You've got to hand it to the Missouri Department of Transportation: they're always trying new things. The agency, for example, is currently overseeing construction of a multi-lane roundabout in Cape Girardeau, the first of its kind in the state. Driving on Lexington Avenue will never be the same.
While it hasn't received as much fanfare, MoDOT has recently installed another unique feature in Cape. Just take a look at this photo:
This is a newly designated bike lane along Highway 74, just west of the Mississippi River Bridge. This isn't an ordinary bike lane, though. It features built-in obstacles.
A few yards past the bicycle symbol, bicylists must make an immediate decision. They can bear left, pedal across the rumble strip, merge into traffic, and try to avoid getting pulled into the drain.
Or they can continue straight on to the sidewalk. A short distance later, the sidewalk quickly wraps to the right, sending bicyclists over a steep curb. However, a nimble rider might be able to zigzag to the right, remaining on the sidewalk, but then they will need to dodge the light pole up ahead.
It's really quite an ingenious design. Bicylists, no doubt bored after riding on flat Highway 3 in Illinois, need something to wake them up as they enter Missouri. This MoDOT-designed obstacle course is just the ticket. It's our way of saying "Welcome to Missouri!"
Meanwhile, eastbound bicyclists face a similar obstacle course. For example, the painted bike lane symbols direct riders into a right-turn-only situation at West End Blvd., sending them on a scenic detour (or straight into a curb). This will make sure that bicyclists are wide awake as they approach the next intersection, at Sprigg Street, which is much busier. It's all about safety.
The Highway 74 bike lanes came first, but Cape Girardeau's city government certainly wasn't going to ignore a good idea. In the last couple weeks, the city has embraced the bicycle-obstacle-course idea by erecting large signs along Broadway that proclaim "Bicycling Prohibited on Sidewalks."
With this action, riders are now forced to stay within the main driving lane of Broadway, an area that is already an obstacle course for motorists. Featuring a constantly changing width and almost-but-not-quite-speed-bumps at various locations, Broadway makes for an excellent obstacle course for cars and bicycles alike. It will be even more exciting as both modes of transportation try to share the same narrow lanes.
We need to start heavily promoting these features to tourists. "Ride on the streets of Cape Girardeau and practice your advanced bicycle handling techniques!" the brochures can say. "It's the most challenging place to ride outside of the Tour de France! And if you get hurt while dropping off an unexpected curb, then we have the best bicyclist-to-doctor ratio in the entire Midwest at our two mega hospitals!"
Following this triumph, I can't wait to see what innovations MoDOT is cooking up for the future.