Construction Obstruction

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Friday, January 15, 2010
By Yokota Fritz

Santa Cruz is reasonably bike friendly. Take, for example, this bike path alongside East Cliff Drive.

Construction Obstruction

It's a bidirectional bike path adjacent to the one way (east bound) East Cliff Drive between 41st Avenue and 32nd Avenue. There's currently construction underway to rebuild portions of the roadway and bikeway that have been lost to bluff erosion. The road and bike path remain open during construction, but construction equipment is often parked in the middle of the path like this while crews take their lunch breaks.

At first I was a little bit annoyed -- a front loader would never be parked in the middle of a street adjacent to a road project, after all -- but the reason construction equipment would never be parked over a traffic lane is because cars can't easily maneuver around obstructions, where cyclists can handle it with little problem. I had to leave the bike path and go into oncoming traffic, but really it's not that big of a deal.

What do you think? Would you get annoyed at an intrusion like this?

Kinda related: It's legal to park in bike lanes in California, just in case you didn't know. My little town has a local ordinance that prohibits street parking in most bike lanes, and several other California cities do the same thing, so it might be moot.

Update: Here's a photo Murph took of an obstructed bike path in Urbana, Illinois West Lafayette, Indiana. It's a little more difficult to get around this one.

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I'd normally be like you - no big deal. However, in this case I'd be a little more annoyed because you had to move out in opposition to *oncoming* traffic. If this had been a merge over into traffic going the same way I'm not sure I would have even noticed, but facing into an oncoming lane - even on an empty suburban street - causes me pause.
The county out here recently made some repairs to a waterway that went under a very popular bike path that went up the local canyon. Seeing, and having to avoid construction equipment was annoying. As is it to have to slow or stop for construction while driving a car on the freeway or any other road. But, in the long run, it makes things better and traffic flow smoother. As long as it's improving the road, path, or bike lane (and isn't taking years to complete) then I'm okay with it. We put up with small annoyances now to have better opportunities later.
but isnt it true that the road there on East Cliff is closed during the day, so the bikes have full use of that during the day hours?
@Brian: I thought I read about some sort of closure on E. Cliff too, but I was there early afternoon and there was plenty of traffic driving down.
Its annoying. Happens all the time in cleveland along the Euclid avenue bike lane. Since there's no parking on the street anymore people just use the bike lane. Minor annoyance until there is other traffic to be concerned with.
@Kyle: Yep, momentary inconvenience for long term gain. The planned pedestrian / bicycle parkway that's being built along East Cliff as part of this project looks pretty impressive.

@Ross: Indeed; I had to wait a few seconds for a car to pass by so that's why I initially got a little annoyed.
I guess it depends on the circumstances. Like Ross said, it bothers me that it dumps you into oncoming traffic, but then would it really be better then merging into traffic that was coming from behind? It's probably easier to see when it's safe to go around because it's oncoming traffic. I was annoyed a couple of weeks back because an orange sign saying "BUMP" was put in the bike lane to warn cars of an upcoming hazard. As a result bikes had to merge into traffic at the same place, giving bikes and cars more than just the bump to be careful of. Personally I never noticed the bump, and I suspect it may have referred to the bump of running over a cyclist unexpectedly merging into traffic to avoid a traffic hazard sign.
Either they wised up or someone else complained because eventually the sign moved to the tree lawn, leaving bike land and roadway clear.
My feeling is that while there is some contention about how safe a bike lane is, I like them. But I have to say if there's ever a situation where a bike lane is unsafe, it's where the bike lane is blocked, creating a situation where motorists think the bikes are going to be in their own lane while forcing the bikes into traffic. Sadly road debris, parked cars, and the occasional BUMP sign make that a regular occurrence along the one bike lane in my town.
I don't like bidirection bike paths next to road lanes in the first place. They make for very dangerous intersections,

If the path was really considered as part of the transportation infrastructure, they would put some cones out to divert bikes out of the lane and to create a little path within the opposing traffic lane. There appears to be enough room for that.
@Peter -- in the case of E. Cliff bidirectional works fine because there are no intersections on that side of this road, which runs along the Pacific Ocean. Their are sections of the path where cones are put into the traffic lane just like you suggest. In this case, the loader operator was apparently on a break (it was shortly after lunch, so maybe a late lunch?) and decided to park his equipment in the lane.
I generally don't mind an occasional obstruction. Where it gets annoying is longer term obstructions. Here in Ithaca, they put in a fabulous bike lane that starts on the flats, and continues up a large hill. Just months after this was painted, construction was happening at the base of the hill that forced motor vehicles to use the bike lane due to a lack of available road width. Technically the bike lane is a travel lane, but the city was so reluctant to put up signs like "Lanes Merge." It created a lot of ppor merges from cars that suddenly were in a bike lane with no warning.

To me, this was a simple issue of 2 lanes becomes 1, so there should be a sign to indicate that. Whether that's telling the drivers they must merge, or telling the cyclists they should take a full lane - I don't care which, but one of these should have happened but didn't.

If it was up to me, I would only have put in the later part of the bike lane beyond the construction until it was over. Then go back and finish the bike lane.
I just remembered this winning photo by Murph of a farm tractor parked across a bike path in Illinois.
That tractor was in West Lafayette...
@Murph: Thanks; corrected now.
With respect to "Kinda related: It's legal to park in bike lanes in California, just in case you didn't know. My little town has a local ordinance that prohibits street parking in most bike lanes, and several other California cities do the same thing, so it might be moot."

While it is legal to park in bike lanes, that's true unless the street is marked "no parking".

So a city can effectively make it illegal to park in bike lanes by marking all bike laned streets with "no parking" signs, but they cannot pass a law that makes it illegal to park in a bike lane that is not marked "no parking". Such a local ordinance would be in violation of CVC 21, which states, "Except as otherwise expressly provided, the provisions of this code are applicable and uniform throughout the State and in all counties and municipalities therein, and no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance on the matters covered by this code unless expressly authorized herein."

Making parking illegal in bike lanes is not a matter for which express authorization for local authorities to enact ordinances has been authorized.

We're lucky that we have uniformity in traffic law in California, some states don't, and it's a crapshoot with respect to what's lawful and what isn't when you drive or ride into a new town or city for the first time.
@Pragmatist: In Scotts Valley, the local ordinance prohibits parking by naming the streets where parking is prohibited and for which the city posts "No Parking" signs, which is permitted under the CVC. These listed streets also happen to be all of the bike laned streets.
If they're fixing the bike lane, I wouldn't get bent out of shape over it. If they were working on something else, then yes, it might make me a little upset.
Hmmm... the front loader has to park somewhere. If there were somewhere else it could go but the fate of bicyclists were simply not considered, I'd be annoyed.
There's construction going on on one of the streets I take on my commute to work. It's no big deal for me, I just have to make sure the back-hoes and front loaders aren't making the reverse warning alarms. They probably drop what they're doing and watch to see if I'll dip into one of the pot holes they dug up though.
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