Bike box coming soon to 12th and Pine, Portland study says theirs worked

The spray paint outline is down on Pine for a bike box at 12th, in front of SPD’s East Precinct. This is one of several bike boxes scheduled to go in this year. Bike boxes will be installed on Madison northbound and southbound at 12th, and one will be installed on 7th Ave S northbound at Dearborn in the International District). The bike box at Pine and 12th should be installed within a week. The others should go in this fall, according to SDOT.

So what’s a bike box? Well, let’s just ask Streetfilms:

Portland (Green) Bike Box! from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

A recent study in Portland has found that their bike boxes work. From Bike Portland:

Do road users understand how to use the bike box?
Yes. Video analysis showed that 73% of motor vehicle operators stopped in the correct position behind the bike box and 86% of those surveyed said they understood the markings. 73% of people on bikes stopped ahead of the motor vehicle stop line, but interestingly, only 5% of bike riders positioned themselves in the bike box (out of the bike lane) in front of the motor vehicle stop line. That number jumped to 38% when someone on a bike was already in the box, showing how people were less timid to move in front of stopped motor vehicles if someone else had done it first.

Does the green color make a difference?
Researchers acknowledged that study limitations made it difficult to draw clear conclusions to this question. However, nearly 90% of motor vehicle operators said they preferred the color and people on bikes used colored boxes as intended more frequently, both of which the report said, “should increase their visibility and improve safety.”

Do the bike boxes improve safety?
This is the most important question. In terms of number of conflicts and yielding behaviors — yes. The research found that the number of conflicts decreased and the yielding behavior increased. According to the research, the number of observed conflicts decreased from 29 to 20 while the number of people on bikes increased 35% and the amount of motor vehicle right-turns increased by 7%.

On top of these real safety increases, the perception of safety increased dramatically:

Of particular interest is that 42% of motor vehicle operators who do not ride bicycles felt that driving through the intersections was safer with the bike boxes (compared to 14% who felt it was more dangerous). 77% of people who biked through the intersections felt they were safer with the bike boxes.

Portland had a nice marketing campaign to make sure people understood how the bike boxes are intended to work, so it will be interesting to see how quickly Seattleites (both drivers and bikers) pick up on how to use them.

(Thanks for the tip, Michael A)

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7 Responses to Bike box coming soon to 12th and Pine, Portland study says theirs worked

  1. Cyclist Mike says:

    I’m not sold on these bike boxes yet. Actually, if anything, I think it will actually create more animosity here towards cyclists, but this is purely my opinion based off of my prior experiences.

    Can someone tell me how this is better for intersections where there already is a bike lane? I can see how it might help make drivers who want to make a right hand turn a bit more aware of cyclists who are already stopped at the same intersection, but I feel that this will just slow drivers down who just want to go straight through the intersection and, in the end, make them more aggressive towards us cyclists.

    I’d much rather see the city spend money on extending their bike lane network versus painting a green box so that we can stop in front of cars at a red light, just to move back over to the right side of the road.

    • david says:

      My experience using them in Portland and observing their use at length is that there are very few instances when folks on bikes actually take to the box itself (this is also one of the observations of the PSU study, see above), so they don’t necessarily confer an advantage to bicyclists in that regard. What they are very effective at is increasing the visibility of people on bikes as they travel through an intersection, particularly when a car in the motor vehicle lane is attempting to turn right. Another added benefit is that right turn movements are eliminated during the red signal phase (that’s how the ones in Portland and elsewhere work, at least, so I assume that’s how SDOT will implement them), which means fewer conflicts with peds, less encroachment into the crosswalk/bike lane by cars anxious to make right turns, etc. Also improves intersection visibility by “daylighting” the intersection, much like an advance stop bar.

      I’ve not noticed any added animosity. In my experience roadway animosity most often occurs when there’s ambiguity as to who does what. Bike boxes might seem a little strange on paper, but they’re actually VERY intuitive once implemented: bright colors, explicit signage/pavement markings, etc. If anything, I’ve found people in cars to be very polite and respectful of the space…I’ve even watched people accidentally pull into the box on a red, exchange glances with people on bikes and realize they’ve made an error, then apologize and back up out of the box to relinquish the space to folks on bikes.

      Nothing ventured, nothing gained…

      • Cyclist Mike says:

        Good points. I’ve never used them, but have seen them when I visited Portland.

        Seeing how motorists flip out about adding a bike lane, that’s where I get the opinion that they will do the same with the bike boxes, but who knows. Time will tell and it’s only paint afterall :)

  2. Andres Salomon says:

    A quick google search for “most common bicycle accident” leads me to pages like this – http://www.bikesense.bc.ca/appendices.htm

    This states statistics such as: “Pre-collision actions
    Almost four out of five cyclists were going straight ahead, while 42% of the drivers were turning either left or right.”

    “All cyclists should be aware that the three most common motorist-caused bicycle/motor vehicle collisions are:
    – An oncoming driver turns left in front of the cyclist.
    – A driver on a cross street stops, and then pulls out directly in front of the cyclist.
    – A driver barely passes the cyclist and then turns right.”

    Given these statistics (and there’s plenty of other studies that say similar things; see the Fort Collins study that listed right hooks as being the second most common type of cyclist/motorist accident), it makes a whole lot of sense to concentrate on making intersections safer. Bike boxes are one of the methods employed to do so.

    I say this as someone who’s only cycling accident involving a car has been due to a right hook. :(

    • Cyclist Mike says:

      Sorry to hear about the accident (I, too, have been involved in one and it sucks), but I am curious to know if this occurred when you were at a redlight or traveling through a green light.

      Reason why I’m asking is that a bike box will probably do no good when the light is green. Drivers will just need to be aware of others around them before making a turn.

  3. mike archambault says:

    thanks for the hat tip, Tom. I’m all for bike boxes since they improve visibility for everbody, so I’m very excited to see SDOT starting to use new this piece of infrastructure. That said, I can’t help but think it might have been better served on the downhill direction, where speeds are probably a bit higher and thus the perceived risk of right hooks higher.
    My vote for the next bike box location: Westbound Pine @ Boren, which would encourage bikers to get out of the way of right turners and allow them to stack up in front of straight-bound traffic, which they kind of already do en masse.

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