I’ve been riding the West 11th bike trail since it opened, mostly to go to some of my favorite lunch places. It’s been great, modulo the occasional hazards like trash/recycling bins out for collection and delivery trucks or construction vehicles parked there or protruding from a driveway. I had never biked along West 11th before because the two-lanes-each-way vehicular traffic moved far too fast and too recklessly to ever feel safe enough. I’d take one of the side roads, or if I wanted to cross at a light I’d go to White Oak or 14th, depending on what my destination was. The dedicated lane on 11th is a better experience than all of those, and I appreciate being able to cross Studewood at a light as well, as that can be tricky and occasionally death-defying otherwise.
Early on in the path’s existence I set out to take a ride and pause for some pictures along the way, to document the experience. I’m finally getting around to publishing them now – it’s been a busy few weeks in the news, in case you hadn’t noticed – so while the pics themselves are a bit old, I now have more experience to speak from. So come ride along with me, and see what the fuss is about.
The first evidence of what was to become the trail was the painted “bike lane” indicators on Michaux, followed by the installation of a lane divider/crossing path on White Oak. You don’t see it as much now, but in the first few weeks it was common to see people approaching this intersection, from either street, and only realizing upon arriving there that they can’t turn left. When it happened to me, I made the forced right, then turned left on Norhill onto Usener, left onto Usener, and left again onto Michaux, and then finally right onto White Oak to continue on my way. I saw one person turn left into the oncoming traffic lane – fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic – and then slide over. Seems like most people in the ‘hood have figured this out now, which is good.
Of course, West 11th is the opposite way on Michaux. I just went that way to take the first photo. This is Michaux approaching 11th. I don’t really know what the little lane is for. I guess it’s a bit of a protection if you’re turning right (east) onto Pecore, which is what 11th becomes at Michaux. But there’s no separated bike lane that way, at least not at this time, so who knows.
You have to turn left (west) from Michaux to get into the bike lane. 11th used to be two lanes beginning or ending here, with the eastbound right lane being right turn only except for the #30 bus.
At Studewood. The concrete lane separator comes and goes, mostly to allow access to various driveways but also for right-on-red turns. I’ve been conscious of this as a driver along 11th, which I didn’t really have to be before because there were never any bikes. I’ve not had any issues with cars wanting to turn right yet. It’s no different than on non-bike lane streets like White Oak, to be honest.
At Heights Blvd. The “wide turn” sign is there because of the bike lane on Heights, which now has a concrete separator that looks like a platform right there. I’ll have a better look at it on the way back. Note the “no left turn” sign onto Heights southbound – as with the White Oak situation, not everyone has figured this out yet. That left was a real hazard before the bike lane, but it does mean if you’re coming this way you either need to turn at Yale, or scoot over to a side street to access Heights southbound from there. Note also the bank of lights on the far end of Heights, with the one lone (and hidden by the bus stop sign) light on the sidewalk. I don’t quite understand that design decision – there were two sets of lights before this, as really there are two intersections. If you want to have only one bank of lights, I might have argued that it belonged at the first intersection, not the second one. Anyone have a theory about this?
At Yale. I saw several other bikers while out on that initial ride, and I see regular bike traffic now. This guy was turning left onto Yale, which is why he wasn’t in the same lane as me. I can’t think of any other wrong-way biker I’ve seen since then.
Here we are at the junction of the north-south Heights Bike Trail, which will connect you to the MKT Trail to the south. I turned around here because I was just out for funsies and didn’t have a destination in mind. Note the “stop for pedestrians” sign, which exists at a number (but not all) of the cross streets now. The vehicular traffic has actually been quite good about respecting this, which is very nice. Before the West 11th lane diet and the trail, people going along the Heights trail often felt like they were taking their lives into their hands crossing here, as four total lanes of cars would whip by, often at speeds over 40 MPH. People had been calling for a traffic light at this intersection, but the trail and the lane reduction, which has definitely led to lower speeds, and the “stop for pedestrians (and, implicitly, bikes)” sign have done the trick.
At a few points along the concrete lane dividers, there are some vertical visual markers of the bike lane, presumably to remind drivers of the lane’s existence. Clearly, someone needed that reminder.
This is the platform for what I thought was a B-Cycle location in construction, on the south side of Heights. There’s an identical thing catty-corner on the north side. Given what’s going on with B-Cycle now, I’m not sure of the purpose of the platform anymore. But there they are.
So that’s a small taste of what the ride is like on West 11th. Someday when the North Main lane has been built – here’s an April 18 update that says initial construction begins in June, so this is not far off – I’ll do a similar ride. Let me know what you think.