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  1. #1
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Bike-specific traffic light phases

    Can anyone tell where in the U.S. bike lanes or paths have been implemented with bike-only phases of traffic lights, such as this? Preferably with bike lanes on heavy traffic roads. I know this is common in Europe, so I'm curious how widespread it is in this country. Are they generally triggered by pushing a button?

    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
    What's the point of a bike if you can only ride it on weekends, and you can't even carry anything with you?!
    Portland Maine Bicycle Commuting Meetup

  2. #2
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Pedestrian signals are typically used in the US where a separate multi-use path crosses the road. Nearly all such paths are used as much or more by pedestrians than cyclists.

    On the vehicular traveled ways of US roads, cyclists headed toward the same destination as motorists use the same signals, typically from the same lane. The only reason to use separate phases for diffrent vehicle types facing the same direction would be if cyclists and other drivers were headed to different destinations and had to cross paths within the intersection. Proper destination positioning when approaching intersections avoids crossing paths with other traffic facing the same direction within the intersection.

    Some other countries legally require or encourage cyclists to operate contrary to normal destination positioning, typically directing cyclists to ride to the right of other vehicle traffic that would cross their paths in the intersection. Since a left turn from such a location would be extremely dangerous with through traffic happening at the same time, a separate signal phase is required. However, this signal phase delays other road users, and cyclists are delayed waiting for their separate phase.

    Dividing up the intersection time among more phases typically reduces everyone's green time and reduces traffic capacity. American traffic engineers are unlikely to reduce traffic capacity by adding such phases, and American cyclists generally do not advocate signal systems that will reduce their total green time and likely require them to trip a sensor and wait at every intersection.

  3. #3
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    We've got one in Portland with plans for more. It has one of those detectors in the pavement and a marking to show you where to place your bike. For this one you have to push a button, but the HAWK signal is also bike-specific. It's fast, too. The downside is that it's expensive, so they're not going to put one just any place. I understand they have a HAWK signal in Tuscon, AZ, too.
    "Real wars of words are harder to win. They require thought, insight, precision, articulation, knowledge, and experience. They require the humility to admit when you are wrong. They recognize that the dialectic is not about making us look at you, but about us all looking together for the truth."

  4. #4
    Senior Member Chaco's Avatar
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    I sure wish there was SOMETHING for some of the lights I have to deal with. There is one near my house where the sensor doesn't pick anything up if you're on a bike. If you go over and hit the walk button, and then get back on your bike in the street, apparently there's a sensor in the sidewalk, too, and you won't get the light. The only way to get across this street is to cross as a pedestrian -- really a drag.

  5. #5
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Donna, how do you like them? What do you think about the concerns Steve raises?

    I hear so often how nice it is to bike in Europe with all their bike lanes, and why can't we have that here? I often feel I have to explain about bike lanes being awkard and often misleading in intersections, and the next mental step is often to having separate light phases like in Europe. So I wondered why we don't see them so much here, and if anyone had tried them.
    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
    What's the point of a bike if you can only ride it on weekends, and you can't even carry anything with you?!
    Portland Maine Bicycle Commuting Meetup

  6. #6
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Donna showed me a one or two in Portland on a bike tour.

    Vancouver, Canada has some bike specific signals, I believe, and Victoria, as well as 'bike boxes' at some intersections to advance bikes ahead of automobile traffic.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 09-19-07 at 05:07 AM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  7. #7
    Car(e) Free! koine2002's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking View Post
    Donna, how do you like them? What do you think about the concerns Steve raises?

    I hear so often how nice it is to bike in Europe with all their bike lanes, and why can't we have that here? I often feel I have to explain about bike lanes being awkard and often misleading in intersections, and the next mental step is often to having separate light phases like in Europe. So I wondered why we don't see them so much here, and if anyone had tried them.
    The USA pretty much started the Industrial Revolution as a car based society. Our entire transportation infastructure is built around the passenger car. Bicyclists, pedestrians and mass transit need to fit into that system. Europe's transportation infastructure (from my experience and study) is built around mass transit, pedestrians and bicycles. Cars are worked into that system. I theorize that it has to do with indivudalistic cultural values vs. community based cultural values. Anyhoo, to do something like that, in the USA, would require and very expensive and lengthy infastructure revamping. While I would love it, as a realist, I realize that it probably won't get done.
    "There is hardly a man or woman who dares to be just what he or she is without doctoring up the impression." --A.W. Tozer

  8. #8
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking View Post
    Donna, how do you like them? What do you think about the concerns Steve raises?

    I hear so often how nice it is to bike in Europe with all their bike lanes, and why can't we have that here?
    I often feel I have to explain about bike lanes being awkard and often misleading in intersections, and the next mental step is often to having separate light phases like in Europe. So I wondered why we don't see them so much here, and if anyone had tried them.
    Perhaps one answer is the reluctance of the strict VC crowd and their leader John Forester to even attempt to accept anything like a bike lane, or as advanced as a system of well interconnected bike paths that surpasses even a network of auto streets, such as what I experienced in Oulu Finland.

    Meanwhile, John Forester supports groups such as the American Dream Coalition, which has stated in it's mission statement that nothing should delay motorists and that they should be able to travel and the "most efficient speed of 60 MPH."

  9. #9
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by koine2002 View Post
    The USA pretty much started the Industrial Revolution as a car based society. Our entire transportation infastructure is built around the passenger car. Bicyclists, pedestrians and mass transit need to fit into that system. Europe's transportation infastructure (from my experience and study) is built around mass transit, pedestrians and bicycles. Cars are worked into that system. I theorize that it has to do with indivudalistic cultural values vs. community based cultural values. Anyhoo, to do something like that, in the USA, would require and very expensive and lengthy infastructure revamping. While I would love it, as a realist, I realize that it probably won't get done.
    The funny thing is that if (and this is a huge IF) 10-12% of the federal transportation budget was diverted to high quality bike path networks (this alone is a magnitude of order jump in the monies now devoted to cycling), and if the result was a 10% reduction in traffic congestion, this would be an outstanding improvement to the traffic situation. But none of our public officials thinks in this manner...

    Can you imagine what would happen if 10-12% funding resulted in 15-20% less motor traffic congestion?

    But that is not likely to happen... the only solution to those controlling the transit budgets seems to be "wider Freeways... " Sigh.

  10. #10
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking View Post
    Donna, how do you like them? What do you think about the concerns Steve raises?
    I like the 2 I described. I feel PDOT is conservative about implementing them, and so they are well thought out and placed to address the uniqueness of the intersections in question. You can get a good visual of the area around the Scramble Signal if you watch the video that this thread talks about and links to. We don't have many MUPs here, but we do have a very useful one that runs along the river. (Thus avoiding a lot of elevation changes.) There is an "exit" at this major humongous knot of a couple of streets, a freeway, a light rail/bus transit center, a bridge, etc. Big mess. Here's a link to a map. The arrow is where the scramble signal is. You see that bridge over the railroad tracks? That's how you "exit" the MUP along the river and get up to street level. Cyclists want to travel in all directions. The scramble signal gives us that opportunity. It also gives us a good head start of auto traffic. This is especially good because if you travel north on Interstate, you will encounter that transit center, which is a total snafu of busses and light rail tracks, plus it is the beginning of a fairly formidable and long uphill.

    The HAWK signal is a bit different. It's in a residential neighborhood that crosses a busy street where the auto traffic is just going way too fast. The intersection of SE 39th and E Burnside to the west of the HAWK signal is an intersection of 2 very major streets in the inner eastside of the city. The cars are playing hurry up to stop and wait at that intersection. Before the HAWK signal, it would take quite some time to cross because you had to wait for an opening in traffic on Burnside. When you approach the intersection on a bike, you will encounter a bicycle red and a push button at the curb. You just push that button and the auto traffic on Burnside get a yellow then a red and the bike traffic on 41st gets a bicycle green. Eventually, the light changes back and the traffic on Burnside resumes. There is also a ped button on the sidewalk. If they push it, the same thing happens. Green for bikes and a walk for peds. It is an excellent fit for the traffic patterns and for the neighborhood. People now let their 6-7 year olds cross Burnside alone on foot and by bike now. (Assuming they've got kids who can be trusted to only cross with the green/walk.) That was absolutely unheard of before.
    "Real wars of words are harder to win. They require thought, insight, precision, articulation, knowledge, and experience. They require the humility to admit when you are wrong. They recognize that the dialectic is not about making us look at you, but about us all looking together for the truth."

  11. #11
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by donnamb View Post
    People now let their 6-7 year olds cross Burnside alone on foot and by bike now. (Assuming they've got kids who can be trusted to only cross with the green/walk.) That was absolutely unheard of before.
    The really sad thing is that before Right Turn on Red was implemented all over the west, kids regularly "crossed with the light."

    When I was growing up in Texas back in the 60's, we did not have RTOR, and red lights meant that everyone stopped.

    These days I have seen motorists honk at kids in crosswalks, as the motorist no doubt feels they have priority... forget actually stopping before making that right turn...

    These bike specific lights and others are simply an effort to bring some control back to the "other users" of the road... mainly us.

  12. #12
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    The really sad thing is that before Right Turn on Red was implemented all over the west, kids regularly "crossed with the light."

    When I was growing up in Texas back in the 60's, we did not have RTOR, and red lights meant that everyone stopped.

    These days I have seen motorists honk at kids in crosswalks, as the motorist no doubt feels they have priority... forget actually stopping before making that right turn...

    These bike specific lights and others are simply an effort to bring some control back to the "other users" of the road... mainly us.
    I don't understand - if drivers are not stopping for the existing red lights in the presence of normal crossing pedestrian traffic, why should the introduction of additional green phases for other, more unusual traffic patterns improve their behavior?

    Our red light cameras here in Cary ticket drivers for right-on-red without stop. This enforcement seems to be making a difference, but I think more is required.

  13. #13
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by donnamb View Post
    We've got one in Portland with plans for more. It has one of those detectors in the pavement and a marking to show you where to place your bike. For this one you have to push a button, but the HAWK signal is also bike-specific. It's fast, too. The downside is that it's expensive, so they're not going to put one just any place. I understand they have a HAWK signal in Tuscon, AZ, too.

    These are interesting. The first essentially converts the 4-way signalized intersection into a 5-way signalized intersection, with one of the legs being the access to a popular bike path. This seems like an appropriate design for such a special situation where cyclists are transitioning between a path and multiple roadways at a signalized intersection. We have some five-way intersections in Raleigh; nothing non-vehicular about it - just that this one has a leg that is bikes-only.

    The second appears to be a mid-block path crossing where the bicycle traffic is heavy enough that they decided to make the traffic signal address cyclists with a vehicular-like signal rather than the normal pedestrian signal. Nothing wrong with that.

    However, these special signals/phases are not applicable to cycling on normal street corridors, because cyclists would not want to stop to activate a special signal in order to proceed through every intersection. At those ordinary-street demand-activated signals that do not detect bicycles in the travel lane, causing cyclists delay, the appropriate solution is to sensitize the loop design and circuit to detect bicycles, not to introduce additional signal phases.

  14. #14
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
    I don't understand - if drivers are not stopping for the existing red lights in the presence of normal crossing pedestrian traffic, why should the introduction of additional green phases for other, more unusual traffic patterns improve their behavior?

    Our red light cameras here in Cary ticket drivers for right-on-red without stop. This enforcement seems to be making a difference, but I think more is required.
    There shouldn't be additional lights to "improve behaviour," the behaviour should not be as it is in the first place... the RTOR laws have turned turning motorists into scofflaws regarding the need to actually stop first, which has shifted the burden at stop lights to everyone else, to ensure that no motorist is coming their way. While children were always taught to look both ways, the bottom line is that far too many motorists fail to properly stop at a RTOR, and have in the extreme, taken their right turns as an undeniable benefit.

  15. #15
    Dubito ergo sum. patc's Avatar
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    We have a few bike-specific lights in Ottawa, along with a few bus-specific ones (including the vertical white bar). On O'Connor, for example, there is an entire light head specifically for a short bike lane that allowed bike to go through the intersection - motor vehicles must turn right or left there, only the bike lane allowed through traffic.

  16. #16
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
    I don't understand....
    how obtuse of you to not recognize the additional level of hazard 'right on red' introduces to pedestrians at intersections....
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    The really sad thing is that before Right Turn on Red was implemented all over the west, kids regularly "crossed with the light."

    When I was growing up in Texas back in the 60's, we did not have RTOR, and red lights meant that everyone stopped.

    These days I have seen motorists honk at kids in crosswalks, as the motorist no doubt feels they have priority... forget actually stopping before making that right turn...

    These bike specific lights and others are simply an effort to bring some control back to the "other users" of the road... mainly us.
    I can't vouch for how things were before "right on red" was implemented since I've been in this country since 1981. I can tell you that I've used a pedestrian crossing a few times when crossing some seriously bussy 4 lane roads and I have almost always had to scream loudly at a driver that is trying to turn through a red light as I am completing the crossing. You know you ARE supposed to check the predstrian crossing before you pull into it at 10+ MPH. I would have to say that on a busy street 4 lane street I have had this problem almost 100% of the time. I am actually MUCH safer lining up with the car and going through with them. Cutting accross 2 lanes of heavy 45 MPH traffic is no picnic, but using a cross walk in the USA privides very little protection.

    Happy riding,
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  18. #18
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    These days I have seen motorists honk at kids in crosswalks, as the motorist no doubt feels they have priority... forget actually stopping before making that right turn...
    I have often observed that round here pedestrians give up their ROW and first allow RTOR drivers, sometimes waiting for 3-4 cars to turn before attempting to cross. I think many drivers are getting used to this and now don't expect peds to cross until they are finished turning.

    Here is a large 14.5MB pdf, but of interest in this thread because:
    1. On p.68 is a ped-actived "No RTOR" sign
    2. On p.43 is a detailed description of how a HAWK crossing works. There is one in Tuscon and Tempe, and are used for pedstrian crossings.

    Al

  19. #19
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
    However, these special signals/phases are not applicable to cycling on normal street corridors, because cyclists would not want to stop to activate a special signal in order to proceed through every intersection. At those ordinary-street demand-activated signals that do not detect bicycles in the travel lane, causing cyclists delay, the appropriate solution is to sensitize the loop design and circuit to detect bicycles, not to introduce additional signal phases.
    I'm not sure I understand why anyone would feel it necessary to have an additional light cycle just for the sake of having one. We've got signal loop detectors sensitive enough to detect bicycles here. If one isn't working right, we just call PDOT and they fix it. Of course if you have a nonmetal bike, you're pretty much SOL. They'll fix the timing of greens as well, so that the light isn't too short for a bunch of bikes to get through the intersection. When I think of bike-specific lights, I'm thinking of situations where the infrastructure that presently exists just doesn't work for a high volume of bike traffic. Situations like where our scramble signal and HAWK signal have been placed.

    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    On p.43 is a detailed description of how a HAWK crossing works. There is one in Tuscon and Tempe, and are used for pedstrian crossings.
    Yes, the HAWK signal was originally developed for pedestrian use in Tuscon. Portland adapted it for cycling use, but it is also of great benefit to pedestrians at the intersection where it is installed. There are some pretty major drawbacks to it, though, and that's why their use will be limited. They're expensive - $40,000 a pop. Also, you can't put them just anywhere. If they're too close to a major motor vehicle intersection, they can interfere with the flow of traffic, and no road planner is going to go for that. PDOT is looking at a couple of places where a HAWK signal would be of benefit. In both instances, they're major bikeways with high bike traffic intersecting a busy street with motor vehicles going 35-45 MPH with few breaks in their traffic.

    Our HAWK signal solved a big connectivity/flow problem in a popular north-south bikeway. Portland has lots of east-west bikeways, but we've got a problem with not having enough of them in the north-south direction. Part of the reason is geography and neighborhood layout and part of it is I-84 which basically splits the east side of town in half. For that matter, we actually don't have a lot of north-south roads that actually cross over the freeway.
    "Real wars of words are harder to win. They require thought, insight, precision, articulation, knowledge, and experience. They require the humility to admit when you are wrong. They recognize that the dialectic is not about making us look at you, but about us all looking together for the truth."

  20. #20
    lunatic fringe Dogbait's Avatar
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    Donna,
    There used to be a button operated signal on the west end of the Broadway Bridge that would stop car traffic going down the Lovejoy ramp so that bikes could turn left onto the Broadway ramp. Do you know if it's still there? There was also a signal head there for the bike lane. It was a good solution to the problem but may have been changed when the Lovejoy ramp was re-aligned to make things nice for the Pearlites.

    This photo is the new alignment but shows the location of the button (circa 1990).

    Last edited by Dogbait; 09-20-07 at 11:55 PM.

  21. #21
    RacingBear UmneyDurak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking View Post
    Can anyone tell where in the U.S. bike lanes or paths have been implemented with bike-only phases of traffic lights, such as this? Preferably with bike lanes on heavy traffic roads. I know this is common in Europe, so I'm curious how widespread it is in this country. Are they generally triggered by pushing a button?

    Never seen it either in NorCal or SoCal.
    I see hills.... Bring them on!!!
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  22. #22
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogbait View Post
    Donna,
    There used to be a button operated signal on the west end of the Broadway Bridge that would stop car traffic going down the Lovejoy ramp so that bikes could turn left onto the Broadway ramp. Do you know if it's still there? There was also a signal head there for the bike lane. It was a good solution to the problem but may have been changed when the Lovejoy ramp was re-aligned to make things nice for the Pearlites.
    Hm, no button, but the light timing is different now. Cars can't turn onto the Lovejoy ramp at the same time the bike lane's got the green. Also, the bike lane splits into 2 now - one towards Lovejoy and one towards Broadway. The next time I travel that way, I'll pay closer attention and let you know more details. I don't ride it every day, so it's not burned into my brain. The fact that I'm not remembering it clearly means the current system is working. If I had to deal with cars turning in front of me, I'd be remembering that very clearly.
    "Real wars of words are harder to win. They require thought, insight, precision, articulation, knowledge, and experience. They require the humility to admit when you are wrong. They recognize that the dialectic is not about making us look at you, but about us all looking together for the truth."

  23. #23
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Actually, John, on consideration, there IS a bike specific traffic signal in Seattle. 4 way intersection, bike lanes, significant amount of turning traffic onto a drawbridge.

    The bike advocacy organization, under pressure from local bicyclists, lobbied and won a bike-specific signal to allow bicyclists on a major bike transportation route to cross the road leading to the drawbridge. about 10 seconds of a white bike signal while all of the rest of intersection traffic is stopped.

    Fremont Bridge in Seattle.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  24. #24
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    As promised, Dogbait, I got around to taking some pictures at the Broadway Bridge/Lovejoy Ramp. Instead of a button, there is a signal loop detector and a bike-specific traffic light. I took some extra pictures, since I thought you might like to see your old commute route. All these pictures were taken today, so there's hardly any traffic at all.

    Here we are beginning to apporach the Lovejoy ramp. I am on the other side of the bridge.





    A cyclist is waiting for the light to change.





    Here's the light. When it turns green for cyclists, motor vehicle traffic has to stop and cannot turn onto the Lovejoy Ramp. They can go straight on Broadway. Cyclists can go in either direction. There is no conflict between the cyclists and the motor traffic who stay on Broadway, as there is a bike lane down the ramp onto the street.



    I couldn't get a shot of the cyclist in time, but this truck wants to turn onto Lovejoy and has to wait until the signal changes.

    "Real wars of words are harder to win. They require thought, insight, precision, articulation, knowledge, and experience. They require the humility to admit when you are wrong. They recognize that the dialectic is not about making us look at you, but about us all looking together for the truth."

  25. #25
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    Now here are the scenic pictures I took on the bridge for Dogbait.







    Look, the Steel (both decks!) and the Burnside are both up.



    <waves hi in Dogbait's general direction>



    "Real wars of words are harder to win. They require thought, insight, precision, articulation, knowledge, and experience. They require the humility to admit when you are wrong. They recognize that the dialectic is not about making us look at you, but about us all looking together for the truth."

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