Interesting read about Wide Outside Lanes vs Bike Lanes [Human Transport]

To make busier roads so-called "Bicycle Friendly," added space allows easier overtaking by motorists and resulting comfort for people on bicycles. On urban design roads this added space can be wide outside lanes (WOLs) or bike lanes (BLs). A WOL is a shared-use lane that is wider than a standard 12 foot lane; 14 to16 feet is typically recommended (Figure 1). A BL is a striped and signed space exclusively for the use of bicyclists and is typically 4 or 5 feet wide (Figure 2). Envision no stripe and signs on a BL road and you have a WOL. A third option, a paved shoulder, is similar to a BL but is typically used on rural design roads without curb and gutter.

Figure 1: Wide Outside Lane

Figure 2: Bike Lane

Following are issues that should be considered in deciding whether to install WOLs or BLs.

1. Safety. BLs are often touted as increasing bicyclist safety. Surprisingly, neither BLs nor WOLs have been shown to actually increase safety as defined by reduced collisions. Both simply provide space, make passing easier for motorists and affording comfort to bicyclists. Similarly, neither has been shown to be more safe than the other. However, proving safety or lack thereof through collision studies is quite difficult.
BLs give the illusion of safety, typically reported as bicyclist comfort, presumably due to a perceived protective effect from the stripe. Ironically, BLs exacerbate certain hazards for the unwary rider, the very rider they are installed to accommodate. BLs constrain bicyclists in the position where Drive Out, Left Cross, and Right Hook (Figures 3-5) collisions are more likely, the three main risks for otherwise legally riding bicyclists, and increase the hazard from debris (item 5). These crashes occur at driveway or roadway intersections, involve turning or crossing maneuvers, and are not prevented with BLs. Note: The Figures do not reflect BL striping.


  1. I would fully support WOL use, particularly in the rural setting. Bike lanes may have a better role in dense urban areas, but the sharrows in downtown Columbus to me seem adequate. Perhaps a bicycle safety course as part of driver training would be a good option as well (perhaps 1-2 hours of the 16 needed?).


Post a Comment