Avid cyclists know that riding a bike helps keep you physically fit, reduces stress and provides a variety of cognitive benefits. But for cyclists who must ride in traffic, biking also can be a dangerous way to maintain health.
One answer is dedicated bike lanes, which establish a protective boundary between cyclists and vehicle traffic. Physical barriers that set off bike lanes can include plastic posts, trees and other plants, and even parked cars.
However they’re delineated, bike lanes help keep cyclists safe. One study found that on streets with protected bike lanes, bike riders suffered almost 90 percent fewer injuries. More than 70 percent of Americans have noted interest in riding a bike more frequently but believe the activity is dangerous.
Bike Lanes in Louisville
Louisville has made strides in recent years in helping bike riders feel safer with wide bike lanes around downtown. And the bike lanes — and related presence of more cyclists — have provided additional support for downtown businesses.
In addition, the city in 2014 opened the Big Four Bridge, which is available for use only by cyclists and pedestrians. The historic bridge links downtown with Jeffersonville, Indiana, which sits just across the Ohio River.
But despite the improvements, some Louisville cyclists remain frustrated. The bicycle infrastructure budget proposed by the mayor was cut in half, and the city is just starting a bike-share program and protected bike lanes.
Still, Bicycling magazine has given Louisville its highest rating — platinum — in the Bicycling-Friendly Business Score category, and the city improved to number 31 in the 2016 overall rankings of the 50 best cities for biking.
The Many Advantages of Bike Lanes
Lanes dedicated to bike traffic have a high cost-benefit ratio, research has found. In addition, the lanes provide multiple benefits, including:
- Significantly fewer injuries to cyclists. Cyclists in North America have between eight and 30 times more risk of suffering serious injury than do some European cyclists. Some researchers believe the difference is segregated bike lanes.
- More people riding bikes because they feel safer, which helps control obesity and promotes physical fitness in the local population.
- Improved safety for vehicles making right turns. Bike lanes add to the turning radius at driveways and intersections, reducing the risk of rear-end crashes.
- Higher probability that drivers can avoid utility poles and other fixed obstacles due to the greater area cleared of trees and other barriers to visibility.
- More space to place bus stops, improving safety for bus riders.
- More-confident drivers due to the additional open space created by paved shoulders and dedicated bike lanes. The additional space improves drivers’ ability to navigate and make quick stops.
- Improved safety for motorists who no longer need to cross into the oncoming traffic lane to avoid bicyclists. The added space for bikes means that drivers can stay in their own lanes without swerving to get around.
- Available space for vehicles that need to stop temporarily due to an emergency or breakdown.
- Easier passage for emergency vehicles that need to get around congested traffic. Drivers can pull onto the shoulder or into the bike lane to allow emergency vehicles to pass.
- Motorists travel at a more uniform speed without the need to slow down for cyclists, increasing the traffic carrying capacity of local roads and highways.
- Better chances that motorists can avoid accidents or maneuver to make unavoidable accidents less severe.
- Improved working conditions for utility and maintenance crews.
- Increased probability that drivers who accidentally swerve out of their travel lane can safely returning to their own lane.
- Better visibility for motorists and cyclists entering a roadway from a driveway or side street, along with better turning space and sight distance for all drivers.
- Improved runoff of stormwater from travel lanes, which increases road capacity and traffic safety.
- Better air quality because vehicles no longer need to travel on an unpaved shoulder to get around cyclists.
- Increased functional life of pavement due to structural support, which decreases wear on the outer pavement edge.
- The ability of drivers to safely pass on the right when other vehicles are turning left.
Boosting the Local Economy
At Meinhart, Smith, & Manning, PLLC, we are proponents of dedicated — and preferably protected — bicycle lanes. In addition to the many advantages listed above, bike lanes also provide two significant benefits to all residents regardless of whether they choose to travel by bike.
The addition of bike lanes stimulates the economy, experts say. In fact, research has found that bike lanes actually may increase sales for businesses they pass by.
Safe bike lanes also tend to lower the number of vehicles on the roads, which lowers emissions and pollution levels. Vehicles produce in excess of 30 percent of the carbon dioxide and 80 percent of carbon monoxide emissions in the United States every year, and short trips — the kind easily made by bike — are the worst offenders.
Bike lanes improve the environment and the local economy, and they provide a safer means of travel for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians alike. If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident, you need legal representation. For a no-cost review of your case, please contact Meinhart, Smith, & Manning, PLLC.