Tuesday 29 April 2014

Once in every 73 lifetimes - How often the Dutch are injured by another cyclist while cycling

Dr Jon Rogers and Walker Angell
were interviewed as well as myself
Fatalities on Dutch roads and cycle-paths dropped last year but a small rise in injuries to cyclists made the news. A film crew joined us for a few minutes during the study tour last week, interviewing two of the participants on the tour as well as myself. You can watch the resulting news report, with subtitles in English, above.

Of course, a rise in injuries is most unwelcome, but we must keep this in context. Given the Dutch population of 16.8 million, the average life expectancy of a little over 80 years and assuming that the entire population cycles (which is not far from the truth), 2849 injuries per year corresponds with cyclists needing medical attention due to a crash with another cyclist on average once every 73 lifetimes. Only a fraction of these involve more than first aid.

Perhaps cycling through a red
light while on the 'phone
doesn't seem a great idea, but
she's one of the safest cyclists
in the world (although the
infrastructure she's riding on
in the video is less than ideal)
Two thirds of injuries to cyclists in the Netherlands are the result of falls from the bike not involving any other party (these are particularly dangerous for older people) while only a fifth involve a motor vehicle. If all causes of injury are added together, 8100 cyclists experience injuries requiring attendance of hospital each year in the Netherlands. That's a risk of about once every 25 lifetimes.

The risk of death, based on last year's figures, is about once per 990 lifetimes. People from other countries often notice that the Dutch don't wear helmets when cycling. This is quite rational: I once calculated that if Dutch cyclists wore helmets, this would save their lives on average once every 3100 lifetimes.

The safety of all road users is excellent in the Netherlands and despite alarm over a rise in cyclist injuries, cyclist safety remains ahead of the rest of the world. That's despite the sometimes unruly behaviour of cyclists, which is commented on in the video.

Of course, while subjective safety is not so easily measured, that's what makes it possible for the masses to cycle. It's just as well that removing motor vehicles from where cyclists go improves both actual safety and subjective safety.

Racing Cyclists
The news team seemed to be trying to make a story about racing cyclists being the cause of many crashes. In fact, there's no real evidence for this. For a start, there aren't many cycle-on-cycle crashes to look at. But in any case racers mainly hurt themselves, not other people. The main organisation which organises such events has responded to the accusation by producing a behaviour code for racers, but I don't think it will help because this ignores the rather irrational psychology of how people blame out-groups for problems.

A few weeks after I wrote this article, a
friend of mine had his arm broken in
a collision with another bike. He was
unfortunate enough to be hit by an older
cyclist who didn't look before changing
direction. A hit and run! It's not rational
to assume that older people are always
the victims in these rare crashes.
Older people
The TV programme also touched on the problem of older people being victims of cycling accidents more often than they used to be. This rise is largely the result of exposure to risk combined with their relative fragility. As I explained in an analysis of the same problem two years ago, retired people now cycle three times as much now as they did in the 1980s.

Children going to school by car
Another of the themes which came up again in this video is the concern than these days, Dutch children increasingly go to school by car. This is an increasing trend, but it's still very small compared with other nations. Please read my analysis of this from last year.

Study tour summary
The tour changed again this year to take into account new infrastructure and to demonstrate some things that we've not been able to demonstrate before, packed into three very busy days. Participants took a lot of photographs and there was much discussion.

The study tour group amongst other everyday cyclists riding into Groningen. It can be quite a challenge to lead the tour and keep track of everyone when we're surrounded by such a lot of other cyclists.
Always popular, we watched how children get to and from school. At this primary school, the younger children are met by parents but many ride independently.
We also saw several classes of primary school aged children going on trips by bike. Children are encouraged to ride side-by-side.
In a residential street, observing how these are planned to minimise through traffic and encourage cycling and walking.

As well as seeing what works, we also demonstrate what does not because it is not necessary to repeat mistakes made in the Netherlands as well as successes. This is the same shared space junction as featured in a video and blog post two weeks ago and as always we saw the same problems here. A significant proportion of people were scared to cycle and in an attempt to improve their chances they were crossing the road as pedestrians or riding on the pavement. Both these things are indications that the cycling environment is not good enough.
The next open study tour is on the 2nd to 4th of September. Book now.

Update 2015
Traffic deaths in the Netherlands have continued to fall, while cycling deaths appear to have reached a plateau. Note that of 185 cyclist deaths last year, 106 were of people aged over 65. I have written about this before, explaining the reasons. While it remains popular to apportion blame on other cyclists, the rate of elderly cyclist deaths in the Netherlands is not due to collisions with racing cyclists but a consequence of old age and a rise in elderly people cycling further and faster by using electrically assisted bicycles.

Amendment 30th April: Note that when this blog post was first published it referred to 2849 as the total number of cycling injuries per year for all reasons. I posted it, then woke up the next morning feeling that this sounded rather better than it ought to so I've done further research and amended the post above with reference to an article with more complete information. There are in fact 78000 injuries per year including the least serious than can be measured, 66000 of which require first aid and 8100 of which result in treatment in hospital. I'm happy to have corrected the figures above, but it remains extremely safe to cycle in the Netherlands. By comparison, a correspondent pointed out in email that 1 in 120 Americans die in a car crash while 1 in 280 British people meet that same end. It's far safer to be a cyclist in the Netherlands than to be around cars in those countries.

Saturday 26 April 2014

School trips by bike. An everyday occurrence where cycling is pleasant and safe

Dutch schools, especially primary schools (age 5-12) make a lot of trips. They do so to access sport facilities, to visit museums, city centres or the countryside. Actually, they go more or less anywhere by bike unless distances are very long in which case a coach will be hired. As a result, school bike trips are a very common sight in the Netherlands.

This video was made on the last day of the April study tour. Two different school groups passed us within a matter of minutes. We saw the first at a simultaneous green crossing - demonstrating precisely the sort of infrastructure which successfully keeps all cyclists safe in the Netherlands. The others were seen as they rode along a cycle-path a few short distance from that same crossing.

It is high quality infrastructure like this which enables true mass cycling to take place. What is good for the kids is also good for adults, and this is why cycling encompasses all demographic groups in the Netherlands.
It's quite common for teachers to wear bright clothing to make them identifiable. In this case there were two teachers or parents at the front of the group and one at the rear. Note how in this photo and in the video above, children are encouraged to ride side-by-side.

This group had clearly not come from very far away as some had decided to walk. A few of them "hitchhiked" on the back of other childrens' bikes.

A young group of children, with teachers in orange, at the museum in the centre of the city.

This photo from a few days back shows an increasing tendency for children to be given reflective vests. If the vests are intended simply to make children identifiable when in a busy area, that's one thing. However, if there's scaremongering involved then this is something we need to be very wary of. Children are in no significant danger when cycling on excellent infrastructure like this cycle-path.
We often see school trips during the study tours. I caught another on video last year.

Note that Dutch school children will have cycled to school and for other purposes for years and have been on many school trips by bike before they undertake any form of formal cycle training. It is the cycle-paths, arranged in a very dense grid serving all destinations, which make for safe cycling, not education.

Thursday 24 April 2014

On-road cycle-lanes. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (mostly bad and ugly)

It seems that an American blogger has been sending traffic to this article as he thinks these photos demonstrate how even the best Dutch infrastructure lets cyclists down. In fact, this particular blog post shows rare examples of bad practice which we recommend is not emulated, along with photos of poor practice in other countries. It's one of several blog posts tagged "what not to do". For examples of good practice, see the blog posts tagged "what works". Good infrastructure is far more common in the Netherlands than the bad infrastructure shown here.

This was part of our walking route to school in Cambridge. The
van fills both the narrow cycle-lane and the narrow pavement.
On-road cycle-lanes have long been controversial. They're a type of infrastructure which raises many questions. For instance, do on-road lanes make cycling safer or do they keep cyclists in the gutter where they are least safe ? Are they more or less convenient for cyclists than fully segregated cycle-paths ? Is paint enough to make cyclists safe in the presence of much faster and heavier motorized vehicles ? Do cycle-lanes create adequate subjective safety that they lead to mass cycling ? Where cycle-lanes exist, can they be integrated into good traffic light and roundabout designs ? How should a cycle-lane lead into a segregated cycle-path, and visa-versa ?

The same problem in the Netherlands. Cycle-lanes are abused
by drivers everywhere. This cycle-lane is 1.9 m wide and the
pavement is very wide, but that doesn't prevent exactly the
same abuse of both the cycle-lane and pavement as seen in the
British example. Read about many problems at this location
Ten years ago, guidance in the Netherlands called for cycle-lane widths of 1.8 m to 2 m wide with an absolute minimum of 1.5 m permitted where space allowed no more. These suggestions were considered to be adequate only where there were relatively small flows of cyclists. With higher usage, the lanes were to be built wider. Segregated cycle-paths were considered to be preferable over cycle-lanes where speed limits were 50 km/h (30 mph) or higher and on main roads with 80 km/h (50 mph) roads, cycle-lanes were considered not to be adequate at all. If there was no other possibility on an 80 km/h road then any lanes built should be widened by one metre. That's an extra half a metre to allow for bicycles to safely overtake other bicycles and another half a metre to give more space between motor vehicles and cyclists. The same guidance suggested a minimum 0.75 m wide gap between parking bays and cycle-lanes in order to reduce the chance of "dooring".

Current advice in the Netherlands requires that on-road cycle-lanes should made of distinct red asphalt and be 2 to 2.5 m wide, with an absolutely minimum of 1.7 m. Such cycle-lanes must be red. All these are "concrete" absolutes. It is also now suggested that there should be a 0.5 m gap between cycle-lanes and car-lanes, the exact form of which is currently still under discussion.

On roads narrower than 5.8 m, a fietsstraat (bicycle road) is the preferred solution. Note that such an arrangement requires both a low speed limit (30 km/h - 18 mph) and for through motor traffic to be removed in order to be successful. Otherwise cars will dominate and the bicycle road becomes simply a normal road where cyclists do not have any real safety.

The Netherlands now has around 37000 km of cycle-path and just 5500 km of cycle-lanes. Bicycle Roads are even less common. It is clear that on-road cycle-lanes are deprecated in this country. They are not the preferred solution. There are far more new segregated cycle-paths than there are new on-road lanes.

Downhill cycle-lanes
Note that the Dutch guidelines refer to what is considered to be reasonable practice in this country, where maximum speeds of cyclists are determined mostly by how hard they push the pedals and not by how quickly they can descend a hill. Where there are hills, cycle-lanes heading up-hill should be as suggested above but those heading downhill should be wider. More space is required to keep control of a bicycle at higher speeds. Extra space is also required to make safe the overtaking of one cyclist by another at higher speeds. This is analogous to how Dutch guidelines suggest wider cycle-lanes are required in the presence of faster motor vehicles.

The Good

These are examples of where problems which could have occured with on-road cycle-lanes have been avoided by careful implementation. It's a short list and several of the examples below work well precisely because they exist in the absence of motor traffic.

This 2.1 m wide cycle-lane in Assen is along a 50 km/h street which has carries moderate amount of traffic. It's not an ideal situation but the width does allow people to ride side-by-side and it is rare that it feels unsafe here. This is one of the better examples of cycle-lanes. Note that there is a pinch point for cars by the signs to the left of the car, but due to careful design the cycle-lane does not lose width at the pinch-point and this is relatively safe. There is a buffer between the parked cars and the cycle-lane to avoid "dooring". The distinctive red asphalt (not paint) also makes it obvious which part of the road is for cyclists.

These "cycle-lanes" are 1.7 m wide on either side of a 2.7 m wide carriageway. But these are not really cycle-lanes and this is not an ordinary road. This is a bicycle road which cannot be used for through journeys by motor vehicle and on which cyclists have priority. The only reason why any motor vehicle is driven here is to access about half a dozen houses along this section of the bicycle road.

These cycle-lanes are only 1.5 m wide but this is again not a normal road. This is a nearly car free street in the city centre. The junction ahead was once the busiest in Assen, but now has very light motorized traffic because this not longer serves as a through route by motor vehicle. The street allows two-way use only by bicycle and that is what is made clear by the painted lanes.

In Groningen, this busy cycle-route goes over an older bridge which does not have adequate width for a segregated cycle-path. The cycle-lane splits from the road after the bridge and before a busy simultaneous green traffic light junction. Note that this is precisely the opposite of a "mixing zone" as has proven to be lethal elsewhere.
Cycle-lane becoming a cycle-path immediately before a roundabout so that the junction can be negotiated safely by bicycle. Again, this is the opposite of a mixing zone, removing cyclists from the road at the junction to increase safety.
The opposite side of the same road looks identical. A safe merge is provided from the cycle-path which leads from the roundabout onto the road. This is protected by a concrete kerb and because the cycle-lane is "extra" width. i.e. the painted lines separating the cycle-lane from the road line up optically with the side of the slightly narrower road used by drivers leaving the roundabout.
This cycle-lane through a 1950s residential area in Assen does not really function as a cycle-lane. This street works well by bicycle because the road is no longer used in the same way as it was originally designed. While some streets in this area are busier than others, this street is considerably more pleasant than it once was due to unravelling of motor vehicle routes from bicycle routes. This is no longer a useful through route by motor vehicle and bicycles dominate. The width of the cycle-lane is almost completely irrelevant. Children can ride home from school five-abreast in comparative safety.
This example from Groningen is not all good because the cycle-lane is actually too narrow for this 50 km/h street. However I've included it in this section because it provides an obvious illustration of how to design car parking adjacent to a cycle-lane so as to avoid the danger of "dooring". There is a buffer between the edge of the cycle-lane and the side of the cars. In this instance, the buffer is not so wide as an open car door, but even this slightly narrower buffer reduces the risk because an opened door cannot intrude over a very large proportion of the cycle-lane.
The bad
Sadly, most cycle-lanes come into the "bad" category. They're too narrow, they're not safe or they give an inadequate feeling of subjective safety to result in people wanting to cycle more. While the majority of these examples are in the Netherlands, bear in mind that these form less than ideal links within an overall infrastructure of very high quality. There are also very often alternative routes which are of better quality.

Several of these examples are in Groningen. Like all cities which have many students, this demographic group, who are relatively easy to attract to cycling for a variety of reasons and will cycle more given any particular conditions than other demographic groups, helps to mask the problems with infrastructure. There are also examples from Cambridge, where the same applies. If you're trying to grow cycling in a place which does not already have a high cycling modal share, the infrastructure that you build needs to be better than this. To attract people from all segments of society to cycle, you need very high quality over a very fine grid.

Narrow cycle-lane combined with pinch point in Groningen. That buses use this route makes it more unpleasant and more dangerous. The speed limit here is 50 km/h. This infrastructure reduces subjective safety of cycling. Where it is common, the more vulnerable members of society will not use by bicycle. This is very far from best practice in the Netherlands. Pinch points are usually designed out.
1.1 m wide cycle-lane in a 30 km/h zone in Assen. The cycle-lane is hopelessly inadequate in width. This couple riding side-by-side here do not both fit within the lane. This is a moderately busy road, though not on Sunday when this photo was taken. Like most of the bad examples from the Netherlands, this one is very easy to avoid when cycling. Much better infrastructure runs in parallel with this (a video shows how I usually go another way into the city). Note that there is one good feature. The parking bay does actually have a divider between the car and the cyclists. This should prevent "dooring" incidents.

A street in Groningen which has recently been reworked, but which has kept very narrow cycle-lanes despite 50 km/h speed limit and use by heavy vehicles. 1.2 m width is really not close to good enough for the 21st century. This unsafe lane leads to a low degree of subjective safety, which can cause people to stop cycling.
Looking left from the same point as where the yellow truck is in the photo above, the same inadequate cycle-lanes are invaded by almost every motorist who turns right here. There is absolutely no reason for this poor design. Everything left of this photo was built new in the last few years. There is no lack of space. At some points In the centre of this area, the pavements for pedestrians combine to nearly 30 m in width, yet cyclists were considered to be so unimportant that they rated nothing more than 1.2 m wide cycle lanes which are regularly invaded by motor vehicles.

1.5 m wide cycle-lane on a busy 50 km/h through road in Assen. This infrastructure dates from the 1980s when the old railway station was built. The junction that we are approaching is safe to use, but inconvenient and the narrow cycle-lane continues after the junction. The station is being rebuilt and in the near future this entire length of cycle-lane is to be replaced by a proper segregated cycle-path. The junction is to be completely redesigned. The busy through route by car will become a tunnel, removing the source of most danger.

Cambridge in the UK. A cycle lane measuring barely over a metre wide on a busy road with a 30 mph (50 km/h) speed limit. There was clearly never a good reason for the cycle-lane to have been so narrow because in a few metres, right as it goes over a bridge where there might have been the excuse of there not being enough space, this lane widens to accommodate buses. From this point onwards, cyclists are supposed to ride in a combined bus/bike lane. Bikes and buses should never be combined in one lane as they are fundamentally incompatible forms of transport. Bikes need to travel at a constant speed while buses must necessarily stop and start, with a higher peak speed but a similar average speed. The result of this combination is that bikes impede buses just as much as buses impede bikes. This leads to dangerous overtaking manoeuvres and conflict. There really should be a completely separate bus lane or bus road here, and proper bus stop bypasses.
Trumpington Road in Cambridge shows how not to construct a cycle-lane which passes parked cars. Parking is allowed on both sides of this busy road. The cycle-lane is narrow, badly surfaced and keeps cycles far too close to the "door zone". The volume of motorized traffic here is far too high for such a dangerous layout to remain.
The Ugly
As was explained at the beginning, while well engineered cycle-paths are beneficial to cyclists, on-road cycle-lanes are really only a last resort measure. They should not be common in new developments because there is almost always a better alternative. They should not be used where there are high volumes of motor vehicles or high speeds. Where they are used they must be wide and junction design must remove potential conflict points. One of the "good" above shows how a lane cane become segregated at a traffic light junction. Where cyclists join and leave on-road lanes there are always potential conflict points.

In the Netherlands there are now relatively few on-road lanes because better alternative designs are used. Existing cycle-lanes are being upgraded into cycle-paths. This is how it should be in other countries as well. Why implement the equivalent of 1980s Dutch or other inferior designs of infrastructure when you can instead copy more recent and successful designs ?

This section includes examples of where the Dutch have recently made bad choices, where other nations are making copying from less than good examples and making bad choices and of some common problems due to cycle-lanes.
Inexplicable bad design in Assen as part of a new development. There is plenty of room here for a proper bus stop bypass rather than encouraging bikes and buses to clash. Assen actually did better than this in the 1980s. Have the good ideas been forgotten by a new generation of planners ? The only redeeming part of this design is that it's appeared on a route which is not well used by bicycle. That's by design. This is where motor vehicles are sent to keep them out of the centre of the city. As I often point out, just because something can be found in the Netherlands, that doesn't mean it's best practice. Don't copy this.
London has been struggling with making its ambition for "cycling superhighways" truly "super" ever since the idea was first mooted. This illustration from 2010 shows how limited that city's ambition for cycling is. These cycle-lanes are extremely narrow. They're narrower than any real life example above. This is simply not good enough. London's progress has not been helped by campaigners actually asking for infrastructure like this. On-road lanes still feature in many of London's designs. They are still planning to build them too narrow and they're still appearing on roads with far higher traffic flows than any of the Dutch examples above. What's more, they're still being combined with poor quality junction designs such as Advanced Stop Lines, which appear even in brand new infrastructure.
Another example of an incredibly bad idea from London at a junction designed in 2013. The orange line shows what TfL think cyclists ought to do, while the red line shows what people in a hurry will actually do. This does not support either less confident or more confident cyclists well. Both are required to do something unreasonable and both are required to make a choice between safety or convenience. If someone is late for work, convenience is likely to win. A well designed traffic light junction would have been both safe and convenient for all modes.

In the past, Assen had other examples of bad design such as this: a cycle-lane in-between two car lanes. This type of design requires cyclists and drivers to swap or merge lanes at junctions and it was never safe. This junction was removed from Assen decades ago. Proven bad ideas like this should not be part of new designs for cycling infrastructure. Junctions with similar features continue to kill in those places where they are still implemented. Well informed planners should be aware of this danger and avoid it. However...

The dangerous situation that we got rid of in Assen decades ago is part of a new plan for Cambridge in the UK (in fact, they've actually already built junctions like this in this decade). This is just one of several criticisms that I have of these new plans.
Here it is again in the Christchurch New Zealand cycling design guidelines. Don't do this. Don't repeat mistakes. This is a dangerous design.
A similar idea as proposed for Ontario in Canada. Just one of the many problems with Ontario's new Bicycle Facilities Traffic Manual. Shared right turn zones (or "mxiing zones") like this have proven to be lethal.
Another collection of bad design ideas, this time from Southampton, providing a false choice between efficiency and safety because even the "safe" option to make a right turn is not really safe. Cyclists are encouraged to remain on the left to reach a turning box while drivers are encouraged to turn across them to make left turns. This design has proven to be lethal. The design also includes a bus stop which maximises conflict between bikes and buses. The implementation was actually worse than the design, but the design shows remarkable ignorance of best practice

Update: When I was working on writing this blog post to illustrate what not to do with regard to on-road cycle lanes, Sustrans in the UK were simultaneously working on the Sustrans handbook for cycle-friendly design which promotes many of the same bad designs as I warn against. I've included here three examples of how they actually recommend bad practice, but more bad ideas can be seen in my review of their handbook. This first example shows a cycle-lane in the centre of the street. As explained above, this particularly causes conflict between cyclists and left turning cars.

The second example shows Sustrans recommending the old-fashioned, inconvenient and proven to be lethal two stage turn design. They describe this as an "Innovative Cycle Facility". 
Cycle-lane widths recommended by Sustrans for new construction are very much narrower than are recommended in the Netherlands. As you'll read above, ten years ago the Dutch recommendation was already a width of 1.8-2 m with an absolutely minimum of 1.5 m. The new recommendations (detailed at the top of this blog post) require lanes to be somewhat wider in the Netherlands.

The route which children in Oostrum have to take to get to school. There have been crashes here between children on bikes and overtaking cars. This manoeovre is difficult to perform without error every time. Sustainably safe conditions require that people can make minor errors without resulting in injury. This is simply not adequate. It's an example of how fears that a cycle-lane can keep cyclists in the wrong position on the road to make a safe turn are realised, though the best solution is proper segregated infrastructure which makes it clear who should be where and when, not simply to delete the cycle-lane.

When there is snow, a cycle-lane is more difficult to clear effectively than an off-road cycle-path (see examples of effectively swept cycle-paths). What's more, the consequences of a cycle-lane not being properly swept are more serious than they are for a cycle-path. The dirty ice and snow from the road builds up at the edge of the cycle-lane near the parked cars. This can be slippery, it can hide obstacles (kerb, litter, stones, manhole covers) and it effectively narrows the cycle-lane from the outside towards the traffic side. Note how the bicycle symbol is no longer in the middle of this lane, which is 1.9 m wide in summer time but somewhat narrower in winter due to the conditions. In the event of a fall, the cyclist could end up under a vehicle being driven on the road. Similarly, road sweeping tends to accumulate debris at the side of the road. The cycle-lane is a good place to get a puncture.
The same bicycle road as featured in the second main photo from the top. The two postal workers wearing yellow and heading towards the camera show up very well in the snow. However, there are also two cyclists heading in the opposite direction who have nearly disappeared. We should not rely upon people wearing special clothes in order to show up in varying weather conditions. In any case, the same clothes do not work best in all conditions. This is a safe situation only because these "cycle lanes" are not really cycle-lanes at all. It's a bicycle road on which there are almost no motorized vehicles except those which belong to residents used for access. Segregation removes the danger associated with not being seen whatever the weather conditions.
Another example of a truck using a cycle-lane in Assen as a parking space. This is a universal problem with on-road lanes. Cyclists have to pull out to pass, which puts them in a dangerous position potentially having to merge with faster traffic. It also prevents the cyclist from making such an efficient journey as they would if they could travel uninterrupted by such obstructions.
Another example from Ontario's lacklustre design guidelines. This treatment of a road narrowing is very dangerous. The designer left out any means of keeping cyclists from being hit by motor vehicles as they attempt to move left into the main traffic lane. This creates the same dangerous situation as does the truck in the photo above, but it does so permanently and by deliberate design. This is an example of extraordinarily bad design. I added the red line to show the route of a bicycle and the blue triangle to represent a means of forcing motor vehicles to the left where cyclists are expected to join the lane. In the Netherlands we would expect there always to be such an alignment in order that this most obvious of conflicts would be avoided. Design guidelines which include such bad advice as this are simply not worth the paper they're printed on.
Cost is a very bad reason to build substandard infrastructure
It's only substandard infrastructure which really has a cost. If it's substandard then it won't be used and that means that there is a cost but no benefit. Really good cycling infrastructure has benefits beyond its cost.

Conclusion. Paint is never enough
Another inadequate idea which
consists only of paint. Sharrows
are even less useful than on-
road cycle-lanes.
On-road cycle-lanes are not the best way to keep cyclists safe. They are also rarely, if ever, the best way to improve convenience for cyclists. If on-road lanes are a preferred option in your part of the world then your planners are aiming for something rather lower than the best standard possible. Aiming for a lower standard of infrastructure means aiming for a cycling modal share which is lower than the highest possible given your demography and geography. You set a ceiling on what is possible by building inadequate infrastructure.

If your infrastructure is being designed to a lower standard than that of the Netherlands, why is this so ? Are your cyclists less valuable and less important than Dutch cyclists ? Do you want fewer people to cycle than would cycle in the Netherlands ?

In the worst examples, cycle-lanes can be very unsafe. Bad junction designs greatly exacerbate this problem. It can also be worsened by bad weather, bad lighting or inadequate maintenance.

There are very few on-road cycle-lanes which can truly be categorized as "good".

What's better ?
Rather than painting a stripe alongside a road and expecting this to result in safety for cyclists, there are proven better solutions:
  1. Cycle-paths separate from the road are far more successful at keeping cyclists safe than paint on the road.
  2. Unravelling of routes so that roads which cyclists use are not filled with motor vehicles leads to increased safety.