Commuting along 9 Avenue SE

by Mark Zaugg 11. July 2012 00:34

I travel back and forth on 9th Avenue SE through Inglewood at least five days a week.  Four of those five days I usually cycle, Fridays I typically drive.  I tend to have pretty firm views on what works with the bus / bike lanes that were put in this past year.

In the winter when the lanes were first put in, I was one of the few riding a bike along 9 Ave.  With spring more riders joined me and as we've reached summer the number of cyclists is noticeably higher.  I'm quite confident in my bicycle and my cycling gear (such as my mirror and lights) that I feel comfortable commuting along the road.  I feel happier that the bus / bike lane has been set up which enables me to travel at higher speeds while cycling and I feel a higher confidence with bus drivers in my lane than the general public.

On Fridays while I drive, it is an annoyance that I have to stick to the left hand lane only.  Traffic does clog up when line-ups form behind drivers turning left.  I'll explain more very soon.  When I drive I stay strictly in the left lane and wait behind turning traffic.

I'm going to display my trip into the Beltline through photos and my trip out of the downtown in video.  Today traffic was lighter than average, and as it was taken during Stampede I'm feeling a little more forgiving with out of town traffic, particularly around the Stampede Grounds.  I wish to add, my general feeling is that my ride into work is usually safer and less conflict driven than my ride home, although today that was certainly reversed.

I should also mention that this post was instigated by what I consider deplorable driving behaviour on Monday during my ride home.  So much that I actually created an account and reported the offending vehicle on mybikelane.com.  While I am mounted on my bike I am considered a vehicle and I'm entitled to "take the lane" - and even encouraged to do so to discourage cars from passing when it is unsafe.  With the bus / bike lane set up on 9 Avenue SE, only buses and bicycles are entitled to be in the right lane westbound from 7:00 am to 8:30 am and eastbound from 3:30 pm until 6:00 pm.  The only exception is made for vehicles turning right immediately at the next intersection.  There is no excuse whatsoever for a motorist to follow me along the length of 9 Avenue SE.

I generally consider 9 Ave a pretty safe, quick and effective route for me to commute to work and home.  It's direct and reasonably efficient whether I'm cycling or driving.  There are a couple of dangerous areas where I try to be extra vigilant, but for the most part I feel I can ride quite safely.  Let me guide you riding into downtown, westbound along 9 Avenue starting at 7:59 in the morning.

Let's start at the funky corner where 17 Ave SE and 15 St SE meet at 9 Ave SE.



All the vehicles in the right lane on 17 Ave must merge to the left lane once they turn onto 9 Ave.  Usually drivers will swing to the right lane to avoid potentially queuing behind vehicles turning left, but being in the right lane is probably not a problem at this point.  Early in the spring I think there was a temporary sign placed at this location.  Drivers probably ought to know better by now, but advance warning is never a bad idea.



The van behind the bus ahead turned right at the next intersection.  Otherwise an uneventful ride to 12 Street.



The vehicles shown here had all turned from northbound 12 Street to westbound 9 Avenue.  Three vehicles are clearly visible having changed lanes into the bus / bike lane ahead while I was waiting to cross at the red light.




These are vehicles number 5 and 6 driving in the bus / bike lane, I was still waiting at the red light at this point.



Vehicles #7 (the black truck, ahead of the sedan) and #8 the white sedan itself.  At this point I realized I did not demonstrate the left turn onto 11 Street so I circled around the block, dismounted and took pictures from a good vantage point.



The Mustang is about to turn left, you can see two more vehicles in the wrong lane ahead bringing the new count to 10.



The truck is #11.



The white truck was blocked from turning left by oncoming traffic.  You can observe three vehicles passing on the right, total is 14.



The queued cars begin to peel around the blocked truck.  The black coupe is vehicle 15.



The two black SUV's are #16 and #17.



The sedan is #18.



The truck clears the intersection, the Volvo is #19.



Vehicles #20 and #21.  I always get extra annoyed when cabbies and other professional drivers drive in the improper lane.  I expect them to be professional and particularly courteous with their driving.



Vehicle 22 was also a taxi.



Vehicles #23 and #24.  I will give them credit for stopping for a pedestrian crossing signal.



Vehicles 25, 26 and 27.  This photo was taken at 8:09, so exactly 10 minutes after I began riding along 9 Ave.  I'm very disappointed with the high numbers of drivers violating the bus / bike lane.

Rather than subject you to continuous photos, I want to demonstrate why swinging into the bus / bike lane is truly a dangerous problem along 9 Avenue.





This is a bicycle courier riding safely in his lane.  As traffic swings around left-turning vehicles they come directly into his lane, sometimes courteously, sometimes with no thought to bicycles possibly being in that lane.  I personally would feel comfortable with the space that SUV gave the cyclist, but clearly not all cyclists are.  Subsequent vehicles passing the courier did not give him as much room, a problem on a regular road but this is a literal crime when the vehicles have no right to be in that lane whatsoever.

I wish to address enforcement as well.  When I posted the photo of the horrible driver on calgary.mybikelane.com several other cyclists mentioned a lack of enforcement by the police along 9 Avenue.  I do not criticize the Calgary Police Service here.  I see them pulling over drivers on a regular basis.  I give a tap on my helmet to them whenever I ride past.  It's not perfect enforcement and I don't see them daily, but I've seen boneheaded drivers lined up along a side road waiting for their turn to discuss their infraction with an officer.  Drivers' attitudes have to change, I'd like to think they slowly are.  I'd hope that mine have.

When I drive, I don't stay in the left lane because I'm a saint.  I stay there because 80 percent of the time I feel vulnerable, particularly to drivers swinging into my lane to go around other vehicles.

In all honesty, I had no idea it would be so bad this morning.  I don't feel this was a typical day, but the photos don't lie.  The real point I set out to make this morning is in the following photos.  It displays what I consider to be the riskiest part of 9 Avenue for bicycles and cars to coexist and quite possibly the most difficult section to solve.  The actual bus / bike lane ends at 9 Avenue and 9 Street SE.  I've been stopped by another cyclist who asked where it ended, the only real indication is the subtle "ENDS 08:30" on the sign.



Traffic past 9 Street turns left onto 8 Street and into Ramsay.  Traffic was too light today, but when a train is crossing or traffic loads are heavy, the traffic will back up in both lanes well past 9 Street forcing drivers who wish to continue straight into the right lane or risk getting trapped in the left turn lane when discourteous drivers refuse to let them safely merge right.



This poor guy did everything right up to 9 Street, then had six drivers pass him on the right before anyone would let him in.  This is where things get tricky because 9 Avenue may not be wide enough to adapt.  We're forcing drivers to merge right within the length of one block while traffic regularly backs up for two blocks at that point.  Vehicles need space to manouver safely, cyclists need safe passage with vehicles moving over on them.



A lesser problem is that the pavement gets pretty chewed up at this intersection, right where cyclists are expected to ride.  My suggestion is this is a good section to take the lane outright.  I understand that takes some guts and a lot of visibility to do and it isn't for everyone, but the average commuter cyclist can travel at roughly the same speed as the traffic along this block until the pathway opens up in front of the Deane House.

My ideal scenario would be to actually end the bus / bike lane one block earlier.  That would give drivers more time to respond and safely merge to the right to cross the 9 Avenue Bridge.  To keep cyclists safer I'd try to extend the marked bike lane that's west of the bridge to the east side as well, giving cyclists a clear and safe path of their own along the road.  I don't know if there's space, but it would make that section of the road so much less aggravating to me as a driver and so much more safe as a cyclist.

To end off, I'll take you along with me on a ride home.

Welcome

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