Friday, October 11, 2013

Dangerous Downtown Indianapolis Bike Lane Results in Accident

If you want to go find out what's going on in a community, go to a barbershop.  This week my hair had gotten so shaggy I was in a desperate need for a cut.  So I made an appointment with my Brenda of Jack's Barbershop located in the City Market.

Now Brenda likes to talk...a lot.  She knows I often ride my bike downtown when I'm not having to wear a suit to court. So the topic is often about bicycling.

On this day though, she told me about a bicyclist riding in a downtown bike lane (I believe it was the Michigan Street bike lane) who had been run over by a state police car doing a right hand turn who didn't see the bicyclist in the bike lane.

Indeed for motorists that right turn blind spot has always been a problem.  I was always taught not to rely solely on the mirrors before moving over or turning right, but also took a quick glance over my right shoulder.  That is because cars can be driving at your rear bumper in the lane to your right and not be visible in your mirror.

Now imagine being in the same situation, except you're in the right lane and there is a bicycle lane to your right.  Given cars downtown have to stop at lot or slow down for other traffic, it's easy for a bicyclist (who is much harder to see than a regular car) to approach on the right into a blind spot and never be seen as the car turns to the right.  The bicyclist gets hits.  It's called a "right hook" and it's a danger that increases with bike lanes.

It is understandable to want to blame the motorists who deserves blame.  But too many bicyclists entering bike lanes think they're riding in a magical place where they no longer have to worry about the dangers of riding a bike in traffic.   That leads to bicyclists making mistakes such as not being on guard for right hooks.

Downtown is an easy place to ride a bike. This city is blessed with wide traffic lanes and it is usually easy to keep up with the traffic.  In a traffic lane it was easy to manuever out of obstacles and easy to be seen by the motorists doing what bike safety experts tell you to do - "ride wide."  Now confined to a little strip of pavement along side of the road, the bicyclist is actually more likely to be hit at, and certainly so at intersections.

Then there are the ridiculous New York Street bike lanes that run so close to parked cars that cars often have their tires in the bike lanes.   One of the things you never, never do on a bike is ride right next to parked cars.  It is difficult to look over the left shoulder to catch a rapidly approaching bike before opening a car door to exit the vehicle. As a result the bicylist hits the car door or suddenly must swerve out into traffic.  This is called "dooring" and it is a danger that increases greatly when bike lanes are placed right next to parked cars.

The video below is not of Indianapolis but it shows a fairly close right hook and near dooring in the same video.

That was not the first story Brenda told me about bike accidents.  One time she told me that during a single week she had four customers who had been hit riding bicycles on the downtown bike lanes.   The downtown bike lanes are dangerous and should be avoided.


Anonymous said...

Completely agree, we ought to get rid of bikes and bike lanes - this is an auto community. Similarly, since there seem to be an awful lot of auto-pedestrian accidents lately, lets get rid of walkers and sidewalks.

Racoon said...

Real helpful comment, goodneighborsam.

Paul K. Ogden said...

No, goodneighborsam, we should make the safety of bicyclists in our community a priority.

Downtown Indy said...

So let's suppose they remove the white stripes.

Does that change things? Does it make cyclists safer? Does it make motorists pay more attention?

RhondaLeeBaby69 said...

@DowntownIndy: No, of course not. Paul proposes another non-solution which is par for the course.