Letter to the Editor: Transportation advisory committee prioritizes regional road, bridges, multi-model projects
Of the 10 multimodal projects prioritized by the Meramec Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation Advisory Committee at the August 12 meeting, the one within Phelps County, rated 4 of 10, was, “Add shoulders and/or bike lanes to the south outer road along I-44 between exit 189 and St. James.” Okay, so which is it, a “shoulder” or a “bike lane”? They are separate and distinct.
Shoulders are not intended for driving. They provide a safe area for a vehicle to pull off the roadway and not block traffic. Shoulders must be generally level with the roadway (no intermediate drainage ditch, curb or drop off) and it needs to be wide enough to park the vehicle. Shoulders may be paved, gravel, or just compacted soil, so long as they are smooth, level, and can accommodate vehicles.
Bike lanes are portions of the paved roadway, designated by painted lines, set aside specifically for use by “bicycles”. The broad term including tricycles, quadricycles, e-bicycles, e-scooters, and similar human powered vehicles (HPV). They are NOT for motorized scooters, motorcycles, or golf carts, ATVs and UTVs. Bike lanes are supposed to be at least 5 feet wide though with a highway speed of 55 mph, 6 feet would be preferred. Whatever the acceptable minimum width of the two traffic lanes, the highway will then have to be widened about 10 feet, five feet for a lane on each side of the road. The shoulders, if desired, need to be added outside the bike lanes. This will become quite a wide boulevard.
Once bike lanes are designated, I expect many drivers will complain that the roadway lanes are now uncomfortably narrow and needlessly so since there are relatively few bicycles ever seen using them. Another complaint will be the accumulation of debris and trash. Normal road traffic blows debris off the roadway and onto the shoulders but if there are bicycle lanes, that’s where it all ends up. Periodic lane sweeping will be needed, forever.
I suggest that bicycles belong in traffic lanes, that painted bicycle lanes are ultimately unsafe and a waste of effort and resources.
Widening the roadway lanes should be considered if traffic data supports it.
Eliminating roadside ditches, soft shoulders and drop-offs is essential to safety and that is where the emphasis should be. Full-width shoulders are nice but somewhat extravagant.
Resident, Phelps County