marking lanes for shared bike / pedestrian sidewalk

Is your street already wide enough for bike lanes? Find out for $10.

marking lanes for shared bike / pedestrian sidewalk

Greg Raisman was one of many gracious people I met in Portland, Oregon last week. He’s a Traffic Safety Specialist for the City of Portland, and he gave me this tip for those interested in advocating for bike lanes in their own towns.

There are likely roads in your own community that you suspect are already wide enough to accommodate a bike lane– They just need stripes to mark the lane. You can check road widths yourself by using a measuring wheel, found for about $10 on E-bay.  A measuring wheel measures distances as you walk. To measure the road width, you just have to walk across the road while rolling the wheel.  Keep in mind these details and do the math to determine if you’ve already got room for bike lanes:

Road Element Width
Standard through traffic lane 11 feet
Standard parking lane 8 feet
Standard bike lane 5 feet
Standard center turn lane 12 feet
Possible gutter 1.5 feet
Possible buffer* 3 feet

* The possible buffer zone is between parked cars and the bike lane, to prevent “dooring” and allow for possible snow piles in winter.

There are cases where narrower minimum lane widths for all cases may be acceptable. Check the federal standards for details.

Armed with these calculations, you can make a much stronger argument to City Hall if you can show definitively that no costly road width expansion will be needed, and you can say with certainty that bike lanes will fit.

But you may also  find that there is in fact no room to simply stripe a bike lane on roads you check. There are still possibilities to make roads more bikeable by using a road diet or the bike boulevard concepts. I expect to write more about these in future posts.

I ordered my measuring wheel tonight. I’ll be interested to see what I learn about my city streets!

Update: November, 2011: This strategy worked! The City recently approved a new long-term transportation plan which included some of our recommendations based on DIY road measurements and reviews posted online. The consultants who developed the plan found our site and credited Bike Richmond with making some specific recommendations.