Possibly Coming to a City Near You: Bike Boxes, Bike Traffic Signals

Bike boxes and bike traffic signals can greatly assist cyclists in navigating through intersections where the majority of bike-motor vehicle collisions occur. A key advisory committee may recommend official acceptance, which would green-light them.
Paul Krueger / flickr

These two innovative bike infrastructure devices used by some bike-friendly U.S. cities and more widely used in Europe "are not fully recognized by one of the country’s most important engineering guides," writes Angie Schmitt. "But there are new signs that these two treatments are on their way to official acceptance from the engineering establishment."

 ##http://otrec.us/project/423## Otrec##

 Image: Otrec

"Bike boxes and bike signals are currently classified as 'experimental' in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices — which stops many local agencies from installing them. But there are new signs that these two treatments are on their way to official acceptance from the engineering establishment," writes Schmitt.

According to its website, "(t)he Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or MUTCD defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public traffic. The MUTCD is published by the Federal Highway Administration..."

The value of bike boxes and traffic lights is demonstrated at intersections. "Analyses of motor vehicle and police-reported crash data reveal that nearly 68 percent of bicycle crashes in Portland, Oregon occur at intersections (PDOT, 2004) which is consistent with national trends (Hunter et al., 1996)", according to OTREC, "a partnership between Portland State University, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and the Oregon Institute of Technology."

According to Streetswiki, "the bike box is a 14-foot wide rectangle marked in front of the stop line for motorists, but behind the pedestrian crosswalk. (It) provides room for several bicyclists (and is) used in conjunction with bike lanes, from which bicyclists pedal directly into the box. The boxes have no intended function when traffic is already in motion."

Bike boxes work best at intersections with a high volume of bicyclists. They improve cyclists' visibility. They reduce delay for cyclists by providing space for "jumping the queue" of waiting vehicles. They allow a left-turning bicyclist to reach a better position for making a safe turn. They allow bicyclists to reduce exposure to vehicle tailpipe emissions, and are also thought to elevate the "status" of bicyclists relative to motor vehicles.

The "National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has provided detailed information and guidance for appropriate locations to install bicycle signal heads," as we noted in January.

Schmitt writes that an advisory group may recommend updates to the MUTCD to sanction use of bike boxes and traffic signals, currently considered experimental, at its January meeting.

MUTCD approval “gives cities interested in these tools permission to use them,” said Darren Flusche, policy director at the League of American Bicyclists. “It will help traffic engineers in those cities sleep easier at night knowing that the treatment is officially approved.”

NACTO provides additional intersection treatments for transportation planners and engineers to consider.

Full Story: Engineering Establishment Poised to Endorse Bike Boxes and Bike Signals


Build Your Own Paper Block City

Urban Fold is an all-inclusive kit that allows anyone to build the city of their dreams with a few simple folds.
building block set

NEW! Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.
Book cover of Where Things Are from Near to Far

Where Things Are From Near to Far

This engaging children's book about planning illustrates that "every building has its place."
Book cover of the Guide to Graduate Planning Programs 4th Edition

Thinking about Grad School?

The Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs is the only comprehensive ranking and listing of graduate urban planning programs available.
Starting at $24.95