Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, July 17, 2019
|Sharrows remind drivers that bikes will be using the whole travel lane. COURTESY PHOTO|
Other than FDOT recently expanding the width of bike lanes and adding a second white line between the bike lane and motor vehicle traffic lanes on segments of U.S. 41 — the current standard required whenever adding bike lanes or resurfacing existing roads with them already in place — the only “new” feature that’s been used in decades are sharrows (chevrons and a bike symbol pavement marking reminding road users that bicycles may be using the entire travel lane). And even those are few and far between. Now, finally, FDOT is placing road markings to assist on-road bicyclists in making left turns on a multi-lane intersection. Indeed, a baby-step, but a move in the right direction nonetheless.
Here’s how FDOT’s describes this feature in its informational flyer: “Two-stage bicycle turn boxes are high-visibility traffic control devices that offer an alternative way for cyclists riding in bike lanes to make left turns at signalized intersections. They can be especially effective at multi-lane, high-volume intersections where they can reduce cyclist and motorist conflicts.”
As Lee MPO’s Ron Gogoi further describes it, “For cyclists weaving across traffic to make a left from an existing turn lane, it can be challenging and sometimes dangerous, especially on busy, multi-lane roadways. Two-stage turn boxes split the left turn movement into two separate, through movements, which allow the cyclist to travel through the intersection in a much safer manner.” The FDOT flyer can be found at www.leempo.com.
It might be compared to a jug-handle turn but without the user having to complete a right-turn and then a U-turn, which can be as difficult as trying to use the left-turn lane in the first place since the operator may have to cross multiple thru-lanes after making a right-turn in order to make that U-turn. The bike box user simply rides straight across most of the intersection, lands in the box positioned in front of the bike lane at that intersection, then turns the bike to the left and awaits the green light for through traffic. For intersections with as many lanes as Daniels and Treeline (one quadrant has 10 lanes) having this option can be very helpful.
If this pilot project is successful, perhaps it will lead to other features such as green bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, leading pedestrian signal phases, contraflow bike lanes on one-way roads (Evans Avenue could use one until Fowler Street is finally reconfigured), better detection of cyclists at signalized intersections, and many more sharrows (west First Street in downtown Fort Myers is long overdue for them). FDOT appears to be taking the lead so we may see some new features on Cleveland Avenue once this current project is complete. As well, the city of Cape Coral, being a Bike Friendly Community, is a good prospect for using state-of-the-art features. I know there are knowledgeable traffic planners working for all of our transportation departments and consulting firms who are anxious to implement forward-thinking features. Now it’s up to their bosses — and our political leaders — to have the will to do so.
To learn about this topic and more, visit bikewalklee.blogspot.com and www.streetsaliveswfl.org.¦
- Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and 334-6417.
For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (caloosariders.org); Florida Mudcutters (mudcutters.org); and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL). The Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org) is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.