legal blog

Bike Lanes vs. Shared Lanes

Written by Jared Staver

Read Jared's Bio

Jared Staver is a Personal Injury Lawyer based in Chicago, Illinois and has been practicing law for over 20 years.

Jared Staver

CATEGORY: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury


A debate rages in the cycling community: dedicated bike lanes vs. shared lanes. Some advocates passionately believe that shared roadways are safer. Others prefer the isolated bike paths and dedicated bike lanes. As Chicago becomes an increasingly bike-friendly city, especially as the weather turns warmer, it is important to know the facts. Check out the pros and cons of each to be better informed when you chip in your two cents.

Pros and Cons of Dedicated Bike Lanes

Bike lanes are popular with motorists and cyclists alike, but are they really ideal for everyone’s safety?

Pros of Bike Lanes

  • Bike lanes encourage cycling. Whether or not they actually increase the safety of riding a bike in the city, people perceive it to be true. This encourages more people to bicycle, which promotes cycling.
  • Bike lanes increase awareness about cycling, thus raising cyclist safety overall. When more cyclists are on the road, more drivers are aware of them, increasing safe driving around cyclists.
  • Bike lanes reduce cyclist use of sidewalks. Cycling on the sidewalks interrupts pedestrian traffic. When there are dedicated lanes for cyclists as well, fewer cyclists are tempted to jump off the road and onto the sidewalk.

Cons of Bike Lanes

  • Bike lanes make the worst common cycling accidents more common. Since cyclists are constrained to the right side of the road, they often are at risk of drive out, left cross, and right hook accidents where the cars must cross into the bike lane, crowding out the cyclist. This is dangerous for cyclists and motorists alike, because there is no way to avoid them while following the rules of the road correctly.
  • Bike lanes create a false sense of security. When cyclists are in a bike lane, they are less aware of the drivers around them, despite the fact that they are statistically no safer than they would be when sharing a lane. Also, drivers pay less attention to cyclist, which can be catastrophic if a cyclist must change into the main lane for some reason.
  • Debris tends to build up in bike lanes. Small debris like gravel, sand and trash get swept out of the main lane by the cars. This makes the bike lane full of hazards that cannot be removed by bike traffic alone.

Pros and Cons of Shared Lanes

Advocates say that shared lanes are ultimately safer, but is this really better for the community?

Pros of Shared Lanes

  • Shared lanes allow cyclists to follow a more natural flow of traffic. Cyclists are able to head left or right to turn as necessary. They also can more easily avoid hazards caused by other people on the road turning.
  • Cyclists in shared lanes are less likely to be doored. Any cyclist knows that one of the worst accidents possible is to run into an opening car door. When cars are parked along the road, shared lanes allow cyclists to better avoid this hazard.
  • Studies indicate that shared lanes actually decrease accidents on low speed roads. Bike lanes may seem safer to the average driver, but the increased awareness brought by shared lanes is actually safer.

Cons of Shared Lanes

  • Shared lanes confuse drivers and cyclists. Often drivers and cyclists in these lanes are not sure where to drive and what the policy is on passing and other safe skills. This lead to confusion and even anger.
  • The difference in speeds can interrupt traffic flow. When slower bikes enter the main road, this can slow traffic and interrupt the regular flow.
  • New cyclists and children have nowhere to ride. Urban cycling in shared lanes becomes inaccessible to those still learning, as they cannot keep up with regular traffic flow, and there is no dedicated path.

Which Are Better: Dedicated Bike Lanes vs. Shared Lanes?

In the end, there are arguments with serious merit on each side. At the moment, Chicago has both, so the ultimate consideration is the safety of cyclists no matter what the situation. Bike accidents can happen no matter where cyclists ride, especially if drivers are negligent.

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in Illinois, contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900 today to speak with a Chicago bike accident attorney. During your free consultation, we will discuss your unique situation and see how we may be able to help. Don’t hesitate to get the compensation you need to recover and get back out on the roads (and paths) of Chicago.

Free Consultation
(312) 236-2900
(312) 236-2900
Skip to content