I was in a small town too, everyone know sidewalks were for pedestrians and bikes. And we went slow, we stopped, we started, we stopped again, etc. We did not ride like modern cyclists with full set of expensive gear trying to make a speed record on the way to work weaving into and out of traffic. The road was much less safe. Even in the city now, the roads are murderous, viewing is bad, speed limit for cars too high, bike lanes too small (and when they aren't the cyclists still want to be far left on the white line for some reason).
That's the thing about commuter cyclists, they have someplace to go and don't ride like wobbly kids on their first bike.
There's no reason for speed limits to be too high or bike lanes too narrow, if a city wants biking to be safer, then they can make it safer. The reason why bikes ride out of the bike lane (when it really is a bike lane and not just a shoulder that drivers *think* is a bike lane) is because cars tend to kick debris into the bike lane. A separated bike lane, even with a low curb-like separator) is much safer in the respect since most road debris won't jump the barrier.