Biking Stewart Street
The Stewart Street Extension opened in early November, connecting William Street with Roop Street.
This project is part of an effort to provide options for getting north-south in Carson City so that Carson Street can be narrowed. The new street segment is divided in some areas, with right turn only controls going onto or off the street, and part of it is a three-lane configuration, with two travel lanes and a turn lane.
The new street does not include bicycle lanes. The lanes are wide enough for sharing the lane, which according to the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities – aka “the bike guide” – is 14 feet or more. It does not have share the lane signs.
I’ve ridden on the street a number of times since opening, and I like it. It is much preferable to Roop because it has less traffic and better lane width.
The problem of course is that Stewart Street to the south is narrow without lanes or wide lanes, and Roop Street to the north is the same, so it is an isolated segment of bike route.
What do you think? Do you like it or not? Do you feel more or less safe than on a road with striped bicycle lanes? Does it need share the lane signs?
The classic problem with bicycle lanes is that they accumulate debris as all the vehicle debris (cars parts and items that blow out or drop out, intentionally or unintentionally) and natural debris gets swept into the bike lane by passing cars.
Though bike lanes do get street sweeping treatment, it happens less often than any of us would like. Do shared lanes like Stewart Street have this problem any less or more than streets with striped bicycle lanes?
As a vehicular cyclist, I prefer shared lanes to bicycle lanes. When using a bicycle lane, I have to come out to, or to the left of, the bike lane stripe at every intersection in order to prevent drivers from turning right in front of me or into me.
This is the famous “right hook” that accounts for half of all driver-caused crashes. When there is a shared lane, I naturally just move into the center of the lane at every intersection.
However, there is a lot of disagreement about this in both Carson City and nationally, with a lot of people preferring painted bicycle lanes.
Of course, budgets influence what is built, since having a five- or six-foot bicycle lane often requires a bit more right-of-way for the roadway.
The input of Muscle Powered to Carson City Public Works will influence whether we see more of or less of these shared lane situations in the future, and that is why I’m asking for you opinion. Speak up!
To reply, go to musclepowered.org.
• Dan Allison is the director of the Safe Routes to School program and member of Muscle Powered, a local activist group raising awareness about walking and biking in Carson City.