The City of Columbus is trying some new stuff with our bike infrastructure, most notable of which is the test of a bike box at the corner of North Broadway and Milton - the street route for the Olentangy Multi-Use Trail between Clinton-Como park and Whetstone Park.
Consider Biking's website talks about what a bike box is and how it should be used, noting that the bike box is sort of a controversial idea.
The intended use of the bike box is to eliminate the risk of the "right-hook" accident, in which a cyclist who is attempting to ride straight through an intersection in a bike lane is cut off or hit by a right-turning car, because the car was not paying attention to traffic in the bike lane. When traffic is stopped by the red light here, cars are supposed to stop behind the thick white line at the bottom of the green bike box, and bikes are to be allowed to ride up the right (in the green bike lane) and stop in front of the cars in the bike box.
It's an interesting solution to a common problem. Bike lanes are considered by many as dangerous because they invite the right-hook problem. Technically, a car is supposed to pull INTO a bike lane to make a right turn, looking to the right to make sure the lane is clear before doing so. But, obviously, most motorists (and especially motorists in Columbus, where bike lanes are not widely available) don't know this. So the bike box at this intersection, which has considerably more bike traffic than most places in town due to its nature as the bike-trail-connector, seems justified.
However... as this video taken recently by one of Columbus's League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructors shows, many people (bicyclists and motorists alike) have no clue how to use it.
It's very obvious from this video that the simple fact of using engineering to create improvements is not enough. Cars park in the bike box, riders ride up the right when the light is green and cars are trying to turn, and cyclists still swerve off to the right to cross North Broadway in the crosswalk.
The "Six E's" of the League of American Bicyclists are as follows:
Equality – Legal: traffic law and legislation, including movements, access, equipment, uniformity
Engineering – Transportation: road and bicycle facilities development, design, and construction, and mobility and funding sources
Enforcement – Police and Courts: Equitable treatment of cyclists through citations and trials
Education – Schools and Smart Cycling™: Traffic skills education for the public, engineers, enforcers, and legislators
Encouragement – Public and private agencies: advertising campaigns, promotions, etc.
Evaluation – Public agencies: Measurement of the effects of the other Es using relevant research methods and testing.
The bike box measure is a use of "Engineering", and arguably "Encouragement." But it totally ignores the measures of "Education" - no one really knows how to use it - and "Enforcement" - no one appears to be monitoring this new measure to make sure it's used properly. And, arguably, it goes AGAINST the idea of "Equality" - it's putting the cyclists ahead of cars instead of making them equal by having the bikes line up as part of traffic.It's an interesting idea, to be sure. And technically, it's capable of reducing the problem of right hooks. But it's not being implemented properly to do that very thing. Neither motorists nor bicyclists seem to have a handle on how to use it. It's clear that following all six E's is crucial for anything to be improved for cyclists.
Bike Box video courtesy of Patricia Kovacs.
All pictures property of Consider Biking.
People, not speed.