Benefits of Protected Bike Lanes (and How to Navigate Them in the Seattle Area)

From the time we learn to walk, we’re already learning about road safety: look both ways before crossing the street. Learning to ride a bike comes with its own new set of rules. We learn proper hand signals and to ride with the flow of traffic. In order to operate a vehicle, we must prove we know how to navigate the roads safely while remaining aware of potential incidents. Even with this model of continuous learning, road accidents are common. Cities like Seattle have been taking steps toward preventing traffic accidents involving bikes and cars by developing protected bike lanes.

What Is a Protected Bike Lane?

Protected bike lanes are designated spaces and lanes for bikes to travel, usually found in larger bike-friendly cities. You can identify a protected bike lane by looking for raised barriers or if there is a lane for parked cars between cyclists and moving vehicles. The idea is to create a visual border, indicate predictable movement for both cars and bikes, and avoid common incidents such as a dangerous right turn or a car door opening in the direct path of a cyclist.

Are Protected Bike Lanes Truly Safer?

One benefit of protected bike lanes is the cyclists’ increased perception of safety and peace of mind. Having a barrier, whether it’s a line of flexible posts or a raised curb that blocks cars from drifting into pedestrian territory, encourages a sense of security that is less common on roads with a shared space for bike lanes. Most researchers also believe it is important that cities investing in protected bike lanes have an existing or rising interest in cycling as a key transportation mode.

Do I Need to Do Anything Different?

It is important that protected bike lanes remain recognized and respected spaces dedicated to the safe flow of bike traffic.

Bicyclists:

  • Stay to the right-hand side and let faster travelers pass easily to the left.
  • Use hand signals to indicate direction change.
  • Upon approaching an intersection, be on the lookout for turning cars.
  • When driving next to a lane of parked cars, look out for pedestrians crossing to access their vehicles.

Pedestrians:

  • Avoid walking in designated bike lanes at all times.
  • Treat bikes lanes as you would a lane of vehicle traffic. Look both ways before crossing.

Motor Vehicles:

  • Determine if the protected lane is for two-way bike traffic or one-way.
  • Look both ways before crossing a protected bike lane.
  • Do not drive or park in protected bike lane areas.

Are There Other Important Aspects to Consider?

Bicyclists use protected bike lanes in a similar manner to the way cars travel on roads. In busy urban areas that are frequently travelled, cars expect smooth, safe road surfaces that won’t cause unnecessary damage to their vehicles. For safe riding, cyclists also require a well-maintained, smooth, and solid lane surface. Especially in urban settings where commuters are more likely to get around on a road bike instead of a mountain bike, for bikes that are less equipped for sudden changes in terrain, a pothole or crack in the pavement can be seriously detrimental to the frame and wheels of the bike — and to a cyclist’s personal safety.

Action Asphalt knows what makes a safe community road. After assessing the expected traffic flow of a paved road and reviewing a location’s comprehensive needs, we provide the best possible solution for the area. Our goal is to create and maintain the best surface for any moving mode of transportation.

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