There are apparent reasons people should cycle more. Cycling has positive impacts on health and the environment. However, the safety and efficacy of bike lanes are under debate in the cycling community, and legal protections for cyclists are nearly nonexistent.
How can cyclists ensure their current safety, and what are some possible options for increased cyclist safety in the future? A recent study from Monash University in Australia suggests that merely painting bike lanes onto roads does not increase bicyclist safety. The two-week study instead shows that these painted lines may even be counterproductive.
In the Australian study, cyclists were monitored by electronic equipment and cameras to observe motorists and measure the distance at which motorists passed cyclists on the road. Study results were shocking. Motorists left an average of 10 inches less room on roads with bike lanes than roads without bike lanes.
Motorists left less room where there were cars parked along the curb than where cars were not parked along the curb. The least amount of room left on roads was where there were both parked cars and a bike lane. In other words, the more room needed between motorists and cyclists, the less room motorists were willing to yield to the cyclists.
Protected Bicycle Lanes and Cyclist Safety
While the safety benefits of painted bike lanes are questionable, there is a lot of positive research and feedback on physically protected bike lanes, including the following:
- 96 percent of people using protected bike lanes believe they increased safety on the street;
- 80 percent of people who live near a protected bike lane project believe it increased safety on the street;
- Streets with protected bike lanes saw 90 percent fewer injuries per mile than those with no bike infrastructure;
- Streets with protected bike lanes saw 28 percent fewer injuries per mile than comparable streets with no bike infrastructure. People were also 2.5 times more likely to bike on the protected lanes than in general travel lanes; and
- Protected bike lanes reduce bike-related intersection injuries by about 75 percent compared to comparable crossings without infrastructure.
Surveys found people are more comfortable biking in protected bike lanes and are more likely to ride bikes in protected areas.
State Laws and Cyclists
Currently, cyclists are afforded as little protection by state law as they are by painted bike lanes. Fatal crashes are not uncommon, and the legal results are disturbing. In Oregon, the driver of a FedEx truck who turned right in front of a cyclist, resulting in the cyclist’s death, was found not guilty of even a traffic citation.
This ruling came after the district attorney cited the driver for failing to yield to a cyclist in a bike lane. The court ultimately ruled the cyclist did not have the right of way and that the bike lane effectively ended at the intersection. This situation is not isolated to Oregon.
Arkansas state law only protects pedestrians in crosswalks. Cyclists must abide by all of the laws that apply to drivers of motor vehicles. Therefore, cyclists must dismount their bikes and walk their bike across the crosswalk in order to have the same legal protections as a pedestrian because motorists cannot be in the crosswalk.
Preventing Cycling Accidents
Attorneys who represent cyclists cite lack of legal guidance and no bike lane rules written in local ordinances as just a couple of the problems facing cyclists. They encourage cyclists to stay vigilant until legislatures pass laws providing enforceable protection for cyclists.
Some of the best ways to prevent bicycle accidents and avoid injuries are the following:
- Always wear a helmet;
- Ride the right size bike;
- Always keep a proper lookout when approaching an intersection;
- Adjust lane position to the left when approaching an intersection to ensure visibility to drivers;
- Never ride against traffic, it is illegal, and dangerous;
- Adjust your speed at the intersection to allow for braking quickly if necessary;
- Do not attempt to cross the intersection by riding into the crosswalk from the sidewalk;
- Be prepared to brake suddenly in case a car cuts you off;
- Consider crossing at the crosswalk and walking the bike across, as a pedestrian; and
- Never pass a car on the right at intersections or driveways.
All cyclists and motorists should seek to avoid accidents. Sometimes accidents are unavoidable, and it is necessary to seek help in recovering medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering.
An Experienced Arkansas Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
If you or a loved one were injured in a cycling accident, it is important to call the professionals at The Law Offices of Alan LeVar. With a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer on your side, you could recover damages including medical expenses, lost wages from time missed at work, repair or replacement of damaged property, pain and suffering, and more.
There is a time limit in which personal injury cases must be filed. With offices in Little Rock, Bentonville, Conway, and Arkadelphia, The Law Offices of Alan LeVar are here for you and ready to help. Call us or contact us online to have our attorneys review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free consultation.