What is an advisory bike lane, as found in San Diego?

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2022 | Bicycle Accidents |

Cyclists typically have to share the road with larger motor vehicles, which can lead to serious collisions. Drivers often fail to notice cyclists or to give them adequate space on busy roads. People on bicycles almost always suffer the worst consequences when a bicycle collides with a motor vehicle.

The installation of bicycle lanes is a crucial safety measure on streets frequently traveled by cyclists. California has invested in expanding bicycle lanes throughout many of the biggest municipalities in the state. Most bicycle lanes simply involve a marked space to the right of a lane of traffic where cyclists can pedal without directly competing with motor vehicles.

In San Diego, bicycle lanes have recently caused a furor after the city installed confusing advisory bike lanes that drivers don’t understand how to utilize. These bike lanes could potentially contribute to crashes at first instead of preventing them.

What are advisory bike lanes?

Advisory bike lanes are a solution for two-lane roads without enough space for separate bike lanes. Instead of a yellow line in the middle of the street, the street has two sets of white lines marking two bike lanes on each side of one central lane for motor vehicles. When two motor vehicles traveling in opposite directions approach on a street with advisory bike lanes, the drivers then merge into the bike lane to safely move past one another.

The possible issues with advisory bike lanes are obvious. Vehicles might drive through the bike lane because that is where they have historically driven on that stretch of road. More importantly, there’s the risk of vehicles swerving unexpectedly without adequately checking the bike lane as oncoming traffic approaches. In both scenarios, cyclists could wind up suddenly struck by a motor vehicle. The issue is serious enough that San Diego intends to remove those lanes shortly after installing them.

Expect a steep learning curve with advisory bike lanes

Having advisory bike lanes is certainly better than having no designated space for bicycles whatsoever. However, as drivers may find these lanes confusing, they could potentially lead to collisions in the first years after their installation.

Only when local drivers acclimate to the change these lanes create can they potentially reduce the risk of a car crash involving a bicycle. Learning about changing safety infrastructure for cyclists can reduce your chance of getting into a bicycle collision with a motor vehicle.