COMMON ISSUES THAT AFFECT PROJECTS


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Buses and bus stops:

Buses stopping at the curb and pulling back into traffic may cause problems for on-road bicyclists. Many bus stops are located before an intersection (near-side location) and relocating to the far side can reduce conflicts. Where a bike lane is striped in the vicinity of a bus stop, it should be dashed to indicate that buses can pull across to reach the stop. Adding pavement or placing the bus stop in line with on-street parking may assist passing bicyclists.

Common crashes:

Most bicycle crashes involve falls, often caused by hazards such as potholes, debris, or drainage grates. Only a small portion of crashes involve motor vehicles with most of these crashes occurring at intersections. When bicyclists are at fault, the crash cause is often riding the wrong way or turning left across traffic. Crashes caused by motorists are frequently related to vehicles turning left and failing to yield in front of a bicyclist ("left hook") or vehicles turning right in front of a through rider ("right hook"). Right-turn-on-red crashes occur when motorists look for vehicles approaching from the left and fail to see the bicyclist approaching on a sidepath, crossing from the right. Mapping crash data for a particular location may illuminate a design deficiency.

Construction:

Construction time can be lengthy so safe bicycling access must be planned for the duration. During construction, VDOT policy requires maintenance of bicycle traffic in accordance with the MUTCD and the VDOT Work Area Protection Manual. Adequate access to the roadway or shared-use paths should be provided and if a designated bicycle route is closed, a signed alternative should be provided. Bicyclists should not be directed onto pedestrian sidewalks. Temporary surfaces should be suitable for riding, and warning devices are required for drops or obstacles. Bicyclists need to be notified in advance of restrictions, detours and closures. Although all signs must be in English to comply with the MUTCD, notifications may need to be posted in other languages. Bicycle access and safety should also be maintained during advance utility relocation.

Design speed vs. operating speed:

The design speed of a road is the maximum speed at which a vehicle can be operated safely in perfect conditions on that road. The operating speed is the speed at which vehicles are actually observed traveling on that road. Design speed takes into account braking and reaction time to unexpected events. Note that the design speed or operating speed and the posted speed limit may not be directly related.

When evaluating a road design, check to see if the design speed planned is higher than the desired speed of traffic through the community. The selection of the design speed for a road influences the operating speed of future users, as most users drive at the speed at which they are comfortable. A useful question to ask the design engineer is how the design would change if the design speed were raised by 10 mph. If the design would not change much with a higher design speed, it may be safe to assume that operating speeds will be higher than the proposed design speed. At times, operating speed may exceed design speed by a considerable margin.

Doors and parked cars:

The door zone is the 4 to 5 foot area next to a parking lane where car doors swing open. Bicyclists can be thrown into the path of passing vehicles by an opening door. Dooring can be a particular problem when bike lanes are placed next to parking. Where parking lanes are narrow (7 feet or less), parked cars may also encroach into the bike lane. Wider bike lanes are recommended next to parked vehicles, preferably with striping on both sides. Where no bike lane exists, a shared lane marking may be used to indicate the recommended safe riding distance away from parked vehicles.

Intersection design:

Intersections are controlled in various ways. The design must accommodate turning movements and crossings in many directions with numerous potential conflict points. Users include motorized vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, all with different operating speeds. Driveways, business entrances and bus stops add to the potential problems for bicyclists. Each approach and crossing at an intersection should be examined from the perspective of bicycle users to see what will make their passage safer. Properly placed crosswalks and signs will increase the visibility of bicyclists on shared-use path crossings. Intersection angles for streets and crossings should be as close as possible to 90 degrees so as to maximize sight distances and reduce crossing distances.

Maintenance:

Future maintenance of new facilities should be addressed, particularly for shared-use paths that might not be included in routine road maintenance programs. Regular maintenance of bike facilities includes debris removal and repairs required due to wear and tear. Additional issues on shared-use paths include damage to the surface caused by invasive roots from close-by trees or by maintenance vehicles using the path, and the need for snow removal. Without a maintenance program with designated responsibility and funding, safe bicycling conditions and facility usage rates cannot be sustained.

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Guide for Reviewing Public Road Design and Bicycling Accommodations for Virginia Bicycling Advocates