According a study by Leeds and Bolton universities cyclists are in much more danger of being hit by cars on roads that include cycle lanes because they encourage motorists to drive closer when overtaking bicycles.
Analysis of the footage revealed that drivers gave up to 18cm (seven inches) more space to cyclists on stretches without cycle lanes.
The findings question the perceived wisdom that slapping down strips of green paint and white lines makes riding safer. And as cycling continues to enjoy a boom, the suggestion that cycle lanes could be endangering rather than protecting users highlights increasingly fraught relationship between riders and drivers.
“The very existence of cycle lanes can lead to drivers to being lazier when overtaking because they believe the space between the cycle lane and the middle of the road is their territory,” says Chris Peck, CTC’s policy chief.
It’s though the presence of a solid white line offers the illusion – to both rider and driver – of a barrier behind which cyclists are protected. When the barrier is not there, drivers take care as they move to overtake cyclists rather than roaring past with inches to spare.
“I think the study is offers some very useful findings for local transport authorities to have a look at because while it’s great that so many are doing something and promoting cycling they do need to realise you have to do it well or it can be counter productive, particularly for novice cyclists who find the roads intimidating”, says Roger Geffen, Campaigns & Policy Manager for the CTC.
“There is growing evidence that non cyclists main concern for not cycling is a lack of cycle facilities but then when they get out on the roads this is forgotten and their greatest concern is volume of traffic.
“Lots of local authorities are very good at persuading people to take it up but not so good for when they actually have.”