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Monday, October 31, 2005
“Stay within the lines” is easy enough to figure out.
But other than that, it may take some teaching for the public to learn all the ins and outs of using bicycle lanes.
Although new bike lanes have been striped in southwest Amarillo since June, the city has yet to launch a public education campaign, preferring to wait until signs explaining the lanes also were installed.
Those signs are going up, so the city is gearing up to start educating bicyclists and motorists on how to use the lanes.
“We felt that it was going to be difficult,” said Lyndy Forrester, community relations director, “to really educate the community on the proper use of the bike lanes if we didn’t have the signs installed and the emblems down so that people would know what the lanes were.”
In the next couple of weeks, Forrester will put together a pamphlet on bicycle lanes that can be distributed at bicycle shops, gyms and other areas accessible to the public, she said.
The city also will work with the Texas Bicycle Coalition, Amarillo Independent School District and defensive driving programs to teach bike-lane use to school children and adult drivers, she said. The December water bill may include bike-lane information in the city newsletter, she said.
“Any type of new system that’s laid down over an existing system needs an educational campaign,” said Paul Douglas, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Texas Department of Transportation.
Communities also have to determine a set of rules for using the bike lanes, because the state Transportation Code doesn’t cover them, he said.
In July 2003, the City Commission adopted rules for bike-lane use in anticipation of the system’s eventual installation.
The city began striping the first lanes in southwest Amarillo in Juner. In the next three years, the bike lane system will be installed throughout Amarillo.
Meanwhile, the city traffic engineering department continues with the sign placement. Twenty-five signs indicating a bicycle lane is ahead have gone up in the southwest quadrant, said Taylor Withrow, city traffic engineer.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kenneth Graham has argued for also installing a companion sign panel that tells motorists and bicyclists which lanes are for driving, bike riding and car parking. Only six of those have gone up, Withrow said.
He said the standard 11-foot poles used for the bike-lane signs aren’t tall enough for two panels. So the lane-use signs were put on separate poles that previously featured plain parking signs, he said.
“There’ll be a few more in the area we’re doing this year, but not many,” Withrow said. “We’re running into practical problems putting them into the field.”
The city’s municipal code includes the following ordinances on bicycle operation and bike lane use, among others:
Where bicycle lanes exist, bicyclists shall use the lanes, not the roadway, except in the following cases:
(1) the bicyclist is making a left turn in compliance with Texas traffic regulations;
(2) entry into the roadway is necessary due to an obstruction in the bicycle lane or path; or
(3) other circumstances exist that require the bicyclist to enter the roadway to preserve the safety of the rider or another.
Bicycle riders on public roadways that do not have a designated bicycle lane shall comply with Texas state laws applicable to motor vehicles. No one shall operate a bicycle on or across the freeway lanes of any expressway.
Bicyclists shall ride at reasonable and prudent speeds under the existing conditions, and never faster than the posted speed limit.
Riding bicycles on sidewalks in business districts is prohibited. When riding a bicycle on a sidewalk elsewhere, a bicyclist shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.
Copyright Amarillo Globe-News; full article reprinted with permission.