>Bike Lanes – Improved or Decreased Safety?

>The death of Alice Swanson in Washington DC could be attributed to the bike lane that she was riding in. Some argue that bike lanes encourage cycling, and the increased bicycle traffic on the roads increases visibility of bicycles, and therefore increases bicycle safety by encouraging drivers to look out for cyclists. Additionally, the space given to cyclists tends to ease tensions between the cyclists and cars.

On the other hand, some cycling advocates tend to believe that there are instances where bike lanes actually detract from bicycle safety. One of the specific examples is the “right hook” type of accident shown on this bicycle safety webpage, that killed Alice Swanson. She was riding in a right-hand bicycle lane, going straight through an intersection. A garbage collection truck passed her on the left, then turned right across her path and cut her off.
This kind of accident is not uncommon. I think that the bike lanes definitely contribute to the accident because the cyclist is encouraged to remain at the right side of the road, to the right of vehicles that may be turning to the right. The other contributing factor is that drivers underestimate how fast bicycles can travel. Bikes travel at between 12 and 20 mph on city streets, which means that in the 4-8 seconds vehicles take to make a right turn, the cyclist will have traveled 50-250 feet in the same time. That’s between two and 12 car lengths, quite a bit further than most drivers probably expect.
I found a very good resource that discusses the research and arguments about bike lanes. I haven’t read it all, but the first few chapters were good so I thought I’d pass it along.

UPDATE: The end chapters about bicycle facility design are the best. This image sums up why bicycle side paths are not a very good solution:


About perkinsms

I'm an engineer and father interested in transit, parking and economics.
This entry was posted in cycling, dc, environment, safety, street, transit. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to >Bike Lanes – Improved or Decreased Safety?

  1. BobArlington says:

    >Well and getting Doored. Bike lanes, normally placed directly parallel to cars parked at the curb – are an absolute recipe for getting doored by some dork who opens a door without looking to see if there is a bike coming. These accidents can cause significant injury to the biker.

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