Bike paths hurt you more than you think

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As cycling continues to grow in popularity, communities in this area are adding bike lanes to accommodate those who want to ride,  but some say those bike lanes can be dangerous.

A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says certain kinds of bike lanes leave cyclists vulnerable to injury.

“Some protected bike lanes were less safe than riding in the road, in particular, two-way-protected bike lanes in the street,” said Jessica Cicchino who is the IIHS vice president for research.

Raleigh doesn’t have those two-way lanes yet, although the city set up a test run with them back in April.

However, the city has lots of other bike lanes that some cyclists say are dangerous and confusing.

“Lanes just end without signage. There isn’t any way for drivers to know we have no choice but to just keep going straight or be out on a major road,” said Minori Sanchiz-Fung.

Sanchez-Fung is a competitive rider and co-owner CycleLogic Bike shop in Raleigh and has lived in lots of cities where she says bike lanes were better than Raleigh’s cobbled together routes.

“What’s missing is a birds-eye plan of how people actually going to get around from point A to Point B,” she said.

In its study of bike lanes, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found municipalities need to better plan bike lanes.

“It seems like communities should take into account where they’re putting their bike lanes and be more consistent in how they are designing them,” said Cicchino.

Since 2010, the Institute says biker rider deaths have risen by 25 percent—with 777 cyclists have died in 2017 alone.

“The safest bike lanes we saw didn’t have that many intersections cross or weren’t crossed very often by driveways or alleys,” said Cicchino.

In Raleigh, bike lanes can be scary to navigate even for the most seasoned riders.

Every one or two rides I am I have a moment that is scary,” said Sanchiz-Fung. “A close call for sure. It’s often when I have the right of way and often in the middle of downtown.”

Sanchiz-Fung says she’d like to see better signage for bike lanes and better integration of bike lanes and roads in this area.

The IIHS study found before more protected bike lanes are constructed — additional research needs to take place.

“For protected bike lanes in particular, there’s not a lot of guidance out there it’s really just to see what kind of features to make them more or less safe,” said Cicchino.

The study also found studies of conventional bike lanes — which those separated from traffic by painted lane markings but without physical barriers — have had inconsistent results.

For the new study, IIHS collaborated with George Washington University, Oregon Health and Science University and New York University.

The researchers used what is known as a case-crossover design to look at the risks associated with different types of cycling infrastructure, including protected bike lanes.

First, they interviewed bicyclists who visited emergency rooms in the District of Columbia, New York City and Portland, Oregon, after crashing or falling.

After gathering information about the characteristics of the location where the crash or fall occurred, the researchers then compared the site to another, randomly selected point on the cyclist’s route.

A total of 604 adults were included in the study.

A crash or fall didn’t have to involve a vehicle to be included in the study, and only about half did. Most of the injuries in the study were minor, and there were no fatalities.

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