What’s Up With Those Green Markings?

Something looks really different about the Livernois bikes lanes than most motorists and cyclists have not seen or experienced in Michigan communities. Bike lanes help cars and motorists co-exist safely. Buffered bike lanes, which is the first type of bike lane in Ferndale, is another level of safety up from a conventional bike lane.

The City of Ferndale recently finished installing new pedestrian and bicycling safety features on Livernois Street that extend into the City of Detroit. I’ve received many questions about what the “green paint patch” on the street means and how do motorists and cyclists navigate these new lane marking features.  I’ve also received questions about why these bike lanes are even necessary because it impedes expedient car travel. I’ll address that question in another blog post. But for now, I explain the purpose of the buffered bike lanes and how to use them, along with the new pedestrian safety crossings.

What’s the difference between a conventional and buffered bike lane?
Buffered bike lanes have striped lines between the vehicle travel lane and the bike lane – as you can see below, they “buffer” the bike riders from auto traffic.

 

Conventional bike lane, Hilton & 9 mile

Conventional bike lane, Hilton & 9 mile

 

Buffered bike lane

Buffered bike lane

 

What safety features were added to the street?
Making space for buffered bike lanes on Livernois required what urban planners call “a road diet”, reducing the number of car travel lanes. Livernois was reduced from five car travel lanes to two without impacting the flow of traffic. For years, on street parking was not allowed, however, business owners could request city council to grant them the ability to park on the street. It no longer made sense to grant parking waivers on an ad-hoc basis because a majority of business owners wanted on-street parking. As part of this project, the City included white striping to indicate that on-street parking is allowed and encouraged. In addition, pedestrians had very few safe places to cross the five lane road. Now we have signaled pedestrian walk ways, or mid-block crossings with highly visible “zebra” markings. And of course, on-street bike parking.

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Pedestrian mid-block crossing

What are the green patches?
The green patch indicates “Watch out! A bike could cross here”. Technically, the green patches are called “conflict points” which are designated areas where bicyclists and motorists may meet during travel, and therefore both should excise heightened awareness about the possible presence of one another.
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How do I navigate the Livernois right turn lane onto 8 mile?
At the right turn lane, the green patch indicates the bicyclist will go straight, and then wait at the traffic light. Watch as I approach the intersection.

I’ll explain the rule, then walkthrough what happens in the video.

Rule:  Yield to bicyclist. When turning right, motorists need to yield to bicyclists going straight.

In Action: The first car up allows me to pass through the green zone before crossing to the right turn lane. This is correct way to interact with a bicyclist. If the motorist sped ahead to get in front of me, basically cutting me off, then that would be an improper take over.

Rule: Avoid the early merge.

In Action: The second silver Escape enters the right turn lane too soon, crossing well ahead of the dashed lines indicating a safe place to cross the bike lane. Cars are discouraged from crossing over too soon.

Remember bicyclists need to stop at all traffic lights and stop signs.

Biking Across Eight Mile
Eight mile is a scary eight lane nightmare to cross for pedestrians and bicyclists. I bike across this intersection regularly, as do many other cyclists. With simple paint markings, it is now much safer to make your way through this intersection. After crossing over into Livernois on the Detroit side, the buffered bike lanes end and the bike sharrows begin. The street width on Detroit’s side of Livernois is narrower than in Ferndale, thus the need for bike sharrows. I love this project because Ferndale City Council believes in making stronger connections to our neighboring communities, including Detroit. While I have bigger design visions for our Eight Mile border crossings, simple paint markings go a long way here to strengthen our connectivity.

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On the same day viewing the Tour De France this late July, I watched through my car window while approaching Livernois, a large group of hard core cyclists biked through the Fielding and LIvernois intersection. A smile crept to my lips, as I watched in awe that the local “Peloton”, approximately 20-30 enthusiastic cyclists, moved through our community. They chose Livernois as a preferred street to bike.  I’ve also seen an increase in the number of parents on bikes pulling their kids in trailers because they feel safer on the buffered lanes. While the benefits are visibly immediate, the impact on the neighborhoods, businesses and community will be longer term–higher real estate value and more desirable place to live and start a business.

citations:
What Every Michigan Driver Should Know About Bike Lanes, Michigan Secretary of State.
National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Bike Lane Design Guide
Ferndale Moves Livernois Street web page

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