James Mackay is a practicing traffic engineer who participated in a summer 2009 scan tour of European bicycle facilities. He is a member of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices Bicycle Technical Committee (NCUTCD BTC). His comments on European vs. US bike box implementations are published here with his permission:
Bicycle advance stop line implementations I saw in Europe amounted to a five-legged stool, with resultant stability and functionality.
I get very concerned with American implementations that amount to a two-legged stool.
Proposals I see over here lack the individual contribution and resultant system stability of the sum of following five factors which provides a functional system over there:
- Near-side-only signals, which greatly reduced motorist encroachment on bike boxes and pedestrian crosswalks;
- Traffic signals that provide an advance red/yellow phase indicating that a green indication is imminent;
- Trixi mirrors (convex, internally heated mirrors placed on the near side signal pole, directly beneath the motorist’s traffic signal);
- Right Turn on Red “RTOR” -or the UK equivalent of LTOR – does not exist in these countries (serving to preclude operational conflicts), and;
- Cell phones are not to be used while driving.
Overall the bike boxes were used in cultures with much higher numbers of bicyclists. A motorist in the countries we visited would be much more likely to see a bicyclist using a bike box. This would specifically include truck drivers.
I don’t recall seeing traffic enforcement in the scan tour countries. Seemingly, there was a much stronger social contract in effect. In particular, bicyclist compliance with signals and other traffic control devices was much higher than what we are used to seeing in the U.S.
James Mackay, P.E.
Secretary (Emeritus as of January, 2011), Bicycle Technical Committee, NCUTCD