Comment 10766

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 09, 2007 at 15:47:42

Thanks for the responses Frank. First of all, regarding the road design manual, I'm just trying to understand why road grading would have to change due to sight distances. When on my bike, my head is at the roof level of most minivans, and well above the roof level of all cars. I have no obstructions to my view by pillars etc. I can see farther and in more directions than anyone in a car, and most people in a van or SUV. Above all that, I can hear what's going on around me. I feel like I'm completely misunderstanding your meaning here.

Regarding the "people passing me" problem, I frequently ride toward the centre of the lane when necessary, and stay to the left when making a turn. My point isn't about cycling style, it's about motorist's attitude. The fact that I am agile enough to make these maneuvers, and that I am polite enough to signal them is beside the point. My argument was meant as a rebuttal to the complaint regarding cyclists riding up the right of a lane. Regardless of what I do, motorists will get mad whenever they perceive that I am slowing them down. You are right -- changing the laws may not directly change motorists attitudes -- but making cycling a more viable option will get more bikes on the road. And that WILL cause an attitude shift.

Having your own bike lane is great... until you want to make any of these lane-changing moves. Want to turn left? Want to avoid an opening car door, or pothole? Now you have to cross a solid line into a separate traffic lane, and "fight" with the motorists even harder than before. Your point about doors being opened is another point against bike lanes. They are frequently placed directly int the door-line of a parking lane. Until these kinds of problems are addressed, I think we should refrain from getting too excited about bike lanes.

I have tried finding data to either support or rebuke the anecdotal evidence regarding bike lanes being unsafe and have unfortunately been unable to do so. I am uncertain about whether studies even exist to support or deny this claim. However, that doesn't prevent us from performing some thought experiments. Consider this: the absolute worst situation in a bike lane is at a green light. A cyclist has a 100% legal right to travel straight through the green at full speed, but that is horribly unsafe because a car has a 100% legal right to turn across the bike lane without stopping first. If the motorist decides not to signal (very common) and not to do a shoulder check (very common), or if the cyclist cannot see the car's signal because it is at the front of a line of cars (very common), who is the one who is more likely to sustain injuries when these two collide? We would never ever EVER consider putting a through-lane for cars to the right of a right turn lane. Why would it be a good idea to do so for a bike lane? This scenario alone is enough reason in my mind to rethink the bike lane concept. An example of a better lane in town is when you are coming down from Ancaster where Wilson becomes Main. The bike lane is between the through-lane and the right-turn-lane. Even this is not perfect though.

I would welcome any evidence that you can find that bike lanes are statistically safer. The closest I can come to empirically proving my point is as follows:

First we must agree that it makes logical sense that the type of accident that is BEST reduced by bike lanes is "bike struck from behind". Bike lanes are not so good at reducing "struck from the side" types of collisions, or collisions involving turning cars or turning bikes. However, statistically, "struck from behind" is the least common bike/car accident type: "being struck from behind accounted for only 5.7 percent of all collisions" ( and "Less than one percent of serious cycling injuries are caused by the struck-from-behind collisions feared by novice riders. Most cycling collisions happen at intersections, the same as automobile collisions." ( Search google for "struck from behind" and "bike safety" and you'll see more of the same.

It seems to me that bike lanes make the most dangerous situations (intersections) even worse, and make the least dangerous situation (travelling with traffic) only marginally safer. But this is a digression because most of this article isn't really about bike lanes :-)

Your anecdote about cyclists darting through traffic is simply an example of the worst of the bunch. Once again, I have to say that if we were to compare bad habits, motorists would fare no better than cyclists. The main difference being that motorists are in control of a vehicle which is very capable of turning a bad habit into a deadly mistake. It is much harder to kill someone with a bike!

Regarding stopping at a yield being a double standard, that is not true. "Yield" does not mean "do not stop". You are allowed to stop at a yield sign if you decide that it is the necessary action: "In road transport, a yield...traffic sign indicates that a driver of a vehicle must slow down and prepare to stop if necessary...but does not need to stop if there is no reason to. A driver who has actually stopped in this situation is said to have yielded the right-of-way to through traffic on the main road." (

Helmet laws are another thing altogether and are barely relevant to this discussion, but this page pretty fairly represents my views on them: -- that is to say, I am not opposed to helmets but I am opposed to making them mandatory.

My whole point with this article is that cars and bikes are NOT equal, and they should have separate sets of laws. You said "...a car hurts more than a bike. I hit you with my car, whether you're biking or walking and it'll hurt a lot more than if you hit my car with your bike." MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY. Currently, bikes are, by law, supposed to act (and be treated) as cars. This makes no sense because a car is capable of causing horrendous carnage when compared to a bike. I think the disconnect in our logic is clearly shown by your following statement: "the majority of rules are in place to preserve your safety". This is not the case. The majority of rules are in place so that traffic can travel efficiently while minimizing danger. This is most definitely a safety trade off. If safety was truly the highest priority, then cars would not be allowed on public land at all. Accident statistics speak for themselves: cars are DANGEROUS. The laws are not there to protect cyclists -- The laws are there to maintain traffic flow while allowing an "acceptable" number of collisions. I propose that these vastly different vehicle types can maintain this "safety trade off" by adhering to different sets of laws that are written specifically for each.

And finally, the fact that the current laws are not enforced doesn't matter at all. This is a completely separate problem. They are not enforced either because we refuse to enforce them or because they are unenforceable. The argument to 'leave the laws alone until people start following them' makes no sense at all.

Changing the laws would cause such huge fanfare that it would be hard for anyone to ignore... and ignorance of the laws, either by cyclists or by motorists, is no excuse.

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