Sunday, August 14, 2011

Main St. Bridge Sports New Signs For Cyclists

I just noticed this new signage added to the sidewalk approaches on both ends of the west side of the Main St. Bridge.

The Main St. Bridge opened in July of 1941, officially the John T Alsop Jr. Bridge is one of only two bridges in Jacksonville that provide Bicycle and Pedestrian traffic across the St. Johns River. Jacksonville has 7 Bridges total spanning approximately a 22 mile length of the St. Johns River.

Jacksonville is not a progressive city; it is now and has always been a reactive city. It does nothing until enough complaints pile up to warrant action. And that action is usually swift and without regard as to what is best for all parties. It normally results in a restriction or banishment of whatever entity is causing the complaints.

The sidewalk area on the Main St. Bridge at it widest is 5 feet on the North approach (The Landing), narrows to 4 feet for the length of the bridge, and finally narrows to just 3 feet at the base of the south approach. Barely enough room for two people to walk by each other. Now imagine being a pedestrian in that already tight corridor and a cyclist is coming towards you, bombing down the bridge with speeds of 20+ MPH. I would imagine it would be more than a little unsettling. Now think about how frightening it would be to have that same cyclist blow by you from behind. You never hear a sound, you just suddenly feel the presence of someone or something moving very fast over your shoulder. I've seen both scenarios played out in front of me more times than I care to count.

Most cyclists are either not aware or don't care that when they ride on a sidewalk or multi-use path they are required by law to yield to pedistrians. In fact they are also bound by the same laws as a pedestrian.

FS 316.2065

(10)A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

(11)A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.

What's the solution? The ideal would be to pull bicycles off the sidewalks, reduce the speed on the bridge and make room for them in the traffic lanes with a road diet. A full lane in each direction dedicated to bicycles would be paradise. But since the Main St Bridge feeds traffic primarily on to and off I-95, this is not likely to happen. The next best solution would be the use of Sharrows. Of course both of the above options would require a portion of if not an entire lane of the grating on the span of the bridge to be covered or filled to make a safer and more stable surface for cyclists to travel.

Until then we are stuck with the sidewalk option over the Main St. Bridge and all of us cyclists have to remember to be more respectful of the pedestrians. Slow down and use your bell, or give a polite verbal warning well back and prior to passing. Follow up with a thank you as pass. We expect drivers to respect our space and place on the roads. We cyclists should provide the same to those on foot. Also keep in mind that your actions reflect on and effect all of us that choose a bicycle as transportation.


JohnnyK said...

I agree the city should make the roads more accessible to cyclist. If they would drop the speed limits to 30 or 35 crossing the bridges it would make it easier and hopefully safer for cyclist to just use the bridge like other vehicles. I personally take the Acosta since I work on Riverside and depending on the weather I will either ride with the traffic or use the emergency lanes which are nice and wide but I am always concerned that the police is going to pull me for driving in those lanes.

Emory said...

As a cyclist and a runner ( I run across the bridges 2 times a week). I have been in both positions. I always thank the cyclists that warn me before the pass by. Being along the river is a nice part of Jacksonville and there is plenty of room for everyone if we all work together.

JohnnyK said...

@Emory - I hate riding on the side-walk. Most pedestrians will not move even if you ask them nicely. Also it has got to be the worse travel surface to ride on. I much prefer the roadway. I see no reason to ride on side-walks. Also when traffic is light I do ride in the traffic lanes over the Acosta. Honestly I see absolutely no reason to have 2 to 3 lanes of road just for cars. There should be 4 to 5 foot wide paths for bikes along with the side-walks. After all these bridges are down-town so what is the point of having that much auto-mobile traffic flow into 30 mph streets down-town. This city was designed all one sided and should be redesigned to accommodate liveable streets if this city wants to revitalize it's down-town areas. You cannot even cross the streets on foot without being at a sprint. Most lights do not last long enough to cross that many lanes safely. Anyway I am getting on my soapbox here but riding on side-walks is just crazy and is not safe at all for anyone after all I on my bike am averaging 15 to 17 mph and your running at maybe 10 while others are walking at 1 mph or just standing there with their headphones on texting this is a recipe for a disaster. I think the city can do much better than this.