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Rotaries stymie bike-lane planners

The Jamaica Plain Gazette reports the city will paint bike lanes from the Monument down Centre Street all the way to the beginning of the VFW Parkway - except through the large rotary where the Arborway comes in - because rotaries are just too risky for bicylists, who are advised to use the sidewalks around them.

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Yet another reason to get rid of rotaries and install lights. As a pedestrian, rotaries are death traps. The only purpose of them is to increase car/truck speed, at the expense/safety of pedestrians. They generally require multiple crossings for pedestrians to get across 1 road, and since police in Boston don't enforce traffic laws, cars/trucks never stop, so its more of a frogger game.

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rotaries/roundabouts are apparently often safer per passenger mile traveled than intersections. I have to admit that this has always seemed strange to me given the idiotic behaviour i often see in rotaries, but the Federal Highway Administration has been tracking this for years and has plenty of data to back it up.

Obviously though, relative safety is going to be very dependent on the particular characteristics of each rotary. I think the one in question in JP would actually be much safer if the signage on the west-bound approach was improved. At least half of the bonehead moves I witness in that rotary are from people who want to go out the 203/Forest Hills/Mattapan exit, but have not taken the appropriate 'inner' track for that up at the pond. Instead they hug the right hand lane and then try to cut across - not only the cars just to their left who are going west on Centre, but the cars (with right of way!) coming around the rotary and exiting onto Centre-westbound as well!

(though the absolute worst move I ever witnessed in the JP rotary was a young woman who entered from Centre heading east, missed the turnoff to Forest Hills, then stopped and backed up!. It was a miracle that no one crushed her or had an accident avoiding her.)

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Will the sidewalks be wide enough? Will crosswalks and pedestrian crossing lights be enforced? Will the sidewalks even be passible?

I'm doubting on all counts. Just put in some traffic calming to slow traffic and include bike lanes. It really isn't hard - I've seen it done in the Laurelhurst district of Portland Oregon.

God forbid people slow down and ... um ... yield?

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Sadly, they'll never work here. Berkeley, Eugene and Portland are a dream to ride with the barricades and bike lanes, but our city's cowpath layout and slapdash approach to one-way streets are a huge obstacle.

The circle at Centre and the J-Way definitely doesn't have the sidewalk infrastructure to get a bike across in any expedient amount of time. Even when you do cross, you still have to cross Centre Street again just to get into the correct lane. Traffic circles are outdated nightmares.

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I was citing an example that I had navigated recently to demonstrate that it IS POSSIBLE to refit a rotary for bike and car use.

However, but the far more worthy examples are in Europe. Yes, Europe - in cities that make our "cow path old city give up fail can't do it here" attitude toward improving the situation look downright silly.

Some of these more ancient than Boston cities with more narrow roads and more medieval layouts and higher latitudes actually have a majority of trips taken by bike!

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They aren't putting bike lanes through the rotary because they aren't allowed to, which the Gazette article says. The designer actually said that the city is encouraging cyclists to use the sidewalks, unless they're comfortable riding through the rotary, which the Gazette article doesn't say.

Yes the sidewalks are wide enough and passable. There are lights. Off the top of my head, I can't tell you of the condition of the paint in the crosswalks. I've been around the circle on my bike both on the sidewalks, and riding around the rotary, and haven't had a problem.

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It's really not too bad to bike through that, I've done it many times without incident. I can see, though, how bike lanes might confuse things, but perhaps sharows would be a good idea?

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I also tend to find that the best way to handle rotaries on a bike is to ride with the car traffic. But most drivers don't seem to understand what sharrows mean.

How about signs that say, "Bikes use full lane"?

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are conceptually good, but the execution is not. I agree with you completely. People don't know what they are, or how to read them. I'd love something that is more obvious and clear. The main point to me, though, is that the safest way for a bike to navigate a rotary is by taking the lane, so that you are fully visible to the cars. I don't trust cars to see me in a crosswalk.

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Something nice and big like the one in the picture in this article should do

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/bottleneck/2008/06...

Just repeat in frequent intervals all around the rotary in the outermost lane. And maybe accompany with some Share the Road signs.

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at these rotaries because the drivers are being distracted by all these unnecessary signs and markings?

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Ha ha ha ha ha. Good one. "Unnecessary signs" are a "distraction". That explains a lot about Boston signage practices. Thanks for a laff.

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You can't just put up more signs and think that makes drivers more aware. Especially in areas where there are so many distractions as it is.

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The closest I've ever come to being hit on my bicycle was in a rotary. On my bright yellow bike while signaling that I'm going to be continuing around the rotary, I had a car come into the rotary and if I hadn't stopped in time I would have t-boned them.

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As someone who passes through there every day, I find it a lot safer to bike through that rotary than to go around it on the sidewalks. I have come very close to being hit several times, mostly while crossing the Arborway crosswalk.

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The sidewalks around that rotary are plenty wide enough to accomodate this. I've crossed through there many times on foot and people in cars are ususally very courteous to people trying to cross. I frequently bike around JP/Roslindale/West Roxbury/Brookine, which are home to several rotarys and I personally think that puting bike lanes around the rotarys would only encourage people on bikes to be careless in going around them. It would be great to have real bike lanes from the VFW to Centre Street.

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I don't see the problem doing this. Put the bikes in bike lanes on the sidewalk and force them to stop/yield to traffic.

Bikes are bikes, and cars are cars. A little extra safety step in a rotary seems prudent for cyclists.

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Force the bikes to stop? How? By putting special signs at the crosswalks that say that bikes must stop for cars, but pedestrians have the right of way?

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Because that's what your "suggestion" would take - aside from being foolish and dangerous.

Why not make the situation safer for all users and put in speed humps and other "slow down dammit" traffic calming measures.

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It's illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk anywhere in the city of Boston. Authorities who encourage cyclists to ride on a sidewalk in JP are encouraging cyclists to break the law.

http://www.cityofboston.gov/Images_Documents/Traff...

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"It's illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk anywhere in the city of Boston."

Wrong. It's illegal to ride them in business districts.

The PDF you linked to doesn't contain anything about bicycles on sidewalks.

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Sure it does. Look at page 21:

"Section 18. Driving on Sidewalks
The driver of a vehicle shall not drive on or over any sidewalk except at a permanent or temporary driveway. The driver of a vehicle, prior to driving on or over any such driveway, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian approaching within five (5’) feet of such driveway."

Now go look at the definition of "vehicle" on page 3

"Vehicle. Every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a street or highway, including bicycles, when the provisions of these Rules are applicable to them, except devices moved by human power, devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks, and devices deriving their power for operation from stationary overhead wires. "

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Although I agree that people should try to chill out while driving, this rotary is on a parkway, which is, like it or not, designed to be a higher-speed road to move volume from point A to point B. I tend to agree that on roads and streets where traffic is not supposed to be going fast, it makes sense to put in traffic calming measures so people don't treat them like high/er speed roads. However, that isn't what the parkways are intended for. The bike lane is a good idea because there isn't a dedicated bike path for cylsits on this stretch and the bike lane at least creates a space where people in cars should know that there may be people on bikes and therefore it makes these roads accessible. As currently configured, the Arborway and Centre Street to the VFW Parkway is not safe to bike on.

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... were designed for speed -- they were generally intended for _slower_ driving around scenic areas, I believe.

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The Jamaicaway and Arborway were designed to carry traffic, not to be carriage roads through parks, like the roads through the Arboretum. The West Roxbury and V.F.W. parkways were designed to be automotive roads with some greenery.

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In his day there were no automobiles. The parkways were for horses and carraiges.

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Come on, Ron - do you think carriages were used for entertainment in the late 19th Century? Carriages were the automobiles of their day. The fact that all the residential roads along the Jamaicaway and Arborway connect to those roads should tell you something. Those parkways were always intended to carry normal traffic. The only exception was that they kept commercial traffic off the parkways. When automobiles came along, it was natural that they should use the parkways.

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Except, carriages don't go nearly as fast as cars. So yes, while they may have been designed to carry "normal traffic" at the time, that's very different than normal traffic now.

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Painting a white stripe to the right of a road designed for high-speed motor vehicle traffic is just inviting fatal collisions, especially on a rotary, where cars will exit right into cyclists' paths. Why not just slow everything down? Is convenience now more important than safety?

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just like the cars yield. A rotary on a bike is no different from a rotary on a car:

  • slow as you approach
  • note any vehicles in the rotary to your left
  • allow such vehicles to pass
  • pull in to the rotary behind such vehicles
  • exit at the appropriate spoke

It's really not hard, and works quite well if you follow these steps.

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Another aspect is signals (and keeping next to the outer lane). Whether I'm cycling or driving, I always make my intentions clear. Rotaries are, after all, roads, and require signals.

For crying out loud in a bucket, as my mother used to say, make a damned signal when you are exiting. Avoid the horns and crashes!

On a cycle, I point my arm straight and obvious when I'm leaving the rotary. Drivers need to (and are legally required to) do the same.

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Another aspect is signals (and keeping next to the outer lane). Whether I'm cycling or driving, I always make my intentions clear. Rotaries are, after all, roads, and require signals.

For crying out loud in a bucket, as my mother used to say, make a damned signal when you are exiting. Avoid the horns and crashes!

On a cycle, I point my arm straight and obvious when I'm leaving the rotary. Drivers need to (and are legally required to) do the same.

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Because everyone is going to make a right turn. And sometimes the right turns are pretty close to one another and people like to take them from the inside lane sometimes.

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I'll bet that 97 of 100 drivers do not signal a rotary exit. They tend to swerve suddenly and live out the MA stereotype of not signaling so you don't give your enemy any advance information. There's no trick. Signal before the turn, like the law requires. Give vehicle operators a break, says I.

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but I get your point.

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with bikes and rotaries (and I've investigated several bike crashes in rotaries), is that once a bike slows down to yield at a rotary and then enters, vehicles can catch up to that bike and pass them (legally) on the left. Then when the vehicle wants to exit the rotary it might be making an exit before of after the bike wants to exit. Once the vehicle passes the bike in the rotary, does the bike have to slow down for the vehicle to make their exit? What if the bike wants to ride in the left lane and a vehicle catches up in the right lane? Who gets to exit first then?

Then there are times where vehicles are in the rotaries first, but the bike can catch up because the vehicle traffic is slow, and the vehicle does not see the bike as the vehicle exits, even though the vehicle was in the rotary first. The vehicle is in the furthest right lane they can travel in, and might make an exit at point where a bike that caught up to the vehicle in the far right lane doesn't want to exit.

Many rotaries can handle 2 lanes of traffic and a bike, although they are rarely marked. Often times during rush hours these rotaries have people that use them every day and know which lane to stay in and exit in. Marking rotaries is tough, because some rotaries make it easy to have two lanes of traffic come in and leave at the same exit. I travel through Brookline pretty much every day, and there is a rotary near the shops at putterham. Vehicles come in two lanes from Grove St, and then most of them leave on Grove St with some of them entering from the West Roxbury Parkway in the right lane. Anyway, everyone seems to be on the same page that vehicles in the left lane will exit in the left lane at Grove St. Vehicles in the Right lane never go fully around the rotary to the West Roxbury Parkway, they simply exit on Grove St. Hard to explain, but I always wondered why there aren't more crashes there, but I also wonder how much more traffic there would be if there were lights there.

I dunno. I love rotaries.

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Legally there is only one lane in rotaries, so the car on your left has no legal right to pass you. Of course they do anyway. When I see a car coming up behind me, making a left turn signal indicates that I'm going to stay in the rotary. I've never had anybody cut me off when I signal like that.

If I'm already in the rotary, I'll make eye contact with anybody approaching from a side road and keep on going. Like all cars in a rotary I have the right of way and drivers almost always respect that.

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although it doesn't have bike lanes striped through it. It also has signaled crosswalks for pedestrians.

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but that is probably because I ride my bike as if I were driving my car (and in a rotary, that means at the same speed as the automobile traffic). I find that this gives the other users of the road less to think about, which is a good thing, since they are usually not thinking very much at all.

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I take the lane in rotaries, but I simply can't go as fast as a car. The front basket filled with bricks with printouts of Massachusetts bike laws wrapped around them makes my bike really heavy.

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