To Bike Lane or Not To Bike Lane

Bike Lane Intersection Image
Dashed lines at bike lanes

Bet you didn’t know that bike lane was a verb right?

Well, if you are new to biking, or haven’t yet discovered how great biking is, you might not realize that bike lanes aren’t always your friend. They can put you in some precarious positions. Often you’re safer riding in traffic with the cars, especially if you can keep up with them.

While I’m not sure how realistic it is to convince people who are not experienced riders that they should get out in traffic, especially when there’s a bike lane provided, here’s a site that was submitted by a reader showing just that. It’s got some very good, clear animations.

Most of the situations dealt with in these animations are at intersections. In those, I offer an alternative… when you’re not comfortable tangling with traffic at an intersection, become a pedestrian rather than a road vehicle.

It’s still a good idea to watch these animations because they will help you recognize when your safety is being compromised. There’s a couple new ones in that link that hadn’t occurred to me before watching.

These animations are in response to a law in Orlando that enforces bike lane usage when they are available. Other jurisdictions have similar laws as well. After watching the animations, what do you think about those laws? Does anyone know if there are laws like that anywhere in Canada?

8 thoughts on “To Bike Lane or Not To Bike Lane

  1. When there’s debris or something blocking the bike lane I’ll move outside of it. I haven’t had an issue with anyone yet.

    When approaching an intersection (w/ green light), I’ll move more to the centre or just left of centre of the car in front of me (as long as no one is behind me) so left turning vehicles coming towards me can see me.
    Sometimes if a larger vehicle is in front the left turning vehicle may not see me if in the bike lane.

    I do get a kick that Orlando is forcing cyclists to use the bike lane. They are constantly ranked as the most dangerous city in the USA for pedestrians, with 550 pedestrians killed in the last decade.
    Ironically enough, the top 4 cities are all in Florida.

  2. Nice link! Those animations are great.

    I believe Montréal requires cyclists to use bike lanes where they exist. I was told this when I rented a bike there.

    I’m somewhat ambivalent about bike lanes. In most cases I prefer wide curb lanes without markings (or maybe sharrows), for all the reasons mentioned in the linked article. However, I believe that the most important goal for improving cycling safety in our area is to get more people out riding. Bicycle-specific infrastructure seems the most effective way to do this.

    I’m most certainly against a legal requirement to use bicycle facilities where they are present. There are all sorts of examples of poorly designed bicycle infrastructure. One example that comes to mind is the northbound bike lane on Belmont between Glasgow and Union. Faster-moving cyclists shouldn’t be forced to ride in the door zone when they are much safer taking the lane.

    1. It’s provincial law. Quebec used to require bikes to use bike lanes, but recently repealed that law. This can particularly be a problem when the bike lane has a speed limit and people were training for races. It’s no longer mandatory to use bike lanes.

  3. Those animations is where I got the confidence to start riding in traffic. I understand the need to take the lane and ‘force’ drivers to either pass safely or wait behind me. There have been no conflicts yet, but I do pick my battles: I don’t normally ride on busy roads.

    Something I do above and beyond is while travelling on single lane roads I take the whole lane and move to the left (hugging the yellow line) when coming to an intersection with a larger road (if I plan on going straight and there are no traffic lights). Cars turning right can get around me, and cars going the same way as me have to wait behind.

  4. Regarding the laws, existing or possible, they are/will be enforced as in other places: without a sense of fairness or logic. However, if you get slapped with a fine you can take the case to a higher court. Hopefully, reason will prevail in that setting and the law will be nullified by precedent.

  5. I generally take the lane at intersections, regardless of bike lanes or no. Sitting at the curb is a great way to get a right hook, many folks manage to run over curbs when making right turns so it’s never a good idea to trust someone with a steering wheel in their hands.

    There’s a few places in town where the right-hand lane is a turn lane so cyclists have to use the left lane to continue on straight… Fairway & Wilson going north on Wilson is one place this can be scary… the only alternative is to hop on the sidewalk, but people actually walk around there it seems.

    I can usually get most trips done on trails and side streets so it’s not really a huge concern for me… my preference is segregated cycling infrastructure rather than more bike lanes, even if they are just more paved multi-use paths.

  6. I hate to sound like a broken record, but bike lanes provide safety, the promote increased numbers of cyclists on roads and *that* provides safety.

    It’s unfortunate that people think riding in bike lanes (or on sidewalks) is necessary to be safe, especially when it’s sometimes (or often, in the case of sidewalk-riding) the opposite, but there’s not much you can do about people’s mentality until they actually start cycling.

    As a comparison, I don’t think putting a bunch of lights up in an isolated park actually makes the park safer, but if it makes the park *feel* safer, then people will come out and enjoy the park, and the more people there are around, the safer the park.

    1. I second that.

      The real safety on the road is with increased cyclists and infrastructure is one way to get people on the bike. Once there is enough of us we’ll all be safer.

      I still think it helps to see these animations anyway. Just so that if you choose the bike lane, you know what to look out for. I don’t always follow the recommendations of the animations, but it helps to see them.

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