A number of North American and European cities are introducing protected bike lanes, but they do little to help cyclists navigate through dangerous intersections. A proposal for a "protected intersection" could change that.
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No doubt, protected bike lanes are great. But their buffers disappear at intersections, significantly reducing the comfort and safety of cyclists. To overcome this, researchers at George Mason University have proposed a system in which intersections would be equipped with four main elements:
- A corner refuge island: This island would bring the protective barrier from the bike lane far into the intersection. It's like a curb extension for bicyclists. The island physically separates bicyclists as they make right turns, and provide a secure refuge for those waiting at a red signal protected from moving cars.
- A forward stop bar for bicyclists: This would be paired with the corner refuge island. While people driving must stop back behind the crosswalk, people on bikes may yield to pedestrians, and stop at a bicycle waiting area farther ahead in the intersection. Bicyclists turning left also use this space to wait when making a left turn. Advantages include increased the visibility of cyclists to cars waiting at a red light, a physical head start for cyclists when the light turns green, and a shorter distance to cross the street.
- A set back bike and pedestrian crossing: This intersection would have a bike lane that bends away from the intersection creating in a setback bicycle and pedestrian crossing. It would provide the space and time for everyone to react to potential conflicts. The critical dimension is one car-length of space between the traffic lane and the bicycle crossing. With this design, drivers turn 90 degrees to face the bike lane before they even cross it, making people on bikes highly visible and out of the driver's blind spot. To allow for adequate reaction time for all users, a small effective corner radius would be used to encourage a slow driver turning speed of 5-10 mph.
- Bicycle friendly signal phasing: The system would utilize smart and intuitive signals to control how and when different vehicles and pedestrians can proceed.
The system, which was put together by planner Nick Falbo, is modeled after Dutch intersection design. "With this design," he says, "riders will never feel stranded, exposed, or unsure of where to go and how to get there."