Bicycle lanes are the rule rather than the exception on most California streets and roads. But does riding your bike in these lanes actually protect you from being hit by other traffic sharing the road with you? 

Per People Power Movement, the answer is no based on the results of a recent study. 

Study findings 

The study documented more than 18,500 “car-bike overtaking events” that occurred during a five-month period. Results revealed the following: 

  • Vehicle drivers allowed an average of 5.5 feet between their vehicle and a cyclist when passing him or her on a road without a bicycle lane. 
  • They allowed an average of only 3.5 feet between their vehicle and a cyclist when passing him or her while (s)he rode in a bicycle lane. 
  • SUV and bus drivers allowed the least amount of room when passing a cyclist, regardless of the presence of a bicycle lane or lack thereof. 
  • All drivers allowed less room when passing a cyclist on a narrow road and/or one with a speed limit in excess of 35 mph, again regardless of the presence of a bicycle lane or lack thereof. 

Safety illusion 

Unfortunately, painted bicycle lanes give both you, the cyclist, and motor vehicle drivers a false sense of security and safety. If anyone stops to think about it, no painted line will prevent a car or other vehicle from hitting you. In addition, painted lines offer no barrier to either a bike or a car weaving over it and winding up in the wrong lane at the wrong time. 

For your own safety, always maintain exceptional vigilance whenever you ride your bicycle on a street or road, and always wear a helmet and protective clothing.