Riding in Bike Lanes

by Dan Pugatch

With new bike lanes popping up everywhere (about time eh?) it is important that folks know how to safely ride in them while enjoying Boston’s fastest way to get around. Bicycle lanes can make cyclists feel safer in traffic, but there are just a few simple rules to follow that aren’t immediately obvious from the paint on the road

Getting “doored” is just about the scariest thing a cyclist can experience. This is when an automobile driver opens their door into the path of an oncoming cyclist, and the cyclist, without enough time to react, either is hit by or crashes into the open door.

You can avoid getting doored by anticipating that all parked or recently stopped cars are about to open their doors, and then ride along a line that is clear of them (remember that one of these days, one really will pop open on you). Depending on the width of the bike and parking lanes, this can mean the safe place to ride is anywhere from the middle of the bike lane, to straddling the leftmost white line of the bike lane, to riding outside the bike lane altogether. It’s all about envisioning each door opening suddenly, and where that door would end.

If you are a slower rider, pay careful attention to each car you’re about to pass. If you see someone park their car or roll up their window, expect the door to swing open with no warning.

Take extra special care with taxis. If a taxi stops anywhere, even in the middle of the street, expect the passenger doors to swing open without notice. Once, I had to swerve to avoid being doored by taxi passengers out front of South Station, and that car was in the far left lane of traffic!

Also worth noting, do not take chances when trucks and buses are passing you. Anticipate the possibility that they may be turning right and they may not see you.

Buses present a different problem, as they continually crossover the bike lane to pick up passengers. Learn to anticipate when the bus driver is going to pull over by locating the stops ahead, and carefully pass on the left when they do pull over. Passing on the right can put the disembarking bus passengers in danger.

In the winter and spring time sand collects in the lanes from treating snow and ice. Some lanes become unusable as well when snowplows do not clearing them. And then there’s potholes, sewer grates and other road hazards. This city has a squeaky wheel policy when it comes to potholes. Those who call them in, get to see them filled. Report all these problems to the mayor’s hotline at 617-635-4500, and report back to the Union if the response is less than prompt.

And as always, wear a helmet. It will save your life. It has saved mine. Be safe out there and enjoy riding in the new bike lanes!

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