What are the pros and cons to cyclists of bike lanes?
Inexperienced cyclists who do not understand the rules of the road and their applicability to cycling, nor understand the causes of most car-bike collisions, feel intimidated riding on roads with cars. Because they mostly fear being hit from the rear -- a very uncommon form of car-bike collision -- bike lanes make them feel safer, even though they provide no protection from cross traffic and at intersections, where most car-bike collisions occur. Does a bike lane help an inexperienced cyclist be safe? Or does it provide a false sense of security that ultimately makes him less safe?
Few people will argue with the point that bike lanes help keep cyclists from slowing down motorists. Is this a benefit to just the motorists, or to the cyclists as well? Or are cyclists better off when there is no bike lane and motorists are more likely to slow down?
Motorists passing a cyclist riding in a bike lane are largely unaware of them, because the cyclist is not riding in the motorists' lane. This contributes to motorists not even adjusting their lane position when passing the cyclist - they feel as long as they remain in their lane, no matter how close they are to the right edge of their lane, everything is fine. At the same time cyclists tend to ride near the bike lane stripe due to debris collection in the bike lane (see below). These factors combine to fast/close passes by motorists of cyclists in bike lanes, typically faster and closer than passes that occur when there is no bike lane. Do these relatively fast/close passes of cyclists by motorists increase or decrease the safety of cyclists riding in bike lanes? What happens when the cyclist in the bike lane has to make a sudden unexpected adjustment to the left right before a motorist imakes a fast/close pass of him?
Few cyclists seem to know that the best and safest way to make a left turn is to start merging left hundreds of feet before the intersection. Do bike lanes help or hinder cyclists in learning how to make left turns properly?
Many cyclists do not seem to understand that riding near the right edge makes them less visible to cross traffic - and, hence, more vulnerable to being hit by cross traffic. Do bike lanes help or hinder cyclists in learning where the safest lane position is to maximize their visibility and safety?
Moving motorist traffic has a sweeping effect that constantly cleans the pavement of debris that can cause punctures and even crashes. Because motorists are prohibited from driving in bike lanes, this sweeping effect tends to end at the bike lane stripe, and the bike lane collects all of the debris. When there is no bike lane, and no stripe, motorists tend to drive at least occasionally when there are no cyclists present on the pavement that would be allocated to a bike lane if there was one there - in other words the area where cyclists tend to ride - and hence sweep it up too. Do bike lanes improve or hinder riding pavement surface cleanliness for cyclists?
In most states the law says that cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as do drivers of vehicles. Some motorists and even some cyclists don't know or understand this. Many believe that cyclists are inferior users of the roadways as compared to motorists. Does the existence of bike lanes help or hinder communicating the message that cyclists have the SAME rights and responsibilities as other vehicle drivers?
Most everyone seems to understand that between intersections everyone should position themselves according to speed (slower traffic to the right). But at intersections, and at their approaches, positions should be selected based on destination (left-turners to the left, right-turners to the right, and thru travelers in between). Most cyclists don't seem to understand this, and stay near the right regardless of their destination. Do bike lanes help cyclists learn their proper positions (based on destination) on intersection approaches, or do they improperly encourage them to stay near the right regardless of their destination?
Everyone who is turning right is supposed to merge "as close as practicable" to the right side before the turn, and as they go through it. If there is a bike lane, even motorists are required to merge into the bike lane before turning right (this helps prevent cyclists from passing slowing/turning motorists on the right, and subsequently getting right-hooked). Do bike lanes help or hinder motorists in turning right properly in such a way as to reduce the possibility of collision with cyclists?
Bike lanes are inherently incomplete. They cannot continue through intersections, and often cannot continue through various sections due to parking and pavement width issues, among others. The sudden end of a bike lane often puts unprepared and inexperienced cyclists into dangerous situations. Do bike lanes make cycling more or less safe?
A relatively common type of car-bike collision is when the cyclist rides into an opening car door of a parked car, or in trying to avoid hitting an opening door, turns left in front of a passing car. Cyclists traveling faster than pedestrian speed should therefore ride outside of the so-called door zone, which means 3-4 feet from the edge of the parked cars. Bike lanes are often painted in door zones. Do bike lanes help or hinder cyclists in learning to ride outside of door zones?
Are bike lanes good or bad for cyclists and cycling?