Maybe it's progress that the city thought to include a bicycle accommodation on the Dillingham Street Bridge when it was repaved, but, alas, what they did is worse than doing nothing. They painted a two-way sidepath across the bridge, creating a very confusing situation for cyclists coming from Phenix City to Columbus.
What's an east-bound cyclist to do? Plow into oncoming traffic to get in the wrong-way bike lane? Or continue with the flow of traffic and endure the slings and arrows of frustrated drivers who think you're supposed to be in the clearly marked bike lane--that's on the wrong side of the road?
Bicycle Columbus is working with the city to correct this insane design with a new design that complies with current engineering standards (that's AASHTO, if you're keeping score) and directs bicyclists to ride in a way that complies with traffic code. On the right side of the street, dude!
If you want the long version, see below for the letter we sent to the city. If you think, as we do, that the striping on the bridge defies all common sense and safe cycling practice, not to mention AASHTO and Georgia Traffic Code, let your voice be heard through your favorite contact at the city. If you don't have a favorite contact, register your complaint with the City Manager. You can find all the contact information you need here.
OUR LETTER TO THE CITY
Bicycle Columbus is dedicated to making our city bicycle friendly. We pursue this goal by collaborating with a variety of organizations across the city, including the Columbus Consolidated Government. We certainly recognize the city’s efforts to accommodate bicyclists. The Fall Line Trace and Riverwalk are great success stories, and the recent Alternative Transportation Study has the potential to transform the city in a very positive direction.
Because of our prior collaboration, we were quite surprised to find a two-way sidepath appear on the Dillingham Street Bridge. After extensive discussion among our board members, we write to ask the city to reconsider this design, to remove the two-way sidepath, and to restripe the bridge with regular bike lanes, one on each side. We would appreciate a reply to the concerns detailed in this letter.
The position of Bicycle Columbus is that all bicycle facilities should meet, at minimum, two criteria: (a) comply with AASHTO’s Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (2012 edition), and (b) encourage cyclists to ride according to Georgia Traffic Code as it applies to bicycles. Our concern is that the recently striped Dillingham Street Bridge meets neither of these criteria.
AASHTO specifically warns against building the kind of two-way sidepath that is now open on the bridge. It cites wrong-way riding as a leading cause of crashes and recommends “engineering treatments that reinforce the correct direction of roadway travel”; it goes on to say, “Providing bike lanes in both directions of travel may reduce the incidence of wrong-way riding” (3.4.3). Its guidelines for bike lanes clearly recommend that they be placed on both sides of the street (4.6.2). When designing for bridges, AASHTO states that “the provision of a pathway on one side tends to result in wrong-way travel on the departures when bicycles continue on the same side for some distance” (4.12.3). Two-way sidepaths are discouraged by AASHTO, which warns that “practitioners should be aware that two-way sidepaths can create operational concerns” (5.2.2 and 5.3.4). It goes on to list fourteen ways that sidepaths can create hazards, among them that “bicyclists approaching a path may travel on the wrong side of the roadway to access the path. Wrong-way travel by bicyclists is a common factor in bicycle-automobile crashes” (126.96.36.199).
Georgia Traffic Code classifies bicycles as vehicles and requires cyclists to ride in the same direction as traffic. The sidepath on the Dillingham Street Bridge presents east-bound cyclists with a lane, clearly marked with a bicycle stencil and an arrow, that directs bicycles to travel on the wrong side of the street, which is both hazardous and contrary to the law.
Aside from contradicting AASHTO and Georgia Traffic Code, the Dillingham Bridge sidepath simply defies the common sense of safe cycling:
- East-bound cyclists are forced to approach the bridge on the wrong side of the road or cross over at the foot of the bridge to get in the EB bike lane. (See also AASHTO 188.8.131.52.)
- While on the bridge EB cyclists will have to ride between WB cyclists on their left and WB cars on their right. The closing speeds can be too fast to react to, especially for novice cyclists.
- When EB cyclists get to the east side of the bridge, they either have to continue on the wrong side of the road or cross traffic to get to the right side. (See also AASHTO 5.2.25.) If EB cyclists on the sidepath are heading to the Riverwalk going south, they’re forced to make an unexpected right turn across the entire width of Dillingham onto Bay. (See also AASHTO 184.108.40.206.)
- At night, EB cyclists who use a white headlight (as the law requires) will create confusion for WB motorists because the light will be coming towards them on the wrong side.
- EB cyclists who comply with the law and ride with traffic may get harassed by motorists who do not understand why a cyclist is not riding in the clearly marked bike lane. (See also AASHTO 220.127.116.11.)
- This sidepath will contribute to the already persistent and dangerous idea that riding on the wrong side of the road is safe.
- If the sidepath is intended to connect exclusively to a closed loop of sidewalks in the short distance between the 14th Street Bridge and Dillingham, it serves no clear purpose.
- If the sidepath is unsatisfactory for expert cyclists, it is especially dangerous for novice cyclists who may not recognize its design flaws; it invites them to make the deadly mistake of riding across the bridge on the wrong side of the road.
- Facilities with two-way bicycle travel along a road are typically called “cycle-tracks,” but these always have a physical barrier between bikes and oncoming traffic, and special engineering at intersections to prevent the problems listed above. The Dillingham Street Bridge cannot be called a cycle-track.
Bicycle Columbus wants to be a partner with the city as we work towards Mayor Tomlinson’s goal to be the first city in Georgia to be awarded the Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community designation. However, there was, to our knowledge, no advance notice that this design was being considered and no public comment period. Furthermore, the Planning Department is now finishing their Alternative Transportation Study, which should be a comprehensive guide to bicycle infrastructure improvements, but this project is nowhere mentioned on it. The Alternative Transportation Study emphasizes the need for a network of connected bicycle facilities; this closed loop fundamentally undermines that transportational goal.
In short, the current striping on the Dillingham Street Bridge does not comply with AASHTO; encourages wrong-way cycling, which is illegal and dangerous; serves no clear constituency; was developed without public comment; and is isolated from any transportation network. The Board of Bicycle Columbus asks that the design be changed as soon as possible, and, again, we would appreciate a reply to our specific concerns.