Hwy 22 lines vex bikers
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
September 22, 2012
Bicyclists are blasting Wyoming Department of Transportation plans to nearly halve shoulder lanes along two sections of Highway 22.
Construction crews started painting new center turn lanes on the highway Thursday along Brown’s curve and near the entrance to the Bar Y subdivision. Complaints started pouring in before the paint dried.
Bike riders and even motorists say the new turn lanes threaten cyclists by narrowing their shoulder space. The varying lane widths could confuse motorists and push them onto the already tight shoulder, some said.
“I enjoy running over bicyclists as much as the next guy, but the new striping on Wyo 22 at Brown’s Curve and West Gros Ventre Butte makes it a little too easy,” Ed Cheramy said Thursday in an email to WYDOT. “We need a sufficient shoulder to make the effort at least somewhat sporting.”
Cheramy, who hasn’t been on a bicycle in decades, said the new lanes don’t make sense.
“What were you thinking?” he said. “Pinching the bicycle lane down to under three feet just isn’t right! The left turn lane at Brown’s Curve is into a single driveway. Since when is it appropriate to have a left-turn lane for one home — on a very busy state highway?”
When complete, there will be two 1,000-foot stretches of 22 where there will be two 11-foot-wide drive lanes, a 10-foot center turn lane, and a shoulder of between 3 1/2 and 4 feet. Before the striping began this week, there were two 12-foot-wide drive lanes and 8-foot shoulders.
A WYDOT spokeswoman said the added turn lanes should reduce the chance of accidents along the highway and cut congestion along the corridor.
“Right now, we have to focus on all the transportation as a whole and do what’s best for right now,” spokeswoman Stephanie Harsha said Friday.
Harsha said there haven’t recently been any major accidents along 22.
“We have a wide variety of transportation users,” she said. “We have to do what we can to address all of those. This is a temporary measure to alleviate some of the problems we’re having in the area.”
WYDOT District Engineer John Eddins reiterated those points in an email sent to valley residents. He said the temporary striping is an “inexpensive solution to get left-turning vehicles out of the driving lanes.”
“I hope that you can understand the varied needs for highway customers and the safety/mobility that the center left-turn lanes provide by getting turn vehicles out of the traveled lane on Wyo 22, which carries on an average day over 20,000 vehicles,” he wrote.
Motorists contend the new lanes are being installed at the expense of anyone who isn’t driving.
“If you need to widen lanes, then it should be done correctly,” said Walt Berling, who said he rides his bicycle to work along the highway more than 120 times a year. “A new strip of pavement should be added. It should not be done in a manner that shows complete disregard to users like myself.”
Others said the new lanes will exacerbate already dangerous conditions.
“The following is a recipe for disaster,” Scott Horn said in an email sent to WYDOT.
“An unexpected ‘pinched’ bike lane occurring after a consistent 8-foot lane, an expected ‘pinched’ vehicle lane which veers to the right into the bike lane, tourists, both drivers and cyclists, unfamiliar with the road, drivers on cell phones with other distractions not expecting pinch points on a 55 mph highway. We need a new recipe, now.”
Friends of Pathways sent an alert to its members Friday afternoon warning about the striping and new lanes. Pathways officials urged members to gripe to state and county officials.
WYDOT officials and staff from the Highway Federal Administration are studying the corridor to find ways to improve it. The study area encompasses Highway 89 between Scott Lane and South Park Loop Road, Highway 22 between Jackson and Wilson, and Highway 390 from its intersection with 22 to the boundary of Grand Teton National Park.
Highway officials plan a meeting about the study, now in its initial stages, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts. WYDOT officials want to hear from residents about how the corridor should be developed.
The subject of bicyclists along Highway 22 will probably be covered during the meeting, Harsha said.
Information about the study is available at 22-390corridorstudy.com.