Downtown Columbus isn’t exactly a bike-friendly zone. Don’t get me wrong, the city is trying to encourage bike-riding . . . but it isn’t easy.
The problem is a combination of bad traffic design (from a cycling standpoint, at least) and Columbus drivers. The downtown area has lots of one-way streets with weird turns and splits, and many drivers who aren’t especially attentive to or considerate of cyclists. On Third Street, for example, at the point where the street moves from downtown Columbus to German Village, a cyclist chugging along in the far right lane of that one-way street has to move over two lanes to the left to head straight into the Village, at the same time drivers are jockeying to move their cars to the right, to get onto 70 West/71 South, the far right, to turn onto Fulton Street, or to the left, to merge onto 70 East. Only the hardiest cyclists stick to the road and run the risks. Instead, they ride their bikes on the sidewalks — which isn’t exactly ideal for the pedestrians among us.
Columbus is trying to change that, by adding painted bike lanes on Third Street and other avenues that show when the lanes changes need to be made. We’ll see if it works, but I’m skeptical. The problem isn’t the absence of designated lanes, but the merges and moves that the road designs require. If drivers are looking back to make sure the roadway is clear, or speeding up to make their merge, they could easily miss a cyclist — and the cyclists know it. They aren’t going to be keen to move left into a lane that may already be filled with cars or that is the target of other cars trying to make various upcoming turns.
I think we walkers will continue to share the sidewalk with our helmeted friends until the entire Third Street/70/71 design is revamped into something that approximates rationality.