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Bike lanes are not new, and some bicycling advocacy organizations view them as a way to encourage on-road bicycling. Transportation engineers embrace bike lanes as a way to accommodate what many of them view as a transportation mode too different from motor vehicles to share the same lane. More recently, bike lanes have been complemented by “bike boxes” at signalized intersections, in some cases following cyclist fatalities at those locations resulting from turning motor vehicles crossing the bike lane at the junction.

While road improvements can sometimes make the road safer and more convenient for cyclists, bike lane striping typically makes it more dangerous, while providing the novice cyclist with a false sense of security. Some proponents may argue that they legitimize on-road bicycling but that is better achieved by repealing discriminatory laws, primarily the so-called “Far To the Right” (FTR) law, and erecting approved signage when and where appropriate, e.g. BIKES MAY USE FULL LANE (BMUFL) signs.

Novice cyclists already behave in ways that typically put them at risk from a car-bike collision, such as riding in or near the gutter where they are most vulnerable from either an overtaking motorist right-hook or an approaching motorist left-cross. A bike lane tells both motorists and cyclists that this is where cyclists are expected to ride, and make it harder for skilled and knowledgeable cyclists to exercise lane control, even though that is usually safer.

Paint cannot replace knowledge on the part of the cyclist, as illustrated in this series of three blogs devoted specifically to bike lanes. This first blog reproduces on-line material posted by John S. Allen illustrating important deficiencies with the bike lane approach towards accommodating cyclists on public roads. The following blog will feature some of the work of proficient cyclist and gifted artist and animator, Keri Caffrey.

John S. Allen

John S. Allen

John S. Allen

John Allen has a long career as a transportational cyclist. He’s a former contributing editor to Bicycling magazine, wrote The Complete Book of Bicycle Commuting, published by Rodale Press in 1981, as well as the still-popular Bicycling Street Smarts, a booklet first published in 1988.

Allen also maintains a very comprehensive bicycling blog which includes a long article on bike boxes at A LOOK INTO THE “BIKE BOX”. Under a section titled “Safety considerations” is the following graphic “illustrating some of the safety issues inherent in an in-line bike box,” i.e. a box in which cyclists can wait ahead of motorists at a stop light, provided it hasn’t changed to green.

Potential motorist-cyclist collision situations:

Click to enlarge this and any other graphic. Use back button to return to this page.

Click to enlarge this graphic. Use back button to return to this page.

If the motorist in the right lane plans to turn right that can lead to a collision with the cyclist riding in the bike lane (or near the edge when the bike lane is absent). This is always a risk for cyclists using a bike lane or edge riding rather than controlling the curb lane, since motorists often underestimate the speed of a cyclist they have passed, or even sometimes mistakenly believe that, as a motorist, they have priority over a cyclist.

Cyclist “b” is also in danger of a collision with a motorist in the inside lane, to whom she is invisible, if she enters the bike box on the light change, as indicated here by the arrow in front of the blue car.

Not illustrated above is the potential for a collision between a left-turning motorist and an oncoming cyclist in the bike lane (e.g. cyclist “a”) who is obscured by a motor vehicle. This is illustrated in the following blog.

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