Posted by Bill Sellin
Every week it seems a few more Right Turn lanes are getting a new look: Irvine has been narrowing wide right turn only lanes and adding a segment of Bike Lane on the left. Just this Tuesday (May 30) Walnut was being restriped at the RTOL for the NB 261 & Jamboree. Much of Harvard & Alton have been done & Sand Canyon & Irvine Blvd are already marked up for changes...
This modernization of Bike Lanes is approaching the current national standard for treating Bike Lanes that are crossed by right turn only lanes. The old design common in Irvine kept the bike lane 'trapped' along the gutter of the RTOL (Right Turn Only Lane) - usually dashed and served by a curbside green signal button to give the cyclist a green light. The obvious problem here - and why they are no longer recommended - is that right turning traffic are in a direct conflict with strait riding bicycles... and it is illegal to go straight from a RTOL. Most of these trapped bike lanes have been pointed out to the City and have been ground off - but that means the Bike Lane vanishes somewhere before where every RTOL begins. There is an answer in modern design standards.
Road Cyclists know that it is legal, predictable and expected that when the Bike Lane is ending, it is time to merge into traffic & use the right most through lane. As always, if the through lane is too narrow to allow a truck + 3 feet for you, you should ‘take the lane’ & safely claim it to avoid unsafe passing or side-by-side sharing by motorists. Filtering up on the blind side of vehicles puts you at risk for motorists who may turn right from the through lane – without warning or blinker - so it is always best to get in line behind others already waiting at a signal or in line for a STOP.
Edge Cyclists depend on staying as far right as possible - and still follow the gutter - baited by that green light button, and continue to be at risk of 'right hook' turns and violating the law by going straight from the RTOL. If you are an edge rider, best & legal option is to get up on the corner & act like a pedestrian - cautiously (check for traffic, dismount & walk your bike to be clearly a pedestrian) using cross walk to go straight across the path of turning traffic.
Untrained Cyclists are seen on every ride, moving to the left half of the RTOL then proceeding straight. This 'corks up' the traffic turning right from the RTOL - and is illegal to go straight from the RTOL. Some will straddle the lanes, filtering up on through traffic and making RTOL users wonder what to do...
Now that the Bike Lane is being provided, there is no doubt where we should be. The new segments being painted clarify where to be: and with the camera detection system - as long as you stop behind the limit line as you should, you don't need to push that button on the curb.
If there is not enough room to narrow the RTOL lane & provide a Bike Lane, than you should see the RTOL being removed and the WIDE Bike Lane should be dashed and turning traffic should merge into our Bike Lane (in the last 200') to turn right.
This is a big improvement - and almost meets the modern standards - but it only applies to Bike Lanes where a RTOL exist... If there is no right only turn lane, the Bike Lane should become dashed in the last 200' to remind riders that motorist are SUPPOSED to merge into the Bike lane to turn right, as the law requires turning right from the lane closest to the right edge - This is actually to protect cyclist from being 'right hooked' by over taking motorists turning across our path from the through lane. Merging, by law requires those turning motorists to signal, and move into our bike lane without impeding our movement - so they should merge in behind us if we are already there...
It is not required, but it is allowed, safer and a courtesy to turning traffic that we merge out of a Bike Lane & into the through travel lane to allow turning to our right. This also positions us to block right hooking turns by those who do not know to use the Bike Lane ( or may be confused by Irvine's continued use of the archaic and non-standard "BIKE ONLY" markings; That was how the first Bike Lanes were marked in 1971 but California has realized it is better to use BIKE LANE and acknowledge that vehicles will be safer when they use the right most lane by dashing the last 200').
So Irvine is not quite up to the modern standards - the federal MUTCD shows what California DOT sees as the standard treatment - we ride in these configurations often in Newport Beach: Note the dotted merge zone & R4-4 signs that alert motorists that they are crossing a Class II Bike Lane path of travel, and guide the cyclist to get out of the RTOL. They also do not dash the Bike Lane before the RTOL begins and often go a step farther by painting a buffer along the bike lane - discouraging motorists from entering the Bike Lane before the RTOL begins.
An even more progressive standard is offered by the NACTO guide; and that is what we see now going in on Santa Ana streets and other "Bicycle Friendly" cities:
Irvine's 'On Street Bike Trails' as they are called in the General Plan, are not perfect, and do not comply with California Class II Bike Lane standards - but they are getting better.
Irvine is getting closer to a modern standard with these new lanes and as traffic continues to increase, improved Bike Lanes can make it safer and less stressful for all road users.
We may never get up to green paint, but we could at least get as good as Newport Beach. Learning how to properly use the road as cyclists makes all traffic safer and more efficient; You can learn a lot about bikeway design and help city traffic engineers (as well as OCTA & CalTrans) do a better job of providing consistent and predictable traffic management.