I am a bicycle driver. I use my bicycle to drive whereever I want to go whenever I want to go. I don't request bike lanes because I feel they subject me to more danger than riding in the middle of the travel lane. There are way better explanations and concise use of terminology of the traffic nomenclature than I can give so I'll provide links to the real articles and explanations and I'll just summarize this issue from my perspective. Before you decide where to ride, please take the time to read these articles I've linked. They may help prevent an accident or save your life.
My reasons for not using bike lanes
1. Right hook – This is when someone passes you on the left, turns right and cuts you off. Since most bike lanes are the right most lane, there is a higher likelihood of getting right crossed in a bike lane than being in the line of traffic in a travel lane.
2. Left cross – This is when a driver turns left in front of you. Generally drivers of cars understimate the speed of bicyle drivers or they don't see the bicycle driver. If you are in the bike lane, you'll be further removed from the peripheral vision of the oncoming driver turning left because you are in the next lane over.
3. Intersection conflicts – Bike lanes introduce complexity to intersections and neither drivers of cars or bicycles know what either party is supposed to do. Did you know drivers of cars should turn from the curb and why lanes are dashed at intersections? Read the links below.
4. Drive out – When a driver pulls out of a driveway or side street in front of you. Using the bike lane decreases your visibility and maneuverability on a bike in this situation. Hopefully, there will be a sidewalk, no telephone pole, no guardrail to avoid getting hit.
5. Decreased visibilty – out of the main focus of the driver of the car. Remember drivers of cars sit in the left hand side of the car. If the minimum travel lane is 11 feet wide and a bike lane minimum width is 5 feet wide. You are probably about 14 foot right of where they are sitting.
6. Dangerous merges – Many of our bike lanes in Charlotte (NC) are installed when roads are resurfaced. So even if there is a bike lane, it may only last 50 or 100 feet and there is no sign to let you know when the lane ends. Therefore, as a bicycle driver I am subjected to forced merges at some not so opportune times such as at intersections. When you're in the bike lane, neither the driver of the car or the driver of the bicycle is alert to the merging situation ahead of time.
7. Decreased safe (lateral) passing distance. Many bike lanes installed meet the MINIMUM standards. That means a travel lane of 9 feet can be placed next to a 5 feet bike lane. You know the 3 feet safe passing distance that you always hear about? Guess what, you probably won't get 3 feet safe passing distance. Do you realize some trucks are 8 1/2 feet wide and the mirrors stick out another 10 inches on each side? Some lanes in Charlotte (NC) such as Randolph Rd near town are 9 feet wide? Because of the speed differential, a higher margin of safety is needed. Reserve some room for yourself to maneuver out of a bad situation.
8. Door zone bike lanes – Some bike lanes are next to parked cars. If a car door is opened and you are in the middle of the bike lane, you will get doored. And you may fall into the lane of travel.
9. Expectation to use the bike lane – If a bike lane is there, drivers of cars and even bikes expect all bicycle drivers to use the bike lane. If a bike lane is there, some drivers of cars act with hostility toward bicycle drivers who leave the bike lane to avoid hazardous conditions and bicycle drivers will remain in the bike despite hazardous condition.
10. Debris and trash – Due to the motion of cars sweeping debris into the bike lane, bike lanes generally collect debris, sand, glass and need to be swept more often due to the decreased natural sweeping action that cars provide to normal travel lanes. Don't risk losing control of your bicycle, get a flat and get stranded or delayed. Ride where the street conditions are the best. In the middle of the travel lane.
I j want to ride where I want to ride and where I am safest. Bicycle drivers need to be forewarned and ride in the bike lane at their own risk. But at least share the risks with them. The number one rule of all drivers whether in a car or on a bicycle is to operate the vehicle in a safe manner. And you must make these decisions as the operator of your vehicle. I just want to get home safely. I am a mother, wife, friend.
This is a link to why I drive in the middle of the lane.
This is a link to the full-blown explanation of what is wrong with bike lanes.
Thank you to the following people who made suggestions to improve this post: John Brooking, Karen Loewen, Eli Damon, Tim Cupery.