I am on the Auburn University campus bike committee and have been working on a subcommittee to propose new bike paths on campus. I commute everyday, rain or shine, cold or heat, 3 miles round trip, plus extra rides whenever i can, so i feel that i know about riding on campus.
So here's the thing: Which is safer: Bike lanes as part of the road (let's call them "wide curb lanes," or "WCL") or separate, dedicated bike lanes ("BL"). One person (a Ph.D.) says that there's a load of literature saying that WCLs are safer, but that seems counter-intuitive to me.
The following is the exact text of her post-meeting email, in which she spells out her argument. If you're not into the specifics, skip the following and please just let me know your thoughts on the matter.
"As I said at the meeting today, all of the research on the safety of bicycle facilities supports the fact that on-street bike lanes are MUCH safer than off-street paths, particularly when those paths or sidewalks will be shared with pedestrians. I understand that some people might feel more comfortable riding a bike on the sidewalk/bike path, however, I feel that out concern for the safety of the students and others riding bikes on campus, it would be irresponsible to plan for bike facilities on the sidewalks/bike paths where they are located next to roads. A better route to go would be to begin an educational program to educate people about how to bike safely in traffic (or, with the rest of traffic), and riding in the bike lane, which perhaps the new bike shop/community bike space in the student union can accomplish.
There are several estimates about how much safer bike lanes are over sidewalks and bike paths - the most recent estimate being that they are at least 5 times safer. A summary of that study is here: http://www.bicyclinginfo.org/insight...facilities.htm. John Forester, one of the most influential bicycle planners, found that bike paths were 2.6 times more dangerous per million bicycle miles traveled than major or minor highways.
This study: http://www.enhancements.org/download/trb/1636-001.PDF is widely cited and well documented, indicates that multiuse trails have a crash rate of about 40% higher than would be expected, whereas streets with bike lanes have a crash rate of 38%, streets without bike lanes have a crash rate of 56%.
Here are a few links to research about the dangers of off street bike paths/sidewalks as opposed to on-street bike lanes.
http://www.enhancements.org/trrtoc.htm (The Transportation Research Board is Congresses transportation research group - part of the National Academies of Science)
http://www.enhancements.org/download/trb/1705-017.pdf this is an analysis of colored on-street bike lanes, which Lindy talked about today.
http://www.enhancements.org/download/trb/1636-011.PDF This analysis (1) discusses the dangers of riding a bike on a sidewalk and (2) finds that sidewalk cyclists have higher accident rates on roads than nonsidewalk cyclists.
Should the bike committee continue to support bikes on sidewalks/off street paths, the minimum width needs to be at least 12 feet wide (http://www.bicyclinginfo.org/bikecost/primer.cfm), which is the width for a shared path with substantial pedestrian traffic (which I believe that Auburn has) under the AASHTO Green Book. this width would consume much more green space than most people would be comfortable with, but it is the only safe width that would accommodate pedestrians and bike traffic. It would also create nore impervious surface coverage, which I am sure that the sustainability committee would be against. Nonetheless,bikes on multi-use paths that are as wide as 12 feet are still not as safe as on-street bike lanes because of cars making right turns and cars entering and exiting curb cuts. The simple fact is that motorists do not look for fast moving vehicles (bikes) on the sidewalk when they make right turns or exit curb cuts, and bikes can not react fast enough to avoid a turning car.
Given the known safety issues involved with bicyclists riding on shared sidewalks/bike paths, I think that it would be irresponsible for the bike committee to recommend anything but on-street bike lanes for those places that are alongside a street. Of course, this is not a huge issue on campus because there are so few streets, but some streets, such as Donahue, are a big concern.
The instillation of off-street bike/sidewalks alongside roads puts those bicyclists who choose to ride safely on the street in more danger from cars who come to believe that streets are not where bikes belong. This reinforces the idea that streets are for cars, and sidewalks are for bikes.
I hope that this can generate some more discussion on this issue and perhaps change some of your viewpoints about bikes on off-street shared paths. Because there is such a huge body of research to support this idea, I feel very strongly that bikes belong on bike lanes on the street where possible."