Pros and cons of dedicated cycle lanes

By Susanne McGraw June 17th 2017

With the Scottish Government aiming for 10% of all journeys to be made by bike by 2020, installing bicycle lanes to help meet this target is currently under review. But how do cyclists feel about this approach to improving cycling conditions?

While some feel bike lanes increase comfort and safety levels, others are firmly opposed to dedicated cycle areas on the grounds that they increase safety issues. In this blog, we’ll examine the pros and cons of bike lanes in an attempt to reach a clearer conclusion on whether or not bike lanes benefit cyclists.

The purpose of bike lanes

A bike lane is a section of a road marked by painted lines in order to separate cyclists from other road users. The idea behind bike lanes is simple – they’re intended to make cycling safer and easier in order to reduce road traffic, and bike accidents.

Requirements of bike lanes

Bike lanes have many physical requirements in order to be safe. The most important being bike lanes need to be placed in areas where road width is adequate enough to allow for a bike lane of 1.5m wide. If this condition is not adhered to, it could lead to serious safety concerns for all road users.

Do bike lanes make cycling safer?

While being inside a car could physically prevent a driver from harm in the event of an accident, a cyclist is protected by nothing other than their cycling skills and a little helmet.

To that end, some cyclists suggest the implementation of bike lanes to offer them increased protection. They feel bike lanes result in drivers becoming more aware of the presence of cyclists, which makes drivers pay closer attention and in turn protects cyclists.

However, others argue that bicycle lanes only protect cyclists from rear-end collisions and increase the likelihood of collisions while changing lanes at intersections.

Is cycling easier when using a bike lane?

Many cyclists contend that a protected bike lane makes cycling on busy roads easier. They reduce the perception of danger, making cycling a more accessible choice of transport for everyone.

However, others would argue that separate lanes allow cyclists to be treated as second-class road users, giving drivers a sense of entitlement, which can unfortunately lead to accidents.

Even knowledgeable cyclists state that they experience trouble from separate bicycle facilities because it encourages motorist resentment.

Cycle lanes increase the number of cyclists

Many people feel that bicycle lanes increase the number of cyclists. In turn, this raises overall cycling rates, and encourages people who otherwise wouldn’t even consider cycling to cycle.

The National Cycling Charity CTC explains that “the more people cycle, the safer it is for each individual cyclist, since places with high levels of cycling are associated with lower risks”.

According to CTC’s “Safety in Numbers” campaign possible reasons for this include:

  • Drivers are more aware of cyclists
  • Drivers are more likely to be cyclists themselves
  • There is greater political will to improve cycling conditions, such as building infrastructure, reducing speed or increasing enforcement of traffic law

But while bike lanes might increase numbers, which in turn makes cycling safer, accidents can still happen.


While there are clearly two opposing opinions to the benefits of cycling lanes, even properly designed bike lanes can’t prevent accidents.

Bike lanes are only part of the solution to safer and easier cycling routes. Education of both cyclists and motorists may be the answer to alleviating the dangers cyclists face. We’ve previously discussed safer cycling tips in previous blogs.

These tips, along with having respect for all road users, can reduce tensions between road users, which in turn could reduce accidents.

However if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a bicycle accident, contact an experienced personal injury solicitor as soon as possible. Being involved in an accident is a traumatic time for anyone. Contact Watermans Accident Claims and Care who can look after you from start to finish. You have up to three years to make a claim in Scotland, and in most cases you can claim for loss or earnings and damage to any bike or cycling equipment.