April is for counting bikes! This is the third year of counting bicycle traffic in the Lafayettes. 2019 counts begin April 16 at 21 spots from 7:00 to 9:00 am or from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. Plan to count on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday if the weather is decent for cycling. If that is not possible you may count Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of the following week. Thursday, April 25 is the final day to count.
The Harrison Bridge is a contentious strip of road to cycle on. Connecting Wiggins and Fowler Street on the West Lafayette side to Salem and Union in Lafayette, it also has onramps for River Road, Canal Road, and 3rd Street as well. A vehicle collision with a cyclist in 2015 galvanized the community and inspired a “Take the Lane” event in response . It was restriped last year to help delineate a bicycle lane along most of its length, but there are still some things that the cities and county can do to better accommodate cyclists.
Heading toward West Lafayette from Lafayette, about 1100 feet from the Fannon Drive light, an onramp from Canal Road feeds onto the bridge. The vehicles have a yield sign, but no indication that there is a bicycle lane.
After another 1100 feet there is an offramp to River Road
There is an onramp from River Road,
and a turn lane onto Salisbury or continuation to the intersection with Northwestern Avenue.
About 1/3 mile from the turn onto the bridge from the Wiggins/Salisbury intersection, the onramp from River Road crosses the bicycle lane. The vehicles have a yield sign, and a long runway to pick up speed and merge.
Finally, a sequence of offramps and a slight incline at the end of the bridge introduce a lot of potential conflicts with vehicles.
So what can be done?
The Urban Bikeway Design Guidefrom NACTO notes that the color green can be used to highlight conflict areas. The onramps on either side of the bridge could be marked with dashed green paint.
A “Yield To Bikes” Sign should be used at intersections or driveway crossings to reinforce the bicyclists have the right-of-way at colored bike lane areas. This would be most useful on the final 1100 feet eastbound, where the Canal Road and 3rd Street offramps have a high potential for conflict between cyclists and vehicles.
Added 20 June
These suggestions are not likely to be implemented, however, until the Federal Highway Administration adopts them into the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.¹
Finally, speed enforcement on the bridge could lower the speed difference between cyclists and cars; although the posted speed limit is 35MPH, most vehicles go well above that heading down the hill from Fowler.
Bicycle Lafayette is focused on improving the experience of cyclists in Tippecanoe County through education and advocacy. When getting better is our primary goal, we sometimes lose track of the assets we enjoy. Tippecanoe County has some nice things happening.
Within the county we have miles of bike lane, hiking/biking trails and roads with sharrows to serve utility and recreational cyclists. 2017 brought the first cyclotrack to our county as part of the State Street project. Myers pedestrian bridge provides an off road river crossing. Look for a map of bicycle infrastructure, a high priority for 2018.
A number of local governmental groups plan cycle infrastructure and support in Tippecanoe County.
Bike Walk Greater Lafayette is a countywide board that brings together representatives from the cities, Purdue and the Area Plan Commision to target safety and education.
West Lafayette Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee advises the West Lafayette City Council.
Lafayette is launching a Bike and Pedestrian Committee.
Local cycle organizations enrich culture on two wheels.
CASA Challenge is an annual 24 hour ride on the Subaru test track that is always lots of fun for a good cause.
Bike polo is hot in Lafayette!
There are two dedicated bike shops in the county, Virtuous Cycles in Lafayette sells new and used cycles and accessories as well as repairs and offers Sunday ‘Open Stand’ to teach bicycle maintenance. Hodson’s Bay in West Lafayette provides cycling and fitness equipment and maintenance. Both shops are great sources of information about local cycling.
Where do we go from here? That is the rest of the story.