Protected bike lanes are all the rage. Cyclists push for them, cities build them, and they are quickly becoming a way of life in many major cities across the country, just as they have been in Europe for decades.
What are they?
How do they work?
Most importantly, do they make it safer for bicyclists?
In essence, a protected bike lane is a bike lane that is separated from vehicular traffic. This separation can be accomplished in a number of ways, but the most common is where the bike lane is next to the curb, with a parking lane next to it, followed by vehicular traffic. In theory, this “protects” the bicyclists from cars, trucks, and other vehicular traffic.
But how does this work in the real world of distracted, bike-phobic drivers, scofflaw cyclists, and little awareness of protected bike lanes?
Remember from earlier blogs that the “Dutch reach” is the law in Illinois. That means you are REQUIRED to open a door with your hand opposite of that door. This is designed to force you to look behind you for bicycles. It avoids the dreaded “dooring” incident.
The law also requires drivers to provide a three-foot buffer for all cyclists on the roadway. But those of us who ride regularly know that rarely occurs.
Often, I feel less safe in protected bike lanes. Just last week, within a one mile stretch in Evanston, I was nearly run over by a driver trying to turn onto the road I was on from a side street. Rather than stopping, looking for bike traffic in the bike lane, he simply kept driving directly across my path. Fortunately, I was able to stop suddenly and avoid injury, but it was the driver who swore at me for being in his path. Clearly, he didn’t know, or care, what the law required of him.
A minute or so later, I was still in the same protected bike lane and nearly struck an Amazon delivery person, who was crossing the lane carrying packages. He never looked, never stopped, and would have been smushed had I not unleashed a guttural “heads up” and used my disc brakes to their fullest extent.
It comes down to awareness and acceptance.
If drivers and pedestrians are not aware of the law, or simply don’t care, or don’t appreciate the danger of moving bicycles, all the technology and engineering in the world won’t help protect bicyclists.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front, and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.