Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Danger in the bike lane

Image of car turning right into path of bicyclists
From the Seattle Times, 02.04.08:

Matt Corwin was pedaling home from work on his usual route when he approached the University Bridge. A line of cars waited at the red light, as Corwin cruised past in the bike lane.

As he reached the intersection, the light turned green. An SUV turned right--into Corwin's path. Corwin squeezed his hand brakes. He stopped 2 feet from the SUV. The driver never saw him.

"I would have run into the side of his car, Corwin recalled. "It's not like he would have run over me. I probably would have bounced off. But still, it was pretty disconcerting."

"Right-hook" collisions, as riders call them, are among the most common risks of urban cycling. A bike enters an intersection going straight and gets hit by a right-turning car. It's a problem that cities such as Seattle must solve as they encourage thousands of people to switch from cars to bicycles. (Read more.)
Great article detailing the "right hook" hazard, which according to research from Portland accounts for about 10 percent of vehicle-bike collisions. Seattle is considering a number of options, such as adopting Portland's pattern of colored pavement and bike boxes. There are comments from the contrarian view, that bike lanes make cyclists complacent, as well as the accurate suggestion that the best approach to greater overall safety is to increase bicyclists' numbers and presence. The article also includes a link to the detailed and helpful BicycleSafe.com.

Image: Seattle Times.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

1 comment:

John the Monkey said...

I think one of the problems with bike lanes (at least in this country (UK) is that they tend to place the rider in a dangerous position (to the inside of traffic), when ideally you'd go to the centre of your lane so that traffic can see you.

Bike boxes (or ASLs (advanced stop lines), as they're called in the UK) are a partial answer, but the cyclist can still be caught filtering up the inside of traffic in the bike lane if the traffic begins to move before they reach the ASL. There are also problems here with traffic sitting in the ASL (illegal if they move into it after the traffic signal has changed to stop, but so poorly enforced that motorists tend to do it unless they're uncommonly knowledgable/courteous)

Ultimately, I feel that the answer lies in cyclists positioning appropriately at junctions, and motorists looking properly when they have to cross a bike lane.