Co.Design

This Intersection Could Save Cyclists' Lives

Protected bike lanes shouldn't stop just before an intersection.

Hopping on a bike may be the happiest way to get to work, but it's not an entirely safe way. More than 700 cyclists were killed in traffic in the U.S. in 2012, according to recently released data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It's no wonder that cyclists gravitate toward protected bike lanes, which provide a physical barrier between soft human bodies and speeding hunks of metal.

But even on streets with protected bike lanes, the barriers between cyclists and cars usually melt away at intersections. Here's an idea for a better way: a protected bike intersection that increases drivers' ability to see bikes and minimizes the chance that a car will turn on top of a cyclist.

Nick Falbo, a Portland-based urban planner, proposed this protected intersection design for a transportation challenge organized this winter by George Mason University's School of Public Policy. These design elements are uncommon in the U.S., but are similar to how junctions in the Netherlands--where a third of the population commutes by bike--are set up.

It consists of a corner refuge island, a raised island that forces traffic to turn farther into the intersection, protecting right-turning bikes and giving bikes crossing the street lead time before cars start turning. It's much like the concept of "leading pedestrian intervals," a technique in programming traffic signals to give pedestrians a few seconds head start to get into the crosswalk before traffic moves. The crosswalk and bike crossing would be set back from moving traffic by at least the length of one car, so that by the time a vehicle encounters the crossing, the car has already turned 90 degrees, again increasing the chances that drivers will see cyclists and pedestrians.

"It doesn't matter how safe and protected your bike lane is if intersections are risky, stressful experiences," Falbo says in the video. Getting more people to ditch the car and bike around town can improve the health and happiness of residents, and the congestion of our streets. It would help if people could feel completely safe doing so.

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24 Comments

  • Urkula Maurizio Quittenbaum

    What's the fuss about this intersection. That's what eg. German design guide-lines have been proposing since decades. T+

  • I like this idea a lot! It would be great if there was more equity in regards to infrastructure and resources among ALL communities and not just the wealthy ones.

  • Jazmin Vazquez

    It's a great design strategy, but at the same time we have to consider all the economic effort that involve that kind of construction mostly in places where that means a re-organization of the street specifically. Probably would be possible in new places or the ones that got more than two ride ways, even though you are taking out one ride way and creating vehicular congestion. (Thinking if the idea is add that space for the bike instead of making a re- construction of the street) I think that has to be more about social responsibility by both sides. I was thinking also that the corner of the side walk can be more close/stuck to the street and the cyclist would appropriate that part of the space. (example. The cyclist is in the street and in the corner got the side walk, obviously with a consider ratio) so the cyclist and the driver have more and better visual contact.

  • This, to me, is a very stupid comment. Builders are digging up the road all the time in cities to lay new fiber optic cables for super fats broadband. Yet here people are dying, 700 a year, and a lot of them at intersections where cyclists are not seen when cars / lorries do right turns. Plus I am certain creative people could easily work out how to adapt existing intersections with minimal disruption. E.g. work at night for crucial bit which as the need to block one side of a lane. And in the end the streets would be LESS busy due to the greater take up of cycling. And people would be healthier. According to the British Medical Journal the impact is immense, as was measured in London recently which as got more cyclists. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-26171326 Sorry to fall a comment stupid, but lives are at stake, and I passionately believe I am right on this. As I said it was my opinion. So please don't take it personally, I don't know you.

  • Jazmin Vazquez

    Builders are digging up the road all the time in cities to lay new fiber optic cables for super fast broadband and is a waste of money too. Is about understand what does the city can offer, is about what we have, is about the conditions that help us to create great designs, but knowing that we have although limitations. For me is gonna be kind of difficult that kind of design without thinking that is going to be in a new construction. Digging is not the same when we talk about a re-construction of the city, is more complex. I'm totally agree with you, the urban planning have to recognize the cyclist i have no doubt about it. Thanks for your coment

  • Jazmin Vazquez

    Considero es una buena estrategia de diseño, pero al mismo tiemo hay que tener en cuenta que seria todo un esfuerzo económico, en lugares donde este tipo de planteamiento consistiria en volver a re- hacer las calles. Esto es efectivo en lugares nuevos o donde hay más de dos carriles y con todo y eso, estas quitando carriles y se crearia congestión vehicular. (Esto, viéndolo desde el punto de vista de que, en vez de re construir la calle, lo que se haga sea añadir ese espacio para la bicicleta) Yo considero que esto tiene que ser más un asunto de responsabilidad tanto para el que va en bicicleta, como para el que va en auto. Otra cosa que podria ser es que la esquina de la acera fuera mas pegada al piso, cosa de que el ciclista se apropie de ese espacio (esta en la calle y se trepa en la esquina de la acera, con un radio considerable para este) y tenga tanto el ciclista como el que guía la posibilidad de mayor contacto visual.

  • Steve Dutch

    I have a better idea. Get off your bike and WALK it across the intersection. Automobiles should have the right of way at all times.

  • Alan Harris

    Steve - the automobile is on its way out in urban environments. Hopefully along with your ignorance.

  • Brad Parker

    No, adding bikes into the mix makes for unnecessary dangers. Where I live, you ride your bike with traffic if you want to use them on the roads. If you want to use them on the sidewalk, you are to dismount at the intersection and walk the bike across. There are at least four occasions that I have been forced into the oncoming lane and nearly hit another motorist because a person felt it necessary to ride a bike.

  • Brad Parker

    No, adding bikes into the mix makes for unnecessary dangers. Where I live, you ride your bike with traffic if you want to use them on the roads. If you want to use them on the sidewalk, you are to dismount at the intersection and walk the bike across. There are at least four occasions that I have been forced into the oncoming lane and nearly hit another motorist because a person felt it necessary to ride a bike.

  • Baccar Wozat

    Let's design a street whose sidewalks don't get tons of snow shoveled onto them, so the pedestrians don't have to walk IN the street and get killed by passing cars.

  • Terry Oelmann

    Also if there are bike paths near the road ways, bicyclist should be required to use them! So often I ran across bicycles obstructing traffic when two - four feet away there is a PAVED bike way! I'm a recreation cyclist and love the bike ways, but fed up with my tax dollars being WASTED on people who think it is there god given right to do as they please! Yes it is legal to do that, but your a dick for doing so!

  • Jongo Gurmola

    I'm sorry, but often bicycle lanes are built as afterthoughts; this means that they're often situated in the door zone of on-street parked cars or they accumulate debris from street-sweeping, or even suffer potholes and other damage that is rarely repaired. For segregated lanes and paths, pedestrians will often blithely wander around where they shouldn't be.

    I will take the street when these issues exist.

  • This is great and all but let's not forget the fact that so many cyclists refuse to take responsibility for themselves as a "vehicle," subject to most of the same traffic laws as cars. I can't even tell you how many cyclists I've seen endangering themselves or pedestrians by blowing through red lights or stop signs without stopping. I've almost hit a cyclist while driving and almost been hit as a pedestrian in a crosswalk - both times the cyclist had a red light that they completely ignored. So before we go blaming it all on cars and the need for more bike protection, let's also take a look at the apparent sense of entitlement that many urban bikers adopt, and the need for stronger enforcement of their compliance with traffic laws.

  • While true, this is also quite true for the cars & pedestrians. There are horrible variants of everyone above ground. Almost hit a pedestrian last night when the light turned green, me and a taxi started going, and THAT'S when some guys with headphones jammed in his school decided to cross the street.

    He honked, I yelled & rang my bell, he looked bewildered and confused. The taxi drive & I shared a head-shaking glance.