and seem to be safer, but are they?
A car can, and probably will, drive right over or through those barriers at some point, so the barriers provide nothing more than an elaborate visual seperation between the cyclist and the stream of traffic. It seems to me that the seperation provides a false sense of security to both the drivers and the cyclists. This false barrier also dissembles the most important safety factor which has been documented; visibility.
Personally I think the protected lanes obscure the cyclists presence somewhat, until, as Heine points out, they reach an intersection. So, like a sidewalk, this will introduce some unexpected interaction for both the drivers and cyclists and have the potential for being more dangerous than a simple marked designated lane for cyclists.
An open lane which is marked and designated for cyclists, maintains visibility much better and provides more efficient movement for the cyclist to enter the traffic pattern when necessary, for left turns for example. Perhaps most important, the barriers are unnecessarily expensive and more lanes could be developed and provide more safety using just paint rather than expensive ornaments.
And, in a more perfect world, we can change all our values,
discard the wine and microbrews and embrace the future of cycling.