Soquel Drive gets Santa Cruz County's first green bike lanes

The first green bike lanes in Santa Cruz County have been painted in Soquel Village. More importantly, a gap in the County bicycle network has been filled with a new bike lane, removing the "suicide squeeze" and dooring hazard along one block.

Where are the green bike lanes?

While riding east on Soquel Drive just before the intersection at Daubenbiss Avenue, bicyclists will notice the bike lane has been painted green between the Metro bus stop and the first travel lane, and has been moved away from the curb, leaving space for buses to pull out.

Soquel Drive eastbound at Daubenbiss

Unfortunately the travel lanes were not narrowed enough to provide sufficient space for buses to easily pull out beyond the green bike lane. A few bus drivers have not yet learned to adjust to the new green bike lane, so they may deliberately block both the bicycle lane and right travel lane in order to easily merge back. Bus drivers should attempt to get their coach as far to the right as possible. Motorists should yield to buses attempting to merge back in. This way bicyclists are less likely to be forced into the right travel lane.

Soquel Drive eastbound at Daubenbiss

If you look carefully, you can see this green bike lane is slightly misaligned with its target bike lane across the intersection. It could be shifted over to left at least one foot or more if the travel lanes were narrowed further.

Soquel Drive eastbound at Daubenbiss Misaligned Bike Lane

This green bike lane guides the bicyclist across the intersection to a new bike lane between Daubenbiss Avenue and Porter Street.

Soquel Drive eastbound just past Daubenbiss

Continuing onward, just before before Porter Street in front of the Ugly Mug Café, the bike lane is painted green to increase its visibility and purpose to all road users.

Soquel Drive eastbound at Porter

Turning around, now while riding west on Soquel Drive, the bike lane is painted green just before Porter Drive.

Soquel Drive westbound at Porter

Continuing on Soquel Drive, the bike lane is painted green just before Daubenbiss Avenue.

Soquel Drive westbound at Daubenbiss

There you have it: Santa Cruz County's first green bike lanes.

How am I supposed to use these new green lanes?

The bike lanes are intended to make it clear to all road users where bicyclists are expected to ride when riding straight ahead. The placement of the bike lanes help make bicyclists more visible to drivers, helping drivers anticipate where bicyclists will ride.

In all situations, drivers of motorized vehicles have a greater responsibility than all other road users because they are operating heavy machinery. They cause a lot more damage to people and property than other road users because of their greater weight and speed.

Drivers should stay out of the bike lanes and not block the direction of travel of bicyclists. When a driver blocks the bike lane with their vehicle, they force bicyclists to ride around them and into the vehicle travel lane.

When turning right, drivers should use their signals, check their right side and rear view mirrors to ensure that the bike lane is clear, and if safe then merge into the bike lane like a normal travel lane to initiate a turn.

When approaching an intersection, bicyclists should use extreme caution when overtaking a moving vehicle on the right side. Drivers often fail to check their right side and rear view mirrors and may "right hook" bicyclists when they turn into the bike lane.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition publishes an excellent visual guide Bike Lanes and Right Turns on how to safely navigate these new green lanes as both bicyclists and motorists approach an intersection, avoiding the treacherous "right hook".

Right Turns and Bike Lanes

Diagram reproduced with the kind written permission of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

A good start and a promise of more to come

These new bikeway road treatments were spearheaded by Santa Cruz County District 1 Supervisor John Leopold. With Leopold's support, both Bike Santa Cruz County and I persistently advocated with the various government agencies to add this segment, moving one crank turn toward completing our County's bicycling network.

Soquel Drive is the primary east-west route for bicyclists between the City of Santa Cruz and Freedom Boulevard. Although these are welcome additions to the County bicycle network, there are still some critical gaps and needs for further improvements in Soquel Village.

Together with Bike Santa Cruz County, I continue to advocate for a contiguous protected bikeway the length of Soquel Drive from La Fonda Avenue to Aptos Village, with priority segments from 41st Avenue through Soquel Village to Capitola Avenue and from Cabrillo College to Aptos Wharf Road. This is especially important where bike lanes are now missing on both sides of Soquel Drive between Main Street and Center Street.

In Fall 2014, AB-1193, the "Bikeways" bill, went into effect. It allows local jurisdictions to implement new designs for protected bikeways that were previously disallowed. A new Class IV bikeway called "cycle tracks" or "separated bikeways" are protected from vehicular traffic by grade separation, flexible posts, inflexible physical barriers, or on-street parking. This law gives bicyclists the opportunity to ride protected from motor vehicles.

In Soquel Village, the following are the most critical gaps in both the pedestrian and bicyclist networks.

  • Porter Street between Soquel Drive and O'Neill Lane, bike lanes and sidewalks missing.
  • Soquel Drive south side between 41st and Daubenbiss, sidewalk missing.
  • Soquel Drive south side between Daubenbiss and Porter, bike lane missing. [Note: gap filled October 2014.]
  • Soquel Drive between Main Street and Center Street both sides, bike lanes missing.
  • Main Street both sides, bike lanes missing.

Because of these gaps, many people do not feel safe walking or riding to the schools and businesses in Soquel Village, and feel compelled to drive their cars, thus adding to traffic congestion.

How to improve walking and bicycling in your neighborhood

Here are some options for getting involved to improve walking and bicycling in your neighborhood.

Updates

December 10, 2014
My County District Supervisor, John Leopold, publicly thanked me for the work I did to help make Soquel Village a safer place to bike and walk. Aw, shucks. Stay classy, John!

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Updates, suggestions and comments regarding this article may be sent to Steve Piercy, web@stevepiercy.com or comment using Disqus.


Written by Steve Piercy in bicycling on Fri, Oct 31, 2014.
Last modified: Wed, Dec 17, 2014
Tags: Bicycling, Soquel Drive, green bike lane

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