Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Rant: When Something is Under Construction, Why Is It That the Bike Lane is the First to Go?

I was on US 41 a few weeks ago, going south from Ft. Myers, when I came to a few miles of construction. First, of course, they took away the bike lane and the shoulder (which are often one and the same), so now I'm in the car lane.

This is a busy road with few alternatives, so it's not a fun spot for a cyclist. Cars are zipping past my shoulder, not slowing down a bit for the construction zone. This is probably because -- like most construction zones -- there ain't much construction. It's easier to do massive construction projects like the US 41 expansion in big chunks, and this one is almost five miles. The workers were in one spot that day, working with a couple of backhoes.

So, my three lanes of southbound cars and a bike lane have become two lanes of southbound cars and one dumb son-a-gun on a bike. The posted speed limit went from 55 mph to 35 mph, but cars usually do 60 mph on this stretch and the only concession that they are making for the construction is to now slow down to 55 mph ... and to watch out for cops.

Basically, we're still pushing 100 gallons per minute through the pipe, but the pipe is now a garden hose. In case you don't know, that's a good way to scrape the plaque off the inner walls of a hose. And, in this analogy, I'm the plaque.

Then we get to the mile that's really under construction -- where the guys with the backhoes are -- and we go to one lane. The cars slow down now, since otherwise they would hit one another, so we're now doing 45 mph.

The garden hose is a straw. Which, for me, really sucks.

A couple of miles later, the construction ended and my bike lane returned. I was able to ride blithely on, just having to be ever wary of crap in my lane and people turning across it and not watching out. In other words, the usual deadly things.

The bike lane was there before and after the construction, so why can't the powers that be consider that -- logically -- cyclists might be traveling in that lane? They could at least put in a sign before the construction saying "Cyclists: Bike Lane Gone in Construction." Even better would be to identify a bike detour and put out signs for that, or post signs to cars telling to share the road with us.

Of course, the best solution would be to build the new bike lane or multi-use trail before they begin tearing up the road. Then cyclists would be able to cruise through the construction, and maybe folks in cars would see this while they're stopped waiting for a backhoe to cross the road and think, "Hunh. I've got a bike, and I'm only going a couple of miles."

Until then, however, I'm going to keep doing what I did on US 41. When we went to one lane where the backhoes were, I took that lane. For almost half a mile, there were a bunch of cars stacked up behind me doing just over 20 mph. When the road finally widened, they were able to get past, and they all honked and yelled encouragement to me for my bravery and ecological sensitivity.

At least, I think that's what they were yelling. It was hard to hear over the backhoes.


  1. And why is it that the signage for Bike Routes never gets replaced?!

    1. Don't get me started on the roads that state governments consider to be on "Bike Routes." That's a whole new rant.