jersey that has even dared suggest the use of sharrows. For that alone they deserve a round of applause!

That said there is still the idea of those left side bike lanes which continue to bother me. What makes me really uneasy is that the sole reason given to place the lanes on the left side of both Madison and Grand Streets was only to reduce the potential for doorings. The consultant was said to have said that placing the lane on the left side of a one-way street would reduce to potential for doorings by 75% and that this was reason enough to use such a treatment.

I relayed this reasoning to a friend of mine who has much more experience with bike/ped planning than I. He seemed to agreed with me and thought that this reason alone really doesn't cross the appropriate threshold needed to place them on the left side of the street.

Needless to say, this practice leaves me very uncomfortable particularly since the reason given here is so general and could apply to nearly all one-way streets in New Jersey. For nearly a century and by New Jersey law (see below), bicyclists were expect to stay to the right just like all other slow moving vehicles. Staying to the right is ingrained into my mind and into the minds of countless other serious cyclists all across New Jersey and most places beyond. It is also where car drivers expect us to ride our bikes. Changing such a fundamental rule of the road for all but the most exceptional circumstance will only lead to confusion and possibly worse.

From Title 39, New Jersey's Statutes regulating the operation of roadways:

39:4-14.2. Keeping to right; exceptions; single file

Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; provided, however, that any person may move to the left under any of the following situations:

(a) to make a left turn from a left-turn lane or pocket;

(b) to avoid debris, drains or other hazardous conditions that make it impracticable to ride at the right side of the roadway;

(c) to pass a slower moving vehicle;

(d) to occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic;

(e) to travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded.

Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise shall ride in single file except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

L.1951, c. 23, p. 71, s. 17. Amended by L.1977, c. 388, s. 1, eff. Feb. 23, 1978; L.1983, c. 257, s. 1, eff. July 7, 1983.

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