Roads are designed for cars, not bicycles. Motorists expect cars, not bicycles. Cyclists' legal right to use the road exists on paper, but with an unwritten clause: "If you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch." This is the reality we cyclists generally live with.
We cyclists must avoid close calls by mastering this devilish system. We must learn how to avoid car doors opening in our paths, debris and glass, potholes and railroad tracks, cut-offs by passing motorists turning in front of us, speeding traffic, and we must deal with motorists who don't want us on the road; the list goes on. We can learn strategies to reduce our risks in almost every dangerous possibility we face.
But even when we have done all, we are still being denied our basic legal rights by a system which treats us as less important than all other road users. Our rights exist on paper, but they do not exist in the planning phases of road design. This is unfair and dangerous.
If planners designed roads with cyclists in mind and drivers were trained to mix with cyclists on the road, this would reduce our risk greatly. Speed limits should be enforced and even lowered. Curbside lanes should be wider. Traffic signal sensors should be easily activated by cyclists. In short, any competent cyclist should be able to use our existing roads to get anywhere that a motorist can go with a high level of safety and comfort. Motorists insist upon this for themselves and so should cyclists. In the mean time, we must learn how to cycle strategically. We must not learn to depend upon the design solutions offered us by road planners, because they always put the safety of motorists first.