Bicycle Lanes Versus Wide Curb Lanes: Operational and Safety Findings and Countermeasure Recommendations

Source: Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

The primary analysis was based on videotapes of almost 4,600
bicyclists in Santa Barbara, CA, Gainesville, FL, and Austin, TX. The videotapes were coded to evaluate operational characteristics and conflicts with motorists, other bicyclists, or pedestrians.

Significant differences in operational behavior and conflicts were found between bike lanes and wide curb lanes but varied depending on the behavior being analyzed. Wrong-way riding and sidewalk riding were much more prevalent at WCL sites compared with BL sites. Significantly more motor vehicles passing bicycles on the left encroached into the adjacent traffic lane from WCL situations compared with BL situations. Proportionally more bicyclists obeyed stop signs at BL sites; however, when a stop sign was disobeyed, the proportion of bicyclists with both "somewhat unsafe " and "definitely unsafe" movements was higher at BL sites. The vast majority of observed bicycle-motor vehicle conflicts were minor, and there were no differences in the conflict severity by type of bicycle facility. Bicyclists in WCLs experienced more bike/pedestrian conflicts while bicyclists in BLs experienced more bike/bike conflicts. An initial model fitted to the intersection conflicts showed no differences in the conflict rate by
type of bicycle facility, but showed higher conflict rates for left turn movements.

The overall conclusion is that both BL and WCL facilities can and should be used to improve riding conditions for bicyclists. The identified differences in operations and conflicts appeared to be related to the specific destination
patterns of bicyclists riding through the intersection areas studied and not to the characteristics of the bicycle facilities.

In addition to this implementation manual, there is a final report (FHWA-RD-99-034) containing a complete discussion of the research method, data collection procedures, and data analysis, as well as a guidebook (FHWARD- 99-036) about innovative bicycle accommodations.

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