Cleveland Traffic Engineer Puts Buffer on the Wrong Side of the Bike Lane

This Cleveland cyclist hasn't gotten the memo about how biking in traffic is
At the behest of a not-very-forward-thinking traffic engineer, Cleveland has been installing buffered bike lanes backwards.
Cleveland is finally installing buffered bike lanes along some major streets, but with the buffer between the bike lane and the curb, not between the bike lane and traffic.

At first, many people thought this design was a mistake. But it has now been painted on two streets at the behest of Cleveland’s traffic engineer, Andy Cross. Local blog GreenCityBlueLake reports that Cross told advocacy group Bike Cleveland (disclosure: my husband sits on the board and I did for several years as well) the design was a “best practice” to prevent right hook collisions, in which a turning driver strikes a cyclist proceeding straight.

In an email to Bike Cleveland, Cross haughtily slammed the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ designs for buffered and protected bike lanes — which are endorsed by the Federal Highway Administration.

“The terms ‘best practices’ and ‘protected’ are often used with what is shown in the NACTO guide,” Cross wrote. “A design that encourages or requires hook turns across the path of through cyclists is neither a ‘best practice’ nor ‘protected.'”

The decision to put the buffer next to the curb is so unconventional that advocates think it was lifted not from a design manual but from, a website that espouses vehicular cycling.

While Cleveland is accelerating its rate of bike lane installation, Cross’s penchant for ineffective design threatens to sabotage the usefulness of the new infrastructure.

215 thoughts on Cleveland Traffic Engineer Puts Buffer on the Wrong Side of the Bike Lane

  1. “It never seems to occur to you, and other vehicle cycling advocates, that reducing or eliminating the odds of hitting a parked car door or right hooks by motorists by riding directly in front of high speed motor vehicles would be increasing the opportunity for motor vehicles to collide with bicycle riders at much higher speeds.” You criticize conjecture, but practice it almost exclusively! How many objects directly in front of you and moving in a predictable manner do you collide with in a given year? The dynamic you paint would perhaps be valid if we all motored/cycled around with our eyes shut. But we don’t. What we can observe is how our cycling behaviors do and do not contribute to creating conflicts with other operators in traffic, whether through our errors or others’ errors.

  2. There are about 32,000 motor vehicle involved collisions reported by the LAPD every year in the city of Los Angeles. Those are mostly collisions involving personal injury. These projectiles are hitting what’s in front of them because that’s generally the direction that they are traveling in to cause injuries. Human beings make errors. Traveling slowly on a bicycle directly in the path of where human beings are driving 3,000 motor vehicles at a high rate of speed does not ensure that they can’t make a mistake and hit you.

  3. There are over 32,000 motor vehicle involved collisions that mainly involve personal injury reported by the LAPD every year. Most of these vehicles are traveling exactly where you claim that no bicycle collisions occur. It’s completely illogical that bicycle riders would be exempt from getting involved in any of these collisions while riding where these collisions occur. Are you so delusional that you believe there is a aura of invincibility just because you ride a bicycle?

    Motorcyclists ride exactly where you believe its safest for bicycle riders. There were no more than 106 motor vehicle fatalities reported by the LAPD in the city of Los Angeles in 2014. Motorcyclists were 35 of those fatalities. There were only 6 bicycling fatalities. Motorcycling fatalities were 5.8 times more than bicycling fatalities.

  4. I know arguing with a VC’er is like trying to convince a baby the object behind my hand still exists, but here goes.
    “Watch the truck not not even attempt to pass me” The truck was way behind you. It wasn’t going to pass you. It never got close enough.
    “Watch him (the truck) pass the cyclist (I refuse to call him an ‘edge cyclist’) that I pull away from, then right hook him” The truck turned in front of the cyclist. There was no crash.
    “I’m to the right to allow passes” And he passes close by. Doesn’t seem all that safe.
    And this last doozy.
    “You can see the orange car behind me abort a pass then turn
    right. Had I been at the edge he would have passed then right hooked
    me.” The car turned because THAT’S WHERE IT WAS GOING. He wasn’t going to pass you because that was his turn.
    Delusional, much?
    That normal bike rider (not ‘edge cyclist’, you bike shamer) was going pretty slow, probably a third of your speed. Not much danger of a collision there. Crashes happen when the passing car misjudges the bike’s speed, and the bike rider can’t stop in time. So if you ride like a crazy person (speeding, unaware of what’s around you), you’re going to have a lot of accidents. You think your lane-taking rigamarole is going to save you? So you ride in the center. So what? If a car wants to turn, what’s to stop them from passing you and turning in front of you/cut you off?
    The only thing that will save your ass is to be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to take action (brake, turn, whatever). Depending on others’ behavior is folly.

  5. Motor vehicles pass closer to bicycle riders further out in the lane, too close for comfort. See “Evidence from Safety Research to Update Cycling Training Materials in Canada” for citations to the research.

  6. The Cherokee Schill case wasn’t about whether a separate path paralleling US-27 would be a better place to ride a bike than the main lanes. The Cherokee Schill case was about the fact that she had no alternative to the main lanes, that she had every legal right to use them, and that she was wrongfully prosecuted for doing so. And that LAB failed to adequately come to her defense.

    I know a lot of people were not enthused about the lack of support she received from LAB. However, there were a lot of people bristling at LAB suggesting that taking the lane in her situation (i.e. 55 MPH multilane road) is likely not the best possible option even for those who are willing to do such a thing, support or not. Some of them are in the comments in the LAB piece above, but most are in a couple other forums around the Internet. I’m not going digging for them, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to acknowledge that they do exist.

    If your wording here is taken at face value, this statement is self-contradictory: you say first that bicycles shouldn’t be considered vehicles, then that they should. Perhaps you’d like to rewrite for clarity?

    No, I didn’t say that bicycles shouldn’t be considered vehicles, I said that the continued fight for vehicle rights (which aren’t even the same for all motorized vehicles) has ultimately disadvantaged bicyclists far more than they are in places that have focused on bikes as special vehicles. Most of the time, the operating characteristics of a bicycle are not exactly compatible with the operating characteristics of the other vehicles on the road in most road conditions. As such, a lot of the current road environment, even if everyone were perfect drivers and all bicyclists were unafraid to ride in traffic, still isn’t even great for biking. But by arguing that bicycles are the same as other vehicles, the development of facilities optimized toward bikes has never really happened and was indeed vigorously opposed by people more interested in preserving rights.

    That’s in direct contrast to places where bicycles have been considered tools for transportation and included in transportation planning, most effectively in The NLs. That has led to the development of thoroughfares optimized for bicycle travel and resulted in facilities such as this, this, or this. Not only are there far more bicyclists on the streets and a far better safety record, but in direct contrast to here, bicyclists are also respected on the streets and the fight for rights makes little sense. I’ve never been honked at or told to get on the sidewalk while biking on a Dutch street, something which occurs on at least a weekly basis here (and every five minutes in So. Florida). Rights which people are still fighting for all over this country like riding two-abreast are specifically allowed under Dutch law and no one is harassed while doing it.

    What they’re not fighting for is the removal of separated bikeways (unlike the Germans, which is understandable). There are certainly some roads where bicycles are banned, but it hardly matters considering the alternatives and those really are a minority of total roads anyway. Those bans are in line with the policy which guides the development of all Dutch transportation, Sustainable Safety. It was partially alluded to above, but one of the main principles is to separate vehicles of disparate mass and speed. That in turn has meant that the bikeways created are of top quality and more money is being spent on making them even better.

    How do you figure? You’re ascribing godlike powers to one guy. Especially when it comes to people being denied the right to vote. Moreover, *all* bicycling in any context where it’s physically possible for MVs and bicycles to cross paths involves “mixing in traffic”. Surely you don’t want to limit bicycling to velodromes? And claiming that bicyclists “who are willing to ride in the current environment” are not, in fact, willing to ride in the current environment is self-contradictory—and blaming it on Forester is fanciful.

    I’m sure that Forester wasn’t alone in his opposition and isn’t singularly responsible. However, since he likes to take credit for it, it’s not hard to hold him to that claim to fame, which is bolstered by his continued opposition and outlandish remarks to this day. Additionally, it does sound like he apparently did have some pivotal influence in making sure that separated bikeways were kept out of the standards, which then made their way up to AASHTO where they became copy-pasta for a few decades without any further research.

    As a result, those of us biking in the current environment are generally subject to what has resulted in response to the campaign of Forester and others, which is overwhelmingly not the very best biking environment. This is evidenced by the fact that those of us who do use the lane get harassed from all corners, which I certainly don’t prefer to not being harassed. Additionally, most people biking in the current environment do so on sidewalks or near the edge. Until recently, many of those who did speak up and try to make changes that better serve bicyclists were almost always met with the same objection due to the standards that Forester was pivotal in crafting.

    I know and have worked with the main folks at ABEA. You’re entitled to your opinion, but I don’t find your characterization accurate.

    Some of those very same people provided commentary on the LAB piece that I referenced earlier, to say nothing of all their other comments that I’ve seen elsewhere.

    Could you provide a few examples of infrastructure that you consider “good” that the folks at ABEA are “blocking”?

    This one clearly wasn’t blocked, but the separated bikeway on Rosemead Blvd. in Temple City is making a great start, though I’d agree that it needs a couple improvements. However, based on what I’ve seen from many of them elsewhere, their response to a proposal for something like this would not be to make suggestions that would fix the flaws, but to insist that BMUFL signs and sharrows are included in the adjacent travel lanes.

    I’d expect them to have the same demand in conjunction with a bikeway like this or this, both of which are facilities that I’ve seen personally and would consider to be quite good. The list could really be endless, but here’s a great example for what could be done on US-27 that I wouldn’t expect them to support without BMUFLs either:,4.572951,3a,75y,47.44h,67.52t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sHTcLHI_16HRUQaL6bJppZw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

  7. I would like to submit the following pragmatic argument in favor of this design:

    Ohio has a FTR law (4511.55). A bike lane with the buffer on the left side can subject a cyclist to a 4511.55 violation. A faster and/or cyclist who is comfortable near motorists, who rides in the left side buffer can get a violation.

    With this design, the faster/comfortable cyclist can use the bike lane; and the slower cyclist can use the buffer. This design caters to both cyclists without the risk of a 4511.55 violation.

  8. I don’t understand why you are criticizing Andy Cross for the signal timing of the Healthline. I read both your Streetsblog and the articles on this issue and it sounds like higher ups decided to turn off the transit signal priority system. It sounds like Cross and Mavec have been working hard to tweak the signal timing to make it as efficient as possible. It sounds like they are making sure that pedestrians crossing Euclid have enough time to cross. Do YOU think you could do a better job? I doubt it. So lay off the personal attacks on highly-educated, experienced engineers who are doing their jobs.

  9. The LAB have their own faults, and as a result I will not support them. But TS101 does strive to teach skills for cycling on public roads. Infrastructure doesn’t go everywhere, and what has been installed many times is unsafe. At least with TS101 (or CS) you can learn skills to connect those places with infrastructure.

    In what way is that fanatical?

  10. Just becuase there was not a crash does not mean the truck passing the edge cyclist then immeditaly turning was a safe manuver.
    You’re right the truck did pass me too closely, I should have moved over and controlled my lane sooner, instead of trying to let him pass first. Sometimes the timing is tricky, I got it wrong this time and I got a close pass for it.
    I know that is where the car was going. I didn’t say he was going to pass because that was his turn. I said he started to pass then aborted, because of my position. Had I been to the right he would have passed, and becuase he was turning here he would have subsequently right hooked me. You can CLEARLY see that the car was over half way into the left turn lane. His right tires were almost on the lane divider. The only reason to be that far left was to pass me or turn left. As he obviously did not turn left, his intent for being over that far was to pass me. Becuase of my position I left him no time or room to “pass” me then turn. Had I been at the edge he would have attempted the pass, then turned (becuase as you said that’s where they were going) which means you would have right hooked me. Most likely with the speed and timing he would have cuased me to run into his front fender/passenger front door.
    I don’t depend on other’s behovior, hence I do not drive at the edge when it’s unsafe to do so, instead I control my lane. It’s pretty easy to misjudge distance/timing when a cyclist is at the edge. It’s a little harder to misjudge when the cyclist is right in front of you.

  11. There was a piece in Cleveland Scene about the new bike lanes, so I commented on my thoughts after riding them. Here are my thoughts:
    Out of respect for Andrew Cross’ family, who held the funeral of their brother yesterday, I was going to wait to defend him. But I must respond to this story. I biked the bike lanes on Lorain and W 25th last weekend. The placement of the lanes puts them in line to be left of right turn-only pocket lanes and in the proper position for shared bike/right turn-only lanes. The width of the bike lanes provided plenty of space to avoid door zones and to allow overtaking vehicles to pass safely. The buffers are also used to mark locations where on-street parking is prohibited. Did Angie Schmitt, Jacob Van Sickle, Matt Roe and Rob Thompson ride the bike lanes yet? I agree that the City of Cleveland should review bike plans with interested residents. But please don’t blame Andrew Cross for that. He used his engineering judgement and the permission of FHWA to use flexibility in bikeway design to create some safe cycling infrastructure. These bike lanes encourage cyclists to hold their line and avoid swerving and weaving.

  12. I want to add to my opinion on the Health line signal timing. My niece was just hospitalized at Cleveland Clinic for a week. Thank God she had an excellent surgeon who corrected a vascular problem she had. But anyway, I drove my car on the Health line daily during her hospitalization. Pedestrians crossed against the pedestrian signal regularly at the intersection between the parking lot and CC main campus. The only pedestrians who did not were CC staff who are probably mandated by Toby Cosgrove to obey traffic signals, just like they are mandated to avoid cigarettes and overeating. I also saw a motorist turn left on red because he/she was waiting so long when the bus was given priority over other traffic. I’m not objectng that transit has priority, but just observing how difficult it is to keep traffic moving when you try to separate traffic modes.

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