Here’s a hazard you don’t run across every day: You are coming home from work, a bit weary, in the dark, and set about making a habitual left turn into a bike lane that … that … whoa, what’s that pair of headlights? Coming straight at me!
This happened Monday evening. I rode west on Fifth Avenue, past Fifth Street Market, as I often do. I approached the four-way stop at Pearl, right in front of Lucky Noodle, slowed and got ready to turn left onto Pearl.
Pearl, just south of Fifth, has that bike lane in the middle of the street, between the north and southbound vehicle lanes. I turned south, toward the bike lane. I do this all the time.
This is when I noticed the headlights. I quickly veered right, into the auto traffic lane. And then I pulled over and stopped to figure out what had just happened.
After some rough cocktail napkin calculations, I concluded that the bike lane that used to be here is gone. I returned to the scene the morning after. Here’s what it looks like:
In short, the bike lane has been redacted.
As you can see, this is because of the newly erected chain link fence on the left, which in turn is a consequence of the construction of Brian Obie’s new hotel at Fifth Street Market. So cars coming north are now forced into the space where the southbound bike lane used to be.
Apparently, I am not the only one who has been surprised by the disappearing bike lane. I had contacted the city to see if they know how long the fence will be up. I ended up talking to David Roth, associate transportation planner with the city Public Works Department.
He told me he had done the same thing on his bike a day or two before. In fact, at that point, he said the original striping was still there, which made it even more confusing to a cyclist heading down Pearl. He was the one who requested the bike lane be painted over in black.
He wasn’t sure how long the fence is going to be up, but the change is temporary, he said. The hotel is supposed to be finished by summer.
In the meantime, I just plan to “take the lane” here if I’m headed south on Pearl. Once you get halfway down the block toward Sixth Avenue, the fence goes away, the road opens up again and the bike lane returns. So then you can get back into the bike lane before you reach the light at Sixth.
Roth told me there is going to be a sign put up reminding motorists that cyclists are entitled to take the full lane. He said there was even talk of putting in temporary sharrows. Sharrows! But he didn’t know if that would happen.
Anyway, if you’re used to riding that bike lane, be careful.