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Old 05-19-14, 10:30 AM   #1
willieb
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Which Is Safer, 4 Lane Hwy or 2 Lane Road?

I will commute to work at least a few days this summer.

I've googled and searched this forum but I don't see anything related. Hopefully not to start a huge controversial discussion, but is there any data on which road is statistically safer, a 4 lane highway or a 2 lane road?

I have a choice of 2 routes. The highway route is 4 lane but is a couple miles longer. Speed limit on both roads are the same. I'm thinking the 4 lane road will be safer, but that's just me trying to think logically.
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Old 05-19-14, 10:59 AM   #2
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I think it depends on the street. There are some 2-lane roads in my area that are better than the 4-lane roads nearby. However, there are some 2-lane roads that I avoid like the plague.

In general terms, speed limit, lane width and traffic volume are the key players in this decision.
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Old 05-19-14, 10:59 AM   #3
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I haven't seen any data comparing the two, but my gut feeling is that the four-lane road is safer, all other things being equal. It gives more room for passing.

But if the two-lane road has nice wide shoulders, or is very lightly traveled, I'd choose it over the four-lane road.
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Old 05-19-14, 11:09 AM   #4
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Obviously, actual conditions count more than generalities. But I prefer 2 lane roads most of the time.

First of all, there's usually a difference in driver expectations between what they consider a main road, and a side road, or in the language of the printed maps of yore, red roads vs. blue roads.

There's also a difference in how drivers pass. On a 2 lane, most wait for n opening and move over to pass the same as they would a car. On a 4 lane, many drivers don't like to change lanes, or may come up to a bicycle with a car next to them, then they get tempted to force a pass without the lane change. Of course a lightly used 4 lane road offers the most passing room.

Then there's the question of lane width. Most of the 4 lane roads here all lanes the same width, which us usually narrower than the lane width on 2 lane roads. This isn't always true, but seems to hold most of the time.

In your shoes, I'd road test both options and go with the one that feels best.
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Old 05-19-14, 11:09 AM   #5
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@spivonious
That's my thoughts as well. On the 2 lane there's no wide shoulders nor is it lightly traveled. Thanks.

@FBinNY
I understand y'all can only respond generally without knowing specifics. Thanks for the reply.
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Old 05-19-14, 11:15 AM   #6
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...
I understand y'all can only respond generally without knowing specifics. Thanks for the reply.
Yes, that's why I give you my thought process. Hopefully, knowing some of the considerations, you can make a judgement based on the specific choices.
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Old 05-19-14, 11:50 AM   #7
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I can't answer specifically or even the statistics on 2 vs 4 lane roads, but I have gleaned this from accident statistics: Rural riding on two lane roads is statistically high on the risk of accident, and accidents there tend toward greater severity. That would indicate to me that the 4 lane highway is a lower risk, or else that travel on 4 lane highways is rare enough to not nudge the stats. My educated guess is, a little of both.
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Old 05-19-14, 12:20 PM   #8
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For rush hour especially I'd look at both while thinking about the worst few spots.

If either has an intersection where lots of people turn that is a potential trouble spot for a cyclist.

Heck just number of intersections could make a huge difference. It actually would not be a huge surprise to find out that one road is better in to work and the other going home.
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Old 05-19-14, 12:47 PM   #9
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Your riding style plays into this also. If you habitually take the lane, then the 4 lane amy be better as there is more opportunity for cars to pass, and in some locations taking the lane seems to inspire police to stop the rider, especially on 2 lane roads. In other areas, the simple act of riding on a 4 lane road seems to encourage police to stop and tell you to ride elsewhere. You need to scope out the local scenes to see that will give you the least grief, as I believe if you manage to annoy enough drives, one will be that chance psycho.
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Old 05-19-14, 01:55 PM   #10
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Lower traffic volume can make any road more comfortable. You might want to look for that.

I too would try both options several times. I find it very invigorating riding with traffic... and relatively safe when done properly.
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Old 05-19-14, 02:21 PM   #11
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I started thinking a bit about one 4 lane road because starting from the North end one would get a very different answer depending on if one was going as far as the point or the bridge over the freeway.

Until that point it is usually pretty nice, the point sucks.

Then I remembered when it goes by the High School. That point sucks if school is letting in or out.

At that point I remembered another ride where a 2 lane raod went past a High School.

And just now I remembered a close call at another High school.

If either comes withing a couple of blocks of a High School take the other .
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Old 05-19-14, 04:32 PM   #12
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While this was asked as a safety issue question, that's rarely how I actually decide. Unless there's a material difference in safety and what I consider rideability (pavement, lane width, etc.) I generally pick routes based on interest and overall ride experience. That means I have a bias toward 2 lane roads because they're usually more scenic vs. through built up commercial areas.

BTW- not mentioned yet (unless I missed it) commerce and active commercial driveways -- shopping centers, gas stations, etc. probably factor more than anything else in how I rate a road for safety.

One of the major cyclist hazards are motorists exiting driveways onto busy 4 lane roads, especially if making a left. They tend to jump out through narrow gaps in traffic timing the move to beat oncoming traffic coming from their right, and often ignoring cyclists coming from the left. Likewise drivers making lefts into a driveway. IMO one commercial driveway + 5 intersections from a safety standpoint.
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Old 05-19-14, 09:23 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willieb View Post
I will commute to work at least a few days this summer.

I've googled and searched this forum but I don't see anything related. Hopefully not to start a huge controversial discussion, but is there any data on which road is statistically safer, a 4 lane highway or a 2 lane road?

I have a choice of 2 routes. The highway route is 4 lane but is a couple miles longer. Speed limit on both roads are the same. I'm thinking the 4 lane road will be safer, but that's just me trying to think logically.
In my experience, I feel safer on a 4\6-lane 'highway'. Than I do on a 2-lane road. In my locale, there are numerous 4\6-lane roads that might be thought of as a 'highway'. They may be considered 'state highway', but they are not part of the 'interstate freeway system'. Then there 2-lane roads, near the speed limits' of the state highway speed limit. Along with other 2-lane roads at the same speed limit as the state highway system.

Also, There is more room on the larger roads, to pass cyclists'. Than there is on the smaller roads.
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Old 05-20-14, 03:17 AM   #14
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How about giving us the 2 roads so we can Bing/Google them and have an aerial/street view.
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Old 05-20-14, 06:37 AM   #15
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Every evaluation like this must be done on a case-by-case basis. A single idiot who always drives a certain route at the same time as you're on that road can change the decision.

That said, I would LOVE to be allowed to ride on the interstate here. My "bikes allowed" route is 2 lanes and is OK most of the way but the last 2 miles the shoulder goes away, the gravel is often a big dangerous drop-off from the road, the lanes narrow and the pavement gets broken up. Also it's between the expressway offramp and town so traffic is much heavier on that stretch (which is probably why the pavement breaks up). The expressway has a 16 foot wide breakdown lane that would be awesome to ride in.
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Old 05-20-14, 07:07 AM   #16
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Without a doubt it depends on the roads in question. Generally speaking 4 lane roads have wide shoulders which is safer, and drivers have the inside lane to pass. However some 2 lane roads have shoulders also, and may have much less traffic.
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Old 05-20-14, 09:30 AM   #17
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How about giving us the 2 roads so we can Bing/Google them and have an aerial/street view.
Wow, thanks for the replies. I've decided to take the 4 lane road hands down.

I was just asking as a general question without specifics. Both roads are very rural. There's typically a bit more traffic on the 4 lane road but of course you would expect that.

Here's the 2 options for the segement I'm referring to. Hopefully the links work correctly:

four lane
https://www.google.com/maps/dir/31.2...8dbada!1m0!3e1

two lane
https://www.google.com/maps/dir/31.2...m3!1m0!1m0!3e1
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Old 05-20-14, 09:39 AM   #18
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Even with rumble strips, 23 with the extra lane would be my choice.

Thanks for the roads links!
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Old 05-20-14, 09:41 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willieb View Post
I will commute to work at least a few days this summer.

I've googled and searched this forum but I don't see anything related. Hopefully not to start a huge controversial discussion, but is there any data on which road is statistically safer, a 4 lane highway or a 2 lane road?

I have a choice of 2 routes. The highway route is 4 lane but is a couple miles longer. Speed limit on both roads are the same. I'm thinking the 4 lane road will be safer, but that's just me trying to think logically.
Depends on the lane width, traffic volumes, traffic speeds (actual speeds as well as speed limits).

I know our (UK) roads are typically narrower than comparable US roads but to give you an example there's this road http://goo.gl/maps/YFooP - I've cycled it a couple of times and for the most part it's fine. There's enough space for two cars to get past me, as long as I ride a little closer to the left than I might normally. During the afternoon it's not very busy, but I wouldn't choose that route in the rush hour. Then there's this route http://goo.gl/maps/yuFhk that's a standard two-lane. The trouble is it goes up a fairly steep hill (my grade indicator tops out about 9-10%), isn't wide enough for cars behind to pass, and has a 50mph speed limit. I use a varied route specifically to avoid going up that hill, simply because I don't like being a rolling roadblock on a fast road.

If lanes are wide enough that cars can safely pass without changing lane, or without forcing anything in the adjacent lane to take evasive action, you're better off than if the lanes are narrow enough that cars have to come to a sudden halt behind you (yes, I know they should have seen you sooner than that but if you assume every other road user is a colossal bonehead you'll be disappointed less often). If the traffic volumes are such that the average speed is comparable to what you can maintain then you won't be holding anybody up at all.
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Old 05-20-14, 01:50 PM   #20
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I'd absolutely take the 4 lane there. Great shoulder with a rumble strip to protect you and gaps to get in and out of the shoulder.
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Old 05-20-14, 09:07 PM   #21
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Wow, thanks for the replies. I've decided to take the 4 lane road hands down.

I was just asking as a general question without specifics. Both roads are very rural. There's typically a bit more traffic on the 4 lane road but of course you would expect that.

Here's the 2 options for the segement I'm referring to. Hopefully the links work correctly:

four lane
https://www.google.com/maps/dir/31.2...8dbada!1m0!3e1

two lane
https://www.google.com/maps/dir/31.2...m3!1m0!1m0!3e1
What are the speed limits? Is it very hilly? Most of my commute is on 2-lane hilly, curvy roads. Most of it has little traffic, but a couple areas have more and it can get a little hairy at times. Motorist generally pass me with plenty of room, but many do so on blind curves and hills, even when oncoming traffic is in plain sight. It's ridiculous.

I have one section of commute where I could take either a 40 MPH 5-lane road or a 35 MPH 2-lane road. I absolutely take the 5-lane (middle turn lane, curb and gutter, no shoulder or street parking) every time. The 2-lane has steady traffic with very little space for cars to pass me, whereas the 5-lane always has the left lane for traffic to easily pass.
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Old 05-21-14, 12:53 AM   #22
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Four laners have a good shoulder. Just have to watch out for on ramps. Two lane roads can be dicey.
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