Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bike boxes: if they work, we want them

Three children have hammered my bike commuting habits, but I'll be back one day. In the days when I did commute, I learned the hard way to beware the driver turning right. I was hit at least once in my youth; drivers simply don't see bicyclists waiting by the right curb at a stop light.

The trick was to get out in front. For me that was to the left side of the right lane - nudging into the pedestrian crosswalk. Cars could turn to my right, but I was blocking the front. When the light changed I pulled out fast and then went right, so they could pass me -- but they couldn't avoid seeing me and there was no way to turn right into me.

In Portland two bicyclists died recently, supposedly because they didn't follow that practice (though I find it hard to believe a racer wouldn't do that, so maybe there was more to that story). Now Portland has changed intersections to ensure bicyclists take a visible position:
Portland, Ore., Acts to Protect Cyclists - New York Times:

... By allowing cyclists to wait in front of motorized traffic, the bike boxes are intended chiefly to reduce the risk of “right hook” collisions, the kind most frequently reported in Portland, in which a driver makes a right turn without seeing a cyclist who is in his path. Drivers will not be allowed to pass through the bike box to turn right on a red light, although many right hooks now occur after the light has turned green, when traffic quickly accelerates.

Right hooks were what killed the two cyclists in October, a college student and a bike racer hit by large trucks. The drivers say they did not see them...
I'm not sure how that will work -- drivers will be irritated if they can't turn right. An irritated driver is a dangerous driver. If the experiment does work I hope we adopt it in the Twin Cities.

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