Bike lanes may come with danger
As a bicyclist who has regularly braved city streets in all seasons for a number of years I took the opportunity to try out the planned new bicycle lanes using the planning markers that recently appeared on the pavement.
Based on this I caution the city about proceeding with this project. Although bicycle lanes may be useful in the downtown areas, they may be counter productive in the suburban zones of east Belleville where traffic speeds of both two and four wheeled vehicles are higher.
Bridge Street East is a dangerous route for bicyclists. Paradoxically it may be by increasing bicycle traffic, confining riders to a narrow and sometimes hazardous surface of pavement, and apparently freeing drivers of the obligation to slow down and move left when overtaking the cyclist, the death and injury rate to cyclists along that route may increase as a consequence of creating separate bicycle lanes.
The overground course and distance away from the curb along which on average is safest for the cyclist to proceed is about four to five feet away from the curb. This bicycle course forces overtaking vehicles to slow down and move left to pass, and some latitude is afforded to the cyclist on their right side as an escape zone into which to move when overtaken by aggressive drivers who do not observe the speed limit or the one metre rule, the introduction of which has been the single greatest advance in cycling safety in Ontario.
My best advice to cyclists is to stay off Bridge Street in the suburban areas. For those intrepid souls who insist on cycling it may be that the current system in which the cyclist is given the full latitude of the existing street, thus forcing overtaking vehicles to react accordingly, may be the safest option.
Will cyclists will be legally obligated to stay within the defined five foot lane? Will motorists continue to be legally obligated to observe the one metre rule irrespective of where the cyclist is on the street?
If the cyclist death rate on Bridge Street East in the suburban areas has been low to date it might be best from a public health perspective not to define bike lanes in that zone. Cyclists are best advised to take control of existing lanes by staying away from the curb. All bicycles should be fitted with a left side mirror to allow the cyclist to monitor overtaking traffic, and a flashing red rear light for night use.
The volume of four wheeled traffic in this city is excessive. Residents should leave their cars at home, and walk or cycle where it safe to do so, or take the bus. Although the concept of a bike lane is a seductive one, we must be careful not to create an illusion of safety.