Some things are good separately, and very bad together. Bike lanes are great, as are bus lanes, but bike-bus combination lanes are the pickled ice cream of the transportation world.
RIPTA's plan to have bus-bike combo lanes, as designed by Bill DiSantis of VHB, is a bad idea. Says DiSantis, responding to my criticism of the plan in an email sent on his behalf by RIPTA:
Obviously a fully separated bicycle facility would be the preferred bicycle accommodation but the existing site conditions preclude anything other than a shared facility (my italics). We note that the City has recently restriped Exchange St from Memorial Blvd to park Row West to reduce the number of travel lanes thus making way for the proposed improvements.
Here are the "existing site conditions" that supposedly "preclude anything other than a shared facility":
|With the exception of a small length near the Turk's Head south of Fulton Street, the entire length of Exchange Street is four wide lanes.|
The road width gives us room to do something like this:
Plenty of room for (separate) bike and bus lanes. There's even room for an island to help transit users and pedestrians cross, and to add shade to the street with trees.
Why would we instead require bikes and buses to share the lane? This is both inconvenient for bus riders, who get caught behind a slow bicyclist, and potentially dangerous to the bicyclist, who is caught in a leap frog situation.
Bill DiSantis contends that because this is a straight route, there won't be "right hook" accidents where bicyclists get into the blind spot of the bus and are run over at turns. He also contends that "leap frogging" where the faster bus passes the bicyclist, but is caught at the light, and in turn is passed by the bicyclist, won't happen because of the shortness of the route. While I agree that the problems caused by bus-bike combo lanes would be mitigated by these factors, I don't know why would design a street from scratch to have problems built into its design. There's certainly nothing about the street that makes building appropriate (separate) bus and bike facilities difficult.
DiSantis bases his design on examples from Florida DOT and from the city of Tucson, Arizona. Florida is the leading state for pedestrian and cyclist deaths, so why he would base his plans off of something from that state I can't understand. I haven't heard anything too inspiring from Tucson.
If we want mass cycling and transit use, then we should design both forms of transportation to operate at their best. That means basing our models on countries with mass cycling like the Netherlands and Denmark. We have more in common with the layouts of places in those countries than we do with stroads in Florida or the Southwest.