Regular readers of this blog probably recognize that I am a big fan of bike lanes. Giving bicyclists their own clearly defined space on the road encourages more people to ride. More people on bikes means more motorists get used to seeing cyclists. That increased awareness should decrease the number of car vs. bicycle mishaps. In Chicago, bicyclists do not have to ride in a bike lane. It is legal to ride with the rest of traffic most of the time. Still, if you are involved in a crash with a motor vehicle you are probably better off having been in a bike lane. As sure as the day is long, in a bike accident case the defendant motorist will claim I didn't see him/her, I couldn't see him/her, I never expected him/her, or some variation of the theme that that the cyclist popped up out of nowhere. However, this defense is a much harder sell to a jury if the incident occurred in a bike lane. The presence of a clearly marked bike lane makes the presence of bicyclists foreseeable. A bike lane puts the motorist on notice that caution must be used to look for cyclists in the area.
Notwithstanding the benefits of bike lanes, it is wise to consider their deficiencies. Riding in a bike lane does not equate to risk free cycling. Far from it. The video below demonstrates bike lane short comings in a thoughtful way that the daily urban cyclist can appreciate:
Thanks to Joe TV for bringing this video to my attention over on the Chainlink.