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Green lane at First Avenue N reminds motorists of cyclists

Traffic managers react to anecdotes about close calls at the busy 34th Street intersection and reports of cyclists being cut off.

By JON WILSON
Published March 28, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG  

Show 'em the green.

That's what traffic managers decided to do to a bicycle lane at one busy city intersection.

The brightly painted lane at 34th Street and First Avenue N is meant to make motorists take note of cyclists' territory and, officials hope, make it safer for riders.

It's the latest wrinkle in the CityTrails bicycle/pedestrian plan that Mayor Rick Baker introduced several years ago.

"As far as I'm aware, it's the only location in the state," said neighborhood transportation manager Michael Frederick.

Not that there have been bike-motor vehicle accidents at the intersection.

But officials hear anecdotes about close calls and about drivers cutting off cyclists while turning right across the bike lane.

The rule is that a motorist must yield to a cyclist; in other words, let the cyclist go by before turning.

Cutting off the cyclist amounts to failure to yield right of way, and a driver is subject to being charged, Frederick said.

City workers videotaped at least 500 turning encounters between cyclists and motor vehicles at the intersection, calculating the distance between the bike and the crossover vehicle, Frederick said.

In a few weeks, more taping will take place "and we'll see whether motorists and cyclists are sharing the road," he said.

City figures show an average of 34 westbound cyclists a day hit the 34th Street/First Avenue N intersection. The Metropolitan Planning Organization's most recent motor vehicle count (2005) doesn't take note of that intersection but does show an average of 6,760 cars daily passing 31st Street three blocks east. First Avenue N is one-way westbound.

Chicago; Portland, Ore.; and Cambridge, Mass., have experimented successfully with colored bicycle lanes, according to officials.

If St. Petersburg's experiment reduces conflict between cyclists and motorists, the painted lanes may be used elsewhere, Frederick said.