Many communities throughout Connecticut have undergone roadway infrastructural changes that accommodate the growing number of bicyclists. As more residents of Connecticut enjoy the health and money-saving benefits of cycling, we are beginning to see an increase in conventional and protected bike lanes.
While bike lanes may help protect bicyclists by separating them from traffic, they do have their flaws that can pose a serious risk. These risks are identified in a recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) with the help of researchers from George Washington University, Oregon Health and Science University, and New York University.
Infrastructural hazards to watch out for
Unlike conventional bike lanes — which only include painted lines and symbols along the side of the road — protected bike lanes separate bicyclists from cars with physical barriers. This is generally one of the safest places for bicyclists to ride.
After interviewing more than 600 adult bicyclists who had visited an emergency room due to a crash or fall, however, researchers found that protected bike lanes don't guarantee protection. The study noted the points of location where crashes or falls occurred in protected bike lanes and compared them to several other points along a bike route.
They discovered that bicyclists are more likely to fall or crash in two-way protected bike lanes that were on street level for two reasons. Bicyclists were likely to:
- Encounter cars turning in or pulling out of driveways and alleys
- Swerve into traffic or fall when a pedestrian enters a protected bike lane
- Encounter cars in protected bike lanes that cross intersections
Two-way protected bike lanes located on bridges or raised from ground level (such as on a greenway) were found to be much safer since bicyclists were less likely to encounter cars or pedestrians.
"There is evidence that protected bike lanes help prevent the worst crashes," said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president for research and lead author of the study. "What our study shows is that certain locations are better than others for this type of infrastructure."
What can be done to promote bicyclist safety?
The study's authors are urging cities to scan their protected bike lanes for hazardous points of location and consider infrastructural improvements. This could include installing a raised bicycle crossing in areas where bicyclists are likely to encounter cars and discourage pedestrians from accessing bike lanes.
In the meantime, awareness is key. Drivers have a responsibility to stay attentive and watch out for bicyclists at intersections or when entering/exiting driveways and alleys. If you're a bicyclist who was injured because of the careless actions of a driver, you likely sustained serious injuries that require months of costly medical treatment and time away from work. That's why it's important to discuss your matter with an experienced Connecticut bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible.