Recently, the City of Indianapolis and Marion County completed much-needed road and bridge repairs along Lafayette Rd on the far northwest side of town, near where I live. As part of the road repairs, the city/county installed bike lanes on either side of the road from 71st Street north to the Marion-Boone county line. The laudable purpose was to improve safety for cyclists, many of whom use Lafayette Road to get to and from Eagle Creek Park (the fourth largest city-owned park in the country). Unfortunately, the cycling lanes may end up making life more, rather than less, dangerous for cyclists for several reasons.
First, the cycling lanes are made wide enough for only one bike. State law allows two-abreast cycling, but the cycle lanes make side-by-side riding more difficult and dangerous.
Second, within the cycling lanes, instead of painting symbols the city/county applied plastic appliques, which become very slick when wet but are so large that they are difficult for cyclists to avoid. For that reason, many cyclists continue to ride outside of the cycling lanes.
Third, the cycle lanes have already become cluttered with everything from small twigs, large branches, and rocks, to discarded paint brushes and soda cans. The more cluttered they become, the more hazardous they become for cyclists, who therefore often end up riding outside the cycling lanes. This problem could be averted, of course, if the city/county would regularly sweep the cycling lanes to make sure they are safe for cyclists, but I have never, ever seen that happen on any cycling lanes within the city limits of Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, riding outside the dedicated cycling lanes has become more dangerous than it was before the cycling lanes were installed. Automobile drivers who used to move to the left lane to avoid cyclists now expect cyclists to remain in the cycling lanes regardless of the conditions.
The bottom line is that the installation of cycling lanes is not enough, by itself, to make cycling safer. The city/county needs to (a) make the lanes wide enough for cyclists to ride two-abreast, as state law allows, (b) avoid installing types of signage in cycling lanes that makes cycling more dangerous, and (c) keep cycling lanes free of dangerous obstructions. In addition, drivers need to be reminded that cyclists cannot be expected to remain in cycling lanes if and when riding in those lanes is dangerous.