Could Charlotte’s New Bike Lane Be the Answer to Fewer Accidents?

People hop their bicycles for numerous reasons. They’re a great way to get in some exercise, clear your head, take in some fresh air and scenery, or just get around in many places. After all, Charlotte has some great qualities for those living in and around the uptown area.

The city actually encourages bicycle use. There are bike share rental stations around the city and greenways connect 52 miles of trail around Mecklenburg County. The problem mostly stems from what happens once bicycle riders leave the greenway trails to get to other locations they don’t connect to. Motor vehicles are rarely good about sharing the road, which makes biking around uptown an activity that can easily cause bicycle accidents that leave riders with serious injuries.

In 2018, The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles reported in its 2018 Crash Facts that Charlotte cyclists experienced 109 crashes, 3 fatalities, and 114 injuries riding around the city. Clearly something needs to be done to safeguard riders, but is the cycle track the way to go?

How will the Uptown Cycle Track work?

The protected bike lane, Uptown Cycle Track, is costing the city $6.5 million to construct, and only provides two miles of safe riding. The track is really just a lane with barriers that runs along Sixth Street connecting the Little Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek greenways. While that’s better than nothing, it doesn’t offer bikers protection unless they remain on that one specific route.

The way the city intends to create the space for the bike lane is by decreasing a lane of traffic in an already congested and accident-prone city. The lane being utilized admittedly serves as parking for delivery trucks and cars outside of rush hours.

The protections being implemented include waist-high concrete barriers, fencing, and currently there are temporary plastic posts several feet apart while bikers test out a section of the route. The lane includes symbols telling riders that a driveway or intersection is coming up.

The devil is in the details

Adding lane indicators for driveways and other traffic interference is helpful, but that’s still not a safe proposition for riders. Motor vehicles may not pay attention to the presence of bicycles, which still places the onus on riders to protect themselves in a lane that’s already supposed to do that for them. That was the purpose to adding it in the first place.

Distracted driving doesn’t stop simply because a bike lane now crosses the path of alleys and driveways. Bike lanes also don’t solve the deadly problem of rights-of-way. When green lights tell a bike to go straight and a car is attempting to make a left turn – across the bike lane – a collision is going to happen. These directional conflicts regularly injure and kill cyclists.

Also, while cars may be forced to park elsewhere once the third lane disappears, delivery trucks could still pose a threat. They’ll continue to park near their destination, blocking one of the remaining lanes, and wheel their delivery across the bike the lane, creating another collision hazard.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted a study that included looking at the safety of two-way bike lanes. The result was that the risk of crashes and falls in protected bike lanes at street level is much higher than when they’re raised. With this information available well before construction is taking place, it makes you wonder whether the planners of the Uptown Cycle Track truly understand how to make cyclists safer.

Catastrophic injuries that cyclists are in danger of when facing traffic risks include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Spinal cord injuries from being thrown from a bike
  • Deep gashes and bruises
  • Risk of infection
  • Organ damage from hard impacts of colliding with vehicles or hitting the ground

The cycle track isn’t scheduled to be completed for almost two more years. If the 2018 statistics for cycling crashes remain consistent, we can expect at least another 6 deaths and almost 230 more injuries before the track is even ready. Then, only time will tell whether it’s worth it.

The Charlotte bicycle accident attorneys at Warren & Kallianos, PLLC want cyclists to feel safe on the roadways, but we know that you can’t control drivers who aren’t paying attention. If you have been injured while riding your bike due to the carelessness of someone else, we’ll explain your legal rights and discuss your options for recovering your financial losses. To speak with one of our personal injury attorneys about how we can help you, schedule your free, no obligation consultation in our Charlotte office by calling 704-275-5593, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact form.


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