Today’s post is possibly a sort of hodgepodge of images and reflections, rather than a really structured logic.
Slightly over a year ago I gave myself a note for a blog post item: Wooden pallet in middle of bike lane on Chouteau bridge. I had been riding across the Chouteau bridge, using one of the two bike/pedestrian lanes (Yes, one on each side — luxury), when I had to pause to make sure I could get around the wooden pallet that was sitting in the lane.
What truck or other vehicle had just happen to spew a wooden pallet, I never did know, it was all conjecture. But that pallet was perhaps the largest and oddest object I had ever found as litter in a bike lane.
Speaking of litter, There is a bike lane downtown near the River Market, on Cherry Street between Third and Fifth streets. It usually has sand down the out half of it, and for half the distance it has a seam that splits it into two slightly different levels (a definite hazard for a cyclist). A week or so ago, someone was mowing the grass next to the road, between it and the raised viaduct for Oak Street/Route /Heart of America Bridge.
The grass was tall, and despite the heavy duty power of the mover, it still threw a lot of heavy grass over the bike lane, hiding it totally from view. The unique and relevant point is that the tall grass being mowed had also housed a significant amount of trash that people had thrown out while passing by. This trash was added to the grass occluding the bike lane.
I would have been more put out by this flagrant elimination of the bike lane, except for two things: 1) the person mowing stopped to let me go by (no grass being blown at me), and 2) the next day the lane was actually clear. I’m not sure by what means, but they had picked up both the grass and the trash. The lane was clearer that it usually was — though the seam and uneven levels still remained.
Returning my focus back to the Chouteau Bridge area, I will note that there is an in-traffic bike lane directly after Chouteau Trafficway crosses the bridge. When you ride you bike you have two lanes to your left headed north, the bike lane, and a turning lane to your right. The structure of lanes is similar heading south. You ride with larger-than-you motorized vehicles on both sides of you.
But the important item is that this section of road is poured concrete, and the seam for the various large blocks of concrete goes right down the center of where they painted the bicycle lane. These seams always create a slight difference in pavement levels, and such differences create a hazard for bicycles — especially when these level differences follow the direction of motion for the bicycle. How they managed to put a seam in the concrete down the center of the bicycle lane going both north and south is a marvel of misapplied engineering.
The best example of level differences is back downtown, from River Market to Crown Center — The recessed rails for the Downtown Kansas City Streetcar. They even have signs for those in a couple of sports warning cyclists about the potential for getting a wheel stuck in them and spilling. One section of Third Street with the rails has a separate bike line on the same side that the Streetcar uses so there is a safe lane for the bike to ride on. The other direction the bicycle doesn’t get its own lane, I presume because there is no rail to protect from.
Yet I have seen Google recommend routes where the cyclist would have to ride down the street right down the middle between the pair of recessed rails. Google doesn’t accurately pick up all the hazards.
I could come up with more examples, but as with most things ubiquitous, since so many of the bike lanes are trash lanes, you tend to not notice the specifics and they begin to blend together. But hopefully these few examples give a good enough impression of the sort of obstacles and treatment cyclists get, even when the terrain is allegedly designed to be in their favor.