Accidents Waiting To Happen As Cedar Rapids Converts 3rd Ave
As the city continues to convert one way streets into two way streets downtown, we knew there'd be some confusion. However, nothing quite compares to the extremely complicated changes that have now taken over 3rd Ave. Let's just call it a "work in progress". I was on the air yesterday as the final trucks moved off the road, and the construction gates were removed on 3rd Ave through downtown, mainly between 1st and 3rd street. Almost instantly I realized something didn't feel right, as there was plenty of commuter hesitation through the 2nd street intersection. I could see the stop lights were replaced by stop signs, and that traffic on 3rd no longer had to stop. I was of course worried about accidents. However, I didn't realize how bad it was till I drove through this morning. Take a look at the picture and tell me what looks wrong.
Notice where the bike lane is placed? It's all the way against the curb, meaning the parking space is more or less in the middle of the street. I appreciate the efforts to Go Green, be a Blue Zone city, and make a bigger commitment to bikers and safety, but this seems a bit ridiculous. For example, when you pull up to 3rd Ave while on 2nd St., and look to your right at the stop sign, you see what appears to be a car sitting there, stopped as well, even though they're not supposed to stop. After a double take, you realize it's a parked car. But you can't see around them to see if so one is coming in the moving lane. And with all the confusion, you almost forget traffic from the right isn't stopping. Talk about a major safety risk.
In fact, as I walked down there this afternoon, I spoke with the ladies working Big Daddy's Hot Dog cart, and upon approaching I could see the concern on their face. They said they were honestly stunned there hadn't been an accident yet. I know I'd be concerned too if I were them, as any accident could come right at them, let alone any accident is just not good.
The next problem was when a train comes. I watched as car after car pulled into "both lanes" heading up 3rd Ave. However, there is no longer 2 lanes, and the cars to the right were slowly realizing there was no one in the car in front of them, and they were now in a parking spot with no hope getting back to the left. So what do they do, pull into the bike lane! Now how is that making the new bike lane any safer? I just don't get why the successful green lane plan, like you see below in this picture staring down 3rd St., wasn't the plan used again.
One redeeming bit of information though... as I walked through the intersection, workers were on the scene. Granted they were more observing. However, before they left, they already made a change, as they returned the intersection to a 4 way stop. Phew! That should help a bit. Now, move the bike lane, because parking in the middle of the street doesn't work.
I retract all this if the final step is to create a slight curb/barrier as was done around Salt Lake, seen here. If that's the case, I think this might be a very welcomed solution to making the city safer for cyclists.