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  1. #1
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    When is a bike box called for?

    I know not everyone supports bike boxes, and I'm not sure that I do either. But I'm thinking about it at the moment because our city engineer mentioned to some of us that he was contemplating putting one in at an intersection here, and wondered what we thought about it. So we are trying to evaluate. It would be our first one here in Portland, MAINE.

    Personally, in this situation, I'm probably going to recommend against it. It is a signalized intersection with 3 lanes: Left turn only, left turn/through, and right turn/through. So to go straight, all you have to do is move into the center of the nearest lane. To turn left, you need only move over one into the middle lane, and then into the left side of it. It's flat, and the traffic is probably in the mid 30 MPH range, but of course slowing down approaching the light. Relatively easy, as channelized intersections go, so I don't think any fancier and potentially more confusing infrastructure is warranted.

    So that got me thinking, when is a bike box warranted, according to its proponents? Some particular mix of more challenging traffic speeds and/or intersection geometry? An uphill approach? What specific problem is the bike box trying to solve? Or do proponents advocate a bike box solution for every intersection?
    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
    Violin guitar mandolin
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    What's a bike box? I have one at work in case I eBay a bike. Is it some kind of traffic thing?

    If you're going to introduce something novel and obscure (at least to some of us) you might provide a summary ahead of the question. "Bike boxes are generally cardboard. But some function as part of bicycle infrastructure. Instead of riding through intersections, the rider carefully packs the bike, calls a taxi, and travels through safely, protected by good steel."

    The point of a bike only ridden on weekends is that it's a treat. Carrying things not necessary to uselessly rocket around interferes with that treat.

  3. #3
    It's faster than the bus Catgrrl70's Avatar
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  4. #4
    Violin guitar mandolin
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    I see. I suppose they'd be called for either everywhere or nowhere. Having them come and go on the roadways would likely prove confusing.

    Is the box part of the bike lane?

    Are cyclists supposed to cruise up and then fill the box ahead of the first motor vehicle?

    Is a bike lane a traffic lane with all rights and obligations for users of a normal traffic lane?

  5. #5
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    I think(?) a true bike box has its own lite that lets bikes go a few seconds
    earlier than cars. Bike boxes might not be desirable for some people who
    have developed habits and have strong opinions about VC and things like
    that, but it cannot be argued that they wouldnt bring a certain amount of
    awareness to bicycles in the area they are placed. For that alone, I support them.

  6. #6
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Sorry to be obscure, I guess I've known about them for long enough that I forget that others don't.

    Yes, the idea of a bike box is to give the bikes a place to pull ahead of the cars, with the idea of giving them a place to position themselves for a turn, or to avoid a right hook, while the cars are not moving. I don't see where Catgrrl's second two examples are bike boxes at all, they just look like painted lanes to me.

    As Lem says, I've developed VC habits and don't think bike boxes are generally consistent with efficient (or maybe even safe) traffic movement. But my question here is not what you think of them in general, but in what specific situations are they good, or would they be good everywhere?

    In the real-life situation I gave in my OP, I don't see how using the normal travel lanes is that difficult, because you are not crossing more than one lane, nor are they wide lanes, nor is the traffic very fast, to get into position for any of the three directions you might want to go. Therefore I would see the bike box as just a complication. But I'm open to suggestions that there may be scenarios where it would be harder to position yourself vehicularly, and where a bike box may help, but I'm not sure what they would be. So that's what I'm asking.

    As an aside, it just occurred to me that painted lanes and painted bike boxes are all very well and good out in the NW US, where, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm thinking you don't get a lot of snow, at least in cities like Portland OR, Eugene, and Seattle. Here in Maine, we do get a lot of snow, and not just in the mountains, and paint doesn't last too much longer than a season between all the plowing and sand treatment it is subjected to in the winter. So it seems a somewhat less efficient solution here. Just a thought.
    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

  7. #7
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    I don't consider myself to be a bike box advocate, but I'd think they could be useful if the following conditions are met:
    1) multiple lanes with different destinations (right-turn only, left/straight, etc.)
    2) fairly high traffic volume
    3) complex enough traffic signal sequence that traffic frequently builds up in long lines between green lights.

    At intersections with the above characteristics there can be problems for the cyclist who arrives when there's already a queue of cars and wants to do something other than make a right turn.

    Getting to the front of the appropriate lane can be difficult since that space is occupied. And waiting at the back of the line is also frequently a problem if the cyclist is unable to keep up with the traffic speed once the light changes. Traffic behind the cyclist is likely to become impatient and try to pass even if there isn't enough space (and rarely is any but the rightmost lane wide enough for safe lane-sharing). This is especially true at intersections with complex light sequences where drivers have learned that the light is likely to become red almost immediately once there's any gap in the traffic stream. Drivers switching lanes are also a hazard to the cyclist who's in one of the lanes going straight or to the left since such drivers are unlikely to expect a slower moving bike to be in the way of their lane change.

    The bike box would allow the cyclist a place to wait for the green light in the appropriate lane for his intended motion and to clear the intersection quickly so his presence doesn't create any gap in the traffic flow that would lead to a premature switch of the traffic light. And it legitimizes the cyclist's position at the front of the line which might otherwise be seen as 'line cutting' by motorists.

  8. #8
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Bike boxes are being painted in Portland to try and solve the problem of their killer bike lanes. A cyclist waiting for a green light in a bike lane got right hooked and killed by a cement truck. Plus there were a couple of other right hook collisions earlier in the year.

    Rather than ending the deadly bike lanes before intersections and having cyclist merge into the lane for the cyclist safety, Portland decided to be stubborn about keeping its bike lanes and put in 12 bike boxes at their worst killer bike lanes.

    Yes the bike box will fix the static problem of a cyclist pulling up to a red light in a bike lane with a large truck (that may not see the cyclist) waiting next to the bike lane. But what about the non-static situation when a cyclist is the bike lane trying to move up to the bike box, the light turns green, traffic moves and right hooks the cyclist.

    Portland has not even mandated that these large trucks must use convex mirrors for safety (unless done so very recently).

    The only way a bike box/bike lane combo can be made safe, is if the intersection has a preferential light for cyclist that lets them go first.

    Now many of the bike lane proponents claimed that bike lanes are needed all the way to intersections because it is dangerous for cyclist to stop in front of motorist who may not stop when approaching a red light. Funny they have no problem with this bike box that puts cyclist right in front of stopping traffic at an intersection.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Bruce Rosar's Avatar
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    Throw away the book

    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
    The only way a bike box/bike lane combo can be made safe, is if the intersection has a preferential light for cyclist...
    Which would increase congestion and the cost of the signalized intersection even more. There's another approach to increasing safety that's mentioned in Alexander Kjerulf's blog, where he writes about how the
    ...media have been kicking up a storm lately about all the anarchistic bicycle riders... who ignore traffic rules. The debate has been founded on an interesting, but unstated, premise that traffic safety comes from always following the rules... Well, according to this NY Times article, ... Hans Monderman has a rather different approach: Throw away the book.
    Here's a link to that NYT article: A Path to Road Safety With No Signposts

  10. #10
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Rosar View Post
    Which would increase congestion and the cost of the signalized intersection even more. There's another approach to increasing safety that's mentioned in Alexander Kjerulf's blog, where he writes about how the

    Here's a link to that NYT article: A Path to Road Safety With No Signposts
    Those references are over 3 1/2 years old and nothing is happening anywhere to make anyone think that Monderman's proposal is being implemented anywhere of significance or gathering any serious support except with a few idealogues and dreamers on the Internet.

    Bruce, you've been a lonely voice hawking this "safety" scheme forever as somehow beneficial to motorists and cyclists. Give it up, or rename yourself as the next Don Q. of BF.

  11. #11
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    I like them, but agree that they need to be at every junction for drivers to be aware of them- many are ignored by drivers who cover them, making them useless to cyclists. In the UK drivers are obliged by law to facilitate motorcycles and bikes to weave to the front at lights, for the purpose of safety.

    Basically if you are in front of them, in the middle of the road, you can cross the junction first, safely, before they can move out. We don't have special bicycle green lights in the UK, they would be handy. You always get some ****** who thinks it's the grand prix, who accelerates to get past you, which is not conducive to safety.

  12. #12
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    On a 30mph/50kph or slower street, I rarely see the benefit of any bicycle-specific facilities, preferring full vehicular integration. On faster roads, we sometimes do need some help, but the bike boxes, lanes, etc. need to be intelligently laid out, preferably in consultation with folks who actually know how to ride safely in traffic.
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  13. #13
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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    As far as I can tell, the bike box assumes that the way cyclists want to make left turns is to hug the curb up to the stop line, and then take a bee-line to the curb on the cross street. I'm sorry, but that sounds like the fantasy of a bike facilities planner who is trying to imagine a way for cyclists never to leave the bike lane. It also sounds like the idea of someone who has never actually ridden a bicycle in traffic.

    There are two good ways for a cyclist to make a left turn, and that isn't either of them. One is to line up with the other left-turning traffic and take your turn. The other is to stay to the right, go through the intersection, stop at the curb on the far side, and wait for the light to turn.

    If you wanted to paint a box for left-turning cyclists too timid to leave the bike lane, it should be a waiting area to the right of the intersection where they can wait to complete their two-part turn.
    The United States of America is the only democratic nation in the world to deny citizens living in the nation's capital representation in the national legislature. District residents have no vote in either the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. www.dcvote.org

  14. #14
    www.chipsea.blogspot.com ChipSeal's Avatar
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    DCComuter,

    What you are suggesting (educating the cyclist) is too hard. Portland (Oregon) presumes that folks who ride bikes are too stupid to apply normal rules of the road to cycling.

    Since they can't be taught or expected to learn the everyday rules of the road that all motorists are familiar with (as if cyclists are not also motorists), elaborate new street designs and configurations must be applied. New signs, new traffic laws, new signal sequences! Gallons of green and white paint are applied to the road to direct them; Why, even imbeciles could follow these directions! Great sums of treasure and enormous man hours have been dedicated to the ideal that no cyclist ever impede a motorist.

    Alas, these new schemes, in order for them to work, require that motorists become educated about how to operate among all the new rules and street configurations. Good luck with that!

    Portland (Oregon) would require all trucks to have convex mirrors, if they could figure out how to enforce it for out-of-town trucks bringing goods into the city. (There is evidence that such laws are just window-dressing anyway. Police there don't seem to enforce laws passed to protect cyclist's safety.)

    We can only hope that Portland (Maine) will decide that educating cyclists will be a less daunting task than putting in bike boxes and then having to educate all the motorists.
    Vehicular cycling techniques have not been tried and found difficult. They have been presumed difficult and not tried.

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