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Wrong Way Bike Route

I spotted this sign this afternoon out in rural/suburban Hennepin County, Minnesota. This is a two-lane, moderately traveled roadway with shoulders on both sides of the roadway.

wrong way bike route

wrong way bike route by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

This is a signed “bike route” with the signs on the left side of the roadway, encouraging cyclists to ride on the left shoulder (against traffic), rather than the right shoulder. I’ve never seen this before. Maybe it used to be an acceptable practice? Generally, this should be avoided.

However, I can see a few special circumstances where this strategy might be used:

  • If one shoulder is clearly wider than the other (and widening the other shoulder is not an option (meaning something more significant than the jurisdiction just doesn’t want to pay for it…)
  • If the prevailing cycling traffic patterns naturally discouraged cyclists from crossing to the right side (i.e. all the trip origins and destinations were on only one side of the roadway).

Even in a situation where one of these conditions was met, I’m still not sure if I would ever recommend this practice to a client.

4 comments to Wrong Way Bike Route

  • Scott

    I don’t know. I am not a hardcore bicyclist, but when I ride, I feel safer on the left side of the road. That way I can see the traffic that is coming. The only times I have had any sort of problem it has been when I was going on the right side of the road (on the shoulder) and somebody came up behind me that was too close or whatever, and I couldn’t avoid them because I couldn’t see it coming.

  • @Scott – I can understand how being able to see the traffic coming at you makes you feel like you have more control over the situation. I know you well enough to know that you probably ride very defensively (that’s a good thing) and that you’re keenly aware of the potential threats and the locations where crashes are most likely to happen (for example, turning vehicles at intersections).

    I’m guessing, but I’ll bet you’re riding it like you’d ride an off-street path if one were available (i.e., like a pedestrian, meaning that before you enter any intersection or driveway, you assume it’s your responsibility to do a 360 degree check and to make sure no cars are coming). My concern is that this is fundamentally different than how most on-street bike facilities are designed to operate.

    My concern is that this type of facility is only safe if the cyclists are hyper-vigilant and willing to yield the right-of-way to motorists at all intersections.

  • I think that sign placement has to be the result of a mistake. There’s no way riding facing traffic is safer. I find it disconcerting whether I am driving or riding and encounter a wrong-way biker. It only gets worse at intersections – how on earth would cyclist safely navigate an intersection from the wrong side of the road? That flies in the face of the maxim of “being predictable” on a bike.

  • My first thought when I saw this is that it was a mistake as well. But after I noticed half a dozen of them placed like this within 1 mile of roadway, I assumed they must have done it on purpose. I guess they could have all been mistakes, though.

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