Why I Like Bike Lanes

The first thing I should make clear is that I am not a hardcore roadie or commuter. I am more of a recreational cyclist who, when not riding dirt trails on my mountain bike, prefers to ride dedicated pathways on my hybrid. That being said, I still have occasion to ride on the roads and when I do I try to act as a vehicle following the same rules of the road.

I realize that many cyclists, as well as Citizens for Safe Cycling, are not big fans of bike lanes.

One of the reasons I am a fan of bike lanes is because, like it or not, bicycles and cars are not equal on the road. For one thing cars are faster, larger and heavier, and more importantly can do much more damage than bicycles. Read that to mean they can kill people.

Bicycles are also not equal legally and are required to move to the right to allow motor vehicles (and horses) to pass. The Highway Traffic Act states:

“Every person on a bicycle or motor assisted bicycle who is overtaken by a vehicle or equestrian travelling at a greater speed shall turn out to the right and allow the vehicle or equestrian to pass and the vehicle or equestrian overtaking shall turn out to the left so far as may be necessary to avoid a collision. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (6).”

Sharing the same roadway may be fine in theory but can be very scary in practice. I really appreciated having dedicated bike lanes when I was travelling down Hunt Club Road in heavy traffic with cars and big trucks whizzing past me at high speeds within one or two feet of me. However because I was in a dedicated lane, so that both myself as a cyclist as well as the car drivers had our own clearly dedicated space, I felt safe.

On the other hand travelling over the Queensway on Moodie Drive while it is under construction and the bike lanes are removed is a lot scarier than taking the same route with the bike lanes.

I realize that bike lanes are not perfect. My biggest complaint about bike lanes is when they disappear at intersections, creating a situation that can create real havoc as cyclists are almost pushed off the road where four directions and multiple lanes of traffic are converging. But let us fix the design problems, not eliminate bike lanes.

If we want more people to cycle we have to make it comfortable for them to cycle. While hardcore roadies and commuters may feel comfortable fighting with automobiles for a piece of the road, the average person we are trying to convince to use their bike instead of their car will be scared off of the road unless we make them feel safe on the road. In my humble opinion, dedicated bike lanes are an important way of making riding on the road safer for the average cyclist.

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