MOVE OVER OR SLOW DOWN, a good safety message

In my new hometown of Prescott, Arizona, I’ve gone exploring looking for good and bad places to ride my bicycle.

I found a really bad place: a narrow bike lane on a hilly multi-lane road, Willow Creek Road. The bike lane confines cyclists to their own little ghetto while traffic rushes by, inches from the left elbow. There are many intersections which invite right hook collisions and collisions from poor sight lines. A steep 6% downhill run just ahead allows cyclists to coast approaching the speed limit of 40 mph, at which speed one should not be occupying a narrow bike lane, next to motorists who are ignoring you.

One irony is that this road has a “Move over or slow down” sign to encourage respect for the safety of emergency workers (top photo). But the bike lane tells motorists to do the opposite for cyclists: ignore the cyclists in the bike lane and buzz by at full speed. WillowCr BL

Many motorists don’t even see a cyclist riding in the gutter. The motorist sees only traffic in his own lane. You can see this from the photo I took while riding in the bike lane. Notice how the trucks are passing uncomfortably close. Some motorists pass even closer.

Worse, the bike lane is striped right into intersections. This encourages motorists preparing to make a right turn to stay to the left and then to cut across the cyclist’s path. We call this a “coffin corner” intersection. The hazard is more severe on a downhill run where a cyclist will be going fast (2nd photo). Note, however, I was not riding in that bike lane at that speed.

Hazards-Prescott Lakes Pkwy There may be a much more dangerous bike lane in Prescott. This one goes down a 7% grade on Prescott Lakes Pkwy. to a coffin corner intersection with SR 89 at the bottom of the hill. The hazards are shown in the set of three photos at right. Note at the intersection (bottom photo), the bike lane is to the right of a right-turn only lane. This violates the mandates of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the AASHTO Guide

This may not be a real bike lane, although most people will assume it is. The city’s “Trails and Outdoor Recreation Map” shows Prescott Lakes Pkwy (and Willow Creek Road) as having bikelanes. However, there are no signs or pavement markings designating a bike lane, thus it may actually be just a shoulder. But still, it is an “attractive nuisance” that could cause serious or fatal injuries.

Update: Later in the summer, bike lane markings were added to Prescott Lakes Pkwy.

Update fall 2017: The bike lane lines on Prescott Lakes Pkwy. were moved to the left of the right-turn lane. This is an improvement but the hill on this road is still much too steep for segregated bike lanes downhill. And Willow Creek Rd. still has bike lanes on a 6% downhill.

A much better way to encourage bicycling is to encourage assertive safety practices. Rather than shoehorning bicycle traffic into four or five feet at the edge of the road, cyclists should be encouraged to use the full lane where this improves their safety, especially near intersections and on downhill runs. For more information on assertive safety practices, see Prevention.

Rather than bike lane signs and pavement markings, “May Use Full Lane” signs will encourage these assertive safety practices (bottom image). A much better use for paint on the roadway is to mark traffic light vehicle detectors (after first testing and adjusting them). R4-11-sm.gif

Further information about the hazards of bike lanes on downhill roads is given in Why downhill bike lanes are dangerous

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4 Responses to MOVE OVER OR SLOW DOWN, a good safety message

  1. Frank says:

    Regarding the sign:

    There are situations where I think that the word “MAY” should be replaced by the word “SHOULD” or even “MUST.” The approach to our new roundabout (our county’s first) is an example. Your 7% downhill is another.

    But I understand there’s little chance of getting that approved in the MUTCD. :-/

  2. Fred says:

    Actually, I would prefer removing the word “may” and putting “Use Full Lane” on a yellow “warning” sign instead of a white “regulatory” sign. This would then become good advice for bicycle drivers. Unfortunately, you are likely correct that “may” is the best we can hope for.

  3. Wayne Pein says:

    What engineer decided to have a Bike Lane for 40 mph bicyclists narrower than walking pedestrians who aren’t being blown around on two wheels!

  4. Fred says:

    I’m tempted to reply that the City of Prescott wants to be “bicycle friendly” even if it means creating hazards. The real problem is the city engineers did not think of the hazards and of course, the bicycle facility industry (including LAB and its “bicycle friendly” program) deliberately ignore these hazards.

    I’m hoping that my bringing these safety issues to their attention will result in correcting (or at least mitigating) the hazards. Your article at is very handy. Maybe it can bring them to their senses.


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