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Life in the Bike Lane

Making riding safer

By: Tom Frady
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A few weeks ago, I again had the opportunity to ride my bike in the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically Marin County. 

It’s different there.  While not “urban” in the sense that downtown San Francisco or Los Angeles might be, the streets and traffic are certainly unlike most anywhere in Western Placer County.

What were once quaint little towns (Sausalito, Kentfield and Tiburon) are now rather crowded tourist Meccas, looking to retrofit bike lanes and paths, special signage and directions to accommodate a growing number of serious cyclists and casual bike riders.

And they’re doing a pretty good job of it.

Sausalito, the first town on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge, was faced with the most challenges. First, its main street is the only route that bike riders can take to get to and from the bridge (and the Marin Headlands). Not only are serious cyclists riding through but groups of tourists on rental bikes are also making their way through town.  There is also a challenging hill to negotiate.

Sausalito moved its sidewalks back a few feet to make room for a well-marked bike lane without losing any precious parking spaces. Where bike lanes were not possible, traffic lanes are clearly marked with “sharrows” icons, signifying bikes and cars must share the lane.

Even the Golden Gate Bridge authorities make special efforts to keep cyclists safe and bike/pedestrian traffic moving well. The sidewalk on the ocean side is open only on weekends and then only to bikes. On week days, when it is less crowded, pedestrians and bike riders share the same bay side of the bridge. Signs on posts and on the sidewalk clarify where bikes and pedestrians should be.

In other areas, great pains have been taken to allow riders to get from one side of busy streets and highways to the other side. In some cases, dedicated bike/pedestrian bridges have been built, raised bike paths traverse brackish bogs and paved paths go under freeway overpasses.

When bikes and cars mix at tricky intersections, such as freeway on-ramps, or when roads converge at odd angles, bright green paint clarifies for both driver and rider where the bikes are to go.

Some drivers might not like the accommodations to bike riders but we must remember it is a matter of public safety. Generally, bike lanes and signage enhance the flow of all traffic in urban areas. 

As an aside, you five regular readers will know I often write about visibility. By far the most popular color for bike-riding clothes in the Bay Area is “oops-I-didn’t-see-you black.” In three days of riding, I saw one blinking headlight and only a few riders with day-time blinking taillights. 

Those of us who ride often in Placer County can name a number of sub-urban locations where such safety efforts would be most helpful. 

When new developments are started, bike lanes are always part of the plan, and when city streets are improved, bike lanes are often added. Some of the local “old towns” being revitalized have attempted to make it safer for bike riders (Roseville and Loomis) and we do have some great bike paths (Antelope Creek and Miners Ravine) that allow riders of all skill levels to have a few miles of safe (and beautiful) riding. 

While I have reviewed it, I have not had a chance to study closely the Lincoln Bicycle Transportation Plan Update (May 2018) but it is an important step toward bike and pedestrian safety in Lincoln. It has considerable information in its 50-plus pages and indicates many exciting changes and improvements for the area. I’m sure I will be reporting on it in the future. 

In the meantime, ride safely.

Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.