Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More Thoughts on the Bike Box

Reader danc posted some great links in the previous post's comment box and I think that it's well-worth sharing them with everyone. And it gives me a chance to explore the bike box and the many problems I have with the idea.

First, here are danc's comments:

The bike box “works” (so to speak) in the traffic light red phase, during the yellow or green phase, it fails just like any other bike lane. 
Here a is simple animation: Why “bike-boxes” fail http://cycledallas.blogspot.com/2009/08/why-bike-boxes-fail.html

The example uses a large truck, but a utility, delivery truck or SUV with large blind spots or impatient driver will work against any naïve bike box or bike lane user.

John S Allen writings:

Bike box rationales
http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=11

Comparing crosswalk and bike box
http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=60

Advanced Stop Line or “Bike Box"
Extended article with research links.

http://bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/stopline.htm

Remember "bike boxes" are experimental!

I had previously seen that video from CycleDallas (and if you haven't watched it, please do. It's short but poignant) and wish I'd remembered it for the last post! It's an excellent look at how these things can be dangerous. I think that what is missing is some explanation of the video beyond what danc included about semis and larger vehicles having a huge blind spot that might block their view of the bike lane.

Sure, a bicyclist should know that if the light turns green while he's in the bike lane, trying to maneuver into the bike box, he should allow the vehicles ahead of him in the general traffic lane to go... but in the case of the semi depicted in the video, he may not see the light change because the semi is blocking the cyclist's view of the lights. And the other, non-fatal problem with this plan is that the cyclist may then get stranded in the bike lane while trying to get over and go straight through, which is the proper thing to do.

The proper way to negotiate ANY bike lane is as follows: cars turning right on a street where there is a bike lane should pull INTO the bike lane to do so - scanning and yielding to cyclists already in the lane. That avoids the right hook. Cyclists who are going straight through should move into the general traffic lane to do so, allowing cars to turn right if they wish to do so. These measures would avoid the situation depicted in the video, and if followed no bike box is necessary.

My personal feeling is that all this lane changing back and forth, especially near an intersection where both cyclists AND motorists have more to look for and may miss key details (like the presence of a cyclist in the bike lane, especially given the "blind spot" that cars possess) is a bad idea. In this case, bike lanes give you a choice - lots of potentially hazardous lane changes near an intersection or the increased chance of a right-hook.

John Allen's website does point out that cyclists and bike lanes have their own set of signals in many European nations, letting them know when it's safe to move forward in a bike lane and when it's not - avoiding the right hook. Many transportation engineers in this country, who are putting bike lanes into the mix willy-nilly, don't take this into consideration when they're planning, I think. And while many vehicles are starting to include things like blind-spot detectors, extra mirrors, etc. to avoid the aforementioned problem, the problem of technological rollout is making these measures ineffectual (until all the older cars without these options are off the road).

The best answer, as usual, is cyclist and motorist education and proper vehicular cycling.

People, not speed.

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