Survey of Springfield Bicycle Lanes

It was a beautiful morning for a ride around downtown Springfield– mostly clear skies, temperatures in the low to mid 50s. So I set out to ride and survey nearly every inch of the painted bicycle lanes.

Click here for a map of the entire system, including bicycle lanes, bicycle routes, and greenway trails.

Before giving my report, I want to take a few moments to tell you what I think of bicycle lanes in general. Just as there is a whole helmet thing, there is also a whole bicycle lane thing. I see proper bicycle lanes as roughly (note the qualifier!) analogous to right-hand slow lanes over some of our Ozarks hills. When a car uses a right-hand slow lane the car is still a part of traffic. The driver is simply temporarily separating himself from the faster traffic so the faster traffic can safely pass. These lanes end with plenty of warning, i.e. markings and signs to let everyone know the lane is ending and it’s time to merge. I think that bicycle lanes that function this way are fine on 4-lane roads.

Improper bicycle lanes, however, can cause more problems than they solve. For the most part, Springfield’s bicycle lanes offer a smooth, safe ride along busy streets. But there are some trouble spots. These areas create problems, and, frankly, it’s difficult to understand how anyone could have approved some of these lanes.

Let’s begin our our tour along East Trafficway, an east-west route with the longest single stretch of bicycle lane. This view is typical of much of this route. While the gutter comes into play here, the balance of the lane is reasonably wide. But note the debris in the lane. Cars tend to sweep the street. All that stuff winds up in the bicycle lane. Springfield does have street sweepers. And I noted that some areas of the bicycle lanes were free of debris– I assume because of sweeping.

Pedestrian crossings are well marked, and well-used, along here because this area contains many businesses, Jordan Valley Park, and Hammons Field. I generally dislike riding along 4-lane roads because drivers tend to speed as if such roads were highways. So I’m happy to use a bicycle lane in this situation.

This is the intersection of East Trafficway and Sherman to the north and John Q. Hammons Parkway to the south. The bicycle lane continues across the intersection heading east and along Sherman (left turn) heading north. The problem here is that the bike lane ends too close to the intersection. If you want to make that left turn, you need to exit the bicycle lane well before this point. Drivers could expect you to stay in the lane and may become annoyed if you leave it.

This is an excellent place for a sharrow to indicate that cyclists should take the road well before the intersection so that a safe left-hand turn is possible. Traffic was light this morning, so my making that left was no big deal. I was the only vehicle in traffic on my side. The trip here, however, cannot read bicycles, so I had to wait for the general green. The left-hand green never tripped.

Oh yikes! Who allowed this to happen? The good thing is that this situation is not typical of Springfield’s bicycle lanes. This craziness shows up in just a few spots along Boonville and near Ozarks Technical Community College and the government buildings near the intersection of Central and Boonville. This is Boonville looking south toward downtown. If you want to die on a bicycle in Springfield, here’s a good spot to accomplish it. Note that the van’s door takes up half the lane and yet is NOT fully extended. Note the truck in the background is parked in the lane.

When I ride this stretch of road I ride in the road. I will not ride along this lane because, frankly, I enjoy living. What must drivers think when they see me in the road here? You see, that’s a big part of the problem: road markings are signals to cyclist and driver alike. A driver (who doesn’t understand cycling) has every right to fully expect a cyclist to be in this lane based on the marking on the road. This is a perfect spot for a sharrow.

Hello? City? Time for a little maintenance. Gotta swerve around this bush. Might freak-out a driver. Part of being safe while commuting by bicycle is being predictable. That means, among other things, not being put into a situation in which you have to veer toward traffic. Now, granted, this is not that bad of an obstacle. What about next summer? How big is this thing going to be then?

This is on the east end of East Trafficway heading back to the west toward downtown. There are many businesses along this route, which means many driveways and patches of odd debris. Riding this stretch is a lot like riding along a sidewalk. Riding the sidewalks is generally not a good idea. My advice for this stretch of bicycle lane: Go slow.

This scene is just a little farther west from the scene above — the intersection of East Trafficway and National Ave. The bike lane ends with plenty of room to merge left and take the road. While not entirely necessary, a sharrow would still be a good addition here. In fact, sharrows would be good additions to every intersection along Springfield’s bicycle lanes.

Note the no-parking sign. This is typical of most of the bicycle lanes. The stretches with parked vehicles, however can sneak up on you.

These scenes look pretty barren. Part of the reason is that it was Friday morning. People are at work. Plus, Missouri State University is on fall break. So traffic was light all morning. I saw maybe five cyclists on the bicycle lanes. I saw plenty of others using the streets in other parts of town. And, typical of how things are right now, most of the downtown bicycle racks had at least one bicycle parked.

I stopped on Commercial Street for a large mocha at Big Momma’s coffee shop while riding the lanes this morning. Note the nice bicycle rack. There are two of them outside the shop placed there by the city. Excellent. Also note that way cool ride. That’s my Redline R530. I took Boonville north to Commercial. There is a second section of bicycle lane just north of Division. It’s OK going north. But heading back to the south there is another death-trap section of parked cars.

What needs to happen from here: Before I would spend another dime on painting bicycle lanes, I would correct the problems with the current system. Two things need to happen before someone gets killed: 1) add sharrows to the intersections, and 2) eliminate the lanes along parking spots and replace with sharrows. Then we can talk about more paint. And I’d much prefer sharrows over more bicycle lanes.

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Comments 10

  1. Tracy Wilkins wrote:

    Until I read your post, I didn’t really realize how few bike lanes there are in Springfield. I guess because I happen to ride both Central Street and Trafficway, I’ve given myself the impression that there are actually more around town than there really are.

    I’ve also gotten to the point where I feel safer riding the line than staying in the bike lane on my way to and from work. As you mentioned, East Trafficway is usually a mess (you didn’t mention the potholes on the other side of the street from the bush). In addition, it seems like drivers actually give me less room when I’m in the lane than they will if I’m either on the line or in the traffic lane. Trafficway has that middle turn lane that gives them plenty of room to do so. Central is cobbled up by the islands and pedestrian signs in the middle of the street, so instead of passing, most cars will just stay back.

    Thanks for your pointing out the shortcomings of what I’m sure city leadership thinks are wonderful markings!

    Posted 17 Oct 2008 at 4:37 pm
  2. Randy wrote:

    Excellent report, Andrew.

    How are the bike lanes marked? Are there signs indicating a bike lane? Are there symbols or text painted within the bike lanes? Are they consistent city-wide?

    Posted 17 Oct 2008 at 5:00 pm
  3. admin wrote:

    Tracy… Thanks for adding your experience. Today was my first time riding along Trafficway.

    Randy… Good questions. The aim of my picture-taking today was to show the macro view. There are painted bicycle lane symbols– the typical representation of a person on a bicycle with an arrow point the direction. They usually appear a few times along any given stretch. They are consistent throughout the system. There are also occasional green bicycle route signs.

    Posted 17 Oct 2008 at 5:12 pm
  4. Jett wrote:

    Sharrows are interesting. I think we should start using them for a couple of reasons: 1) they are unfamiliar enough with most motorists that it might raise awareness and 2) they let both motorists and cyclists know that cyclists are to be expected without necessarily putting each in their own lane.

    With all markings however, I find their greatest usefulness is to congregate cyclists enough that the safety-in-numbers factor comes into play.

    Posted 17 Oct 2008 at 8:02 pm
  5. admin wrote:

    Jett… re: safety in numbers

    Yes, exactly.

    Posted 18 Oct 2008 at 7:32 pm
  6. Cordelia wrote:

    Great piece, but what happened to your font ? Going retro all the way ?

    Posted 18 Oct 2008 at 8:34 pm
  7. pam wrote:

    This is a great review of your city. We are finding that our bike educations classes are making a huge difference here in Columbia. They work well for two reasons, the students become better cyclists while also learning to be a better motorist in response to cyclists. Do you have an LCI’s in the area that can teach L.A.B. classes?

    Posted 18 Oct 2008 at 9:32 pm
  8. admin wrote:

    Pam… We do have some programs for new cyclists. I’m not up on the details. But I’ll look into it and report back.

    Cordelia… I like courier as a body font. San Serif type faces can be difficult to read. I’m going to experiment with a few themes, too.

    Posted 18 Oct 2008 at 10:00 pm
  9. Jack wrote:

    That door opening into the bike lane is scary.

    Posted 21 Oct 2008 at 3:04 pm
  10. admin wrote:

    Jack… Yes. What’s even scarier is that someone thought spending money on painting that lane was a good idea.

    Posted 22 Oct 2008 at 8:19 am

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 1

  1. From Kansas Cycling News on 31 Oct 2008 at 8:15 am

    Springfield Bike Lanes…

    Andrew Cline has written an excellent Survey of Springfield Missouri Bicycle Lanes on his Carbon Trace blog. It appears that Springfield has a fairly extensive network of bicycle routes, though only a few miles of actual bike lanes.
    Andrew set out to ….