How Bike Barriers Can Encourage An Influx of Cyclists
While cities encourage citizens to cycle to destinations instead of driving, they often are ignoring the safety concern associated with cyclists sharing the road with motorists. Offering little to no definitive protection between the two lanes, it has caused some cyclists to take matters into their own hands and encourage cities to change.
In a typical urban environment, the roadway is built to accommodate a variety of users with motorists seemingly taking priority for the design over cyclists and pedestrians. The lanes for motorists are kept at a width of approximately 2.5 to 3.25 metres (8.2 to 10.7 ft). While these widths are used in order to control the speeds of motorists and provide preventative measures against cars side swiping each other, they can occasionally infringe upon the rights of cyclists if the road doesn't have an appropriate space for them.
In comparison to a motorist lane, the minimum width of a bike lane should be 1.5 meters (5 feet) against a curb or adjacent parking lane. This width is desirable as cyclists typically ride a distance of 0.8 - 1.1 meters (2.5-3.5) feet from the curb.
While the distance of the lane for bikers should be sufficient, the main issue is that if cyclists are riding in their usual zone of 2.5-3.5 feet away from the curb, then this puts them at merely --- from motorists which is considered an unsafe passing distance. The minimum safe passing distance at slow speeds is three feet from the widest point of the car and bicycle, yet cars continuously infringe upon the bike lane and put cyclists in danger. So how does this get prevented?
One way that cities have attempted to rectify the close encounters between cyclists and motorists is by providing a stripe to signify the separation of the lanes. Traditionally, the stripe between the bicycle lane and adjacent motor vehicle lane should be a minimum width of 100 millimetres (4 inches) wide. It's recommended however, that the stripe be a wider 6-8 inches to provide a more distinctive division of the space.
Having a stripe on the roadway, provides cyclists with the highest perceived level of comfort. It does not, however, for some cyclists a line on the road is not adequate enough for protection.
Even though the majority of locations see the white line as a suitable form of protection between the two lanes, cyclists have been forging bike barriers through the means of flower pots to toilet plungers. Their hope has been to gather the attention of officials and have them consider a stronger means of protection.
Fortunately, select cities have recognized cyclists plea for higher safety measures. In Winnipeg, they have rolled out a bike-lane pilot project that involves the use of concrete curbs temporarily affixed to the ground with steel pins.
The trial is said to last nine-months and will be testing out installation methods, gauging the level of maintenance for the curbs during a cycle of the seasons, and how effective they are for cyclists. As the curbs are movable, the city will be able to adjust them based on feedback from cyclists or in the event of other changes to the road.
With this pilot project in full swing, it's predicted that other cities will follow closely behind - and some already have. Vancouver in particular, has already implemented bicycle parking along areas prone to accidents, and offer bollards where cars are parking to prevent cars from opening their car doors into cyclists driving in the lane. So slowly, we are seeing a future that is enjoyable and favourable for cyclists. Like anything, it's just going to take some time for other cities to adapt but once they do, roads will be safer again.