Do bicycle lanes present hazards?

Written on behalf of Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

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Many California cyclists ride in bike lanes hoping to find a safe haven from the dangers of pedaling around large motor vehicles. However, sometimes automobiles have to make turns into bike lanes, which is just one of a number of possible hazards that bike lanes can present. To properly enjoy a bike lane in the Golden State, cyclists should be on watch for perils that can cause severe injury or death.

Cycling Savvy explains that bike lanes can be a magnet for debris. Pieces of metal, glass, foliage, just about anything you would find in a street can get swept to the side, and since bike lanes reside just up against a curb, they can collect a lot of debris that can cause real trouble for bicycles. Small debris, like broken glass, can puncture a bike tire. Big debris, such as tree branches, may cause a bike to crash if the cyclist cannot turn around it in time.

Some cyclists have worries about bike lanes that run past parked cars. The problem is that a person may pedal a bike past these cars only to have a close encounter with a suddenly opened car door. An abruptly opening door into the path of a cyclist can be very dangerous and can even kill a bike rider. There are also bike lanes that take cyclists into intersections or past many driveways, which increases the danger of a motor vehicle collision if the cyclist cannot remain visible.

There are also places that appear to be bike lanes but are not. Sometimes edge lines are added a few feet to the left of a street curb, but this does not signify a bike lane. The space created by these lines does not create a viable bike lane and can be dangerous if someone takes a bike into this space. Unfortunately, many bicycle riders do not realize these areas are not proper bike lanes.

The perils bike lanes sometimes present is a good reason for cyclists to retain situational awareness. Automobile drivers should also appreciate the delicate position bike riders are in and afford bike riders extra caution, especially when approaching a bike lane, to prevent severe injury and loss of life.

This article is written only as reference material. Do not take it as a substitute for legal advice.

Jeffrey R. Smith

Jeffrey R. Smith

Managing Partner

Robert B. Waldsmith

Robert J. Waldsmith

Partner, 1999

William B. Smith

William B. Smith

Partner, 1978

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