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Sometimes there appears to be confusion over what constitutes a bike lane. What might seem perfectly clear to us, doesn’t appear to be as clear to others, as in the example above. Other times, what the City appears to believe is a bike lane, doesn’t seem as much like one to us. There have been times when I’ve seen a bike lane sign, but I can’t find the bike lane itself for all the parked cars. Other times, it seems to have fallen into a gutter or been lost to repaving. So today I thought I’d explore what constitutes a bike lane in Fort Collins. There are some really beautiful examples. And there are some that just make you shake your head in amazement. We certainly don’t have a perfect system. Some of it is going to take time to bring up to par. But some things could be improved immediately with a quick brush of paint or perhaps a little law enforcement.

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Some bike lanes are clearly marked, both with signage, white lines on either side of the lane, and bicycle icons within the lane. The lane above is partly in the door zone, but riding to the left of center in this lane should make for a comfortable ride for the bicyclist.

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The north end of the Remington Greenway.

The newly striped lanes on Remington are nice and wide, clearly marked, and include a buffer on either side of the bike lane along much of the street.

But the far north end of Remington where it intersects E. Mountain Ave. is an example of the “now and the not yet” in bicycling infrastructure in Fort Collins. We have these beautifully striped lanes with double buffers, and yet the bulb out for pedestrian safety at the north end of the street clearly doesn’t jive with the new striping effort. There are some things that take more money than others (like reworking the curbs and sidewalks here vs. throwing down some new paint). So the new striping gives us a hint at this corner what the end goal will be, but we’re still faced with the outdated infrastructure at this corner. We have beautiful new lanes in the now, but that gorgeous new intersection is still waiting for us in the “not yet.”

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Speaking of “not yet,” there are some places in town where you might be left scratching your head wondering “is it a bike lane? or is it just a stripe of paint to shrink the travel lane and slow motorists down a bit?” I believe that the common perception for the example above is that yes, there is a bike lane. If you pedal down this lane, however, I’d encourage you to stick close to that white line so that you’re more visible to motorists that are backing out of their parking spaces.

This kind of “bike lane” (I really can’t bring myself to refer to it without the quotes) is rather problematic, not only because it’s hard for motorists to see you while backing out, but if you look down the road in the photo above, you’ll see that a particularly long truck blocks the path head. Diagonal parking and bicycles do not mix well.

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I’ve complained about this bike lane on Cherry before. The white line and the bike lane sign (You can see it just over the Road Work Ahead sign.) indicate that this is indeed supposed to be considered a bike lane. The clearly marked handicapped parking sign, and the scads of unticketed parking ahead, indicate that this lane is also a legal parking lane. It’s both. So what does law enforcement do with the traffic code that states obstructing traffic is prohibited? I suspect this is one of those situations in which they don’t think about it at all. It’s an infrastructure problem, not an enforcement problem. In other words, this is a bike lane, but I don’t think you’d get anywhere if you called to say that a particularly wide vehicle was impeding your movement here.

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The bike lane drops out at the bridge on Laporte.

This “bike lane” is another example of the now and the not yet. There’s a nice lane right before this, but the old bridge means that the lane ends up in the gutter for a bit. This is a case where the bicyclist needs to behave as if there’s no lane here at all (because there pretty much isn’t) and take the lane. For more on how to behave over a bridge like this, see the post on Skinny Bridge Tactics.

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Much of Laporte is missing sidewalks, turning bike lanes into pedestrian zones.

I find bike lanes like the one shown here also quite problematic. Not only do construction workers feel comfortable putting signs in them, but you’ll note that there’s no sidewalk along this side of the road. So pedestrians (of which there are many throughout the day as this is a main route between a high school and a 7-Eleven) walk on the side (in affect making it a “side walk”) and bicyclists are left dodging peds, signs, the occasional parked car, and sometimes trash cans that are left a little further into the street than they should be. Technically this is a bike lane. Sometimes it even operates fairly well as one. But other times bicyclists have the feeling that they’re pedaling through an obstacle course.

So in all these examples, I still haven’t definitively stated what constitutes a bike lane. That’s because, if we get right down to it, that’s a legal question. And when I look at the Fort Collins traffic code, as well as the Colorado Revised Statutes, I can’t for the life of me find anything that defines what a bike lane is. According to the law, a bike lane is a “lane” and a bicycle is a “vehicle.” So all laws that are written for cars that have to do with lanes and vehicles apply likewise to bicycles and bicycle lanes.

Lane. The portion of a roadway for the movement of a single line of vehicles.

And because we’re living in the now and the not yet, sometimes it’s abundantly clear where the bike lane is and sometimes it’s kind of left to the imagination. So in a sense, there’s a bit of a wild west, anything goes quality to bike lanes for now. It’s legal to have a bike lane drop out of existence and then reappear a few yards farther down the road. It shouldn’t be, but it is. It’s legal to consider everything to the right of a white line both parking and bike lane.

Change is happening. And in Fort Collins, there’s a pretty decent track record of removing the confusing when possible and replacing it with bicycle lanes that are appropriate and adequately signed. But as the top photo shows, even when the lanes are clearly marked, we still have a long way to go with both enforcement and education.