Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bicyclist Killed in Indianapolis Bike Lane; Why Indianapolis' Bike Lanes are Dangerous

The Indianapolis Star reports:
New York Avenue Bike Lane
An adult bicyclist was killed Thursday morning after colliding with an Indianapolis Public Schools bus on the Northwestside.
The bicyclist, whose name has not been released, was traveling west in the bike lane on Westlane Road when he collided with the eastbound bus turning north on to Ditch road, authorities said. The accident, just north of Westlane Middle School, was reported shortly before 7:30 a.m.
Readers of this blog will know that, as a bicyclist, I have long been a critic of Indianapolis' bike lanes.  Most of those lanes are poorly designed and actually make bicycling more dangerous.   Reasons?
  • Visibility:  Bicyclists are taught to not ride at the edge of the road but instead to "ride wide" and "take the lane" so they are more easily seen. Then when a car approaches, the bicyclist moves to the side of the road.  Bike lanes ignore this safety tip in favor of placing the bicyclist at the edge of the road where he or she is least likely to be seen.
  • Narrowing of Lanes:  Inevitably the result of bike lanes is that traffic lanes are reduced in size, often barely wide enough to contain large vehicles.  As a result it creates a more dangerous experience for drivers as well as the bicyclists who will be right next to outermost traffic lane.  In a wide lane, a motorist (perhaps looking at a cell phone) can "drift" without incident. But if a motorist drifts in a narrow lane the result can be tragic.
  • Hazards in Bike Lanes:  Because bike lanes are at the edge of the road, they inevitably end up with glass, gravel, debris and standing water in them.  Then you have potholes.  When faced with these obstacles a bicyclist in a bike lane has no choice but to hit them or swerve out into a traffic lane. Both options can result in injury or even death.
  • Dooring:  One of the biggest dangers faced by bicyclists in a city is "dooring."  That is when a motorists, quite understandably, doesn't see an approaching bicyclist and open a door.  The bicyclist hits the door or quickly swerves out into a traffic lane.   Several bicyclists are killed annually by "dooring."  Dooring can best be avoided by never riding right next to parked cars. Yet several Indianapolis bike lanes run right next to bike lanes, so close than an opened door covers the entire bike lane.
  • Disparity in Speed:  The safest places to bike are places where there is not much difference in the speed of a bicycle as opposed to a car.  Downtown streets are pretty safe as bicycles can, depending on traffic, pretty much keep up with cars in many places. Where you have the greatest danger is places where bike lanes are located and there is a great disparity in speed.  For example, on Allisonville Road, cars are traveling 50 mph right next to bicyclists traveling 15 mph in the bike lane along that road, assuming there are bicyclists who actually use that bike lane.
  • Framing Bike Lanes with High Curbs:  A bicyclist riding in traffic should always be thinking of an escape route, in particular what to do if a car begins drifting toward you.  The problem is that in Indianapolis, many bike lanes are framed with high curbs, leaving the bicyclist with no escape route.
  • False Sense of Security:  Riding in bike lanes, many bicyclists, especially those that are weekend or recreational bicyclists, feel they are magically protected from traffic.  They take less precautions and are less wary of potential dangers.
  • Drivers Less Attentive:  Similarly, with bicyclists are confined to bike lanes, drivers are less aware of their presence and may not even see them.
For these reasons, you see a lot of serious bicycle commuters who want nothing to do with bike lanes.

5 comments:

RhondaLeeBaby69 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RhondaLeeBaby69 said...

As usual your so-called "arguments" make no sense.

You wrote, "In a wide lane, a motorist (perhaps looking at a cell phone) can "drift" without incident." Exactly how is this situation safer for a cyclist? (Rhetorical question...it is not safer)

Assume in a 12-foot wide lane, a motorist typically drives in the middle of the center line. For the purposes of this example, the width of a car is approximately 6 feet (we can argue about average vehicle width, but whatever number you use illustrates my point). This means that the there is normally 3 feet from the curb to the right side of the vehicle. If the driver were to drift 1 foot to the right, that leaves a 2 foot gap that a cyclist could ride without being struck.

Now assume a 9-foot wide lane with a 3-foot bicycle lane (the same total width as above). Again assume the motorist typically drives down the center line, leaving 1.5 feet from the right side of the vehicle to the left side of the bicycle lane. Assume 1-foot of drift to the right (as above), and now the cyclist has 3.5 feet in which to safely ride (as opposed to 2 feet in the situation above with a wide lane). I would take this situation over the one above any day of the week.

Perhaps some remedial math is in order

RhondaLeeBaby69 said...

Another fallacious argument of yours:

"Bicyclists are taught to not ride at the edge of the road but instead to "ride wide" and "take the lane" so they are more easily seen. Then when a car approaches, the bicyclist moves to the side of the road. "

This breaks one of the most important rules of cycling which is to "ride predictably". You would have cyclists diving out of the way of every approaching vehicle from behind? On a city street without a dedicated bike lane that would require the cyclist to be looking behind them every 2-10 seconds which is not only impractical, but dangerous.

Downtown Indy said...

Reports are the cyclist had lights and visible clothing. No bike lane is going to help or hinder a cyclist when a multi-ton bus turns across his path.

Not reported: Did the cyclist 'stretch' a yellow out too far into the red? Did a bus driver fail to yield after the green arrow turned off?

Since they were travelling in opposite directions the bike lane argument is an irrelevant diversion.

Ron Nicolas said...

You really don't sound like a cyclist who uses the streets. I won't go into the points covered by others here, but I do have some things to add.

"Because bike lanes are at the edge of the road, they inevitably end up with glass, gravel, debris and standing water in them."

No more so that the rest of the street (as your photo illustrates), and by your stated rules of the road cyclists would still be in this part of the street.

"Several bicyclists are killed annually by "dooring." Dooring can best be avoided by never riding right next to parked cars."

Dooring can best be avoided by drivers not opening a door in front of a cyclist. As I hope you are aware, the legal stance on dooring in Indiana is that it is the fault of the person opening the door, blaming the victim is a defense attorney move, not a valid argument for reality. Also, if the bike lanes aren't there, the cyclist by your rules is still in the danger zone, only without the awareness that he/she might be there.

And, yes, people use the Allisonville bike lanes. I see them all of the time, and have myself done so several times.

This tragedy does not show "dangers" posed by bike lanes--it shows dangers posed by dangerous drivers. When a driver kills a pedestrian do you call for removing sidewalks and crosswalks?