The popularity of cycling around the world is growing at an astronomical rate, and is causing more and more conflicts and issues between cyclists and car drivers. The increase in these incidents is also causing more danger for cyclists. It’s creating debates around the world over who is at fault, and how to fix the problem. A recent rash of deaths of cyclists in England has seriously ramped up the debate to the point that decisions are going to be made that will change the relationship between bikes and car and truck traffic forever.
Should bikes be considered vehicular traffic? Should bike lanes be physically separate from road traffic? The main problem with the debate is the solutions are not only different for different cities, but even different for different roads. It’s not possible to have physically separate bike lanes on most roads without taking away traffic lanes or sidewalks, which wouldn’t make sense because of higher vehicle traffic from population growth.
If bikes are considered vehicular traffic and don’t have bike lanes, car drivers are going to upset if they are slowed by bike traffic, that obviously can’t go as fast. So what is the answer? Like I said, it’s going to be different for every area. There are some cities in Europe that are set up for bike traffic, but most cities were built for cars and trucks, so some things are going to have to change.
I’m lucky in my situation because of where I live. I live in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, where we do have one of the best bike trail systems in America, but they don’t help for most commuters. I don’t bike commute, it’s just not practical. It’s 30 miles to work and would be probable 40 miles if I wasn’t on highway all the way. I bike recreationally in a huge park, Elm Creek Park Reserve, that is right behind my house, with 28 miles of bike trails with flat and hilly areas and ponds lakes and wildlife.
Most people don’t have this option, and if you bike commute, you have even fewer options. There are things we can all do to help make it safer and better for bikes and cars to share the road. Most bike with car crashes happen at intersections, both sides can help lower that statistic.
Cyclists need to take responsibility to be more aware and pay attention.
- Don’t wear headphones when you are biking.
- Make sure bike is fit properly
- Follow traffic laws and signs.
- Be as visible as possible
- Use your safety equipment, helmets, etc.
- Watch what’s going on in front of you
- Don’t assume that they see you
- Just stay alert
Car and truck drivers Need to do the same
- Don’t be distracted when you're driving
- Don’t think bikes don’t have a right to be there
- Look twice before you turn for a bike next to you
- Pay attention to what's going on in front of you
We all need to take responsibility to keep the roads safe and usable by both cars and bikes. The popularity of bikes will continue to increase, as well as the traffic from cars, just because of economic situations and population growth. There will be changes in the future, some places will put separate lanes for bikes, some will not, but we have to find a way to share, the roads we have, and make it safe for all of us.