San Diego bike advocate Phillip Young is a frequent contributor to this site.
I always appreciate his insights. But we part ways when it comes to protected bike lanes.
Young penned a guest post for Cycling Salvation, suggesting that protected bike lanes only give the illusion of safety, while posing a hidden risk to new and experienced bike riders alike.
Bordered by raised asphalt barriers and bright plastic pylons, these “protected bike lanes” create a sort of “safety bubble” that protects cyclists from vehicles moving alongside them, in the same direction. In theory, cyclists of all ages and abilities can enjoy the San Diego sunshine and scenery, while cars and trucks whizz by in the adjacent vehicle lane. Motorists will see the fun loving bikers not slowed by traffic jams and join them in droves. Soon, we’ll all be pedaling together, in cycling bliss.
But those rosy assurances crumble, when we confront the real dangers of “protected bike lanes”, and the emotional and economic cost of the accidents, injuries, and deaths that plague them.
He directs his barbs in particular at a recently installed curb-protected bike lane on the coast highway through Cardiff.
According to statistics gathered by North County cycling advocates, there were 24 accidents — all at slow speeds — in just 8-months on a 1-mile flat “protected bike lane” stretch installed last year on the Cardiff 101 beach route. Fifteen of those crashes were caused by cyclists who collided with the raised asphalt barriers designed to keep vehicles away from the bike traffic. A ten-year-old rider flopped into the traffic lane after colliding with an asphalt barrier – fortunately, not run over by a vehicle. Many of these crashes resulted in ambulance rides to a hospital including: 1-knocked unconscious, 1-neck injury, 2-multiple bone fractures, 1-broken pelvis, 2-pedestrian crashes, and 1-hit surfboard.
The “protected bike lanes” on popular beachfront roads also attract pedestrians, joggers, families with strollers, beachgoers carrying umbrellas, coolers, and chairs, and scores of other non-cyclists. Those pedestrians don’t always pay attention to the cyclists, which creates a serious hazard for everyone. Raised barriers are also a pedestrian trip hazard. When a “protected bike lane” is on a steep grade, the added bike speed makes the situation even more hazardous.
Young also points to the death of a bike rider on another protected bike lane, with a design that prevented the driver from merging into the lane before turning, as required by California law.
A cyclist on Leucadia Blvd suffered a much worse fate. A truck driver made a right turn in front of the rider, who was killed when he collided with the truck. The plastic pylons designed to “protect” the cyclist had the opposite effect; they prevented the truck driver from slowly moving towards the curb as he prepared to make that right turn onto Moonstone Ct.
It’s a well argued piece, worth the click and a few minutes of your time.
However, the suggestion that protected bike lanes increase danger to bike riders runs counter to virtually all of the studies I’ve seen, including this endorsement from the National Transportation Safety Board.
Even the most critical recent report, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, found that most protected bike lanes improve safety for bike riders, with a few limited exceptions like narrow two-bike lanes or protected lanes broken up by numerous driveways and turns.
It’s also worth pointing out that the 24 bicycling crashes he refers to along a single stretch of road in an eight-month period works out to just three per month.
And yes, that’s three too many.
But it’s stat presented out of context. What matters isn’t how many crashes there were after the bike lanes went in, but how that compares to before they were installed.
If there were five crashes a month before the lanes were installed, a reduction to three a month would reflect a significant improvement in safety.
On the other hand, if there was an average of two bicycling crashes a month prior to the protected bike lanes going in, then it would mark a 50% decrease in safety.
The same holds true with the severity of the crashes. Even if there are more crashes now, if the victims are less seriously injured, the protected bike lanes are doing their job.
That said, looking at a photo of these particular bike lanes suggests several serious safety deficiencies.
First, the bike lane doesn’t appear to be wide enough to accommodate two bicycle riding side-by-side, making it challenging to safely pass slower riders. And no one is going to patiently ride in single file behind someone riding at a fraction of their speed.
The proximity of the parking lane also means passengers will exit onto the bike lane, potentially into the path of a passing rider — not to mention cross the bike lane on their way to the beach laden with blankets, umbrellas, coolers and kids.
And the narrow, unwelcoming walkway to the right means many, if not most, pedestrians will choose to walk in the bikeway, instead.
As much as I support protected bike lanes, this particular one does not appear to pass the smell test.
Or any other test, for that matter.
While we’re on the subject, Phillip Young added some more thoughts in an email exchange yesterday afternoon, which is worth sharing here.
Doing research for my article, I came across San Diego County car vs bicycle accident data:
Average number of San Diego County car vs bicycle accident / crashes annually: 629
San Diego County population 3+ million people
The majority (60%) of the accidents are “Bicycle Riders Acting Badly”:
- Ran a red light or stop sign
- Cutting in between cars
- Taking unnecessary chances
Inexperienced male bicycle riders between ages of 15 and 19 account for most accidents.
The overwhelming majority (92%) of the accidents, the bicycle rider sustains non-severe injuries:
- 1% Deaths (Not all bicycling deaths are solely the car or truck driver’s fault: e.g. gun shot, alcohol / drugs, medical event, bicycle equipment failure, no lights or reflectors at night, etc.)
- 7% Severe Injuries
- 92% Complaint of pain and other visible injury
It is very unlikely a car will hit you on your next bike ride (Average 629 annual crashes with a population of 3+ million people). Even if you are unlucky and a car does hit you, 92% chance it will be a non-severe injury.
It’s way more likely you will hit something and crash — we don’t need more stuff sticking up to crash into or bad road surfaces with holes and debris to cause a fall. Even a slow speed bicycle crash can be serious.
Money is much better spent building Class I Bike Paths and Class II Buffered Bike Lanes. Building more miles of Class IV Cycle Tracks (Protected Bike Lanes) will just multiply our problems.
The victim in the fatal Florida bike crash during the 72-hour Sea to Sea endurance race has been identified as Dr. Troy Manz.
The former Marine was a first-year resident at an Indiana hospital, and a member of the Air National Guard.
Two women riding near Dr. Manz were seriously injured. They were among the nine bicyclists involved in four collisions during the race.
Unfortunately, there’s still no word on whether the driver will face charges.
After all, it is Florida, which isn’t exactly friendly to bike riders.
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Sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.
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The family of 31-year old Victor Valencia have filed suit against the LAPD for fatally shooting the mentally ill man as he allegedly waved a bicycle part resembling a gun.
UCLA Transportation wonders if an ebike is right for you.
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Kindhearted La Habra cops pitched in to buy a new bike for a 13-year old boy after the one he got from his dad for Christmas was stolen the very next day.
Awful news from San Diego, where a 40-year old former BMX coach was convicted of sexually assaulting three young boys, at least one below the age of ten, after first plying them with porn.
Bakersfield police are looking for the driver of a white, late 1990s Toyota Avalon for the hit-and-run crash that injured a bicyclist last month.
A Sacramento man faces 61 years behind bars for wrapping a woman in his coat and carrying her off a bike path after seeing she was in distress — then fatally stabbing her without warning, for no apparent reason.
Good news, as police in Concord recovered a stolen shipping container filled with nearly 500 bikes that were headed for Botswana; no word on whether the people who stole it were arrested.
Writing for Bicycling, bike scribe Joe Lindsey tells the Bike Twitterati to give the former Mayor Pete a break, because what really matters is that the Transportation Secretary is on a bicycle. And yes, you can read it on Yahoo if Bicycling blocks you. Which really makes you wonder what the point of their paywall is, anyway.
Speaking of Buttigieg, he’s scheduled to address the Bike League’s National Bike Summit tomorrow.
Rolling Stone — yes, the music magazine — recommends the best helmets for bike riders.
A Washington man got a well-deserved nine years behind bars for the hit-and-run death of a bike rider while high on meth; he stopped to dislodge the bike from under his car, and told someone he thought he hit a mailbox. Because lots of mailboxes ride bicycles, apparently.
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A Kentucky man admits to being the hit-and-run driver who killed a bike rider while high on marijuana and meth.
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And who needs protected bike lanes, anyway?
Be safe, and stay healthy. And wear a damn mask, already.