RESEARCH - More Than Paint Needed to Keep Cyclists Safe

painted cycle laneResearch by Dr. Ben Beck at Australia's Monash University collected data on 60 cyclists in Melbourne who rode their bicycles with a custom device (the 'MetreBox') installed to quantify the distance that motor vehicle drivers provide when passing them. More than 18,000 vehicle passing events from 422 trips were recorded.

One in every 17 passing events (n=1085) came within one metre of the travelling cyclist and, alarmingly, 124 passing events came within less than 60cm. In higher speed zones, greater than 60 km/h, roughly one in every three (n=293) passing events was a 'close' pass (<150cm).

There were approximately 1.7 passing events of less than 100cm for every 10km travelled.

"Our results demonstrate that a single stripe of white paint is not sufficient to protect people who ride bikes," Dr Beck said.


Although I very much enjoy the Beck family’s purity law Pilsner I have questions about the conclusions arrived at based on the study’s statistical findings. What were Dr. Beck’s feelings about separated bike lanes before the study was conducted? It’s a great leap to conclude that they are the solution to drivers encroaching on a cyclist’s reasonable safety zone. Here’s a few variables that must be considered:

Were these trips made exclusively within a demarked “bicycles only” lane?

Was the lane of uniform width and in good repair?

Did the cyclists maintain their line through the left, center, or right margin of the bike lane (as dictated by BC MVA and most others), or inversely as Australian rules would dictate.

Anecdotaly I would suggest that 95% of motorists leave a margin of one full car width when they pass me while I am on a bicycle, riding as far right as practicable.

In BC we recently had a fatality where a cyclist was fatally struck when swerving left to avoid being “doored” while traveling in this type of lane with parked cars to the right so I am in agreement that these lanes are flawed. The discussion needs to be around what the solution is and I suggest that separated bike lanes are not the panacea that their promoters claim as they have their own drawbacks.

Oddly enough, I came across this gem from Australia.

 Managing space margins and timing is everybody's responsibility. One would expect that the most vulnerable would be the most concerned about maintaining space, and tracking every vehicle around them constantly. But that's not what we see on the streets.