Driving along the rebuilt Falls Road a week ago, I was puzzled by the pairs of freshly painted white lines on the shoulders. Each shoulder has one straight line 10 feet from the center of the road and a second line meandering drunkenly in and out beyond that. Bike lanes came to my mind, but at some places the lines meander close together, leaving a strip of only four inches or less between, much too narrow for bike riding (and at one place a manhole is sunk into the narrow strip, as a further challenge for bikers teetering on the road’s edge).
In search of enlightenment, I made a detour to the Shelburne Town Office. The police officer on duty on the first floor said, Yes, bike lane. He conceded it was a very narrow lane and sent me upstairs for more information. The staff in the town office on the second floor said, yes, bike lane, but cautiously refrained from making any other comments. They advised me to contact the town manager, Lee Krohn, who promptly sent me an email about the variable width of the bike lanes. He stated that the painting scheme for the lanes was “Based upon repeated suggestions of the village bike/ped group,” and he explained that, “These may be considered ‘bike lanes’ in the most general sense, but as you see and know, there is not sufficient pavement to provide both full width vehicular travel lanes and true bike lanes. These lines are guidance, but there is certainly no expectation that a cyclist can or should remain within the white lines everywhere they exist, any more than a very large truck can remain precisely within a ten foot travel lane in every circumstance.”
So what we have here are “bike lanes” that are not true bike lanes, and cyclists who are not expected to stay in them. Wouldn’t it be better to erase the misbegotten meandering shoulder lines and thereby save automobile drivers and cyclists from dangerous confusion? If we want bike lanes, we need to incorporate them into the design of the road, instead of painting fake bike lanes suggested by a feckless bike/ped group after the road is built. For an example of a well-designed bike lane with meticulous two-color painting, see the bike lane recently completed at the intersection of Swift and Farrell streets in Burlington.