Have you ever noticed the short gray posts installed along some county roads? They’re meant to deter drivers from leaving off the road so their cars won’t create ruts and run over features like stormwater management swales. Swales can be damaged if drivers drive or park on them. The posts are used on “open section” roads, i.e. roads with no curbs.
County policy calls for the posts to be located 12 inches beyond the edge of the pavement (although in practice distance varies considerably). Well, MoBike’s crack research team used sophisticated instruments (a mountain bike, measuring wheel and cheap camera) to determine that anything less than 24 inches reduces the space available to bicyclists and creates a collision hazard. Cyclists who wisely choose to steer clear of the posts must ride further to the left, so the posts can effectively turn a wide shoulder into a narrow one or make it impossible for drivers to give cyclists three feet when passing.
It’s surprisingly difficult to judge the distance between your bike handlebars and a 4 foot tall vertical post (see the photo below). It’s an exercise in perspective and maybe courage. So riders must allow considerable shy distance. The consequences of clipping a post with your handlebars could be severe. A collision would twist the rider’s handlebars to the right, causing him to fall to the left into traffic.
Surprisingly, most riders don’t carry a tape measure.
DOT engineers tell me that drivers will rut the grass if the posts are located more than a foot from the roadway. But a car with two wheels on the grass will almost certainly hit a post two feet off the pavement and get a nasty scratch. Drivers don’t like hitting things. Neither do cyclists of course, but we’re not as uptight about paint scratches, especially while we’re slamming into stupid posts.
At my request DOT moved some posts on Fernwood Road further back from the pavement, but they only moved them to a distance of 12″ based on the policy. Therefore MoBike has submitted a formal request to DOT and the Department of Permitting Services asking for the policy to be changed. Otherwise I wonder whether the county will install edge posts along MacArthur Boulevard after that road is widened for bicyclists. If so, the posts would negate half of the pavement that’s being added (and adding pavement is not cheap).