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Cleveland Traffic Engineer Puts Buffer on the Wrong Side of the Bike Lane

2:18 PM PDT on September 18, 2015

This Cleveland cyclist hasn't gotten the memo about how biking in traffic is "safer."  At the behest of a not-very-forward-thinking traffic engineer, the city has been installing buffered bike lanes backwards. Image: Angie Schmitt
At the behest of a not-very-forward-thinking traffic engineer, Cleveland has been installing buffered bike lanes backwards. Photo: Angie Schmitt
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Cleveland is finally installing buffered bike lanes along some major streets, but with the buffer between the bike lane and the curb, not between the bike lane and traffic.

At first, many people thought this design was a mistake. But it has now been painted on two streets at the behest of Cleveland's traffic engineer, Andy Cross. Local blog GreenCityBlueLake reports that Cross told advocacy group Bike Cleveland (disclosure: my husband sits on the board and I did for several years as well) the design was a "best practice" to prevent right hook collisions, in which a turning driver strikes a cyclist proceeding straight.

In an email to Bike Cleveland, Cross haughtily slammed the National Association of City Transportation Officials' designs for buffered and protected bike lanes -- which are endorsed by the Federal Highway Administration.

"The terms ‘best practices’ and ‘protected’ are often used with what is shown in the NACTO guide," Cross wrote. "A design that encourages or requires hook turns across the path of through cyclists is neither a ‘best practice’ nor ‘protected.'"

The decision to put the buffer next to the curb is so unconventional that advocates think it was lifted not from a design manual but from Iamtraffic.org, a website that espouses vehicular cycling.

While Cleveland is accelerating its rate of bike lane installation, Cross's penchant for ineffective design threatens to sabotage the usefulness of the new infrastructure.

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