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Traffic Safety Products that Help Ensure Cyclist Safety

Traffic safety products play an integral role in ensuring the safety of cyclists in urban areas.  Their use is part of a specialized sub-discipline known as bicycle transportation engineering.  It seeks to create bike-friendly areas along and within existing roadways.  It also focuses on the layout and construction of dedicated paths for cyclists as well as pedestrians.

 

Some of the ways that transportation engineers have tried to make streets safer for cyclists include the following modifications:

  • Shared use paths – These are bikeways that run parallel to conventional roadways, yet are physically divided from them by delineators or safety signs.
  • Bicycle lanes – These are portions of roadways meant specifically for use by cyclists.  They’re normally marked by a solid white stripe on the pavement.  They’re much narrower than motor vehicle lanes and run alongside the edge of the road.
  • Shoulders – These are traditionally used as a place for inoperable vehicles to pull over.  However, in many areas, they have been modified for use by cyclists and those on foot.
  • Wide outside lanes – One of the chief complaints motorists have about sharing the road with cyclists is having to slow down to accommodate them.  Wide outside lanes are intended to eliminate this problem by giving vehicles more room to pass bicycles safely.  They are chiefly used in rural areas where shoulders are frequently underdeveloped and unsafe for bicycle traffic.
  • Shared bus lanes – These are dedicated bus lanes that also permit cycle traffic, depending on the local public transport schedule.  These are especially popular in France and the UK.
  • Shared space streets – These are simply public streets that give equal priority to all types of vehicles.  Motorists must accommodate the rate at which cyclists travel.  While widespread in parts of Europe, they have only recently been introduced to the United States.
  • Bike paths – Often built on the sites of abandoned railroad tracks, these paths are completely independent of public roadways.  They’re normally shared by cyclists and pedestrians, as well as horses in some locations.  Bike paths are also popular features of greenways.

 

Other Bicycle Safety Measures

In addition to creating special routes for bicycles, transportation engineers are taking other measures and developing additional traffic safety products to ensure the safety of bike riders.  These include:

  • Modified traffic lights that are able to detect the presence of cyclists, taking their presence into account when issuing signal changes.
  • Modified road surfaces that move potholes, surface markings, storm drains, and other impediments to bikes away from their path of travel. 
  • Bicycle parking lots that allow bike owners to secure their cycles to secure metal stands, discouraging theft.  Some of these parks have staff members on-site, while others are routinely patrolled by law enforcement.

 

Factors Involved in Creating Bicycle Safe Zones

Not all urban roadways can be converted to bike-friendly areas with the same degree of ease.  Planners normally give priority to those zones that can be transformed with minimal effort.  Some factors that guide the decision process include the following:

  • The level to which motor vehicle traffic in the area can be reduced.
  • The prospects for establishing traffic calming measures.
  • The level to which danger zones for cyclists, such as junctions and crossways, can be monitored and improved.
  • The prospects for establishing reasonably secure bicycle parking facilities in the area.

 

The Role of Traffic Safety Products in Ensuring Cyclist Safety

Infrastructure features that promote bicycle safety fall into two categories:

  1. Signage that alerts motorists to the presence of cycles.  These often feature messages like “share the road” along with a graphic showing a bicycle. 
  2. Elements like raised curbs, walls, fencing, and bollards, which create physical barriers between motorists and cycles.

 

The trend towards greater cycle use is part of a new emphasis on physical fitness and a greener environment.  As such, it has the potential to do great good and should be encouraged as much as possible.  Modest infrastructure modifications and new traffic safety systems are small prices to pay in exchange for creating a healthier, more active populace, which is what cycling is all about.