Bike Lanes in Lafayette

I was happy to see this headline in the Lafayette Journal & Courier today, Bicyclists to get their share of the road on Union Street. Bike lanes are a visible and effective way to increase rider safety, help cyclists move off the sidewalks, and boost awareness of cycling as a form of transportation.

It was no surprise that local cyclist and key member of Bicycle Lafayette Aaron Madrid was quoted in the article. He has championed bicyle-related initiatives – recently the three-foot law passed in West Lafayette, and actively works with local media to get the word out. (I need to meet him sometime)

Also, city planner Margy Deverall is a long time rider, and she seems to be bringing her knowledge of cycling into her work – making the city better for all types of transportation.

Favorite quote: “(Union Street) is not a parking facility. The argument that it’s a busy street is really an argument for creating a bike lane.”

In other cycling news, Purdue has added sharrows on a few campus streets. (One set was captured by Dave Bangert on Instagram.) It’s a good start, but until these appear on busier streets (Grant, Stadium, State, University) I’m afraid they won’t have much effect. Of course, many major streets on campus are maintained by the State or by West Lafayette, so it will take a cooperative effort to move forward.

However, there is also education needed to help both drivers and riders understand what the sharrows represent. Today I noticed more than one cyclist riding against the direction on the one-way loop that is Memorial Drive. Hopefully the sharrows will help them understand which way to go.

The task of integrating bicycles into Greater Lafayette’s infrastructure is moving forward. Let’s applaud these steps and help with what comes next.

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Ride for No Reason

Bike leaning against a cargo trailer

After the ride

Lately I seem to be limiting my rides to commutes to work, but I remember when I used to ride just for fun. Today, I relived those memories. I rode into town for a stop at the coffee shop, and then took the long way home (after a quick drive to WalMart with my daughter).

Celery Bog next to the bike trail

Celery Bog

It didn’t hurt that the weather was near perfect for a ride – sunny, mid 70s, light breeze. Also, traffic was light on all roads.

Bike lane sign with the letter B hidden

Ike Lane

I enjoy riding on campus and through West Lafayette on a quiet Sunday morning.

Gaudy subdivision entrance

Kingsroad Subdivision

I used an old, familiar route home past the Celery Bog, west on Lindberg Rd, and home on 400W. The big tree in the middle of the intersection at Division Rd and 350W is still doing well, even after losing a major branch a couple of years ago.

Old tree with a stop sign nailed to it

Big Tree

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Cycling Cred

Bike is loaded and ready for action

Ready to Go

I need to ride my bike every once in a while just to keep my commuter image intact, and I’ve been able to do so around once a week for the past month.

Nothing amazing has happened – no close calls with autos, no wildlife sightings, no conversations with other riders – just a nice, normal ride.

The hill between my house and campus continues to task me in both directions, and the westbound side in the evening is especially steep. Maybe I’ll get back to my 2006 riding shape some day. :)

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Three Foot Law

Recently, the local paper asked for their readers to share their opionions on a proposal to pass a law requiring a three foot gap between a passing car and a bicycle. (read it here) There were some interesting responses, and I’d like to reply to a few.

That’s just common sense. People should be doing that, anyway. What do we need a law for? – Daniel O’Connor

True, but passing the law will help raise awareness of the safety of bicycle riders.

Unenforceable! – J. Martin Mlynarik

Several of the responders felt that enforcement would be impossible, and I agree. But this is about encouraging safe driving, not passing out tickets.

Actually, that is a good start, but I would prefer a complete lane change where there will be no argument about how many feet the car was away from you. What will be the penalties for getting too close? As a cyclist, I consider myself and my bike a vehicle bound by the same laws of the road as any vehicle, therefore it would be good if the law treated me like any vehicle. – Chloe Harshman

This comment from local cyclist Chloe Harshman echoes my feelings on the matter. When on my bicycle, I am operating a vehicle, and receive all the rights and responsibilities as any other user of the road. (Not likely to happen) If the driver can’t use the next lane to pass he/she should be waiting until it is clear.

I think that it would be a very difficult if not an almost impossible law to enforce. I try to give cyclists as much room as possible when passing them, but it can be difficult when they are riding two or three abreast. I would like to see more cyclists obey the rules of the road as they should, such as stopping at red lights, stop signs and not going the wrong way down a one-way street. – Eleanor Mlynarik

This comment shows that many people don’t understand how traffic law applies to cyclists. Riding two abreast is legal in the State of Indiana, and is reenforced in the city code of both Lafayette and West Lafayette. Three abreast? Not so much, but I’m sure she hasn’t seen that very often.

Based on her last sentence, I guess she thinks that just because some cyclists don’t follow the law, then the safety of every cyclist is therefore forfieted. Should my life be endangered because someone else did something wrong?

Only on three conditions: 1. there is no marked bike lane; 2. allowing a three-foot clearance does not force the passing car into oncoming lane; 3. cyclist is not abreast of other cyclists. I live in West Lafayette and frankly feel that cyclist groups are a real hazard, as they ride abreast blocking roads and going well below posted limits. – Don Shipley

This comment really set me off. Let’s tackle them one at a time:

  1. So if there is a marked bike lane, we aren’t allowed to ride outside of it? Wrong! There are many reasons why a cyclist would be outside of the lane, plus the law doesn’t require us to use it. Regardless, this is no reason for you to barrel on through.

  2. Don, let’s think about this. You are behind a cyclist and want to pass, but there is oncoming traffic. So it is OK for you to squeeze between that car and the bike, endangering both the driver and the rider? Do you see how entitled that sounds? Here’s what a sensible driver would do – WAIT UNTIL IT IS SAFE TO PASS! If there were a slow moving tractor in front of you, you wouldn’t pass when the opposite lane wasn’t clear. It is on narrow roads where this law makes the most sense. I am often passed on Newman Road where its narrow lanes don’t allow a car and bike to fit side by side, and the inevitable oncoming car has to slow or pull into the grass on the side to escape a collision.

  3. I already wrote about the two abreast thing, but now speed limits too? You expect a cyclist to maintain a speed of 35MPH just so you don’t have to slow down for 10 seconds until you can pass? A speed limit is the UPPER limit, not the lower. Let me make myself perfectly clear – You don’t have the right to drive as fast as you wish, and I have no requirement to stay out of your way.

I’m not sure I would ever pass one that close. Does that mean cyclists must stay three feet from cars and not ride between parked cars and cars stopped for a light? – Carl V. Covely, Jr.

Yes, Carl, it does.

Many times I had to nearly stop and get way over in the opposite lane in order not to hit a cyclist. I don’t believe an ordinance is a viable solution. – Furman A. Powell

What? You had to react in some way to not kill or maim another human?

I think cyclists and semis should have their own lanes. Always in the way when trying to get somewhere. – Mark Acles

Mark, it’s not all about you.

When I started this post, I was trying to be civil, but these responses just made me angry. Serves me right for reading comments in the paper.

bike lane blocked by a stump

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A Different Plan for Klondike Road

Last month, the Tippecanoe County Highway Engineer and the Executive Director of the Area Plan Commission announced a plan to upgrade Klondike road west of West Lafayette. Their plan calls for a four-lane road from Lindberg Road to U.S. 52 with sidewalks and a “trail”. (Read the WLFI story here)

“It will be four lanes which will accommodate the amount of traffic that currently exists on Klondike,” Executive Director of the Tippecanoe County Area Plan Commission Sally Fehey said.

“It will also include sidewalks and a trail along the side of it,” Executive Director and engineer for the Tippecanoe County Highway Department Opal Kuhl said. “With Klondike School we have a lot of foot traffic down the edge of that roadway and there’s no where to really walk up and down there.”

I appreciate the attention they are giving this stretch of road, but I would like to suggest an alternate plan.

First, let’s note that the newly built U.S. 231 bypass, due to open later this year, is just half a mile to the east of Klondike Road, and it will offer a four-lane, divided highway around the west side of town. Any through traffic will more than likely use this route.

Also, Klondike Road in this area is busy because of all the homes and businesses, a factory, and the schools that line it. Included are two rather large mobile home parks and a duplex housing complex. Traffic is especially heavy during school drop off and pickup times, and for after school events. There is much pedestrian traffic, as the WLFI article mentions, and these folks are walking along the edge of the road.

Two is Enough

I would like to see the road remain two lanes, one in each direction – maybe with a center turn lane where needed. The lanes could be wider and in better condition than the existing road, but we don’t need more of them. Four lanes invites faster traffic, regardless of the speed limit posted. We drivers tend to drive as fast as the facilities can handle, not necessarily what the signs tell us to do. See Creasy Lane and McCarty Lane in Lafayette for streets where the average speed is always considerably higher than the posted limits.

Adding sidewalks to Klondike Road is a great idea; one that is long overdue. The convenience nature of the businesses in the area draws many children, and they should have a safer place to walk than along the gravel edge of a county road. Keep these in the plan.

Bike Lanes

Instead of the trail (not sure from the article what or where this would be), I would like to see a bicycle lane in each direction. Separated paths for bicycles do add a feeling of comfort for both riders and drivers, but in reality they raise serious safety issues at intersections. There are many driveways and side streets throughout this section of Klondike Road, and each presents a problem when drivers don’t expect cyclists to be crossing and these same cyclists think the drivers will yield to them (as if they were pedestrians).

Bike lanes will encourage a more predictable set of behaviors from all if everyone has the same rules to obey. Indiana law allows cyclists all of the privileges and responsibilities that other vehicle operators enjoy, and our infrastructure should represent this.

For one of many examples of poorly executed bike trails, visit Harrison Street on the Purdue campus. This lane crosses at least one street and some driveways, before ending abruptly at the traffic circle. I cannot figure out what the engineers expect cyclists to do when they reach the sudden end of the trail. Should they dismount and cross like a pedestrian? Maybe continue north on the sidewalk, which itself ends not much farther along? Isn’t riding on a sidewalk in West Lafayette illegal?

Stop!

Finally, with all of the business traffic, residents entering and leaving their driveways, pedestrians, and other slow moving travelers, I strongly suggest that stop signs be added in two or three places along the road. These will help keep the auto speeds down and assist those attempting to enter or leave the roadway. Have you ever tried to walk across the road near the mobile home parks, exit to the left after buying a gallon of milk at the gas station, or turn into the Venetian Blind entrance at rush hour? These are not easy tasks. Stop signs will help everyone get where they wish to go slowly and safely.

What About the South Stretch?

Residents of the homes along the area of Klondike Road south of Lindberg Road should pay attention to this project as well. Once the north half is a four lane street, look for plans calling for the south section to get the same treatment. There are many more driveways long the road, and three or four entrances to subdivisions. All of the same issues I mentioned above would plague these residents as well.

Not Another Racetrack

We don’t need another bypass road in this area. The new highway will serve this role well, and we should encourage those just passing through to use it for what it was built to do – move traffic around town quickly. Instead, the residents, workers, students, and customers along this route deserve a safer way to go about their day. Let Klondike Road be the neighborhood street that this area needs.

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Main Street Family Mash

The Main Street Family Mash was held back on November 10th – a warm Saturday. Sponsored by Bicycle Lafayette, it showed that cycling isn’t only for spandex racers.

This pictures are uneditied. I probably could have made them prettier, but it’s already 2 1/2 weeks after the event. So, I’m just posting them as is. Enjoy!

Some of Lafayette’s finest, along with the Mayor and Rep. Klinker, watch the bike polo before the ride.

I wish I had one of these when my kids where young.

These kids were pretty happy when their grandmother met them on the route by the courthouse. I can’t remember the cute name they had for her.

Mandolin Guy at the Farmers' Market – with his ukulele buddy.

The halfway point at 11th and Main

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Found on Twitter

a turkey on a bike, pulling a 2 wheeled carriage

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Vacation Week

I enjoy riding around campus when the new freshman class arrives to the residence halls. Both weekend days I pedaled in to the coffee shop and gawked at the tired parents and anxious kids lined up to unload their mini-fridges, fans, and “Hang In There” posters.

With all of the moving around of stuff in our garage, my grocery bag pannier has gone missing, so I carried the laptop in a backpack. I felt like a pack mule!

Backpack and computer

The Backpack That Weighed Me Down

Here are some pictures from this week’s rides:

The former horse pasture

The former horse pasture

Budding Bike Lane

Budding Bike Lane

Almost Ready to Lay Some Concrete

Almost Ready to Lay Some Concrete

Almost Ready to Lay Some Concrete

Almost Ready to Lay Some Concrete

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Not the only Bald Guy Out There

Today is the first day of my week long vacation, and I started things off right with a bike ride to Granville Bridge. Leaving early in the AM helped me beat the heat, but not the humidity.

dust covered bike

The Dustiest Bike in the World

My road bike was a little dusty from being in the garage near a table saw. Luckily, most of the sawdust blew off during the ride. The ride out to the bridge went quickly, with a slightly downhill route and a weak tailwind.

As I stopped on the bridge, I noticed a bald eagle feeding on the riverbank. We have had eagles in this area for over 10 years, and now they are fairly common along the river. Still, I enjoy seeing them in person.

view of low river

The eagle is the little spec in the middle of the shot

After he finished whatever he was eating, he walked about three yards out into the river, which apparently wasn’t more than a few inches deep at that point because of the ongoing drought. He then turned around and kind of hopped back to shore, using his wings to help him move. It wasn’t until he was out of the water that I noticed the rather large fish he had in his talons. Fishing is pretty easy for the birds right now!

view of low river

The Wabash River is Really Low Right Now

normal river level

Compare to this shot from 2008

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The Case of the Disappearing Bike Lanes

West Lafayette isn’t a bad place to ride a bike, but not because of a useful and ubiquitous bike lane system.

For some people, the lack of separate lanes for bikes means they don’t ride – or they use the sidewalks. This is unfortunate, because the city has light traffic on all but a few main thoroughfares, and most auto drivers act properly around those of us on bikes. Still, when bike lanes are removed, safe ridership will drop.

I’ve complained before about the lanes on Salisbury, Lindberg, and northern Grant streets before. Sure, they are painted there, but they are also used for parking, as sidewalks (on Lindberg), and for trash and brush to be picked up. I would rather just take the lane than have to swerve in and out to avoid the many obstacles. For many that I see, the sidewalks once again become the path of choice.

Tree stump blocking bike lane

Stumped
(circa April, 2008)

With the repaving of SR26 through Lafayette and West Lafayette, the result has been that the bike lanes on State, Sheetz, and Wood streets were not repainted. It is hard to say why. Was it a conscious decision by the state or city? Not likely. Instead, were lanes just not considered by the engineers? Probably.

No bike lane on State Street

No Bike Lane

Another option is that the folks that painted the lines just forgot them. That crew did a pretty poor job overall, with copious spray paint sloppily marking where things should go and what my son calls an ‘messy job’ of applying the paint. Take a look at the arrows on Wood St at Grant for an example.

Poorly painted arrows on street

Sloppy Paint Job

These guys also mispainted turn lane lines in both of the intersections where two lanes turn in the same direction. The errant lines at Wood and Chauncey were crudely covered over and corrected, and I hope the same is done at Northwestern and State.

But I digress … what will it take to return the lanes to these near campus streets? Perhaps when the city takes ownership next year, they will rethink bike traffic. I hope so.

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