What is a Protected Bicycle Sidewalk?
A protected bicycle sidewalk is a pathway designated specifically for bikes, usually marked with signs, curbs, or posts to separate the bicycle lane from automobile traffic on the street. Bike-friendly routes create an urban environment that makes biking not only practical but safer too. A protected bicycle lane can cut down on commuter congestion and city pollution.
While many cities are making the move to design city streets to include bike lanes, cyclists are still cautious about using these bike lanes since many do not have any actual barrier between vehicles and bicycles except for a painted line. Therefore, a protected bike lane is a great option.
Bicycle lanes help regulate the predictable behaviors of cyclists and motorists, which therefore increases safety for all. For the most part, these lanes run in the same direction as traffic, functioning as single-occupant vehicles and following driving rules.
Over and over again, studies show that cities with separated bike lanes have fewer fatalities and accidents. In fact, a recent 2019 study showed that bike lanes resulted in 44% fewer road fatalities and 50% fewer serious injuries from crashes. This drop in fatalities and injuries has a lot to do with car lanes and bike lanes that are separated by physical barriers. Types of Bicycle Sidewalks
Conventional Bike Lanes
The simplest form of bicycle lanes is denoted with pavement markings and signage. Bikes still often share the road with cars, except they have their own designated lane. This lane generally flows in the same direction as cars. A bike lane helps to formulate a predictable behavior for cyclists and motorists. Bikes can still leave the bike lane to pass other bikers, make turns, avoid debris, or circumvent other obstacles.
Buffered Bicycle Lanes
When a bicycle lane is separated from the road by more space, it’s considered a buffered bicycle lane. This means that it offers more space between cars and bicycles. In these lanes, bikers can more easily pass each other without leaving the bike lane itself. The extra space gives bikers more room between parked cars and traveling cars, so they don’t need to steer around suddenly opening car doors.
Contra-Flow Bicycle Lanes
Bike pathways that run opposite of vehicle traffic are called contra-flow bicycle lanes. Usually, a one-way street for vehicles becomes a two-way street: one direction for motorists and the other lane for cyclists only. This option can be difficult for motorists to adjust to as it’s fairly unusual to incorporate bike lanes into an urban setting. However, it’s a safer option for cyclists since these roads have fewer vehicles to contend with.
Left-Side Bicycle Lanes
A pathway designated for bikes on the left side of the road provides an area that is less likely to deal with right side street parking, right-side door openings, and more. Left-side bike lanes are often used on one-way streets or two-way median divided streets. This set up allows bikers to be more visible to drivers, and bikers will no longer contend with bus or truck stops on the right side of the street.
The protected bicycle sidewalk is becoming more and more popular and necessary for cities that want to cut pollution and congestion. While Portland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado, lead the way with their bike-friendly cities, other cities such as Tampa, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, are finding ways to make the roads safer for bikers.
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