Monday, September 8

Round About the Roundabout

Google Maps Satellite View of Ocean Shores Roundabout
More About The Bike Lanes Later...
Not long ago, the Bike League instructor email list had a discussion about roundabouts. Roundabouts are an up and coming feature of roads that allow traffic flow without the disruption of four-way stop signs or traffic signals. They work quite well for motorized traffic, but cyclists and traffic engineers do not seem to understand how they can also work quite simply and well for cycling. The Ocean Shores roundabout is a case in point. The roundabout replaced the only traffic signal in town.

Uneventful Traffic Flow Through Ocean Shores Roundabout
The Wrong-Way Motorist Wasn't Using it Today!
If You Ride a Bike, The Bike Lane Striping Appears to Direct You into the Crosswalk
At the beginning of this post, you can see a “Google Maps” overhead view of the roundabout. Mostly, traffic flows through it without incidents of any kind, though I heard a motorist tried to go through it the wrong way a few days ago. Most motorists are competent enough to go around in the right direction and mostly they also pay attention to the signs. Ocean Shores is a tourist town, and so a lot of these motorists that do well have not encountered roundabouts prior to their visit.

I’ve ridden through this roundabout many times now and, up until a week or two ago, it’s been the height of simplicity to simply follow the signs that apply to the rest of traffic. Basically, if you plan to turn right or go straight, you stay in the RH traffic lane. If you plan to make a left or U turn, get in the LH traffic lane and exit into the street appropriate to your destination. As with most well-designed roundabouts, traffic entering the roundabout must yield to those already going around. This works well for motor vehicles OR for bikes, since bikes can go around in a circle at least as well as the typical motor vehicle. It is a simple case of elementary destination positioning. For those not recalling this principle, it states “stay in the rightmost lane that serves your destination.”

Simply Follow the Arrows and Get in the Lane that Goes Where You Want to Go
HOWEVER, recently, the city restriped the bike lanes, creating needless conflict. The approach reinforced my belief that traffic engineers are often clueless dweebs that are ignorant about how to keep all people safe. In short, remembering that Ocean Shores made it ILLEGAL foranybody to ride on city sidewalks (even little kids on bikes with trainingwheels), these traffic engineers striped their bike lanes to direct cyclists on to and off of sidewalks into their painted lanes. You might wonder how this puts anybody in danger, considering that there are few crossing driveways on these sidewalks. Well, once so directed, people on bikes then use the pedestrian crosswalks across the roundabout. This IS a problem, since pedestrians without wheels travel fairly slowly and have the equipment to stop without problems. On the OTHER hand, people on bikes are going much quicker and they cross the roundabout in a manner that is unexpected for motorists using the roundabout. Personally, I also have a problem with city-installed infrastructure that encourages behavior that the same city has made illegal.

Following the Striping "Suggestion" Leads a Cyclist onto the Illegal Sidewalk and to Cross the Road at Right Angles to Traffic
Once again, traffic engineering in action – creating danger and encouraging illegal behavior when doing NOTHING would have been far better AND safer. I look forward to their next folly, when they create problems on the street immediately north of the roundabout…
Odd Striping Strategy for a City that Made it ILLEGAL to Ride Bikes on Sidewalks. I Guess They Expect Everyone Will WALK Their Bikes for a Block?


Chandra said...

Am I seeing things or are they encouraging, sidewalk to bike lane, and back to sidewalk?

Steve A said...

Chandra, you are NOT seeing things. The striping is only made worse since riding on sidewalks is illegal in OS. The only thing we are missing is a policeman handing out tickets to any bike rider that takes the sidewalk "bait."

ScottRAB said...

Maybe the engineers and city council should talk to each other more?

Steve A said...

Scott, I suspect part of the problem is a council attempting to play street designer in response to constituents who know politics, but not good cycling practices.

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