Boston expert design

Here’s a video of the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and St. Mary Street, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, an example of the design expertise which earns Boston its place with the League of American Bicyclists as a Bicycle Friendly City.

The video is from 2013. As of 2016, one change has been made: the zigzag in the bike lane has been replaced by a diagonal transition.

The idea that cyclists should turn across in front of multiple lines of motor vehicles to change lane position is not unique to this location. Here’s another example, and it is by no means the only other one:

I have a blog post in connection with that video too.

6 responses to “Boston expert design

  1. Seems that to have a safer bike box, one would have to have a countdown timer, similar to that provided to pedestrians, that tells the cyclist how long it will be before the light changes for motor traffic.

    • That is one approach, as described in early US descriptions of the bike box, and particularly in the Bicycle Safety Related Research Synthesis, published by the Federal Highway Administration and unfortunately no longer available online. James Mackay, former Denver bicycle coordinator and participant in a scan tour to Europe, describes this approach among others as implemented in Europe.

  2. All the problems described are due to the bike lanes – not the bike box itself. (though the box is too short). It is good to be able to position youself ahead of other vehicles at a red light so the drivers are aware of you when you move off. Filtering through queuing traffic is fine so long as it is done with care (not blindly as the cycle lane encourages). You need to position yourself so that you enter the junction between diverging lanes of traffic, rather than across conflicting lanes) ie almost never where the bike lane is unless you are turning right or there is no right turn option. Merge back into the traffic lane when you see the lights change.

    • Correct, it is best to enter the junction between diverging streams of traffic — or in one of those streams. However, the bike box lures people to use the bike lane. Swerving across in front of motor vehicles is a problem with the bike box if a bike lane approaches it, because, by definition, the bicyclist is not then in the same lane as motor traffic. Positioning oneself ahead of other vehicles at the red light is perilous if it requires the swerve, and may yet be if it does not, because the bicyclist may overtake a driver who has not noticed him or her in time to avoid a conflict. You are assuming that nobody ever turns from the wrong lane. I find it safer to wait in the stream of traffic where the driver waiting behind me has to have seen me.

  3. It’s hard to see how bad an idea is when it’s your job to put the idea into practice (and get rewarded by the LAB in the process).
    Tempe launches “bicycle box” project to boost safety
    The State Press

    The City of Tempe is making an effort to increase biker safety with the installation of its first “bicycle box” at the intersection of Mill Avenue and Tenth Street. The bicycle box is a new section of the road recently implemented at the end of September near the ASU Tempe campus. The box which is painted on the road with fluorescent green, is connected to the bike lane near the crosswalk, allowing for riders to pull ahead of cars and increase biker safety.

    -> Last week, US DOT issued interim approval for bike boxes ( ), a treatment that positions cyclists ahead of cars at intersections. Dozens of American cities currently use bike boxes and the federal government is now satisfied enough by the results to conclude that they lead to “reductions in conflicts between bikes and turning drivers” and less crosswalk encroachment by both drivers and cyclists. Cities installing bike boxes will still have to submit a request for “interim approval” to the Federal Highway Administration until a final rule is adopted, but now bike boxes will be perceived as less risky by transportation engineers.

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