Scrolling through social media this week, we noticed a post from someone irritated about hazards in bike lanes — specifically that police leave radar speed-warning signs in them. After reading this, of course, we started noticing them all over the place. It would be easy to alert local chiefs of police about these obvious hazards; however, there is a larger point to be made, that bike lanes on the East End are largely afterthoughts, where they exist at all.
Cycling is growing in popularity in the United States, both as recreation and as a way of getting around. Covid-19 sparked a boom in bike sales, both because of anxiety about public transportation and as a way to keep fit while social distancing. Love them or hate them, e-bikes have made getting around on two (or three) wheels easier for people who tend to be sedentary; and Americans bought more of them last year than they did electric cars. Expectations are that the use of e-bike will increase in the future.
Bike lanes matter — a lot. The Centers for Disease Control reported that in more than 80 percent of bicyclists’ deaths caused by vehicles, the initial point of impact was the front hood or bumper. The proportion of deaths from impacts with vehicles’ right sides was far smaller — 6.5 percent.
To state the obvious, when not obstructed by things such as speed warning signs or gravel and sand patches, riders in bike lanes generally stay to the right of vehicles. Suffolk County recently adopted a law making drivers responsible for keeping at least three feet away from cyclists, something not assured if one has to swerve into the traffic lane to avoid an obstruction or a dangerous buildup of gravel, sand, or pebbles.
Even if the towns and villages are not able to add more bike lanes, they should assure that the ones we already have are kept open.