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Developing a Bicycle-Safe Neighborhood

Illustration for article titled Developing a Bicycle-Safe Neighborhoodem/em

Bicycling is a popular way to get around these days. The steady rise of gas prices, growing awareness of environmental effects of car exhaust, and the perennial need for better health all make biking more popular by the day. Many people in urban environments, in fact, have ditched automobiles altogether.

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For homeowners and neighborhood planners, the popularity of bicycles demands some new approaches to safety. Bicyclists are far more vulnerable to injury than motorists. Bike accidents are nasty, but they’re also highly preventable. If you’re a homeowner or are helping design (or redesign) a neighborhood, keep these bike safety tips in mind.

Tidy Up the Roads

Bicyclists need smooth, clear roads. While cars can glide effortlessly over potholes and debris, things aren’t so simple on a bike. A gouge in the pavement or a poorly laid stretch of concrete can slam a rider down with sudden violent force. Even a simple fallen branch or discarded piece of trash can get tangled up in a bicycle’s spokes and cause serious injury. And according to Kelly & Soto Law, personal injuries can lead to costly medical bills for victims as well as for at-fault drivers.

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As a good neighbor, please report any structural issues with your street to the authorities, and do your part to clean up any miscellaneous garbage lying around. Strong, safe communities are made up of people looking out for one another.

Add Bike-Friendly Street Features

These days, developers have lots of options for ensuring their roads remain ridable. Bike lanes have become much more familiar to motorists and cyclists alike, and engineers have come up with a few new methods of ensuring their safety and usefulness.

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The standard bike lane, a small section on the right side of the road dedicated to bicycle use, remains the most popular type of lane. Most people understand standard bike lanes by now, and they’re relatively safe, but developers may want to consider some of the newer bike lane options, such as the cycle track, which adds a protective barrier between the bike and motor vehicle path, or the buffered bike lane, which adds some physical space between the paths.

Make Sure People Know the Laws

Neighborhood groups may want to consider spreading information about bicycling laws. In many places, cycling on the sidewalk is illegal, and lots of states have helmet laws for bikes. Not everyone is familiar with these laws, and many of them vary from place to place, so distributing pamphlets around the neighborhood may help ensure safety to everyone on your local roads. When everyone knows the rules, everyone will be better prepared to deal with the realities of bicyclists sharing the roads with motorists.

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Make Sure Signs are Clear and Easy to Read

Clear signage is vital to road safety. Many motorists are not used to seeing bicycles using streets, and they don’t always know about the rights that cyclists have on the road. Bike lanes need to be labelled clearly and precisely so that motorists can give them proper space in which to ride.

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If your neighborhood road has a lot of bike traffic, you might want to consider adding signs warning motorists to watch for cyclists—bicycle enthusiasts often complain that drivers only look out for cars.

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