You may be looking forward to leaving your car behind and taking on the city on two wheels as Indiana works to make roadways across the state more bicycle friendly. In many areas, this includes bike lanes, but do these routes dedicated to cyclists really improve your safety?
According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, data on bicycle crash causes and outcomes are inconclusive. While you may feel more comfortable riding on the street rather than the sidewalk, and going with the flow of traffic rather than against it as pedestrians do, your own willingness to follow traffic laws is only a small piece of the puzzle.
No matter how many measures you take to prevent an accident, much your well-being on the road is in the hands of the motorists around you. The most common threats to your safety are these driver behaviors:
- Turning right across the bike lane
- Opening vehicle doors in your path, or hitting you with the door
- Failing to check the bike lane before pulling out into traffic or into a parking space
There are safety standards that transportation engineers must follow in designing the bike lanes, but on some narrow roadways, carving out space for the dedicated lanes may be difficult or impossible. In these areas, you may begin seeing sharrows: shared-lane markings that indicate the preferred position for cyclists. This marking not only provides you with the safest place in the lane, it also alerts motorists to the possibility that a bicycle will be present.
Because most vehicle-bicycle accidents occur when the drivers are not paying adequate attention, you should always be prepared to make evasive maneuvers, even when you have the right of way. This information is provided for educational purposes, but it should not be interpreted as legal advice.