Yay! Re-painted bike lanes!
And the really annoying feature is that the lawn-maintenance truck could have parked safely out of the lane about 100 feet down the road.
That white van in front of the pickup with the trailer was so wide that it blocked the bike lane AND the buffer zone. In NYC, delivery trucks. In Newton, landscapers.
We have a stretch of pavement, and we have a lot of potential users of that pavement, all of whom have different purposes: driving along it in different directions, parking, biking, walking across it … For most of the uses, there are signs and markings: crosswalks for pedestrians, center, lane, and shoulder lines for drivers, signs showing where to park and not to park, signals and signs for intersections, and now bike lanes and sharrows.
When people encounter a new marking (say, a sharrow, such as to the left, showing that a bike can ride with traffic) or a new use of a marking (say, a pair of solid white lines too narrowly placed to be a car lane, with a bike symbol in it, which indicates a place where only bikes are allowed), what happens? Do they understand it? If they understand it, do they follow it? Do they rationalize not following it by saying to themselves, it wasn’t like this last week? Are they perennial scofflaws, and follow rules only when they’re convenient? How many people fall into each category?
One of the reactions can be frustration, especially when two uses conflict. Like the driver who honked at me the other day: I was in the bike lane on Beacon heading uphill towards Hammond Pond Parkway, adjacent to a long line of cars waiting for the light, and I heard a honk behind me. My mental sequence: hmm… was that directed at me? Was it just an impatient driver in the stopped line of traffic, honking at a texting driver who hasn’t moved forward? Second honk: a little closer. Oh, that must be about me. I look back and the driver is waving at me to get out of the way. But I’m in the bike lane. On a bike. And you’re in a car, breaking the law.
(Just so everyone is quite clear on this, when the lane marking looks like the picture to the right, you’re not allowed to drive on it in a car. If you’re caught driving there, the fine in Newton is $100.00, according to Police Chief Howard Mintz in this Globe article. Don’t do it. You can cross them where the lines are dotted.)
So I turn, gesture behind myself emphatically at the bike symbol I’ve just driven over, and yell, “It’s a bike lane!” and keep biking at the same pace in the lane toward the light at Hammond, feeling all self-righteous.
The irony of that happening just then: only a few minutes before, as I approached the hill, I’d been thinking reasonably generous-minded thoughts about all the cars I was watching jumping out of the line of traffic to drive up to the light in the bike lane. Sure, it’s illegal, but I’m the only damn biker in view, there’s no threat to anyone, it’s an inconvenience for the drivers that there’s no longer a de-facto 2nd lane leading up to the light… why not live and let live?
I got my answer with that honk: because some impatient driver won’t grant me the same generosity.
So I ran the situation past my wife, who’s not a biker, and she said, “Well, maybe the driver thought it was some kind of shared lane, and if that’s the case, maybe she thought it was like those times when you’re behind a slow construction vehicle or a tractor. It’s on the road legally, but it’s annoying when it lets a line of traffic back up behind it.”
I was a little startled that she didn’t know, but rest assured, she does now.
Clearly, we need a driver-ed campaign of some kind. Any ideas?