From the outside, bike lanes sound like a good idea, a really good idea. There’s a lot of bicycle traffic on some roads these days, so why not give them their own lane?
I’ll tell you why.
Number one, bike lanes are dangerous. They are dangerous because cars must cross the bike lane to make a right turn. When I am riding my bike in a regular traffic lane, I can “take the lane” and the car has to occupy the same lane, behind me, and wait until it reaches the corner after me to make its turn. When I’m in a bike lane, the car driver thinks he can just quickly pass me and make his turn in front of me. Bam!
Number two, bike lanes are dirty, especially the lanes that are against the curb. Municipalities seem to think all they need to do is to put down some paint and put up some signs and the bikes will come! What they don’t seem to understand is that bike lanes need maintenance even more than the regular traffic lanes. All of the heavy vehicles, cars trucks, buses, push all manner of debris towards the curb, and bicycle tires are more susceptible to damage than car tires. There are plenty of times when I ride outside of a bike lane just for this reason. Adding insult to injury, motorists then get angry with me because I am “supposed to be in the bike lane!”
Oh, and please don’t add paint to a shoulder and call it a bike lane. That’s the worst.
Number three, bike lanes are narrow. Not a lot of room to avoid the previously mentioned debris. Another problem with narrow bike lanes is avoiding car doors. If someone opens a car door in front of you, you have two choices; get doored or risk pulling out of your bike lane to go around. A standard width vehicle lane allows plenty of room to safely and legally avoid the car door.
The best solution is to put up signs telling motorists that bikes are present and to share the road. Franklin Avenue in Lakewood Ohio is a good example. There are signs posted and when they repaved it, they added a center turning lane. It used to be two lanes each way, but now it’s one each way with the center turning lane. Nice, smooth and lanes wide enough to pass us easily, especially with the center lane.
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