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Cyclist worried drivers are misusing Manchester Bridge bike lane

RICHMOND, Va. -- A cyclist who uses the Manchester Bridge to commute into downtown Richmond reached out to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers to look into his concerns about how cars coming in the same direction are using the bike lane at the end of the bridge.

The bike lane in question is the northbound lane along S. 9th St. as it approaches the intersection with E. Byrd St.

Northbound S. 9th St. has four travel lanes with a dedicated bike lane running alongside the far-right lane. As you come off the Manchester Bridge, there is a dedicated right turn lane to get onto E. Byrd St. and at the end of S. 9th St. a pedestrian island separates the bike lane from the dedicated right turn lane.

"Right here at this intersection there is a designated bike lane with a little lane buffer, painted buffer, that has just been repaved and repainted not too long ago," said Alex Cortes, who has lived in Richmond coming up on seven years. "And I constantly, every time I take this bike route, catch cars driving into this bike lane in order to pull into this parking garage that's here on this corner."

Cortes explained there is a parking garage entrance on the north side of E. Byrd St. close to the northeast corner of the intersection. He said cars turn into the intersection from the bike lane to get to the entrance, rather than from the dedicated right turn lane.

Cortes added he not only catches cars in the bike lane but snaps a selfie with them.

"I see it every single day. I'm not able to get a picture every day because I'm not always stopped at the stop light," added Cortes.

CBS 6 reached out to Richmond Department of Public Works about Cortes' concerns. Spokesperson Sharon North replied that right turns from the bike lane are allowed since the garage entrance is so close to the corner but said that all turning vehicles should yield to any bicyclist in the bike lane.

Jakob Helmboldt, the city's Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Trails Coordinator added that Virginia law states drivers should make right turns as close to the curb as practical which would mean entering the bike lane for this intersection. But he added that drivers should only merge into the bike lane when approaching the intersection and not queue in it or use it to bypass traffic in the regular travel lanes.

"To be honest, we actually have heard a fair amount about that particular bike lane," said Brantley Tyndall, the Community Engagement Manager for Bike Walk RVA, a group that supports "bike- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure projects."

Tyndall said it is important for drivers to make the turn correctly because if they enter too early, they could encounter a driver ahead of them who is waiting until the right time to merge into the bike lane.

"Now you're both in the bike lane and if there's a bike rider in the middle that person becomes pinched. So, that whole point of a bike lane is to make it safer for people not less safe. So, keep that in mind as you're driving in that area," added Tyndall.

Cortes said he would like to see stanchions installed along the bike lane to provide more protection for cyclists. A city spokesperson said they had not received recent complaints about the bike lane and were not considering design changes at this time.

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