The Six-Way in Rush Hour

Here’s another video showing conditions at the six-way intersection of 16th Street, U Street and New Hampshire Avenue NW in Washington, DC, where special bicycle facilities have been installed.

Also please see my earlier post about this intersection, with another embedded video.

3 responses to “The Six-Way in Rush Hour

  1. Given the dangerous nature of bike boxes, I guess it could be regarded as a good thing that cyclists ignore them, but now I see the reality of the situation, it’s not so clear cut. It would be nice if more than two of the video’s many cyclists adhered to some kind of rule – whether it’s standard traffic code or the rules of the new infrastructure. Chaos is frightening to watch, and it’s a miracle more cyclists aren’t killed or seriously injured when many of them seem to have no clue as to how to act on the road.

    • It only appears to be chaos. There’s actually a pattern to it.
      The cyclists ride in the oncoming lane rather than the contraflow lane because it allows them to see the traffic signal for U-street and make a decision on the fly. If the signal is green, they continue straight cross 16th to the NW corner. If it is red, they swoop to the left and cross U to the SE corner. Basically, they take the path that allows them to keep moving the longest. Essentially, it’s an opportunistic flow pattern, related to the traffic signal phases, just not legally or in the manner intended by the facility design.

      As for the bike box and the special bike signal:
      The bike box is WAY too small. It places the cyclists right on the front bumper of the cars. The bike signal is so short that it’s often changing to red just as you’re turning to face forward in the bike box. In the meantime, motorists have seen the traffic stop on U street and begin drifting forward in anticipation of a green light. There’s just no leeway for that. I made numerous passes through the intersection and the moving encroachment happen several times as I was approaching the bike box during the bike signal phase. The worst involved a transit bus that scared the crap out of me, causing me to veer completely into the crosswalk to avoid getting squished. (I was wearing a camera and John has that video too, I look forward to seeing what he does with those POV passes.)

      Overall, I think the intent of the facility (to accommodate a thru route on New Hampshire, which makes sense for bicyclists) is good. The execution is lousy (and I’m being charitable). Whether or not good design would result in a higher rate of compliance is unknown. Based on the bicycling behavior I observed in D.C., I doubt it.

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