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Will riding my bicycle in the bike lane keep me safer?

 

A:

 

Bike lanes around the country are always at the center of interesting debates. Towns with numerous bike lanes boast that theirs is a “bike friendly” town, and newer cyclists are often comforted by the extra few inches of space and white painted line between themselves and traffic. Experienced bicyclists, however, often think that these bike lanes are making matters worse.

Why would anyone think that giving bicyclists an added buffer is a bad idea? Bike lanes separate bikes and larger vehicles more completely, which means that cars do not need to actively avoid bikes, and bikes are not crowded by cars trying to pass them. The bike lane is almost like the sidewalk, in that sense, segregating the smaller and slower bikes from busier traffic. Everything sounds like a win-win so far, right?

What Has the Veteran Cyclists Worried?

It is this very segregation that has the veteran cyclists worried. When bikes are forced to ride with cars on busy city streets, cars and bikes alike are forced to be aware of each other. Cars may be momentarily inconvenienced while waiting for enough room to pass a bicycle, but the takeaway from that scenario is that the driver is forced to be vigilant.

Bike lanes do offer a safe buffer, but this buffer nearly eliminates the need for cars to coexist with bikes. The only place the two modes of transportation are thrown together is at intersections, the place that posed the greatest risk to begin with. Whether the cyclist wants to make a left turn or a car wants to make a right turn, it involves crossing through the other’s territory. Cars entering roadways from side streets must also cross the bike lane, and rarely consider that the bicyclist has the right-of-way.

The problem is not that bike lanes are dangerous, per se, but rather that they offer a false sense of impenetrable safety from both sides of the equation. Drivers tend to forget about bike lane traffic, and cyclists assume that they are safe. It is this sense of security that causes both drivers and bikers to make mistakes that could be fatal.

If you have friends that bike in Sarasota, share this article with them on Facebook to encourage bike lane vigilance, and help keep our roads safe for everyone!