Because of the way the city grew, and the silliness of some very early city planners/developers, we have several offset intersections in north Fort Collins. This is a particular problem along Shields near campus, but it pops up in other locations as well. One of these offsets recently received some improvements from the City.
For cyclists traveling north-south on the west side of town — crossing from Heathridge to Lynnwood, and vice versa — the route is now a whole lot safer. This is a boon for motorists as well, given that previously it was a bit of a real life Frogger game going on with pedestrians and cyclists trying to dart across Prospect between streams of motor traffic.
This intersection sees a lot of college students pass through, and they’re not all clear on how to handle this offset intersection. There has been a crosswalk for quite awhile now, but for cyclists heading north, they had to cut across three lanes of traffic to reach it, and it was hard to access by bicycle. For cyclists heading south, they had to travel the wrong way on the sidewalk to get to the crosswalk, but reaching the sidewalk meant cutting across two lanes of traffic. So many just darted across Prospect at Lynnwood.
The changes that have been made still require the crossing of traffic lanes, but directions are clearly given (so that everyone is on the same page), the distance has been shortened, and bulb outs add a layer of protection.
A left hand turn lane has been added on Lynnwood, encouraging cyclists to get left before they’ve reached the intersection with Prospect. This keeps bicyclists from darting across two lanes of traffic at once, and also gives them a designated space to wait if they’re able to cross one lane but have to wait for oncoming traffic before crossing the next.
There’s also a bulbout to the left which shortens the distance to be crossed. And because of the bulbout, cars turning off of Prospect onto Lynnwood have to slow down to make a tighter turn that they would have to without the bulbout. So they’re visible for a bit longer before turning, which gives the cyclist more time to assess the situation and gauge when to finish crossing the street.
The sidewalk on the north side of Prospect is clearly marked with bi-directional signals so that cyclists realize they might encounter oncoming traffic. You’ll note in the above photo that the bike lane is still present on Prospect. But I suspect the people that will use the sidewalk heading west are the more cautious riders who are using the Heatheridge/Lynnwood connection because it is a part of the FC Bikes low stress network of bike routes. These bicyclists would be less likely to feel comfortable riding on a busy road like Prospect. So while the confident or fearless folks might use the bike lane, the sidewalk offers a connection that feels a bit safer for the concerned cyclist.
Part of what I like about this project is the attention to detail. Though the crosswalk has been in this location for awhile now, the button used to be difficult for cyclists to reach. By moving it out closer to the path of travel, it becomes much more accessible to both bicyclists and pedestrians, meaning they’ll be much more likely to push the button and wait for the light rather than giving up and just darting across the street.
The intersection at Heatheridge received the same treatment as Lynnwood, with a left hand turn lane for cyclists that encourages crossing the traffic lanes before reaching the intersection. It’s also a little easier in this photo to see the ramp that the cyclist should be aiming for. The ramp shortens the crossing for cyclists, gives easy access to the crosswalk, and provides protection from turning vehicles.
I think this solution is brilliant. It’s relatively simple. (It didn’t call for any realignment of the streets. And it didn’t require the City to purchase any additional right-of-way.) It gives very clear guidance to cyclists and helps motorists understand what cyclists are doing. And it encourages lane changes that will provide more time for motorists and cyclists to see each other and be more predictable to each other. I hope we’ll some similar solutions along Shields near campus in the near future.
Well done FC Bikes and City Streets! What an elegant solution to a thorny problem.
And as icing on the cake, bright new sharrows were painted along Lynnwood, making it clear to all that this is an important bike route in the city.
Some are OK, but Heatheridge/Prospect is a mistake. It forces cyclists off directly into oncoming traffic at a blind corner. Cars turning right from eastbound Prospect have very limited view (see the tree and electrical boxes in the picture in this article) and cars turning left from Heatherridge block the view of cars turning left from westbound Prospect. It is still safer for cyclists to TAKE THE LANE as we are legally allowed to do.
So when you say to take the lane, Alex, do you mean stay in the lane on Heatheridge, then enter Prospect as a car rather than using the light and crossing as a pedestrian?
I think I’d feel comfortable with that. But I know a whole lot of cyclists (or “people that ride bikes but don’t think of themselves as a cyclist… yet”) who wouldn’t be OK with that. And it would keep them from traveling by bicycle.
I’ve talked to several people who like the idea of using a bicycle for transportation, but when it comes to actually getting their bike down from where it’s hung on the garage wall and using it to get somewhere, there’s an issue of perception as well as actual safe routes. Using the crosswalk fits in with that. And you only have to get from the left hand turn lane, across 10 feet to the bulbout. So there’s time to see a car coming and decide whether to cross or wait. I think they’d prefer this option to taking the lane.
There are times when I think you absolutely have to take the lane in order to be safe. They tend to be pretty intimidating situations. In order to get more people on the road, we need to have less intimidating routes for people to get around. I think this solution, while not the best possible, still provides a much safer way to get across Prospect than what people are currently doing.
There’s a trade off. And while we’re legally allowed to take the lane at any time in any place unless clearly stated otherwise (parts of College Ave and parts of I-25) that doesn’t change the fact that most folks simply won’t do it. We need to build infrastructure that works in particular for these folks. They’re the ones that are going to keep using their cars unless they feel like there’s a comfortable alternative.
I used to be very gung ho about taking the lane. But then I tried taking my kids around town using that philosophy. It all started to break down at that point. That’s when I started to realize that we need routes that even kids can use. I would definitely feel safer taking my kids through this new configuration than I would without it. (In fact, we traveled north on City Park to cross Mulberry many a time and I hated, hated, hated that intersection. It’s much like this one was. I would gladly have taken this upgrade over what is there. Not perfect, but a far cry better than what we had to deal with.)