QUESTION: Why are there no bike lanes on Highways 49 or 108 in Tuolumne County? Do either qualify for bike lanes and, if so, how would someone request one?
ANSWER: Warren Alford of Caltrans says, by law, bicyclists are allowed to use a full lane on state highways, including 49 and 108, unless there are signs that say otherwise. In some places, there are limits that would not allow for bicycle lanes or riding adjacent to shoulders.
“A project featuring bicycle lanes can make improvements to highway design and right of way,” he said.
Caltrans doesn’t initiate a bike lane project. That’s the purview of local and regional agencies. They act on what they hear from members of the public.
“Local agency partners approve a project proposal from a planning document. Proposed improvements compete for funding. SB 1 can provide funding opportunities for bicycle lane installation on state highways,” Alford said.
So, in regular people speak: Folks talk up the project, demonstrate the need and then go through what we imagine is a long and painful process of competing for limited tax dollars — think potholes — and then eventually engineering and design and finally construction.
Not an easy task or a quick one.
It would make for a nice ride to cycle up to Columbia State Historic Park or New Melones Reservoir. Think how great it would be if cyclists from Columbia College could zip down Highway 49 for a day in Sonora. But no bike lanes are proposed or coming any time soon. All we can say to cyclists right now is good luck. You’re going to be riding alongside all those heavy logging trucks that are so much of life on Washington Street.