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Will the Street of Tomorrow See Improved Safety Features for Bikes?

When city planners and traffic experts sit down to create the blueprints for a new street or a redesign of an existing street, they now take more than just vehicle traffic needs into consideration. In fact, many of today’s street designs — particularly those in larger cities — now incorporate specific design features mean to account for the unique needs of both pedestrians and bicyclists.

For example, many streets now feature protected bike lanes, which are designated bicycle lanes separated from vehicle traffic by a physical barrier like a concrete median. While these protected lanes have undoubtedly proved effective in helping prevent countless bicycle accidents caused by vehicle sideswipes, opening car doors and inattentive motorists, they are not without their limitations.

Indeed, the primary limitation of protected bike lanes is that they end just prior to the start of an intersection, such that bicyclists are still exposed to the multitude of dangers posed by turning vehicles.

Interestingly, a city planner from bike-friendly Portland, Oregon has now come up with a design for a new type of city street that incorporates elements of Europe safety styling while not compromising the flow of vehicle traffic and making up for the shortcomings of protected bike lanes.

The first element of the design is referred to as a protective bike lane island, which is essentially an extension of the curb outward from the corner of the intersection. This, in turn, creates the island or, more simply, a safe space physically separated from traffic in which bicyclists can wait for either a green light or to make their turn.

Within the protective bike island, bicyclists would be able to stop ahead of the crosswalk, while the motorists in the street next to them would line up behind the crosswalk. This strategic placement would not only enable pedestrians to cross unimpeded, but also serve to make bicyclists more visible to turning vehicles and also give them a head start such that they could get out of the way of turning traffic more quickly.

A final element of the street design are traffic signals solely for bicycles, which could help ensure that traffic moved more smoothly by making clear when all bicyclists are supposed to proceed and eliminating the confusion of who must stop when.

While it remains to be seen whether this design comes to a Tennessee street near you anytime soon, the idea — which can be viewed in greater detail on the Web — is undoubtedly intriguing.

In the meantime, those who suffered serious personal injuries or lost a loved one in a bike accident or motor vehicle accident caused by the negligence of another should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.

Source: Wired, “A new bike lane that could save lives and make cycling more popular,” Liz Stinson, June 19, 2014