In late 2016, the City of Key West installed a door lane along the 1500 block of Reynolds Street. Door lanes are substandard-width bike lanes alongside parked cars that place cyclists at risk. Motorists exiting parked cars open their doors in the path of the bike lane which can strike a rider, or force them into nearby traffic. These types of crashes happen regularly in Key West, and fatalities have occurred in other cities. Many doorings go unreported, but those that were reported in 2011 in Chicago made up nearly 20% of all crashes — at a rate of almost one per day!
So why did Key West just install one of these lanes that place cyclists at risk? Not long ago, cycling advocates were thrilled to be afforded any kind of acknowledgment in roadway design and more bicycle facilities usually means more people are likely to try cycling. The inclusion of bike lanes made its way into the Florida Manual of Uniform Minimum Standards for Design, Construction and Maintenance for Streets and Highways (also known as the Florida Greenbook). Since bicycle facilities were intended to increase safety, the minimum width for a door lane was set at 5′ by 2001. But 5′ still doesn’t allow enough room for a car door, a cyclist, and a passing car. The most recent draft of the Greenbook states that “a width of 6-7 feet is desirable to avoid opening vehicle doors”. However, according to the city’s Bike / Walk Key West, “…the street isn’t wide enough – unless parking is eliminated”. Bike / Walk Key West also asserts that the 5′ Reynolds door lane meets minimum standards and adds that “studies show people prefer the separation that lanes provide, even if it only meets the minimum standards.”
Does our city’s preference for building facilities for automobile users, and the ignorance of novice cyclists dictate the design of our roadway? The Greenbook says no. Over 30 years ago Key West was instructed that “…special care should be taken to review all proposed roadway improvements for obstacles, barriers and specific hazards to bicyclists.” That requirement has only become more stringent as we learn more about about the ramifications of poor design. Today, many cycling organizations caution about the use of door lanes. The Florida Bicycle Association, Cycling Savvy, and the University of Miami’s BikeSafe program all recommend avoiding the unsafe design.
But is there an alternative? Yes! In 2004, San Francisco completed a study on shared lane markings that encourage cyclists and motorists to share the travel lane. It found that shared lane, or sharrow markings encourage cyclists to ride at a safer distance from parked cars. It also found that the markings encouraged motorists to pass the cyclists at a safer distance. Updated Greenbook recommendations state that “shared lane markings provide guidance to cyclists on their lateral positioning, especially on roadways with on-street parking.”
In a city with narrow right of ways and an obligation to provide fair access for all users, it is time for the city to re-evaluate its reliance on door lanes.
Please take a moment to send an email to our City Engineer and City Commissioners by entering your information below. (After clicking submit, you must click the verify link in your email from KWBA.)
Please Stop Installing Dangerous Door LanesRead or edit the petition
Check out BikeSafe’s video below on how to ride in Bike Lanes: