What Belongs in a Bike Lane?

Sidewalk cycling and traffic

I am about to ask a simple question, but cannot promise you a simple answer. Well, I know what the answer should be. But I know from personal experience that is not always the case.

Bike lanes are created for bikes. That much seems to be obvious and agreed upon by nearly everyone.

How then, can we explain that just this week I have nearly been run into by drivers while biking, or nearly ran into pedestrians who were in bike lanes?

The answer comes down to well-intentioned laws and infrastructure versus the worst inattentiveness of humans.

Facts About Bicycles

Bicycles are ridden by people. Bikes weigh anywhere from about 15 to about 40 pounds, even more for e-bikes. Most humans riding bikes weigh somewhere in excess of 100 pounds, sometimes double that or more.

Not like I remember much from high school physics class, but I vaguely recall something about mass times speed. Or maybe mass times volume. There could have been something about the 100 Year War mixed in. (I was not the world’s most attentive science student.)

Suffice it to say, a bike moving 15-25 miles per hour with a combined weight of probably 150-200 pounds on average is going to really do some damage when it hits a stationary object.

Do you really want to get smacked by 200-plus pounds going 20 miles an hour? What you are asking for is to be tackled by a football player at full speed.

What is it about this risk people don’t seem to understand?

Why Aren’t People Aware of Bikes in Bike Lanes?

This is where I get a bit crazy. It’s called a bike lane. In a bike lane, you might expect, oh, I don’t know, maybe BIKES!

So why do so many people I observe do the following:

  • Park and wander through the bike lane without looking
  • Walk off a curb right into a bike lane without looking
  • Walk in the bike lane
  • Stand in the bike lane
  • Park in the bike lane

There is no good reason why people do this other than that people tend to be distracted or inattentive.

That changes quickly when they notice a biker bearing down on them saying things like “heads up” or “look out.” Some of the more colorful things I’ve said probably aren’t well-suited to a family-friendly blog, but use your imagination.

Why do I get so angry?

Because it seems so obvious that you would not want to get run over by 200 pounds of speeding metal, carbon, and human.

Just as bad as (and maybe worse than) inattentive pedestrians are the motorists who ignore the existence of bike lanes. I can’t count the times that I have seen a driver barging into a bike lane from a side street without looking for bikes. The right approach is to slow, stop, and look for bikers in the lane before proceeding into the road (after looking for oncoming cars, of course).


Pay attention to your surroundings.

Accept that bike lanes are designed for bikes and will often have bikes navigating through them.

Enter bike lanes defensively. Just like crossing a street. Look both ways (you never know which fools are riding in bike lanes the wrong way), make sure you have a clear path BEFORE stepping (or driving) into the bike lane.


  • Bike lanes are a safe way for bicyclists to separate themselves from vehicular and pedestrian traffic
  • Bike lanes can be very dangerous if people do not look before entering them and be mindful and watchful for bicyclists
  • Bike lanes work best for everyone when all are aware of one another

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

As in all cases involving injury, dog bites or injuries, workers’ compensation, medical malpractice, or other 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.

Categories: Bicycle Accidents