Location: KansasCity

Yes, Bike Lanes Make A Difference

Bike Lane EndsSometimes, I wonder how important bike lanes are in the day-to-day business of getting around by bicycle.

Many of the roads I ride don’t have bike lanes or paved shoulders, and it’s generally not a problem. If a bike lane is available, I’ll use it, but it’s not necessary — I’ll ride pretty much any road required to get me to my destination, riding with traffic, sharing the road.

But I had an interesting experience the other day that perhaps highlights what the presence or absence of a bike lane can mean.

I was riding north through Olathe on Woodland Road, a two-lane street with a bike lane on each side of the road. No problems, even at intersections, where the bike lanes disappear, and I merged into the vehicular flow.

But as Woodland Road passes from Olathe into Lenexa, the bike lanes end, and the road becomes a four-lane street, with two lanes separated by a raised center island. see map

Just a quarter mile into Lenexa, a quarter mile after the bike lanes end, I get a pointer.

A woman in a car passes me, gesticulating aggressively, pointing towards the sidewalk. Her meaning was pretty clear: I belonged on the sidewalk, not the street.

Yeah, right. I smiled and waved, and she just pointed harder for a few seconds, scowling, before speeding off.

So was this just one misguided motorist, who believes that roads are only for cars? Probably.

But would it have even been an issue on a road with a bike lane? No.

Anecdotal evidence, but yeah, bike lanes do make a difference.

A difference in safety? Perhaps not. You could even argue that adding a bike lane just reinforces the prejudices of the motorists who are unwilling to share the road, who insist that bicycles and cars can’t safely co-exist.

But whatever. I’ll take ’em if I can get ’em. Bike lanes are appreciated.

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

3 responses to “Yes, Bike Lanes Make A Difference”

  1. reb1 says:

    You are getting the point. The more painted lines the activists get the government to install. The more the motorists are going to think we only belong off there road. A woman at an intersection tried to tell me I needed to be on a road that had a bike lane. The painted line bike facility that she prostrated about was several miles off my route.

  2. Mark Schooley,MD says:

    I’ve been lots of places with bike lanes. I like them. They encourage more people to ride. In places where funding isn’t feasible for them, I think “Share the Road ” signs make good sense.

    Sidewalk riding is okay, if you are really slow, so you can stop for people coming across the sidewalk/crosswalk without stopping even though this is legally mandated. A lot of drivers do this, alas.

    On a roadbike you’re going too fast. The sidewalk was designed for people going walking speed.

    I prefer to take the lane, and go way out into the lane when I see people coming to crossways, so I’m where they are looking for cars. I get ready to slow, and even go behind them if they dart out. Which rarely is necessary, because I make myself maximally visible to them.

    I have ridden shoulders, but I’ve also gotten flats from detritus ranging from tire-wires and yahoo-thrown glass bottle shards, to really sharp ice-grip sand particles that accumulate on the shoulder.

    Get a good taillight, like a DiNotte or MagicShine, take the lane, and give drivers a heads-up way behind you, so they can relaxedly figure out how to pass you. Wear high-viz yellow. Anything to get drivers to wake up. There are very, very few that want to obnoxiously hassle cyclists. The vast, vast majority will accommodate cyclists, if alerted early enough, but they get frustrated seeing you only 50 feet ahead, and closing really fast.

    If you want to ride with “cagers”, there’s nothing wrong with not waiting for gov’t to solve your conflict, but instead devise an individual solution that works for you, personally.

    I ride in Wichita. It’s been a very interesting experimental test-bed. I’ve ridden year-round, daytime, dusk, night (I have a set of snow/ice Nokkian Extremes– after dark, the daytime melt re-hardens, regular tires don’t keep you upright).

    Good illumination really makes you more visible to drivers, and alters their behavior.

    When I was growing up, we rode bikes all over the place. To school for sure. But then the Supreme Court mandated busing, sending kids to schools way to far to ride bikes to. Suburban developers created silo’ed developments with no connections except on major arterials, too heavy traffic and fast cars for kids on bikes to contend with, often not even with right-hand rideable shoulders. Hello, childhood obesity and subsequent Type II Diabetes and early heart disease pandemics.

  3. Mark Schooley,MD says:

    I should clarify. I take the shoulder, including to the right of the white-vehicular-lane-designating line. I’m not interested in “proving my rights” per se, and impeding motor-vehicle traffic. Not being a commuter, I try to avoid riding on major arterials in rush hour, when drivers are densely spaced, and in a hurry to get to work or home.

    When I ride in OP, which has a lot more California-like conditions than Wichita, I sometimes ride the “sidewalk” next to Quivira Road, which is a wide smooth-asphalt MUP lane. On some stretches you can go full speed, others you have to slow waay down. Anybody can ride this, so overall I think it’s well designed to encourage more people to ride bikes.

    I don’t think JoCo has a totally doable bike-commuting infrastructure, e.g. last winter Tomahawk Creek Trail had several inches of unplowed snow for a few weeks, but you could Nordic ski it to work. 😉