Bike Lane Safety

bike lanes, cycling, Kingston, OntarioKingston has invested both time and money to clear the way for bike lanes on select city streets.  The move has been met with cheers from long-suffering cyclists, and jeers from those who see them as either unnecessary or an obstacle to convenient parking.  In spite of the fact that bike lanes aren’t a totally new concept in Kingston, suffice it to say that both cyclists and those behind the wheels of motor vehicles are still getting used to them.

Most of us can likely recall close calls or instances where we’ve witnessed cyclists motoring along sidewalks when there’s a perfectly clear bike lane two feet away, unsafe riders swerving in and out lanes to avoid sewer grates and debris, as well as folks generally failing to follow the rules of the road.  On the flip side, on any given day you can expect to see cars and delivery vehicles crowding or otherwise fully parked in and obstructing bike lanes, and the precious few who fail to share the road and provide safe buffer for cyclists.  With such examples in mind, this week’s poll asks:

[poll id=”273″]

In spite of the aforementioned problems involving cyclists and drivers, the majority of those on the roads and in bike lanes strive to be both respectful and safe.  Nevertheless, it probably wouldn’t hurt if more cyclists and drivers took the time to remind themselves of the rules of the road.  Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation offers a comprehensive Guide to Safe Cycling, which details everything from riding in traffic to dealing with obstacles and different surfaces and legal references.  Beyond reminding ourselves of best practices, it’s also worth noting that Kingston isn’t the only community that has had to grapple with problems stemming from bike lanes.  Cities such as Toronto and Ottawa have responded to longstanding issues by implementing separated bike lanes, which provide protective barriers (ie not just a painted line) between bike lanes and city streets. The resulting separated lanes reduce the chances of an accident and in most cases eliminate a driver’s the ability to block bike lanes with a parked vehicle.  Depending on their success, I think that a segregated scheme will become the inevitable next step in the evolution of Kingston’s bike lanes.

What are your observations of the relationship between drivers and cyclists in Kingston.  Based upon your experience, has safety improved or worsened with the increased number of people taking to bike lanes?  Better yet, what should we be doing to help ensure our roads and bike lanes are safe for all who need to use them?

Photo credit to Dylan Passmore.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

6 thoughts on “Bike Lane Safety

  • As a cyclist with experience of commuting by bike in cities in Japan, the USA, the UK and Canada, I find that Kingston is a relatively safe place to cycle, but that there are three major problems:

    1. Many drivers don't know how to drive around cyclists. In particular, quite a few drivers don't bother signalling when turning right and tend to right hook cyclists, assuming they will be going slow enough to do this. This is very dangerous. Many of us ride a lot faster than drivers realise. There needs to be better education of drivers about cyclists – both learners and those with licences.

    2. The physical condition of roads in Kingston is dreadful. This is not just because of winter damage – other cities in Ontario have better roads than Kingston. It's bad enough for cars, but for bicycles a major pothole can be a serious hazard, and poor road conditions just put people off cycling. And as we know, the best way of keeping cyclists safe is more people cycling.

    3. Other cyclists. So many cyclists don't seem to know the law or ride sensibly. I frequently see people riding on the wrong side of the road (i.e. against traffic), which is both illegal and dangerous to other cyclists. Many cyclists don't now how to signal or just don't do it. And finally, hardly any cyclists here seem to use lights after dark, which is mainly dangerous to pedestrians and other cyclists (as well as themselves). Cyclists need education too.

    As for bike lanes and sharrows – well, they alert drivers that cyclists are likely to be around, which is good. But they aren't magical solutions to cycling problems.

  • What drives me crazy as a cyclist and a driver are the people who park in the bike lanes. I have a 15 minute ride to work and without fail I have to pass at least 5-6 cars parked in the bike lane. Most of my ride doesn’t even have bike lanes.

    The second thing being as said drivers don’t know how to drive with cyclists. I am constantly being treated as a pedestrian when I am biking. Because of this it has almost caused several accidents due to people ignoring my signals, giving me the right of way when it is not mine, and not being given enough space.

    As far as parking is concerned more tickets should likely be handed out. As for knowledge drivers need to be given warnings and be required to take some education when caught committing unsafe rock sharing offences.

  • I would like to highlight the aforementioned problem of vehicles parking in the bike lane. As both a cyclist and a vehicle driver, this problem makes the roads unsafe for both, as the bike lane is not wide enough for cars to safely pass parked vehicles, and it also puts bikers in grave danger to weave into traffic that is not expecting to provide them the lane. The same cars are parked near the 401 on Montreal Street in the bike lane daily, and despite filing multiple police reports and asking the business owner of Spaw 4 Paws to kindly request they not park there, they remain there nearly a month later.

    The Kingston Police need to step up to ticket vehicles parked in bike lanes before a serious injury occurs. Furthermore the public needs to have increased education on how to share the road with cyclists to understand their responsibility and the real danger their actions may put others in.

    • I couldn't agree more with you Rachelle. I've also been forced onto the road by vehicles parked in bike lanes at this exact address. It's actually rare that there isn't a car or two parked out front.

      Further down Montreal, there also seems to be weekly yard sales/swap meets on Saturday, while passersby seem to have no issues pulling into the bike lane to park while they shop. What's it going to take for the City to respond and ticket these people?

    • It won't be a priority for the police. Call city by-law enforcement or email concerns to [email protected]. It does get some action. Of course they have to arrive while a car is there.

      A few years back the city was quoted in the paper that no action was needed because they got few complaints about cars in bike lanes. At the time there were multiple cars parked in the lane in front of Kingston pen much of the time. The fine here is a lot lower then in big cities, I suppose its not seen as worth it to look for the odd car throughout the city when they can nail car after car for expired parking downtown. Complaints will get some action

  • The primary problem Kingston has with its bike lanes is in choosing where to put them. Putting bike lanes on Brock and Johnson was an insane decision. These are the two busiest roads into and out of downtown – the last place bicyclists want to cycle. Plus, these roads serve an extremely important traffic function – getting cars into and out of Kingston as efficiently as possible. If I had it my way, I'd remove the bike lanes here AND all of the traffic lights (there used to be lots of two way stops along these streets that worked fine… a few still remain and they are FAR more efficient than the traffic lights). The quicker we can get traffic to its destination the better.
    So where should the bike lanes go? An easy way of deciding is to simply look where all the bicyclists travel anyway. Earl is an obvious choice. Again, I'd want to remove a bunch of the traffic lights to make traveling East/West much quicker – this is by far the dominant direction of traffic. This is a MUCH more pleasant street to cycle on (it's where I cycle instead of Brock and Johnson). I haven't formed an opinion about bike lanes on Princess yet. Although, I suspect its probably a bad idea given the high volume of traffic and the relative lack of space for a bike lane. Putting a bike lane there comes at an extremely high cost to parking and the road system overall. I think there are probably better options.

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