Driver walks the line with bike lanes
Dear Answer Man, please educate me on the new bike lanes that are marked on U.S. 14 (12th Street Southeast), also known as the Beltline. If I'm driving west in a car on 12th Street and want to make a right turn onto Third Avenue Southeast, the right turn lane is clearly marked with a sign and dashed white lines on the pavement, telling me that I can cross over the bike lane to make my turn. What about at other intersections where there are no signs and the bike lane is marked with a solid white line? May I carefully use the bike lane as a right turn lane, crossing over the solid line? Thank you much! — A Faithful Reader
If every driver was as careful as my Faithful Reader, we'd have a lot fewer accidents. I was talking with John Wellner, infrastructure manager with the city's public works department, about this and one of the key points to remember is, "Bicycles have as much right to be on city streets as cars do. That's the truth...they're allowed on any city street," and the bike lanes on some streets are simply gravy for bicyclists.
Those new lanes painted along 12th Street do seem to promise more protection for bikers than they give, but the goal is to improve safety. Regarding the dashed white lanes at intersections, yes, it's OK for cars to cross those to make a right turn, giving the right of way to bicyclists who might be in the lane, and where it's a solid line, I'd assume you shouldn't cross it, as per solid lines on highways.
As my loyal readers know, I'm cautious to a fault and a true skeptic, which leads me to this opinion: Bicyclists should avoid streets such as the Beltline. There are plenty of other east-west streets to choose from, and it's smart to minimize your time on high-traffic streets, where one mistake by a driver who's not paying attention could change your life.
On an unrelated but interesting note, the regional Better Business Bureau has put out a consumer alert about a St. Paul company, Green Tire Bikes , that sells bicycles online and offers service and repairs. The BBB says they've had more than two dozen complaints within the past month from people who say they haven't received merchandise, can't get a response from the company and other problems.
The company gets an F from the BBB currently. Let the biker and buyer beware.