Thursday, February 17, 2011

How I Survived A Dangerous Trip Down F Avenue

OK, so maybe that's a bit of an overstatement. F Avenue in Cedar Rapids does feel like the most dangerous street that I commute on. Why?

The 3 blocks (shown, looking north from Old Marion Road this morning, had plenty of time to snap this photo as I waited for a car to trigger the light) south of Collins Road are dark at night, pitted with potholes, and, due to poor drainage always wet (or icy).

This is the infamous stretch of road that I had my nasty fall on. This also is punctuated with two traffic lights that are a challenge for a bicyclist to navigate--both the lights at Collins and F and Old Marion Road seem to be controlled by sensors. I assume the suggestive rectangular "cuts" in the pavement near those intersections indicate the sensor locations.

I don't know how the sensors are designed--are they magnetic? Weight controlled? But, I know their practical impact.

A biker, travelling on F Avenue, as your humble bike correspondent does most days (and did today despite the damp) is at the mercy of motorized vehicles. Only motorized vehicles can trigger the F Avenue lights. At certain times of day (or night on the ride home), the wait can be a while.

Now, technically, the light at F and Old Marion does have a walk signal. At busy streets (Blair's Ferry and C Avenue, for example) I use crosswalks, cross light switches and sidewalks.

But the light switch at F and Old Marion is only on the east side of the street, and if you're headed north (the only direction you would be headed and be on the east side), you can't reach it from the street.

If Cedar Rapids wants to be bicycle friendly, it needs a solution to the sensor intersections. There either needs to be a crosswalk light placed so that both pedestrians and cyclists can reach it, or a light trigger sensitive enough to a bicyclist will cycle the light.

I've never seen the later, so I suspect the solution is the former. And I am willing to say it's not such an urgent issue that lights need to be replaced now--but whenever a light is placed or replaced, design it to be bicycle friendly, too.

After all, I'm a legal vehicle on the road when I'm cycling home.

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