When the marketing department plays traffic engineer

The photo shows “Cycle Lane” raised barriers, from the company Traffic Logix, on Long Island, New York, USA.

Traffic Logix Cycle Lane raised barrier

Traffic Logix Cycle Lane raised barrier

Here’s a quote from a page on the company’s Web site promoting  the barriers.

CycleLane is a smart, safe solution that provides a visual separation between vehicle and bicycle lanes. It ensures clear separation of traffic, with a unique sloped profile to prevent vehicles from entering the bike lane. The side adjacent to the vehicle lane has a high profile while the side parallel to the bike lane has a lower profile to divert bicyclists away from traffic and back into the bike lane.

Whoever wrote this evidently is not familiar with the physical concepts of center of mass or coefficient of friction. This device is a tripping hazard. A bicyclist who strays into it will not divert away from traffic, but instead will topple over into the next lane. There also is the possibility of a stopping-type incident with over-the-handlebars ejection when a bicyclist’s front wheel strikes the end of one of these barriers.

The barriers also are shown so tightly spaced that a bicyclist cannot merge into or out of the bike lane.

For these reasons, the US Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, section 9C.02 says the following:

10 Posts or raised pavement markers should not be used to separate bicycle lanes from adjacent travel lanes.

Support:

11 Using raised devices creates a collision potential for bicyclists by placing fixed objects immediately adjacent to the travel path of the bicyclist. In addition, raised devices can prevent vehicles turning right from merging with the bicycle lane, which is the preferred method for making the right turn. Raised devices used to define a bicycle lane can also cause problems in cleaning and maintaining the bicycle lane.

The product is almost beyond belief; its design leaves the manufacturer wide open to liability lawsuits when bicyclists are injured or killed. The promotion could place frosting on that ugly cake, with claims of false advertising.

Still, this is only the most extreme example I’ve seen of ill-conceived, or at best, untested and unproven, marketing-driven purported safety measures targeted toward bicyclists. Some, like this one, are products, but others are design treatments which create the perception of safety without necessarily increasing actual safety.

Enough.

11 Responses to When the marketing department plays traffic engineer

  1. You quote the “should not” language in the federal MUTCD. California’s version of the MUTCD 9C.04 has stronger “shall not” (legally mandatory) language:

    “Standard:

    Raised barriers (e.g., raised traffic bars and asphalt concrete dikes) or raised pavement markers shall not be used to delineate bike lanes on Class II Bikeways (Bike Lane).

    Support:

    Raised barriers prevent motorists from merging into bike lanes before making right turns, as required by the CVC, and restrict the movement of bicyclists desiring to enter or exit bike lanes.

    They also impede routine maintenance. Raised pavement markers increase the difficulty for bicyclists when entering or exiting bike lanes, and discourage motorists from merging into bike lanes before making right turns.”

  2. This is the first time I have heard of diversion falls being marketed as a good idea. We work so hard to eliminate lip paving of shoulders, and here is something being marketed which accomplishes the same thing. Here is something interesting on their site:

    http://www.trafficlogix.com/about.asp

    “…Traffic Logix manufactures a full line of traffic calming products, all of which meet ITE (Institute of Transportation Engineers) safety specifications. We are the only company in North America that offers a complete toolbox of traffic calming devices and products…”

    So does anyone know who the transportation engineer was who signed off on this disaster?

  3. It also appears the bicyclist is riding the wrong way, i.e., into traffic.

    • There is another bike lane also equipped with the barriers on the far side of the street, the truck in the distant background behind the cyclist appears to be facing the same way, and the traffic light overhead appears to be facing away from the camera, so I think that this is a two-way street and the cyclist is riding with traffic. Oddly, though, there are only white, dashed lane markings on this 3-lane street. You can click on the image to see it with as much detail as I was able to capture off the Web.

  4. Nothing, and I mean nothing, surprises me anymore when it comes to bicycle facility design. When landscape architects design playgrounds in the streets, bad things happen.

  5. Those things make Botts Dots look pretty friendly!

  6. I wonder if anyone in the company has actually tried riding into these features at a shallow angle.

  7. The car license plates are not US sized, thus different lane markings. The whole thing shows how most in the traffic business are there for the money. New alterations in geometry and lanes are just more profit for designers, consultants, and builders. They love trying new things!

  8. @Markk02474

    Another factor feeding the demand for such design “features” — allowing even for disregard of the laws of physics in this case — is what I would call “segregation hysteria” — the idea that separation between motor vehicles and bicycles is what achieves safety.

    Nice catch about the license plates. I just now also noticed the block pavers in the bike lane, which would be very unusual in the USA or for that matter, Canada.

  9. Ah, segregation! I mostly see elitist, anti-egalitarian thinking for HOV carpool lanes, express-bus lanes, RFID Easy-Pass tolls, and carpool parking. That bicyclist separation is no more protection than flush median refuges are for pedestrians! Calling it a “barrier” isn’t even an illusion of safety.

    The traffic light attachment is also unlike any in the US. If you look at the rubber on the nearest pavement, it looks like an oncoming vehicle lane was removed to make room for the two bike lanes, thus no longer two lanes each way.

  10. What if a car hits the bollards fast ?
    It’s not just cyclists that suffer.

    http://youtu.be/ycnrRB-lqFs
    In London, England, UK, there was a brief experiment with bell or pyramid shaped bollards to enforce a width/speed restriction. Within days a car hit them with sufficient speed to flip the car onto its side. For the next month cranes had to be called-out regularly to rescue cars that found themselves perched on top of the bollards. The scheme was silly in other ways and has since been completely removed.

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