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Light rail is coming to Reno! Well, almost light rail. This is light rail on rubber wheels and paved roads. Kind of “light-rail-lite”.

The Washoe Country RTC is introducing an express bus service between the downtown 4th Street station and Meadowood Mall, named “RTC Rapid”. It will ride in “bus only” lanes on South Virginia Street and stop at fewer stations than the regular bus, named RTC Rapid Connect. The South Virginia corridor has the most heavily used city buses in Washoe County.

The South Virginia corridor also is heavily used by bicycle commuters. So, where do the bicyclists go if a whole lane is designated for exclusive use of RTC buses?

I talked with Sgt. Stegmaier of Reno PD yesterday. We identified 4 choices:
1. Bikes and buses share the lane
2. Bikes ride next to the curb
3. Bikes ride in a bike lane left of the bus and right of the other traffic
4. Bikes are prohibited.

Bikes riding next to the curb would conflict with the bus at every bus stop, with the bicyclist in danger of getting squeezed. The plan is to construct nicely coordinated bus stops that allow easy bus entry and exit and a bike lane there, in the few places where there is enough room, would conflict with this plan.

Bikes that ride between the bus lane and the other traffic lane would be vulnerable from both sides. A real bike lane would be required for bicyclist safety and there’s not enough room for one in big parts of the corridor.

Prohibiting bikes would be an enforcement nightmare.

So, the RTC met yesterday (7/13/11) and decided to have the “bus only” lane be a “bus and bikes, only” lane. It will soon be signed like that, I’m told.

This makes sense to me for two reasons: 1) bicyclists in general go where they find most convenient and safe, regardless of law and signage, and 2) the “bus and bikes, only” lane will be empty when not occupied by a bus. Besides, trying to control bicyclists is like herding cats so it’s safer to adapt the environment to them.

Here’s a link for more information on RTC Rapid – http://www.rtcwashoe.com/RTCRAPID/documents/RTC.RAPID_brochure.pdf

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