Some people ask why I ‘have it in’ for bike lanes.
I don’t. However, they aren’t a magic bullet, nor should they be treated as such. In the end, they’re segregated facilities that have a number of issues:
- They create a perception among many drivers that cyclists should only be in a bike lane, or on streets with striped bicycle lanes.
- Many bicycle lanes are poorly designed, placing cyclists going straight between the curb and a right turning car, or placing cyclists squarely within a parking area’s ‘door zone.’
- Maintenance for bicycle lanes can be highly variable in many places.
- The far right of many roads become glass collection zones, either due to curb proximity (recycling pickup zones) or the natural tendency for debris to collect roadside.
- Many communities act as though striping some lanes equates to creating a bicycle-friendly community.
- Bike lanes that go the ‘wrong’ way down one-way streets create potentially extra-hazardous crash situations, as two vehicles approaching one another head-on create impacts with greater force.
There is a point to many kinds of ‘segregated’ facilities. Some trail systems, for instance, bring riders through areas that are unsuited for heavy vehicle traffic, such as trucks and ATVs. But they are not a free pass to ‘bicycle-friendly’ status, and they have a number of important design, maintenance, and public relations considerations that must be baked into their construction, and too frequently are not.