When you're skiing, the person downhill has the right-of-way over anyone above him.
Similarly, when driving, the person ahead has the right-of-way over anyone behind him...
... Unless the person behind happens to be in a separate lane...
This is why the bike lane stripe can be so dangerous.
When there is no stripe, the cyclist up ahead has the right-of-way.
If there is an obstacle that causes the cyclist to suddenly swerve to avoid it, the motorist is clearly responsiible if he hits the cyclist.
So, a motorist coming from behind must slow down and make sure he passes that cyclist carefully and safely.
This is natural and intuitive, and explains why motorists do actually usually slow down and safely pass a cyclist who may be riding in the same lane.
Add a bike lane stripe and everything changes. All of a sudden the cyclist up ahead riding in the bike lane no longer has the right-of-way in the motorist's lane. The motorist legally, naturally and intuitively practically ignores the cyclist in the bike lane, just like he practically ignores any motor vehicles in an adjacent lane, and passes them as if they are not there. The motorist passing a cyclist in an adjacent bike lane typically does not slow down or adjust his lane position.
Couple this with the behavior of most cyclists in bike lanes to hug the left edge of the bike lane. If there is an obstacle that causes the cyclist to suddently swerve to avoid, the motorist's responsibility to avoid hitting the cyclist is much less clear.
Cyclists must swerve from time to time. Potholes, debris and obstacles happen. Bike lanes make that reality less safe.
I believe cyclists would be less likely to be injured or killed in motorist-passing-cyclist collisions if the bike lane stripes were eliminated. I realize there is no actual data supporting or refuting this hypothesis.
This argument applies assuming a bike lane is ANY lane designated exclusively or primarily for bicycle use, is adjacent to a vehicular lane, and is separated only by a painted stripe.
What do you think?