Let’s start with this: Bike lanes help. They do keep cyclists safe. Don’t write them off. They help to keep bikes that much farther out of traffic, they alert drivers to the fact that they’ll be driving near cyclists and they add some structure to a road system that can often feel chaotic otherwise.
That said, they’re not perfect. You still face very real risks, which you need to be aware of.
For instance, consider what happens when a right-hand turn lane breaks off from the main travel lanes. If the cyclist is not turning, the bike lane continues straight, meaning that cars actually have to cross the bike lane to make that turn. That’s a risk.
A similar issue exists when turning left. Cyclists then have to leave the bike lane, cross the travel lane and use the left-hand turn lane designed for cars. This is all legal and can be done safely, but it still means exiting the bike lane. Don’t assume you can just settle in and ride. You still have to share the road with cars.
Another risk you face is getting doored. This happens when a driver or a backseat passenger opens the car door into the road. People typically check to see if other cars are coming — though not everyone even does that — but they may not see a bike. They then open the door right into the bike lane.
This means that parked cars are a risk, and it can be hard for cyclists to know where the danger lies. You can legally, perfectly stay within the bike lane and still get hit when someone swings their door into your path. It’s their responsibility to make sure they don’t impede your progress, but a lot of accidents do happen this way.
Again, cars also have to cross the bike lane to park on the side of the road. When leaving, they cross it a second time. Even if a cyclist does not get doored, he or she could get hit by an inattentive driver.
Finally, a cyclist in a bike lane can still easily get hit by a driver who simply breaks the law. Maybe the light turns yellow, for instance, and the driver speeds up. The cyclist waits for the green and starts riding through the intersection on the cross street, in the bike lane. Then the car comes through as the driver, too late to make the yellow but going too fast to stop, runs the red light.
As you can see, bike lanes do help, but injury risks exist anyway. Be sure you know what legal options you have after a crash in Connecticut.