This begins a series on looking at individual hazards that cyclists must face while cycling. Feel free to comment (or even contradict me)!
Part 1 -- Bicycle Lanes on the sides of roads.
Frequently having a bicycle lane on the side of the road is seen as a plus for cyclists giving them space to ride seperate from traffic. However, I maintain that this is not entirely the case for the following reasons (please not that I am not look going to take into account Intersections, look for that in Part 2).
Firstly, a road surface is generally clean of debris because cars drive by and push it to the side of the road. However since cars will not drive in the cycling lane, it will not be cleared of debris such as rocks, small pieces of glass (particularly those 1/4 to 1/16 of an inch) that are particularly harmful to cyclists. Generally, the road is clear 2 feet away from the the track where cars usually drive, therefore, in order to dodge the debris, cyclists will have to drive closer to the traffic side of the bicycle lane. If they don't the debris could actually lead to a higher chance of crash on the edge of the road.
Secondly, the size of the bicycle lane should accomate most eventualities including a cyclist passing another. This requires a lot of extra space, as much as 5 or 6 feet.
I maintain that the roadway would actually be safer if those extra feet of space were interegrated into the outside lane of the roadway making it possible to road-share in that lane, so that the driver could pass the cyclist comfortably without having to lave the lane at all. However, the cycling lanes can frequently be a political decision that makes a particular city LOOK like they are paying attention to cyclists needs, when in actual fact, they can be increasing the danger to cyclists.