The presence (or absence) of bicycle infrastructure is a key concern among bicyclists (or would-be bicyclists). Study after study demonstrates that the best way to increase bicycling is to expand bicycling infrastructure. While it may not look like Copenhagen just yet, our region enjoys a variety and growing amount of bicycle infrastructure.
Here, we review the various forms of bike infrastructure (also called bike facilities) and how best to use them.
Bike lanes provide four to five feet of dedicated lane space for bicyclists on the road. They have solid white lines that designate a clear separation between bikes and cars. These lines may become dashed or disappear at intersections. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security in a bike lane; watch for opening doors, turning cars and other bicyclists. If you need to, move out of the bike lane and use the adjacent travel lane.
Some bike lanes are buffered from adjacent traffic with extra space designated with painted striping.
Green bike lanes are painted in conflict-prone sections of bike lanes to alert bicyclists and motorists to expect their paths to cross.
Sharrows are a newer lane marking that are derived from the two words “share” and “arrow.” Practically, sharrows communicate that motorists should expect to see and share the space with bicycles.
They are most often used on common bicycle routes where dedicated bicycle lanes are not feasible.
Bike boxes are used to reduce intersection conflicts, particularly where bicyclists are going straight and motorists are turning right. By positioning bicyclists at the very front of the intersection and preventing right turns on red, bike boxes reduce “right hook” crashes.
Of course, shared use trails are nearly everyone’s favorite bike infrastructure. Trails are completely separated facilities for use by bicyclists and pedestrians. Trails such as the Burke-Gilman Trail, Interurban Trail, or I-90 Trail are popular for both transportation and recreation because they are car-free. However, trail design and conditions still require attention to safety among all users.
• Show courtesy to all users.
• Always yield to pedestrians.
• Give an audible warning when passing pedestrians or other bicyclists.
• Pass only on the left.
• Observe speed limits (~ 15 mph on most trails)
• Reduce speed in congested areas, especially when passing children or leashed pets.
• Single file is safer, especially in congested areas.