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Move On: Slip lanes are dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians

These free-flowing turns prioritize movement over safety, needlessly putting people in danger, writes transporation columnist Heather Drugge

Almost all transportation engineers will tell you that safety is the most critical consideration when designing a roadway.

Phew. That’s good news. Somewhere along the road, however, transportation designers must have also embraced the idea that “vehicles should move quickly and stay moving.”

The requirement for rapid vehicle movement from the past makes safety today harder, and slip lanes are the poster child for less safe intersection design.

Slip lanes make driving more complicated than at a regular intersection. The problem for drivers is that they permit turning without reducing speed. If there’s a stopped car ahead, you might be unable to avoid it as you round the corner. Watch out for that pedestrian in the crosswalk, too! As the adjoining roads get busier, drivers must also pay much attention and care to weave into or out of a new traffic stream moving at speed.

The problem for pedestrians is that slip lanes are designed for unrestrained vehicle movement. Their purpose is to allow drivers to maintain speed when approaching an intersection and a crosswalk – the precise moment we should be most careful. They also increase the distance people have to walk across a street and put people into spots that are often harder for drivers to see.

For people on bikes, the most worrying aspect of slip lanes is when cars must cross a bike lane to enter or exit one. A prime example is on Capilano Road, where people driving cars must cross the bike lane to get to the on-ramp for Highway 1.

You can imagine what it feels like to ride down that green strip with cars on both sides moving at speed. It’s a bicycle sandwich waiting to happen. You just hope that you’re not the mayonnaise. And we still wonder why more people don’t ride? Thankfully, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has told us bike-people that they will make improvements to this area.

Generally speaking, most crashes occur in intersections because they are more complicated. I have looked at ICBC crash statistics for the North Shore and noted several intersections with slips lanes that are perilous for pedestrians and cyclists. Capilano Road at Marine Drive is the worst area for vehicle and active transportation-related crashes. No surprise there. Cycling advocates have asked the District of North Vancouver to close the slip lane or “channelized” right turn on the south side of Marine.

Slip lanes are dangerous for people in cars, people walking and people on bikes. So why do we keep them? If we prioritized safety over vehicle speed, we should close all slip lanes and never build one again.

Heather Drugge is a sustainable transportation advocate who has used her bike for transportation for more than 20 years. She’s got an e-bike now, and maybe a jetpack next. [email protected]