SDOT on how to use two-stage left turn boxes

2-stage-turn-sign-imageAs part of the much-heralded Cherry Street protected bike lane project (you know, the one prompted by a now-famously polite crew of guerrilla bike advocates), the city also installed its first modern-style left turn box at the intersection of Cherry and 7th Ave.

While not a dramatically new idea (the city has installed several bike boxes for this purpose in the past. 34th and Fremont Ave is probably the most-used), the new box is unique in the city because it is in front of the crosswalk and because it has a handy arrow to help people figure out how it is used. Basically, it is a bit more intuitive to use.

The city highlighted how to use it with this little video:

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17 Responses to SDOT on how to use two-stage left turn boxes

  1. Huh says:

    So this guy parks perpendicular to the bike lane and blocks bicycle traffic continuing straight?

    • Matthew says:

      I agree — the video makes it look like this particular bike box was installed too far away from the crosswalk. I haven’t seen it in person so I can’t say for sure. What’s supposed to happen, as I understand it, is that cyclists wanting to turn left actually pull slightly off to the right first, into the left turn box, and then turn their bikes to face in the direction they want to proceed. Cyclists continuing straight pass them on the left in the (mostly) unimpeded bike lane. The left turn box is actually just to the right of the path of the bike lane.

      Here, it looks like the left turn box is directly in the path of the bike lane, which I agree would make no sense. It might just be the camera angle, though.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        It is not actually in the way of people biking straight through, though it may look like it.

    • Drew says:

      Yes, and he also blocks right turns on red, further improving motorist’s opinion of bicyclists.

      Frakking ridiculous.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        It’s not “blocking” right turns on red any more than a car waiting at a red light and intending to straight “blocks” right turns. This design puts safety first in an intuitive way for everyone.

      • Matthew says:

        I actually see this as a side benefit. The more we can do to limit or eliminate right turns on red, the better.

        But any intersection that gets one of these left turn boxes should also have a “No right on red” sign added to try to mitigate this conflict.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        I feel like we have presented bike boxes all wrong. This new two-stage left turn box is a “bike box” in that it serves a primarily bike-centric purpose.

        The things we have been calling “bike boxes” until now are really just “advance stop lines” designed with both walking, biking and driving safety in mind (then we painted them green cuz it’s cool and more visible). Push the stop line for cars back a few feet and suddenly people walking are far more visible to turning drivers and, yes, people on bikes have a safe and visible place to wait and to make turning maneuvers. Many of the safety increases come from banning right turns on red (which are a safety menace unique the the US). Installing these advance stop lines (with or without bike pictures painted on them) should be standard procedure for all intersection work, especially intersections with high walking volumes.

      • Al Dimond says:

        When I make two-stage lefts at intersections without bike boxes (it happens every now and then!) I block rights-on-red, and I often end up directly in front of a column of drivers going straight if there’s no bike lane on the road I’m turning onto. I’m glad to see a box there — it makes it clear to the drivers that my maneuver is legitimate.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        I agree, Al. Also, gives me a place that is not the crosswalk, which I hate to stop in but sometimes have no choice.

  2. O says:

    They put one of these in along the Linden Cycletrack, but I had no clue how it was supposed to work. Thanks for the video.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Yeah! Same idea. The difference here is that the box is in front of the crosswalk, which makes it a little easier to get into and hopefully a little more intuitive.

  3. no traffic lights says:

    I’ll take the actual left turn lane, mmkay? Thanks.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      You can do that, too! It’s all about choices. Merging left to go left can be a stressful part of urban cycling, especially when there is more than one lane to cross (not the case here). Those that can do that can just keep doing so. But many other people would be more than happy to wait a little if it meant a more comfortable turn.

      • O says:

        Like coming off the University Bridge to go to Capitol Hill…I wish there was some way to make that easier.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Exactly! I have one idea for a cheapish fix: https://www.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209027894998262833969.0004e2ea647e6b0bc931c&msa=0&ll=47.649019,-122.320533&spn=0.003578,0.008594

        Basically, install short bike lanes on Fuhrman connecting to Franklin. Franklin could become a neighborhood greenway or even maybe get a parking-separated cycle track (it has a southbound bus route). Then that could connect to a two-way cycle track on the east side of Harvard connecting four blocks to Shelby, where there is an existing bike route. When the city completely redoes Eastlake for high capacity transit (called for in the Transit Master Plan), that could be a good time to address the more difficult issues on Eastlake itself and make it all safer for cycling. But in the meantime, this workaround could help people avoid that horrible merging issue.

  4. Gene says:

    Yeah, I usually use the left turn lane but there are times when that can be scary, at least downtown. I think these two-stage turn boxes are a great idea. I hope we see a lot more of them.

  5. A cheaper and easier solution would be to ban right turns on red for cars altogether as they do in the EU. It’s safer for drivers, bikes and pedestrians (though mechanics, insurance companies and doctors might lose out on the deal).

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