Oncoming Cars Share a Lane and Yield to Bikes in Weird Michigan Road Pilot
Asking drivers to yield to cyclists rarely ends well.
Kalamazoo might sound like a funny, made-up place, but it's a very real town in Michigan. It's also got some very weird ideas about how bikes and cars should share the road.
As reported by M Live, the city is pushing forward with its "Edge Lane Road" design for Winchell Avenue, west of Rambling Road. According to the city's project report, this will involve cars traveling in both directions sharing a single 12-foot center lane. Bike lanes will flank the central lane, allowing cyclists to pass in either direction, while a 7-foot parking lane will sit on the south side of the street. The design was put to a public demonstration on July 25, with the road due to be repaved and remarked around August 8.
You read that correctly—cars traveling in opposing directions are supposed to use the same lane. Hilariously, in the event two cars come from opposite directions, the drivers are expected to pass using the bike lanes. If there are bikes present, the drivers are expected to yield to the bikes until they can safely pass the cyclists and each other.
As reported earlier this year, Kalamazoo City traffic engineer Dennis Randolph explained the reasoning behind the decision. The prime goal was to create a traffic-calming effect to encourage drivers to stick to the 25 mph speed limit. The other goal was to create parking spaces for a nearby reserve.
The city's demonstration doesn't do a lot to inspire confidence. In the demo, we see a driver giving a wide berth to the opposing traffic, while they pass dangerously close to the back wheel of the bike in front.
It's a concerning design, overall. If there's one thing that a huge number of drivers hate, it's having to yield to cyclists. Forcing drivers to do so tends to generate frustration and anger, and tends to inspire dangerous driving. Bikes are also less visible than most other road users. It's easy to imagine an unattentive driver plowing right through an unseen cyclist when trying to pass another car in a hurry.
Beyond that, injuries and fatalities are far too common where the two forms of traffic interact, with numbers on the rise across the country. Fully-separated bike lanes are the gold standard for protection. Regardless, like in this case, the best most cyclists can expect is a near-meaningless painted line on the side of the road.
Given the "Cars Uber Alles" ethos of many drivers on the road, we wouldn't hold high hopes for the Kalamazoo plan. In any case, the city is forging ahead with a one-year pilot, come what may. Here's hoping that extra parking is worth it.
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