Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Leading cyclists in the wrong direction

Last week on the way to work, I saw a friend who was also commuting by bike. A couple days later, I talked with him on the phone and found that he rides to work pretty often. Why hadn't I seen him before? Because our paths diverge just north of Victory Drive. He joins the northbound Lincoln Street while I remain on Habersham Street.

He asked why I didn't follow the bike route and my answer was simple: wrong-way cyclists. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Lincoln Street bicycle lane is on the left side of a northbound one-way street. Because it's the only marked bicycle lane in downtown Savannah, it naturally attracts cyclists and even those who need to go south. This forces them to ride against automobile traffic, which seems particularly dangerous at cross streets where motorists look for traffic originating from the south, but not necessarily the north.

It also requires northbound cyclists to play chicken with their southbound counterparts, which is why I steer clear of it all together. Here's one of the obstacles that I'd have to negotiate on my daily commute, if I used Lincoln Street. Add in a southbound cyclist nearing the tree at the same time and the game of chicken becomes even more exciting.

And, as the following photograph suggests, the bicycle lane provides very convenient parking for motorists.

The bicycle lane terminates at the intersection of Liberty Street, at which even law-abiding northbound bicyclists find themselves instantly on the wrong side of the road, facing oncoming traffic. (Lincoln becomes a two way street at this point). Turning right onto Liberty Street also presents problems for the northbound cyclist at this busy intersection.

But perhaps I'm making too much of this wrong-way cyclist thing.

Lincoln Street does have some advantages. First, there are stop signs at the intersections of Anderson and Henry streets. This would probably make my commute quicker, as I would not have to wait for the traffic signals to change as I do on Habersham Street. This, by the way, seems to make motorists very uneasy. I suppose they are so used to seeing bicyclists blow the lights that they are freaked out when I don't.

Finally, there is something to be said for the idea of strength in numbers. Because Lincoln Street is popular with cyclists, perhaps motorists are more used to seeing them on the road. I am considering using Lincoln Street on my morning commute. Because I'm convinced riding against traffic is a terrible idea, I'll keep using Habersham Street on the way home. Anyone else out there have experience using "one-way" bike routes?


Dan said...

I work on a college campus, and there are several one-way streets with bike lanes. About two years ago, the campus police enforced the law by ticketing wrong way bikers for about a week. It didn't make much impact, and they haven't since.

Jill said...

The worst is approaching an oncoming cyclist biking in the shoulder on the wrong side of the road. Because pedestrians are supposed to do so, I think some occasional cyclists don't distinguish between the two.

griffin said...

My ride to school takes me over the Hawthorne Bridge, which funnels cyclist up little cycle ramps onto the sidewalk along with pedestrians --the actual, official bike lane is on the sidewalk. For the most part cyclist travel on the appropriate side of the bidge for the direction they wish to head (there are bike/ped lanes on both sides), the pedestrians of course travel both directions on both sides, and about once a week we get a wrong-way cyclist weaving among the both-way pedestrians, and against the main flow of bike traffic. YIKES!

Jim said...

In my formative years, I got hit by a car whilst riding the wrong way in a one-way bike lane. The driver was pulling out of a driveway, and, naturally, was only looking in the direction of traffic. Luckily it was a minor collission. I didn't even get knocked off the bike. But it taught me a lesson fo sho.

Clarence Jr. said...

We've got lots of problems with cars in the bike lanes in NYC. Particularly in Manhattan. Many people are pissed because when a bike lane goes in sometimes they say they feel less safe because by default cars feel they are able to park there with impunity.

What we really need are more bike boulevard situations like the kind in Portland and Berkeley. I have done pieces on both for my website/cable access show called bikeTV. You can find them here:


The newest is this one on my visit to San Francisco: http://homepage.mac.com/trorb/BikeTV/iMovieTheater132.html

Clarence Eckerson

Kiril, The Cycling Dude said...

A great story!

I see lots of cyclists riding the wrong way, and it pisses me off.

Some of these miscreants don't take too kindly to my reminding them, politely, of the their idiocy. ;-D

Brandon said...

Couldn't you just ride in Lincoln St. and just not use the bike lane? That way you get the benefit of not having stoplights as well as drivers used to seeing bikes, without having to hazard the wrong way bikers.