Can the wheel stops in protected bike lanes cause crashes?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | Bicycle Accidents |

Cycling on public roads can be a dangerous undertaking. Most people primarily worry about the possibility of colliding with a motor vehicle. After all, larger vehicles cause a significant portion of the serious cycling collisions reported in the United States every year.

Even when those on bikes do their best to be safe and aware of their surroundings, they may cross paths with a driver too distracted to properly monitor their surroundings. One of the ways that municipalities have attempted to protect cyclists from collisions involves creating designated bike lanes.

In some areas, there are protected bike lanes that have pillars and wheel stops installed. Wheel stops are raised sections of cement that function like curbs and prevent vehicles from crossing into the bike lane. Some anecdote indicates that wheel stops might actually cause crashes.

What a tragedy in Encinitas reveals

Many of the worst cycling collisions involve another vehicle, but occasionally tragedies occur with only a bicycle on the road. That is what recently happened in Encinitas. A widowed father of four out for an evening bike ride died after a crash that occurred as he attempted to enter the protected bike lane in a high-traffic area.

There were no witnesses present at the time of the incident, leaving people to guess what may have caused the crash that only involved the cyclist. Many who ride locally believe that the wheel stops are likely the reason that the cyclist lost control and ended up suffering fatal injuries.

Wheel stops don’t just prevent a vehicle from crossing into a bike lane. They can also lead to cyclists getting thrown off of their bicycles after making a tiny misjudgment in wheel placement. Such crashes may indicate the need to continue reviewing infrastructure adjustments carefully to see which ones actually serve their purpose and which ones may have unintended safety consequences for cyclists than others in traffic.

Infrastructure can only go so far to protect cyclists, as many collisions occur primarily due to human error. Those involved in cycling collisions often have the option of holding a driver accountable for their medical bills and other losses if the driver is at fault for an injurious incident. Reporting cycling collisions and demanding economic justice may help draw attention to the need for improved cyclist safety across California.