Cities throughout the U.S., and over the globe, are increasingly encouraging alternative forms of transportation to ease traffic and improve air quality. In response, bicycling as a means of transportation has gained popularity in many urban areas. And with the increase of cyclists on the road, city planners and governments have been working to improve safety for both the cyclists, as well as the vehicles and other pedestrians that they share the road with.
Dedicated bike lanes are the most common protections cities have implemented to keep cyclists safe while travelling on local roads. Forms of bike lanes vary from street level bike lanes with painted lane markings, street-level bike lanes with protective barriers, and protected bike lanes that are raised from the roadway. Of these, the safest type of bike lanes are the protected bike lanes that are raised and separate from the roadway as these provide a permanent and solid barrier, such as a raised curb or sidewalk, between the cyclist and motor vehicles. Statistics have found that the fewest number of bike accidents involving crashes with vehicles occur in these types of bike lanes.
Many people tend to think that a street-level protected bike lane, protected by physical barriers such as posts or landscaping, would be safer for cyclist than conventional bike lanes with just painted lines. However, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that this isn’t necessarily the case. While the level of serious injury and number of fatalities may be less with street-level protected bike lanes, the number of injuries is actually more than the number of accidents that occur with conventional bike lanes.