Ledger Inquirer: Two-way bike lane irks bicyclists

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comJune 29, 2014 

Mike Owen/ mowen@ledger-enquirer.comCyclists riding from Phenix City to Columbus on the Dillingham Street Bridge will be riding into oncoming traffic.

A Concerned Cyclist reports that the newly renovated Dillingham Street Bridge's bike lanes were not installed properly. Instead of having one bike lane on each side, the city painted both lanes on the north side.

So what's the big deal?

The big deal, cyclists say, is that such an arrangement means the east-bound cyclist will be riding directly into oncoming traffic, instead of going with the flow. This, my two-wheeled friends say, is a major no-no.

Byron Thornton is a veteran cyclist who regularly rides 100 miles a day and puts thousands of miles on his bike each year. He's also part owner of Ride On Bikes on Broadway and its chief mechanic.

Thornton said the first thing you should learn as a beginning cyclist is that you always ride with the traffic, not against it.

"That was a bad call," he said. "I wouldn't want to ride in that lane with the traffic coming straight at me."

As it turns out, there was a reason the city put the lanes on one side of the street, said Donna Newman, the city's director of engineering.

"The reason is, in keeping with the riverfront development area, they were trying to create connectivity with both riverwalks and possibly creating a network where they could do races," Newman said.

Ultimately, paths will connect both the 14th Street and Dillingham Street bridges with the riverwalks on both sides of the river, creating a big loop. With both bike lanes on one side, cyclists on Dillingham will be able to make that loop without crossing the street.

"You'll be able to get on Dillingham and go down and get onto the Phenix City Riverwalk, ride back up to the 14th Street bridge, then back around and over to the Columbus (Chattahoochee) RiverWalk," Newman said. "It was just intended for that purpose. And it's not that unusual, I don't think, to have two-way bike lanes, as long as they're properly delineated."

Thornton is still not convinced. He suggests the city repaint the bike lanes in the traditional with-the-traffic configuration.

For its part, the Federal Highway Administration lists two-way bike lanes as one of the "practices to be avoided" in its guide to installing bicycle lanes.

"This creates a dangerous condition for bicyclists. It encourages illegal riding against traffic, causing several problems," the FHA website advises.

-- Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger- enquirer.com.

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