Leander P&Z commission considers testing bike lane barrier system

Bicyclists ride alongside vehicle traffic.

Bicyclists ride alongside vehicle traffic.

Leander Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a recommendation for the installation of a barrier system between the bicycle and vehicle lanes at the intersection of Vista Ridge and Municipal Drive with Bagdad Road at its meeting Thursday night.

The recommendation will go to the City Council for consideration.

If passed by the council, a series of vertical poles will be attached to the border of the bicycle lane, along with a shorter, continuous solid barrier. The distance the barrier will run from the intersection will be decided by city engineering staff in the future, per the commission’s recommendation.

Leander Assistant City Manager Tom Yantis presents three options for a bike lane barrier to planning and zoning commission members. The option on the left was recommended by commissioners.[/caption]

Two other options were considered by the commission: a raised button that would allow a car to drive over it but still cause the driver to physically notice the barrier, or vertical poles without the short unbroken barrier.

The potential need for further separation than the existing painted line indicating a bike lane was brought to city staff’s attention by Leander ISD and Commissioner Marshall Hines, Assistant City Manager Tom Yantis said. Drivers move their vehicles into the bike lane to make right turns, putting bicyclists—including school children—in danger, Hines said.

Yantis said the national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices discourages the use of barriers between vehicle and bike lines with the suggestion that they could be hazardous to bicyclists.

“We’re sort of torn from the staff level,” Yantis said. “We’ve got this guidance [manual] over here, [but] we know that other communities are doing this; they’re providing these barriers.”

Commissioner Uryan Nelson, who said he rides bicycles, said the barrier could create a safety issue because when drivers go to turn right, bicycles in the separated lane may go straight.

Commission Chairman Sid Sokol said he was concerned about legal issues and the city’s liability if there are injuries due to the poles. Yantis said the city’s liability is limited, but it could still be sued.

“If somebody runs into one of those [poles], it may be striking for them, but I contend that that is a dramatically less severe thing than them making that mistake with a child on a bicycle, and that is, I believe, a real risk at this point,” Hines said.

If instated, the intersection’s bike lane separators would be used as a trial to determine if they should be involved at intersections with bike lanes city-wide, Yantis said.

Commissioner Angela Means said she would prefer all three types of barriers be tested at the intersection rather than just the one selected. However, she voted to approve the recommendation for the vertical poles and continuous barrier.

Commissioners Jason Anderson and Laura Lantrip were not in attendance at the meeting Thursday evening.
By Abby Bora
Abby Bora started at Community Impact Newspaper in May 2017. After working as a reporter, she became editor of the Cedar Park-Leander edition in October 2018. She covers Leander ISD and city government. Bora graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. with a bachelor’s degree in media and communications studies.


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