If you ask the average bicycle commuter, most will tell you they prefer riding on routes that have bike lanes to roads without them. On busy streets, the lanes can be a major protective barrier from automobile traffic, creating a safer ride and more peace of mind.

However, not all bicycle lanes are created equal. Some types of lanes are much better at protecting cyclists from motorists. Some can even create a false sense of security, leading cyclists to let their guard down. The Cycling advocates say cities should focus on installing the more effective kinds.

What are the different types of bike lanes?

There are numerous types of bicycle infrastructure designs that cities implement on roadways, usually based on a combination of funding, overall usage and levels of advocacy. These lane designs include:

  • Shared markings – In many areas, a bicycle symbol notates areas where bicycles are to be expected. Some studies have found that this can actually increase the risk, however.
  • Designated painted lanes – Streets that have marked off lines or stripes painted on to designate bike lanes are the most commonly used kind. These sometimes have a buffer zone painted on to keep cars out. Unfortunately, painted lanes, with or without buffer zones, are also the least protective type of bike lane. Drivers sometimes forget they’re there, and they can lead to issues of cars encroaching in the space meant for cyclists. Last spring, cyclists in several US cities placed red cups along these lanes to demonstrate the issue. Within a few hours, cars had indeed crushed many of the cups.
    Some types of painted lanes are filled in with green to create a clearer idea of where the bicycle zone is, including indicating bikers’ right-of-way. However, even this method is not foolproof when a car chooses to ignore it.
  • Protected lanes – These are considered the safest form of bike infrastructure, but even within the different types of protected lanes are varying degrees of safety. Protected lanes use a barrier or elevation to physically separate bikes from cars—in fact, elevated bike lanes that are raised above the road are considered the safest. In 2019, Los Angeles installed protected bike lanes following years of advocacy, with nearly 20 miles of available routes.

Cyclists share the rights of motorists on the roads, including following most of the same traffic laws. Motorists, then, have an obligation to respect those rights when sharing the road with cyclists. Unfortunately, many drivers still fail to consider those rights, leading cyclists to risk injury and death while riding, even when there is infrastructure in place.

If you’ve been injured as a cyclist, a qualified attorney can help you build a case to recover compensation for your injuries.