Cycling has become increasingly popular in Houston. With this growing popularity comes the good and the bad. Infrastructural improvements around the city have become more accommodating for bicyclists, as Houston continues to expand its on-street bikeways and off-street trails.
On the other hand, bicycle fatalities have increased by 25 percent since their lowest point in 2010, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The pros and cons of protected bike lanes
One of the safest places for cycling is in protected bike lanes, as physical barriers separate bicyclists from vehicle traffic. If you think they guarantee safety, though, think again.
A study conducted by the IIHS – and researchers from George Washington University, Oregon Health and Science University, and New York University — has identified the risks in protected bike lanes that could result in serious crashes.
Researchers identified the risks by first interviewing more than 600 adult bicyclists who had been to the emergency room due to crashes or falls in the District of Columbia, New York City, and Portland, Oregon. Researchers then noted the locations and infrastructural details where crashes or falls occurred.
When compared to major roads without bicyclist infrastructure, street-level two-way protected bike lanes offered a false sense of security. The three biggest risks bicyclists faced included:
- Cars pulling in or out of driveways and alleys
- Cars turning at intersections
- Pedestrians walking in the path of bicyclists
Two-way protected bike lanes located on bridges or roads above street level were found to provide more security for bicyclists, as they are less likely to encounter cars or pedestrians.
"A cyclist on a protected lane at street level is likely to encounter vehicles at intersections, driveways, and alleys more often than on a protected lane enclosed within a bridge or greenway," said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president for research and the lead author of the study.
Addressing safety concerns in protected bike lanes
Addressing these safety concerns may take additional work from city officials. The study authors suggest making infrastructural improvements around intersections, driveways, and alleys to prevent bicyclists from coming into contact with cars or pedestrians. This includes installing raised bicycle crossings in critical areas and discouraging pedestrians from accessing bike lanes.
In addition, drivers should be made aware of bicyclists in protected bike lanes and look both ways before turning at an intersection or junction. If you or a loved one was injured in a bicycle crash because a driver failed to uphold his or her responsibility, a highly skilled attorney at Tracey & Fox can help you get back on your feet. We fight for the rights of injured bicyclists in Houston and across the state of Texas.
Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation.