Isn’t bicycling in the opposite direction of traffic illegal?, reader asks

Dear Street Smarts,

     Q: How can there be a bike lane on a one way street going against traffic? I thought bikes had to follow the same laws as cars.


     A: That’s true. In general, it is illegal for cyclists to travel against the flow of traffic. However, Santa Cruz has two areas in town where cyclists can -- and do -- legally ride in the direction of opposing traffic on one way streets. Those bike facilities are along Beach Street and a section of High Street.

     "They are called contra-flow bike lanes and we provide a physical separation, or median, between the motor vehicles and bikes traveling in opposing directions," said Chris Schneiter of the city’s public works department. "So far, these bikeways have been popular, successful and safe, allowing for a shorter travel route for bicyclists between other bike facilities."


     Q: A couple of weeks ago, we came home to find signs on Bulb Avenue, Thompson Avenue and other nearby streets indicating that there was loose gravel to watch out for. Sure enough, we had the potholes on these streets filled with lots of little rocks. We figured that they would put some asphalt on top, but it's now been two weeks and nothing else has happened. Is this the supposed fix, or should we expect to see something else on top of these gravel beds soon?  Thanks!      Tom Ginsburg, Live Oak

     A: The work is done, Tom. An official with county public works said a road crew used a pothole patching machine to fill the gaps in the road. First, the machine is used to apply a blend of oil and granite rock chips under pressure in the pothole, he said. After the chug hole has been filled, a final layer of rock chips area applied over the fresh oil to prevent vehicles from tracking oil everywhere, the official said. Within minutes, the oil and rock blend hardens, providing a solid surface. After a few days, the mobile sweeper sweeps up the loose gravel, depending on its schedule, he added.


     Q: Capitola uses vertical flexible plastic poles to separate bike lanes from car lanes. They look like they would flex when hit by a car, causing no damage to car or pole, but clearly divide the traffic. They also look inexpensive compared to other marking schemes. You can see them on Wharf Road, Soquel-ward of the Shadowbrook where the two one-way streets connect sideways to Soquel Village. I tried to suggest these to the City of Santa Cruz when they were redesigning the right turn lane from Soquel Avenue onto Capitola Road by Jeffery’s but they went ahead and spent months and zillions of dollars with concrete and asphalt instead.      Joe Eugene, Live Oak 

     A: “Generally speaking, the regulations on bike lanes discourage the use of vertical delineation between the bike lane and the adjacent lane,” said Chris Schneiter of the Santa Cruz city public works department. “The vertical device can create a hazard for the cyclist if they hit it.”

     The devices also make it difficult to keep the bike lane free of debris. Street Sweepers can’t enter the area. And it’s too costly to pay someone to hand sweep the lane.

     Schneiter is familiar with the Wharf Road location you speak of. He has ridden his own bicylce through the area. Since the road is narrow, he said the vertical delineation works to prevent motorists from cutting the corner and possibly hitting a cyclist.

     “We have had a similar problem on Walnut Street at the high school, but have had enough width to stripe a median separating the two lanes by a couple of feet, without the delineators,” he said.


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2 Responses to Isn’t bicycling in the opposite direction of traffic illegal?, reader asks

  1. noname says:

    any rider that trusts drivers coming from behind them is suicidal…I’ll ride so that I only have to worry about my safety…

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