PDX Study: Downhill bike boxes may increase collisions

N 34th and Fremont Ave bike box. Photo from the SDOT Blog

A multi-year study of bike-involved collisions at Portland intersections that have bike boxes has returned mixed results showing only minimal reductions in collisions at some intersections and increases at others. The results have prompted the city to rethink some of the design elements around bike boxes particularly when they are in the downhill direction.

The bike boxes have essentially fixed the problem of right hook collisions when signals turn from red to green, but they have done little and perhaps made worse the problem of right hooks on a “stale green,” meaning a light that has been green for a while.

Of the 11 intersections where bike boxes were installed in 2008, seven saw a very small decrease in the number of collisions, but four saw dramatic increases. A common factor in those instances is that the bike boxes are located on a downhill, which means faster bikes and, therefore, an increased chance that turning vehicles will not yield (AKA “I didn’t see him/her”).

While the law is clear that it is the responsibility of people driving to yield to people on bikes before turning, intersections with higher-than-usual instances of failure to yield behavior points to road design failures. Bike Portland outlines the city’s analysis of the results:

This surprising increase in right-hooks led PBOT to take a closer look at what is happening at these four locations. From reading police reports they found that 88% (a “high proportion”) of the collisions occurred during a “stale” green signal. Or in other words, the collisions occurred when the light had been green for some time and not during the red phase or right as the light turns green. After observing the locations, PBOT also determined other similarities in the behavior of road users that they feel are directly contributing to the collisions:

  • All three locations have downhill grades on the treatment approach.
  • The 85% speed for cyclists observed overtaking right-turning vehicles was approximately 18 mph, which we find to be fast speed for the condition.
  • A high percentage of cyclists were overtaking right-turning vehicles during the peak-hour observation periods.
  • A very high percentage of vehicles (98%) yield to cyclists over-taking on their right.

The options Portland has come up with to address these issues range from signage to better instruct drivers to yield (including bike-activated beacon lights on signs), signage to try to get people on bikes to slow down, restricting right turns entirely at key intersections, installing separate signal phases for people on bikes, and installing separate right turn lanes to the right of bike lanes.

Of course, safety from right hook collisions is not the only purpose of bike boxes. They can create new mobility options for people on bikes, allowing people to make “two-stage” left turns by entering a bike box and waiting for the signal to turn green instead of trying to merge all the way to the left lane to turn (the best example of this working successfully in Seattle is at N 34th and Fremont). This is a critical function that allows designs like the upcoming two-way cycle track on Broadway to work.

When bike boxes are installed in a way that restricts right turns on red (like at 12th and Pine on Capitol Hill), they can also increase safety for people on foot. In most of Europe, right turns on red are always restricted by default for this reason. But since Gerald Ford instated them, the U.S. has grown used to the privilege, though talk of banning them persists. In a way, bike boxes reinstate this rule targeted intersection by targeted intersection.

From what I can tell, Seattle does not have any real downhill bike boxes (please correct me if I’m wrong). One of the bike trapezoids on Madison is on a downhill, but there is no bike lane so it does not seem to be a comparable facility to those discussed in the Portland study.

Avoiding right hooks is one of the main arguments “vehicular” cyclists make against bike lanes. After all, if you are just in line behind the turning car, there is little chance you will be right hooked. This is, indeed, the solution SDOT goes with most often: Drop the bike lane the block before an intersection and have people biking merge with the right general traffic lane.

However, since most people do not feel comfortable biking in traffic, a truly safe and separated solution for intersections is a must for urban cycling to move to the next stage of popularity. It seems just painting a bike box is not enough for every intersection, and best practices will probably come with more financial and political burdens.

For example, we need to stop designing our intersections for the minority of vehicles that require wide turn radii. Sharper right turn angles slow turning vehicles, thus increasing safety for people on foot and bike. But many U.S. design standards force engineers to design all our roads to accommodate large trucks (even if they are not along major trucking or articulated bus routes), which is a big impediment to designing intersections the truly safe Dutch way:

Designing safe bike facilities on hilly terrain is relatively uncharted territory, but that means Seattle and Portland need to lead the way. The majority of collisions involving people on bikes occurs at intersections, and the city’s current strategy of simply dropping the bike lane before intersections cannot continue if we want to attract the majority of people who do not feel comfortable biking mixed with heavy traffic.

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57 Responses to PDX Study: Downhill bike boxes may increase collisions

  1. Matthew says:

    The Fremont bike box featured in the photo feels potentially dangerous to me when I use it, but maybe that’s because I don’t really understand how I’m supposed to use it properly. If you’re turning left to go over the bridge, it makes sense. If you’re going straight through the intersection, as I normally am, you find yourself competing with the cars going straight in the lane on your right. It’s somewhat hard to describe, but if you’ve biked there, you probably know what I mean.

    It seems that the safe way to handle the intersection, from a biking perspective, is to NOT use the bike box at all, and actually to get out of the bike lane and into the right lane if you want to go straight. But that’s counterintuitive when you see all the green paint around you marking the area where you’re “supposed” to be.

    At any rate, if Portland has any boxes set up like this or in a similarly complicated way, it’s not surprising that they might actually see a slight increase in accidents as a result. Or maybe it’s just me, and everyone else has figured out that Fremont box.

    • Al Dimond says:

      Yes, on westbound 34th if you’re going straight through the best place to be is the right lane, not the bike box. The markings are very confusing. They’re designed as if SDOT, not actually understanding how bike boxes work (to be fair, it sounds like nobody really knows how bike boxes work in conjunction with right turns), pasted the standard design for a bike box onto the approach to this intersection, lane markings and all, even though the lane configuration is different. This is the worst kind of confusion, and violates my favorite Larry Wall remark: “Things that are different should look different.”

      The green lane should be marked with a bike and a left-turn arrow, not a straight-through arrow, and the turn signs hanging from the stop light pole should include a skinny green one with a bike and a left arrow on it. The right lane should have a standard sharrow in it.

      The green box in front of the stop line in the left lane is superfluous — cyclists should stay to the right of left-turning car traffic in the left lane because they’re turning into a bike lane on the right (unless they’re planning on taking the lane across the Fremont Bridge). Get rid of the green paint and just paint white ‘X’s in the box.

      If you imagine the paint and signage this way instead of the way it is as you approach the intersection, the whole thing makes sense.

      • Al Dimond says:

        The funny thing about this intersection is that it actually has “good bones”. The right-hook issues aren’t as bad here as at a standard bike box because right-turning traffic gets direction-separated farther back than at most intersections, so that it’s less likely for a cyclist to be, as they say on the Autobahn, “undertaking” (passing on the right). The lanes are basically drawn in the correct shape, including having traffic to the left stopped farther back than traffic on the right, so that drivers don’t have to pull out as far to make a right-on-red.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        However, the intersection also has a lot of walking traffic, and allowing right turns on red has done little to increase safety and comfort for people on foot there. That was sort of a missed opportunity in my mind, but that’s how compromise works.

      • Michael says:

        Totally agree with Al. I use this intersection often, sometimes going left across the bridge, other time going straight. The box is not really necessary and not safe for a bike going straight through the intersection.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I really don’t find the Fremont bike box terribly confusing. I understand the weird issue where the right lane also goes straight, and I imagine this would be a problem if the PCC block were more like an arterial street. But as it is, it feels like you’re entering a parking lot more than a street, and being to the left of cars isn’t all that strange. Nobody can really move fast on that block, so everyone seems to work things out. Has anyone ever felt endangered or had a close call there?

      It would also work if there were a two-way cycle track where the current counter-flow bike lane is. Then bikes would just go into the cycle track and the whole system would be fine. However, I don’t know if there is technically room to have this AND angled parking. I’d be all for converting that parking to parallel parking to make room for a cycle track, but there are probably more valuable fights to pick in Fremont (like a N 36th St cycle track!)

      • Jeremy says:

        Not really, large trucks parking all over the bicycle lane are perhaps the largest obstacle, or the rare impatient driver passing a driver attempting to park, taking up all the space. There are many more worse locations (drivers speeding up University bridge to the pedestrian/bicycle nightmare that is the North end of that, for example. Dirt paths because SDOT never imagined walkers walking, huzzah!).

      • Matthew says:

        I DO feel somewhat unsafe in that intersection, although the fact that I feel unsafe makes me extra cautious, so I agree that generally I can avoid any close calls. (I actually have more close calls when I’m going eastbound, where cars come flying off the bridge, turn right, and often don’t look for bikes before merging.) I would guess that it’s more of a problem for infrequent or first-time users of the intersection, in the same way that riding over the train tracks in the “missing link” can be tricky if you aren’t used to it, but gets easier with experience.

        Sure, there are bigger fights to fight, but as Al points out, we can fix this intersection relatively cheaply, with corrected signage and paint. At the very least, we should take this as a lesson that simply painting a bike box at an intersection doesn’t automatically create a safe traffic situation.

    • Morgan Wick says:

      I’m not sure there’s much reason to go straight through that intersection. I imagine most people biking straight through there would be using the Burke-Gilman Trail.

      • Andreas says:

        I invariably use that intersection when I’m going straight through Fremont. The Fremont Cut and Quadrant is easily the most congested section of trail outside of UW, and the curves under the bridges limit sight lines and necessitate reduced speed. Gasworks also has both vehicular and pedestrian congestion, and there’s that building just west of Stone whose doors open right onto the trail. So I always avoid the trail between 36th/Pacific (or Northlake Place if I don’t want to do the small hill) and 2nd Ave NW.

        Either way, that bike box always struck me as useless not just because of it being left-turn only, but also because the rather sizable crosswalk has always been treated as a de facto bike box by most cyclists. There’s even about 6 feet between the edge of the crosswalk markings and Fremont Ave’s projected curb line, so if you pull all the way forward you don’t block the crosswalk at all.

  2. Steve A says:

    Unfortunately, Oregon has a mandatory bike lane law, unlike in Washington where it would clearly be legal to leave the bike lane on the fast stretch and thus completely avoid the “stale green” right hook. In the PDF, it turns out on the intersections where crashes went up, they went up by a full factor of three.

    • Al Dimond says:

      The cyclists in these accident cases are undertaking, sometimes quite quickly — if they had the right to instead sit behind stopped traffic in the general-purpose lane they probably wouldn’t do it in large numbers, despite the obvious danger of undertaking the right-turning traffic.

      For my part, I will never allow the presence of a mandatory bike lane law to alter my lane position on the road. It’s generally legal to leave a bike lane if conditions there are unsafe, and I’ve read elsewhere that this exception to the “mandatory bike lane law” is interpreted pretty broadly in Oregon.

      • Cody says:

        That is good to know. So I can ride in the driving lane if it is the safer place to be. I can’t imagine riding in a bike lane with the potential of being “door’ed” by a parked car or right hooked at an intersection at 20+ MPH! Obviously when moving at car speeds it makes sense to be in with the cars. While I understand the perception is that bike lanes are safer and therefore bike lanes get more people riding is out there I disagree. When driving drivers look for high speed traffic in the driving lanes NOT the shoulder. Don’t ride in the shoulder fast! Drivers at intersections are not looking there. Ride in the street! If you slow down and / or traffic is pilling up behind you move over when it’s safe.

      • Al Dimond says:

        @Cody: There’s little question that bike lanes make more people comfortable biking on the road. Good bike lane design can avoid the door zone and good intersection design can minimize right-hook potential.

        The problem is downhills. The standard bike box design is a big right-hook risk any time you’re undertaking, and you’re much more likely to undertake at high speeds on a downhill. So you should probably get out in the main lane. If you’re in Oregon and a real stickler for the law, well, just avoid undertaking at the point of conflict.

  3. M Hoodes says:

    Re: the Fremont Box: I love it … most of the time I am going left over the bridge. That route before the green box was a horrendous mess. If you remember there was a path up 34th and then about a block before Fremont Ave it went to sharrows. On a heavy traffic time (Bridge Open/Close) it was either go between cars or take the sidewalk. Now it’s just easy to float to the green box – sit there waiting for green light and not having to inhale exhausts. If I need to go straight I guess I just stay in the Green Box and go straight … which is really illegal as I believe it is left turn only. And the green box doesn’t do to much If I want to turn right – going North on Fremont avenue.

    • Al Dimond says:

      I agree that it’s a lot better than it was. It’s just a shame the markings are so bad.

      I personally wouldn’t go straight through from the green lane. Drivers to your right won’t really be looking for you there. Traffic doesn’t usually get too backed up in the right lane, so it’s really not a huge deal to get in line.

  4. merlin says:

    I don’t think you can call it a “solution” when bike lanes disappear shortly before intersections to be replaced by sharrows. This leaves people confused whether on bikes or driving cars. Worst example: Pine and Boren heading into downtown. The bike lane disappears, cars in the right lane are instructed this is “right turn only,” sharrows appear which sort of indicate that bikes are supposed to be to the left of the right-turning cars, but there’s also a small sign saying “except bicycles” meaning people on bikes who are in the right lane don’t have to turn right after all…and quite frequently, people in cars find themselves stuck in the right-turn-only lane when they really want to go straight, so they LEFT-hook people on bikes (ME, twice so far!) who are aiming for the bike lane which resumes on the far side of the intersection (but only for a couple blocks – then it’s typical bike-car roulette in downtown traffic). This is not a “solution” to anything, it is a mess.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Well put! Dropped bike lanes are at least as confusing as bike lanes that continue.

    • amy says:

      I totally agree Merlin! I ride through Pine/Boren and have emailed Seattle DOT about the disappearing bike lane and the frustrating and often dangerous ways in which bikes, cars, and buses interact here. I suggest as many others as possible do the same!

    • Morgan Wick says:

      I think the problem there is as much with the car lane configuration (and SDOT’s overuse of sharrows) as with the bike lane. (There’s got to be a better way to say “cars watch for bikes” without implying the bikes need to be in a particular spot…)

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  6. Eric says:

    Can you imagine a situation where there was a cars were allowed to go straight from the curb lane and other cars were allowed to turn right from the center lane? Neither can I, yet many bike lanes are precisely this layout. Down in Oregon, bike riders are required to ride in these lanes, and these right hooks are often the result. I often disagree with the strict “vehicular cycling” folks, but we could go a long way towards fixing the right hook problem by just getting in the same lane as the cars. It would seem to make sense for the bike lane to turn into a “sharrow” near intersections, particularly on downhill stretches.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      For purposes of how you should handle such poorly-designed intersections today, I agree that either getting in line with general traffic or making extra sure you are not riding in the turning radius of a car are the best ways to handle the situation (don’t depend on people’s blinkers, either).

      However, this is NOT a permanent solution for the city. It might be an OK solution that works for many of the people already cycling today, but it is not a solution for the tens of thousands of people who would like to bike but do not find it safe enough.

  7. Eric says:

    With cars, it is a normal rule of the road is that one does not pass on the right. This is what drivers are used to. In these stale green light right-hook accidents, the bike rider is generally passing the driver on the right. The situation is one guarenteed to cause problems.

  8. Roger Montgomery says:

    Having ridden more bicycle miles and for more years than most of the readers of this blog, I must say that the vision of some bike planners for seamless integration of bicycles and automobiles in high-traffic arterials strikes me as unsound and progressing to madness.

    Urban bicycling is fundamentally dangerous and becoming moreso. Bikes have a minimal visual and acoustic signature. They are much faster than they were in the postwar years when cities were filled with bicyclists. Braking, tires, and handling qualities have been tailored for speed and efficiency and not rider safety. The entire concept of heterogeneous mixture of automotive and bicycle traffic needs to be rethought, including biking speed limits, clothing, sound alerts, and other usage requirements. In the rush to judgement for inserting bicycles into existing traffic infrastructure, logic and responsible planning has been abandoned.

    • Matthew says:

      Roger, you wrote “Urban bicycling is fundamentally dangerous and becoming moreso.” Why do you say so? Is this purely anecdotal, or are you basing this statement on actual numbers? I ask because the statistics I’ve seen suggest that bicycling is becoming safer over time. The increase in safety is likely due to a number of factors, including the expanding number of cyclists on the road, the improvements in road design for all users, better safety equipment, and other incremental changes over time.

      I don’t for a second believe that I was safer on the urban roads 15 years ago than I am today. Yes, part of that is my own accumulation of skill and experience on the bike, but largely it’s a result of the ongoing effort by individuals and organizations to improve the urban cycling experience. There’s still a lot of room to improve, to be sure, but I’m genuinely curious why you think we’ve regressed rather than improved.

  9. Orv says:

    I suspect part of the reason most roads are designed “to accommodate large trucks” is that modern fire engines are quite large. They have to be to reach upper stories of buildings.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Totally. As you see in that concept video, there would just be little concrete islands at intersections. Fire engines could easily just run over them if they need to when making turns (maybe we could even ramp the curbs to make this easier?).

      I don’t think first responders should be a reason for designing a dangerous street (which of course, would cause more incidents for the to respond to).

      • Corey Maki says:

        Emergency vehicle access is the major reason for the minimum turning radii’s that are use in the design of intersections. Specifically the inside radius is set by the wheel path of a turning semi or fire ladder truck just like lane widths are set by ambulance width requirements. the Dutch example shows an interesting design that does concern me,A Civil Engineer but a slight widening of the throat or increase inthe inside radius would resolve the issue. I actually think the Dutch are on to a real solution with the design.

  10. Kingcountyvoter says:

    If a bike is passing a car on the right and gets hit (as the car turns right) then it should be the bikes fault. Cars are not designed to monitor right side passing and drivers do not expect it (you can even clear the turn but you have to look forward again to check cross walks as you move, this creates a large window for a bike moving a 20mph to suddenly “appear”). By shifting the responsibility then bike riders will be more cautious doing this and there will be fewer accidents.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      If any vehicle enters another vehicle’s lane and strikes them, the operator who changed lanes is at fault. The law is very clear about this, and changing it so the person who is struck is at fault will do nothing to prevent injuries. People driving must look and yield. Indeed, the PDX report says 98 percent of people driving did yield. However, 2% is too many, and a solution needs to be found. Changing the law to protect that 2% of law breakers makes no sense.

  11. Kingcountyvoter says:

    Look at the process of turning right…

    turn signal on
    look right and check to see if a ped is going to enter crosswalk anytime soon
    look in your right side mirror (if you car has one) for bikes that might be approaching at 20mph. (frankly that probably isn’t even possible)
    now look left as you start to move to make sure cross traffic hasn’t made a mistake and entered traffic (and yes this happens)
    look across to make sure someone isn’t turning into the lane you are about to occupy
    then look back to where you are going and proceed.

    All this takes experienced drivers very little time to do. However it takes a fraction of a second for a bike moving at 20mph to go from being unseeable to being in a position of being hit.

    Cars can’t zip up like that and neither should bikes.

    If the goal is to move traffic and minimize injuries in a “real world” environment then yes my proposition that bikes should be the responsible party stands.

    • Al Dimond says:

      Cyclists already have a great motivation to undertake with care — self-preservation. But there are several situations where undertaking in a bike lane is a reasonable thing to do, where there’s little alternative to doing it, and cyclists shouldn’t be held at fault for it.

      Most people on bikes aren’t moving 20 MPH, and if you change lanes without looking you’re clearly at fault for any collision. Drivers should be held responsible for their actions. It’s not rocket science, and if you don’t like it, don’t operate a multi-ton vehicle at high speeds on public roads.

      • Kingcountyvoter says:

        who is talking “high speed” in this instance. Frankly the car would be moving very slowly. It is wrong to allow a bike to approach and pass a car on the right as it is entering an intersection.
        A bike speeding up at 20mph and passes a car on the right in such a scenario has a deathwish.
        Safety on the streets is up to both drivers. Bikes can’t expect to do stupid things and expect drivers to save them from themselves or be responsible.

      • Al Dimond says:

        In an intersection, yes, it’s mostly stupid to undertake anyone that could plausibly turn right. Well, unless you’re a pedestrian in the crosswalk…

        Bike boxes and bike lane designs that mode-separate instead of grade-separating through intersections are mostly just wrong. There are some exceptions (protected cycletracks including those at sidewalk-level, the Dutch design posted above, and low-volume right turns on high-speed roads where cyclist undertaking is unlikely — there are some like this on Bothell-Everett Highway that I think make a lot of sense, though putting an on-street bike lane on a road with a 50-MPH speed limit is surely questionable in itself.

        So I agree that the cyclist should carry some of the responsibility if he is undertaking within an intersection (not before an intersection and not at a merge point), the driver is making a right turn from a lane where right turns are legal, and the cyclist hits the side of the car. If there is not a bike lane to the right of the right-turn lane, the cyclist should carry all the responsibility, since that’s just a flagrantly stupid thing to do. If there is a bike lane from which it’s legal to go straight to the right of the right-turn lane, the responsibility is shared by the driver, the cyclist, and whatever bonehead designed the intersection (this is probably most cases described in this article). If the cyclist is in a crosswalk or if the driver otherwise hits the cyclist with the front of the car that’s the driver’s responsibility.

      • Kingcountyvoter says:

        Al we agree

    • Al Dimond says:

      And, anyway, if you look at countries in the “real world” with better road safety records than we have (there are many), they aren’t the ones that hold cyclists responsible for irresponsible driving. Quite the opposite.

      • Kingcountyvoter says:

        The only irresponsible driving in this scenario is by the bike rider. The driver has done everything in there power (resonably) to prevent an accident. Please keep in mind that a bike approaching at speed on the right is only one of many possible events that is being considered. Bottom line, you want to live… ride defensivly.

  12. pqbuffington says:

    The right-hook problem is not that hard to solve unless, as KingCountyVoter contests, Homo sapiens are in fact incapable of turning their heads to the right after decades of driving induced evolutionary change…

    Anyhow, having just bicycled scores of miles in two major cities that handle an enormous amount of bicycle traffic (CPH and Berlin) and witnessed only one real right-hook incident and literally thousands of non-incidents, a “…heterogeneous mixture…” (as Roger Montgomery phrases it) of bikes and cars works rather well.

    Right-turn arrows (as well as straight-ahead arrows/signals and left-turn arrows) are used for both cars and bicycles; at major intersections, it is not uncommon to have all three. Firstly, this allows pedestrians to cross (much like an all-walk controlled intersection) freely and avoid both bicycle and automobile traffic. Secondly, this allows bike traffic to clear before automobile traffic turns right. Often, there will also be a flashing yellow (after the red/green cycle) to alert either/both automobiles and cyclists that situation is no longer controlled and respective yielding must be obeyed.

    The system worked when the bike lane vanished or was nonexistent to begin with, mostly in Berlin as CPH has the better infrastructure. The left-turn phenomenon is handled differently in those cities, but the yielding protocol is respected all the same; however, again, much better in CPH.

    And here is the main point, people in both cities have no problem yielding (more like “not hitting” in Berlin) be they in car or on bicycle to pedestrians and/or yielding to bicyclists in right-turn scenarios. I cannot tell you how hard it was for me to trust that the driver looking over his/her right shoulder (this in light-controlled and non-light-controlled intersections) did in fact see me and was waiting for me the clear the intersection, but they did every time, hundreds of times. Basically, drivers treated the situation no differently than if they were changing lanes to the right…the onus was on them and they obeyed said rule…very simple, really.

    • Kingcountyvoter says:

      I spent half my life in Germany and well understand their driving skills and habits. They have far more intensive driver training then we do in the US. And that won’t change anytime soon.

      As for turning to the right to look. Frankly you can clear but at the speeds we are talking (of the bike) you would have to be looking continually over your shoulder during the turn. And that would likely cost some pedestrians in the sidewalk dearly. All so bikes can blindly pass on the right of a car at an intersection with a high speed differential.

      • Jeremy says:

        Speaking of pedestrians, looking at all would be a nice change from the default “whoops I totally didn’t see you Mr. Walker” as the car has totally blocked the pedestrian stripes while creeping forward and never ever glancing right at all until they’re just about to floor it. Ahh, the joys of my daily walk to and from work.

    • Roger Montgomery says:

      Seattle is not Germany. Observationally, easily 2 percent of bikers exceed 20 mph at downhill Seattle intersections, which is not likely in Germany. At 20 mph, a bicyclist covers the 6 feet of visible distance outside the right-hand window of a car in 1/5 of a second, far less than the average motorist’s reaction time of .7 seconds. A bicycle traveling 20 mph covers 21 feet in .7 sec, and adding the roughly 2 seconds for the auto to clear the intersection bike lane, we have 80 feet of distance over which the motorist must clear of bicyclists on the right hand side before the moment of the turn. A head-on bicyclist in a rear view or side view mirror can be very difficult or impossible to detect at 80 feet in a cluttered urban background. This is why RH turn accidents occur, and should be expected by traffic planners and bicyclists. I say this as a bicyclist who has beeen threatened but not struck by motorists, who has crashed his bike, and who, as a pedestrian, has been struck by bicyclists. These unfortunate incidents not only happen, they should be expected to happen.

      • merlin says:

        Seattle may not be Germany, but a whole lot of Seattleites descended from Germans. What humans have accomplished in one part of this little earth can instruct humans in other parts. 30 years ago, Germans didn’t have peanut butter. Now they do. We can have respectful informed interactions between people on bikes, people in cars and people who walk.

  13. no traffic lights says:

    I read all the comments from the poster who isn’t able or willing to turn his/her head to the left even to preserve human life and I will never get that time back, even if I don’t die young from a right-hook at an intersection or a door in the bike lane.

    OMG FTW.

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  15. paul says:

    Gerald Ford did not create right turns on red – they existed in this state long before him.

    As for bike boxes, they are a terrible idea. A better way to address this problem is to have the bike lane end 100 feet before the intersection and resume after the intersection. That would allow right turning cars a chance to yield to bicycles and merge across while in motion. Right turns would occur from the logical curb lane which would be shared as lanes are on roads without bike lanes.

  16. merlin says:

    On Ravenna, the nice, wide bike lane is on the left. At intersections, there’s paint on the road showing that the bike lane scrunches down a bit and moves over to the right so that people in cars can turn left. There are sharrows, dotted lines and green paint to indicated that people on bikes and in cars need to look out for each other as they make the weave. Why can’t we do something like this for right turns?

    • Bruce Newman says:

      We can. And the MUTCD requires a thru bike lane to be to the left of a right-turn-only lane. But this does not address the more serious conflict with right-turning cars from a SHARED thru/right lane, to the left of a thru bike lane. Dedicated right-turn lanes are rare.

  17. Kirk From Ballard says:

    For me, the bike box pictured here is just another example of SDOT missing the point entirely. Sure, there are are experienced bikers who would take this route and use this intersection, but those cyclists would be just fine riding it in a vehicular style. The novice biker would and should just take the Burke Gilman under the bridge and continue westbound, or take the “clover leaf” route from the Burke Gilman westbound under the bridge, and cross the bridge.
    There are places where placing bicycle facilities on arterials are unavoidable and warranted, but I think the goal should be to separate bicycles and cars as much as possible, or to route bicycles to lightly travelled streets and improve those facilities. Leave the arterials for cars. Develop separate but parallel routes for bicycles. One already exists in this location; don’t waste money developing a bicycle facility (and apparently a poorly designed one) where none is needed.

    • Al Dimond says:

      What if the novice cyclist is going to PCC or the ice cream shop or that funky-looking apartment building? What if the novice cyclist is coming from the Fremont Troll or Milstead Coffee or any other place from which the Burke isn’t really convenient? What if it’s dark out and well-lit roads where you can see out ahead of you a little are less sketchy than unlit paths full of hiding places? What if the novice, being a novice, doesn’t like climbing steep hills like the one on Evanston? What if the novice isn’t actually a novice but a perfectly competent and responsible cyclist that just isn’t very fast?

      Issues with this particular intersection aside (its design is mostly fine, but the signage and road markings are confusing), the problem isn’t that we’re trying to put bikes on arterial roads. Cyclists need basic access to these roads because that’s where businesses and many homes are. The problem is that almost all our businesses can only be accessed by arterial roads (and in Seattle, often flat through-routes are dominated by arterial roads, too), and there isn’t extra space on them for ideal bike facilities.

      • Kirk from Ballard says:

        I biked this area tonight during rush hour to refresh my memory. The “cloverleaf” under the bridge takes about one minute, and is convenient to any location in west Fremont, and is easily accesed from east Fremont. Access via 34th is via a very modest incline.
        It’s a common falacy that bike facilities need to be on arterials to access businesses on the arterials. Getting a bike within one or two blocks from the arterial is all that’s needed. I wouldn’t expect to park my car in front of these businesses on an arterial – I would expect to walk a block or two. If I’m accessing via a bike facility within a couple of blocks of a business, I can always ride my bike on the sidewalk in a pedestrian style. I do it virtually everyday. Or if needed, I can just walk it for a couple of blocks.
        And you’re right, the arterials in Seattle don’t have much room on them for ideal bike facilities. In Utopia, they would, but not in Seattle. In my humble opinion, the roads that are less travelled by cars a few blocks away from the arterials are where most of the bike facilities should be located.

      • Al Dimond says:

        When most of the “stuff” is on the arterials and the desire patterns are along arterials it’s ridiculous to kick bikes off. Bikes are much closer to being able to circulate like pedestrians than cars are, it would make much more sense to move through-traffic flow and cars circling for parking to alternate locations. It’s major auto traffic, particularly through traffic, that’s truly incompatible with intense street use, not cycling.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Anyway 34th isn’t Aurora — it isn’t even Leary. If I biked to Fremont, went to Recycled Cycles to look for some parts, didn’t find them, got my artisanal coffee on at Milstead, dropped by PCC for some organic local snax, then continued on down to look for the parts at Free Range and Wright Brothers, I’d make all those intermediate trips on 34th. Why would I do otherwise? If, while taking my coffee, I got a TXT MSG from a friend and decided to go meet him downtown, I’d take 34th and make a left onto Fremont, not cross 34th, go down the hill, get on the Burke, and go around the block.

        The idea that bikes should be funneled onto the big old throughway with nothing on it and follow “cloverleaf” paths is a freeway mindset. You might go from Bellevue to Kirkland on 405 in a car because you can go 60 in a car. But on a bike you can’t go faster than you can pedal, so why bother with that stuff? If people want to do it for themselves for whatever reason that’s fine, but people should be able to make direct trips on the regular street grid. That’s what it’s there for. The situation south of the ship canal is worse because the arterial (Nickerson) is wider and faster. But even there, sometimes coming off Queen Anne it’s more convenient (and better lit/less sketchy) to take Florentia to Nickerson and make a left onto the Fremont Bridge (maybe in the crosswalks if the stars don’t align for a normal left) than to drop down to the Ship Canal Trail and do the wacky “cloverleaf”.

      • Kirk From Ballard says:

        My point is this: SDOT is spending money on this bike box and others, and on putting bike lanes and sharrows on arterial streets, when that money would be much better put to use on other projects and routes – to make biking better, and to increase ridership.
        SDOT’s own poll this year found that most cyclists prefer to cycle on neighborhood streets, and that the biggest barrier to riding more often for destination cyclists , is safety. Based upon SDOT’s poll, and from what I have assumed for a long time, the bike budget would be most wisely spent on creating safe residential style bicycle facilities, not on trying to make arterials more bikeable.
        By all means, experienced cyclists can and should use these arterials. I cetainly do and will. But I find that I mostly don’t need the SDOT “improvements” on these streets. I feel that SDOT could make better use of their budget by creating improvements to create safer residential style bike facilities that more cyclists would use.

  18. Law Abider says:

    “For example, we need to stop designing our intersections for the minority of vehicles that require wide turn radii.”

    Wide turn radii are typically designed to accommodate fire trucks. Typically a 90 degree intersection will have 28 ft radius curbs. I don’t think we can just say “we need smaller turn radii” without lots of implications.

  19. pqbuffington says:

    As for the Germany-is-Germany and German solutions will not work in Seattle, I also referenced (empirically observed as well), a similar system working very well in CPH, aka Copenhagen. As an aside, just ask the Danes if they are like the Germans, or vice-verse, and see what sort of answers you get.

    Another bizarre notion is that a city like Berlin is culturally/racially homogenous…Berlin has people arriving every day from all over Europe and the World; they all seem to integrate into the traffic schema without issue. I imagine the consequences for fucking-up are what, literally and figuratively, keep them sober…perhaps we should consider that if nothing else.

    And as for this: “…Observationally, easily 2 percent of bikers exceed 20 mph at downhill Seattle intersections, which is not likely in Germany…” Please, don’t pull numbers from thin air or “observationally” or wherever you get your stats. If the speed limit is too high for any/all vehicles at any intersection then we should reduce the speed limit for any/all vehicles. A bicycle traveling at 20mph is not speeding unless 20mph exceeds the posted limit.

    Now back to the actual merits of the respective systems in relation to the right-hook phenomenon: in addition to lighting that allows for pedestrians and bicyclists to clear an intersection, the same schema also halts pedestrians and bicyclists so that automobiles can turn right with full right-of-way. It is simply the addition of a bicycle relevant lighting to the system that makes this so effective in reducing traffic accidents.

    We already have a traffic control system that distinguishes between pedestrians, i.e. crosswalk lighting, and automobiles…adding the appropriate bicycle traffic lighting at busy/dangerous intersections is not that taxing of a thing to do, either intellectually or financially.

  20. Pingback: West Seattle adjusts to its first bike box + Price of install drops 30% | Seattle Bike Blog

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