Call him the bike route rapscallion.
On Sunday evening, an unknown man painted a bike lane on Riverside Avenue near Spokane Fire Station No. 4, recreating a bike route recently taken out by the city.
The miscreant traffic engineer sprayed the lane down with light metallic paint around 6:30 p.m., according to one witness. The line follows the the previous lane’s boundary, which is clearly visible.
The outlaw shouldn’t fear the law, because city officials aren’t too concerned. Gary Kaesemeyer, the city streets director, said he’s never heard of such an act but would look into it.
“This is the first I’ve heard of a random bicycle lane,” Kaesemeyer said. “If somebody has a legitimate reason to have it there, we’ll install it. We’ll just have to see.”
It’s the first rogue bike lane for Spokane, but bike advocates have taken traffic planning into their own hands this year. In San Francisco, a group of anonymous traffic safety activists calling themselves the San Francisco Municipal Transformation Agency lined particularly dangerous bike lanes with orange traffic cones or glued white soft-hit posts to alert motorists of the lane. In at least one location, the city allowed the “guerrilla bike lane” to remain.
In February, activists in Wichita, Kansas, used masonry adhesive to stick toilet plungers wrapped with reflective tape to the road, attempting to highlight an issue with drivers crossing into the bike lane at a certain intersection. Again, the cyclists scored a victory. Two weeks later, the city installed posts where the plungers had been.
In May, cycling activists in Omaha, Nebraska, attempted to follow suit and glued 120 toilet plungers to the road to show what a protected bike lane would look like. The plungers stayed upright about four hours, when the City Public Works Department unplunged the road.
Though Kaesemeyer said he was open to the furtive bike lane, it seems unlikely. When the city removed the lane, which was on the right side of Riverside, it installed a new one, on the left side of the lane.
Inga Note, a traffic planning engineer with the city, gave two reasons why the lane swapped sides: the on-ramp to the Maple Street Bridge and the natural flow of bike traffic to Browne’s Addition.
“People kind of dive onto the bridge without looking for cyclists,” Note said. With the bike lane on the left, cyclists are out of harm’s way.
Most cyclists, Note added, turn left onto South Maple Street and head to the core of Browne’s Addition, making the left-oriented bike lane more convenient.
Finally, Note said the bike lane was installed in anticipation of a left-side bike lane on Sprague Avenue, which feeds into Riverside, west of Monroe. The city is waiting to lay the rest of the bike lane until more public outreach is done in conjunction with the Spokane Transit Authority’s planning for the Central City Line, which will run along that route. The six-mile bus rapid transit line will connect Browne’s Addition to Spokane Community College and go through downtown, the University District and Gonzaga University.
“It’s weird right now without having the entire thing down,” Note said of the bike lane. But it might be a while. The Central City Line isn’t expected to begin service until 2021.