The Bike Box!

You may remember (although you probably don't) that WAY back in 2008, I posted on the need for "Bike Boxes" in Bloomington.

I am so thrilled to write this post--you have no idea how thrilled--about Bloomington's own bike box!

This bike box is at the corner of Jordan and Third, going east on Third Street.  It comes at the end of an equally-new, segregated bike lane that is segregated by not one, but two (two!!) lines.  The bike box and lane were created at the end of last fall, right when it started to get too cold for me to ride my son to daycare (and thus to give me the only reason to ride down Third Street), so I have had only this one chance to ride the path and wait in the bike box.

I have, however, had many opportunities to drive this route, and, well, the verdict for vehicular use isn't great.  Most people aren't quite sure what to do with the bike box.  Some cars park right in it. Others leave the space, but for apparently no reason since all of the cyclists park themselves in their lane, outside of the bike box.

It's not surprising, really, that the first and only bike box in Bloomington would be so confusing. And, while I am so happy to see it, my happiness is tempered by one glaring omission from the Bloomington planners' part. The bike route disappears!

And it doesn't just disappear. After this particular intersection, the road turns treacherous and there is no apparent route for bikes to take. Add to this the cars flying down the road, way faster than the limit of 30 miles per hour (I know because I routinely clock 40 mph), slamming on their brakes for buses that stop in the middle of the road and not in the designated bus pull off (why?) and for college students randomly stepping into the road without looking.  Third Street is dangerous. You cannot safely ride your bike on it. There is nothing more to say about that.

I want to give Bloomington credit for this new lane and bike box. As I have written repeatedly, the best way to make cycling safer is to get more bikes on the road. And the best way to get more bikes on the road is to provide safe paths, lanes, and routes, preferably separated by a physical barrier from cars. The double-line segregated lane does this without a curb, and, while not as nice a physical obstacle (I have seen many, many cars driving over that double line), it does provide a visual barrier and plenty of space.

But--and this is a big but--ending the beautiful path at the Jordan/Third Street intersection was a really bad idea. You not only need safe lanes to get people on the road, you also need consistent and continuous infrastructure. Bloomington! You can't just make routes to nowhere!

As a bit of a post-script here: on the day that I rode this route, we had to continue down Third Street to get home. This was on a Sunday afternoon--a relatively slow, and traffic free time of day. Yet we almost got hit by a car, and several cars had to slam on their brakes and swerve into the other lane because cars on this road are not used to dealing with bikes and there is no room (or designation) for bike traffic. Until this is fixed, I am never going to ride on this route with my son again.


Sadie said...

Yep. You've got it pretty much right. I tried out the new bike lane recently during the ice storm. I actually started on 3rd at 3rd and Kingston, way over by the mall, because the Polly Grimshaw Trail I usually take hadn't been cleared, and I was fed up and I just went for it. I was kind of surprised that biking in the new bike lane is not significantly less terrifying than just biking up the right lane on 3rd with *no* bike lane (although I think there is a Sharrow somewhere around St. Charles Church, nobody is interested in sharing *anything* when 3rd goes from four lanes to two). The city buses cruise right over that painted barrier like it's not even there. And I have yet to stop in the bike box without a car joining me there! It's easier when I'm biking with a friend-- for some reason drivers seem to get the picture much better when two cyclists are in the box than just one.

Christie said...

Sadie, Have you tried the underpass on 7th instead of Polly Grimshaw? I'll post on that next. It's great, and it is a nice way to avoid both 3rd and crossing the by-pass. I'd really prefer to have a nice side path or segregated bike lane all the way down third, but in the absence of that, heading down 7th works.

Sadie said...

I'm a little embarrassed-- I have somehow missed its existence until you posted about it! I must be going right past it. In fact, now that I think about it, it explains why I keep seeing other cyclists pass me on 7th west of the bypass and reappear on the east side coming up Eastgate! I'll have to try it out tonight.

BTW-- hooray for commuter biking in Bloomington! And heavy bikes! I really like your blog.

Christie said...

Thanks! Let me know what you think about the underpass.