Bicycles and cars will share flexible lanes along three blocks of Vine Street from South Broadway to South Limestone starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
During morning and afternoon rush hours — weekdays from 6 to 9 am. and 3 to 6 p.m.— the far right lane of the road will function as a normal lane for vehicles. Cyclists will ride on the right side of moving cars, in a small striped area next to the curb that is wide enough only for a bicycle.
"You can visually tell it is not wide enough to park or drive in," said Kenzi Gleason, the city's bike and pedestrian coordinator.
During all other times, street parking will be permitted next to the curb. Cyclists will ride in a partially striped lane to the left of the parked cars.
Electronic message signs showing the current correct usage of each lane will be mounted on the mast arms that extend over the street.
"It's very similar to the reversible lanes on Nicholasville Road," Gleason said.
The "floating" bike lane on Vine Street ends at Limestone. A standard bike lane continues on Vine until just before Rose Street, where it ends mid-block.
To ease confusion, some cars will be parked along Vine Street during non-rush hours through Friday so people can see where to park their cars, Gleason said.
But if cars are parked in the floating lane during rush hour, expect to be towed fast. "For safety purposes, cars have to be removed, and promptly," Gleason said.
She and other city officials will be along Vine Street throughout the week to see if there is driver confusion. The city also will do an 18-month safety study of the flexible lane approach.
If the flexible lane works on these three blocks, the city will considering using it in other areas of downtown, she said.
The idea for a floating bike lane was cribbed from San Francisco. There, the flexible lanes work "very well," Gleason said. "And they claim they did it with very little initial driver education. People used it intuitively."
The most difficult concept for motorists in the beginning is straddling the bike lane when parking during non-rush hours.
"But that's appropriate. That's what you're supposed to do," Gleason said.
As for cyclists, when there is moving traffic, they will gravitate toward the curb lane where there's an obvious, standard-width bike lane, she said. "But when cars are parked, cyclists are used to riding to the left of parked cars. There's a very obvious bike lane space provided for them."
Wendy Trimble, chairman of the Mayor's Bike Task Force, expressed confidence about cyclists using the floating lane. "They are going to be fine. It's really clear where cyclists should be," said Trimble, an owner of Pedal the Planet bike shop on Richmond Road.