Poll: Majority of Washington residents support installing more bike boxes

Workers install the city's first bike box September 2010 at 12th and Pine

A recent PEMCO Insurance poll found that while only a third of the Washington State respondents they contacted were familiar with bike boxes, a majority of respondents thought they were a good idea.

About 52 percent of respondents in the state said they supported green bike boxes on city streets even after the pollster explained that they could limit driver’s ability to make free right turns on red. 64 percents of respondents in the state said they had never seen a bike box before.

However, people are still a little unsure about how the green boxes work. A majority of people in the state knew it was illegal to stop inside a bike box, but that’s only 53 percent. Nine percent thought it was legal to stop inside them, and 38 percent were not sure. Though Seattle got its first bike box only a year and a half ago, there is obviously a long way to go to educate people on how to use them. To help, the city made an online video recently:

Essentially, a bike box is just an advance stop line, which appear all over the city. Often, they are used to stop traffic far enough away from an intersection to allow cross traffic to make left turns. People are already familiar with the way they work. A bike box simply adds a green area on the other side of the line to allow people biking a place to be visible while they wait for the light or to make left turns more easily and safely.

The PEMCO poll compares “Portland” to “Washington” and finds that Portland drivers are more aware of the rules as they relate to bike boxes (about 2/3 of driver know how to use them there). However, Portland has many more of them and have had them for much longer. In the Seattle region, bike boxes are still very rare and exist mostly in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Fremont and the International District. Once bike boxes are installed downtown (to accompany a protected cycle track), many more people in the region will be exposed to them and how they work.

Here’s a look a the poll results:

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12 Responses to Poll: Majority of Washington residents support installing more bike boxes

  1. Becky Edmonds says:

    I have mixed feelings on bike boxes–I guess if everyone knew exactly how they worked they’d be more useful. I feel like people more or less get the idea at 12th & Pine, but it’s still kind of confusing. Like what if the light has just turned green so people are starting to try to make right turns and I’m coming up from behind going slightly faster than general traffic? It’s confusing then, I think.

    Also, the pavement in the middle of the intersection at 12th and Pine is awful, and that’s my main concern in navigating that intersection, not the bike box. Fixing pavement should be a higher priority than painting some chunks of street green, I think. Doing so would enable me to navigate more predictably and safely.

  2. Andrew Squirrel says:

    As much as I enjoyed the “cute” video I don’t think it really fully explained the purpose of bike boxes. I’m not going to pretend I fully understand them either. I thought they were for cyclists traveling perpendicular to the boxes who couldn’t merge for their turn because of busy traffic. They would then do a quick loop to get in the bike boxes so they are ahead of traffic for the next stop-light cycle. Is this not their purpose at all? Why was this not featured in the video? Am I just a dummy who knows nothing about bike boxes?

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      You’re right. That is one use of the box. However, they happen to have all these ancillary advantages as well. Visibility of people on bikes waiting at the light is one. Also, bike boxes can improve safety for people walking, too, especially when the bike box limits right turns on red.

      StreetFilms does a bit better at explaining them: http://vimeo.com/12500191

  3. Doug Bostrom says:

    For my part the boxes reduce ambiguity, which reduces stress, which is great.

    Once you understand how they work, the boxes make the business of intersections more predictable, a fine thing.

  4. Joseph says:

    I’m not sure if it’s people don’t _know_ what you’re supposed to do with a bike box even though signs to the right of bike boxes clearly state that you cannot make a right turn on red and that bike boxes are for bikes. Heck, I see people a lot of the time thinking it’s kosher to crawl onto the crosswalk and creep into the intersection to make right turns on red. Many people don’t even know that right on red is not a _right_ and it’s only permitted _if it’s safe to do so!_

    • Doug Bostrom says:

      One serious problem w/right-on-red is that a driver proposing to make such a turn ends up w/their attention fixated to the left, meaning they’re not going to be aware of developments to the right such as pedestrians entering the intersection in front of their cars.

      The two near-misses I have had w/pedestrians while behind the wheel were in exactly this circumstance. Just (karma??) a month or so or ago I had to lever myself over the hood of a car that began to run -me- over while the driver was taking a right turn on a red.

      Unfortunately there’s pressure to make right-on-red legal. Per Wikipedia:

      “Each proposed State energy conservation plan to be eligible for Federal assistance under this part shall include: …(5) a traffic law or regulation which, to the maximum extent practicable consistent with safety, permits the operator of a motor vehicle to turn such vehicle right at a red stop light after stopping, and to turn such vehicle left from a one-way street onto a one-way street at a red light after stopping.”

      I wonder if anybody has run the numbers on ER vehicle energy consumption due to cleaning up the mess after accidents caused by drivers turning right on red lights?

  5. Al Dimond says:

    I honestly think bike boxes are a recipe for disaster. Drivers trying to get across the box to turn right and cyclists passing on the right without being careful enough. Most of the time you’re a lot more visible if you’re in line with traffic going the same direction as you.

    Also, doesn’t the paint make for worse traction on rainy days? That’s generally my experience with paint, I don

    • Al Dimond says:

      ‘t know if they use some nicer paint for this…

      • Andrew Squirrel says:

        yeah, I believe the green painted areas are slippery, I think they need to mix in some sandy grit (maybe even reflective grit crystals) with the last coat of paint before it dries.

  6. Gary says:

    I only ride up the right side of a line of cars if they are all moving at less than 5mph, or better yet stopped.

    The bike box is nice because when I see that there is already a cyclist at the intersection in the box, I feel like it’s understood that it’s ok for me to join them.

    Once the light turns green for traffic, then I become a car, and I go through the intersection behind the car in front of me.

  7. Pingback: Poll: Majority of Washington residents support installing more bike boxes | Seattle Bike Blog : Great City

  8. Clark in Vancouver says:

    I find that I don’t like bike boxes. I see them now as an old fashioned thing. They were a good transition bit of infrastructure but we now know of better things.

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