By now, we bicyclists (as well as motorists) have seen or are being daily introduced to the newfangled ‘Protected Bike Lanes’, seen locally in Los Angeles or further north in cities like Berkley. As the name description implies it is a surface street bike lane that has a form of physical barrier to protect bike riders from errant and inattentive vehicle drivers from veering into the bike lane.
The protected bike lane is an experimental method of reducing the many car/bike crashes on our roads. New high visibility green paint and bold white bike icons are painted along with lane markings. Some installations include brightly visible bollards planted along the bike lane so it is a very visible deterrent not to cross the barrier. These bollards/barriers are heavy duty plastic cylinder-type shape that are glued to the road; it’s not as strong an option as concrete or steel, but still prevents cagers from taking a chance and damaging their own car by doing taking over the bike lane. It is because of a joint effort by state and city, CALTRANS/LADOT, with collaboration from local City Council that make these barriers possible.
“In a perfect world it would not be necessary for such barriers [to exist] because ‘cagers’ would be alert all the time instead of scrolling, texting and yakking on the phone while driving at a high rate of speed on city streets.”
The new lanes are considered to be a great success everywhere they’re installed – except for the motorists who are now reduced in speed because of the more densely traveled remaining lanes, but they will adjust. In a perfect world it would not be necessary for such barriers because cagers would be alert all the time instead of scrolling, texting and yakking on the phone while driving at a high rate of speed on city streets. The new car designs are much to blame for collisions because we now have 900HP hell-cat hot rods and electric cars that can rocket you to 60mph in 2 seconds – silently!
A very graphic description of the ineptitude of these high powered car drivers was reported just this past summer. The images in the report show a destroyed wreck of a half-million dollar Ferrari totaled in just one hour after driving off the lot, killing the driver in the process. It was obvious to the police investigation that speed in excess of 150mph was duly recorded by the on-board computer, attained incredibly on a 35mph surface street in a residential area. Just shows what a modern high powered car can do in the blink of an eye. This was a very high profile wreck and is not typical, but just the same it does happen. With these modern considerations, the ‘Protected Bike Lane’ is a welcome engineering solution to our safety net from errant cagers. It costs a lot of money so its not going to be everywhere, but it is certainly a welcome safety net for us bike riders.
Carl Lawton is an active cyclist who rides bikes and works for the State of California Department of Transportation. The overlap of these two pursuits provides a unique perspective to learn from. You can reach Carl Lawton at [email protected]