Bike lanes: Safety and Southwest Detroit

Here’s a quick thought for Friday.

It’s not uncommon to hear those who don’t ride bicycles or those who are just starting out say they don’t feel comfortable in bike lanes. One often heard reason? It’s just paint separating you from the cars.

Ask them if they’ve drive on a two-way road? You know those yellow lines in the center? That’s paint. (Thank you, Edward Hines.)

Cars crossing the centerline and hitting others is common crash type, especially with drunk or distracted drivers.

Bicyclists getting hit from behind is not very common. Most car-bike crashes occur at intersections, and usually in crosswalks.

Perceptions create reality

One interesting feature of roads with bike lanes is cyclists perceive them to be safer, so more cyclists ride. When more cyclists ride, everyone is safer due to the safety in numbers hypothesis.

When you have more people on bikes and you have roads with bike markings and signs, drivers’ expectation of seeing cyclists increases — and they adapt their driving habits. Safety increases.

Benefits to others

There is a Detroit resident in Southwest Detroit campaigning against bike lanes there. Her issues have gone so far as City Council where yesterday it was on the agenda for the Neighborhood and Community Services Standing Committee.

In response, the City Planning Commission reviewed the bike lane issues and wrote a report for the committee. The report noted that bike lanes “help develop more travel choices in Detroit, enhance travel safety, and improve the city’s quality of life.”

We agree.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are many benefit to bike lanes and most have nothing to do with bicycling. This paper from the Oregon DOT documents them.

Yes, even motorists benefit — something that’s always worth mentioning when making your bike lane sales pitch in the Motor City.

Besides, it’s just paint.


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