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Bicycle specific traffic signals arrive in many cities...

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Bicycle specific traffic signals arrive in many cities...

Old 12-03-12, 01:28 PM
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Bicycle specific traffic signals arrive in many cities...

THis popped up today -- sounds like excellent approach

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Old 12-03-12, 02:17 PM
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I think what drives many of these implementations are a desire on the part of some cities to appear to be bike friendly and to appear to be doing something about intersection issues. I believe these things help cities get recognized by LAB as well.

Let me tell you about how two of these came to be in my city and why one that was actually needed will not be put in place. We have a street near the University of Oregon that is one-way southbound. It previously had a southbound bike lane on the west side of the street and a contraflow northbound bike lane on the east side. This set-up had a problem: the University had several parking lot entrance/exits on the east side of the road and motorists exiting these facilities would routinely fail to look south before crossing the contraflow bike lane. Many collisions occurred here. The city's solution was to put both bike lanes on the east side as a narrow "cycletrack", with the thinking that the motorists would be more likely to see that there is more to the road than just the one-way southbound lane and thus might look both ways. However, this created a situation at the south end of campus, where the road no longer goes through for cars (bikes may continue south), of conflict between through-southbound cyclists and southbound motorists who wanted to turn east. In order to not have the unusual situation of a car turning left across a straight lane, the city added a cycle-specific signal. Now the southbound cars can turn left (east) without having a conflict with the southbound cyclists. The cost, other than $, is that a signal that formerly had two cycles now has three, so everyone, especially the cyclists, gets to wait longer/more often at that intersection. I think the better solution would have been to close many of the parking lot exits and do some traffic enforcement. That would have been cheaper and would have allowed better traffic flows, but would not have had any bling factor. (By the way, since this implementation, the number of cyclists I see on a parallel street has increased (in spite of a decrease in the number of cyclists locally and the fact that the parallel street has a hill) and the number of cyclists using the cycletrack is lower than the number who used the original configuration.)

At the north end of this mess, the cycletrack ends at a six to seven lane very busy roadway and has a bike-specific traffic light. When I asked a city traffic planner about this and why there was no bike lane put on that roadway, he said he wanted the cyclists to use the sidewalk there. Exactly one day after I asked him about this, we had a cyclist killed on that sidewalk. You see, that sidewalk crosses an active railroad track at a point with near-zero visibility down the tracks. From the sidewalk, it is very difficult to see the railroad crossing lights when they activate and there is no requirement to add these on a sidewalk. The cyclist who was killed was hearing impaired, but that might not have made any difference. So, once again we have a bike-specific signal that made some planner feel good but didn't actually make cycling any safer or better and in fact may have encouraged a newbie to ride in a dangerous place without due regard for the danger.

I talked to that traffic planner about a location that actually could use a bike-specific light. It is the end of a bike path that terminates at the north-west corner of an intersection that consists of freeway entrances/exits on the southside, a freeway entrance on the west side (just south of and parallel to the bike path) and surface streets on the north and east sides. In the current configuration, cyclists who approach from the bike path (east bound) must wait for the entire light cycle after pressing an activation button to proceed to the north-east corner, then they have to wait for the entire signal cycle to proceed to the south-east corner, from which they can then proceed east. Typical time spent waiting to make this convoluted intersection crossing is two minutes, often longer. The traffic planner said he was not allowed to put a bike-specific signal in here that would allow one-step crossing for cyclists because the traffic engineer feared that motorists would end up waiting longer than 85 seconds at peak times.

I can only conclude that these signals are not put in for us. They are put in to keep us out of the way of motorists and to appease the Copenhagenistas who want to have something that looks like the videos they have seen.
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