It has finally happened—Fresno has a protected bicycle lane! The new lane is located downtown, on R Street between Ventura Street and Tulare Street. The roadway previously did not have bicycle lanes, but had one lane in each direction, parking, and a central turn lane. The central turn lane was removed, the parking was moved out from the curb, and bicycle lanes were added between the curb and the parked cars. Additionally, regular bicycle lanes and sharrows were added between Tulare Street and Fresno Street, providing a link to Community Hospital.
I’m not quite sure why this was chosen as Fresno’s first protected bike lane. Many years ago, there were talks of protected lanes on Fulton and Van Ness, connecting Downtown and the Tower district. Those were never built. This lane is a bit out of the way, but that may be intentional, as no one is around to NIMBY it. Now that it is in place, the city can point to it as an existing product, instead of a hypothetical, when it comes to future implementation.
That’s especially important, because this won’t be the last installation. Just for 2021, two more protected bike lane projects are planned, and you can see the proposed design for the Palm one here (PDF). The Palm bike lane will start construction by the end of the year, while the Maple bikeway will be installed this summer.
Anyway, let’s jump straight into the photos!
We’re starting at R and Ventura, under Highway 41 looking north. While there is a standard bike lane on Ventura, the paint doesn’t directly connect the two. Instead, drivers have a large buffer to figure out what’s going on.
Here’s the same location, but looking south.
And here’s the same location but for the southbound lane. Unfortunately, the southbound protected bicycle lane just sort of ends here. Since the only bike lane continues from a left turn, I would have added a bike lane in the middle to assist with that left.
Let’s get to the meat of this project – the parking. That is, parked cars are what make this bike lane protected. I visited on a Sunday, when downtown resembles a Walking Dead set, so I was the only one to park. That’s ok with me, since I don’t know how to parallel park anyway. This was also my first time parking in a lane like this (although I have biked on many of them).
One thing that surprised me was how tight the parking space felt. Not that the parking area was unusually small, it’s just that parking spaces in Fresno are always massive. For Fresno drivers, this will require a little bit of adjustment.
One reason the spaces felt small? The plastic bollards were actually installed within the parking space, instead of the buffer. This was a surprising decision for me. In my experience, these are usually installed right in the middle of the buffer. In car-first cities, they actually get installed as far right as possible. In the Palm Avenue bikeway meeting, they mentioned this was an intentional choice to allow the street sweeper to fit within the bike lane. That’s a smart choice!
That being said, I was still parked within the marked area (ok barely). The people who park along here will be regulars, so they will figure it out.
For context, this car is a 2013 Nissan Altima, which Google says is 71 inches wide. Meanwhile, a F-150 is 79.9″ wide, and a Tesla X is 81.5 inches wide. They will have to park all the way to the right.
My concern is that those with larger trucks won’t quite care about the poles and just drive over them. While they’re designed to survive hits, and bounce back, they’re no match against larger trucks. It will be interesting to see how long these last.
Of course, that’s better than the alternative, as shown in this video posted on Reddit, where a snow sweeper took out all the posts in Jersey City.
Here’s a clearer view of their installation.
This one shows the width of the bike lane, which unfortunately is narrowed by the gutter, and the transition from asphalt to concrete. Basically, the road is only wide enough to fit the bare minimum for all modes.
And additional context on width, by adding a convenient pickup truck.
These last two pictures shows another feature of the lane: green paint to mark conflict zones, which in this case, is a driveway.
Here is how the paint looks at an intersection.
Here is how the bike lane is marked at the long driveway in front of Grocery Outlet (ex Fresh and Easy).
At Tulere Street, the protected bike lane ends.
Looking south, this is where the lane starts.
North of Tulare, there’s a mix of bike lanes and sharrows. I believe they were installed at the same time as this, but I am not 100% sure. It is possible they were already there.
In the southbound side, there is a short segment without parking. The city explained that this is because the sidewalk is an old loading dock, and so they don’t want drivers parking in an area where they can’t access a sidewalk.
I also asked them why the sidewalk has been closed for so long… Streetview shows it’s been under construction since at least April 2019.
So that’s it for this project. It’s short, but it is sweet. It’s the only protected bike lane in the region, and is an example of what future ones will look like, so be sure to check it out!