Bike lanes may protect cyclists from serious accidents

In a scene becoming all too common on Colorado roadways, on March 18, a bicyclist was killed in a deadly hit-and-run accident in Denver. Although the fatal injury, which occurred at 29th and Brighton Boulevard, was a hit-and-run the driver was ultimately nabbed by police officers who caught up with him in Denver’s Swansea neighborhood. Police say the deadly crash should offer a warning for all drivers and cyclists in the Denver metro area. “Motorists just have to know, they’re out there and they’re part of the transportation system, they’re the most vulnerable part of the transportation system,” says Denver Police Sgt. Mike Farr. In the city, hit-and-run crashes represent 22 percent of all bicycle crashes and Denver’s hit-and-run crash rate is double the national average.

While it is unclear whether this accident could have been prevented with bike lanes, cities like Denver are working quickly to increase the number of bike lanes for riders in no small part because 85 percent of bicycle crashes occur at intersections. In fact, studies show that protected bike lanes reduce bike-related intersection injuries by about 75 percent compared to comparable crossings without such infrastructure. This could go a long way to reducing the top factors for motorist-caused cyclist crashes: failure to yield the right-of-way to a cyclist, followed by careless driving, disregarding a stop sign, and failure to stop at a traffic light.

In December, Denver added two new bike lanes in the downtown area. The new bike lanes on Arapahoe and Lawrence Streets are each approximately one mile long and use a row of parking to separate bicycle and vehicle traffic. These are the first bike lanes in Denver to be protected with a row of parking, which provides an additional buffer between bicycle and vehicle traffic to enhance safety. 

While bike lanes are a step in the right direction, the Yield to Life Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to creating a safer environment for cyclists, offers other safety tips for motorists to keep cyclists safer.

  • Practice Patience. Patience is a virtue that can save lives. For example, refrain from tailgating bicycles and allow extra time for cyclists to move through intersections, and never engage in conduct that harasses or endangers a cyclist.
  • Safe Passing. Do not pass a cyclist until you can see that you can safely do so. You should allow ample space between your vehicle and the bicycle.
  • The Right Behavior. Watch out for cyclists when you are turning right. A bicyclist may well be to the right of you and planning to go straight at the same intersection. Do not speed ahead of the bicyclist thinking you can negotiate the turn before they reach your car. 

“It’s in everyone’s interest to make our roads and trails safer for those on bikes. But despite years of expanding Denver’s cycling infrastructure, we still see too many cyclists injured, and in the worst cases killed,” says Denver’s Mayor, Michael Hancock. “Simply put, it’s imperative that we make cycling safer.”

If you or a loved one were injured in a bicycle accident, contact an experienced Colorado bicycle accident lawyer who can help ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve for emotional pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and other costs.