Protected bicycle intersection designations

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Protected bicycle intersection designations are policies that restrict the physical design of intersections along with traffic lights to protect cyclists from moving cars. Most existing policies include a set of requirements for corner refuge island (a curb extension at the intersection for bicyclists), forward stop bar (a line far ahead than motor vehicles waiting line for cyclists), setback bicycle crossing ( bike lanes bend away from intersections), and bicycle friendly signal phasing (using red signals to prevent cars from turning or all movements while allowing bicycles to go through, or providing a head-start green light for bicyclists). These policies (learn more from: aim to improve the visibility of travelers at the intersections, indicating right-of-way clearly, slowing cars speed, and provide enough space between bicyclists and motors to avoid conflicts between different travel modes. The policies of protected bicycle intersection designations are popular in European countries like Netherlands, where bicycling is a more common travel mode. They are not adopted broadly in the U.S., but they are spreading fast[1]. There are four cities in America that qualify as protected intersections by December 2015, including Salt Lake City, Austin, Davis and Boston[2].



Conceptual Example

A state desires to improve the current safety conditions at intersections for bicyclists in order to encourage more residents to bike as an alternative way to travel. When more safety and convenience is provided for cyclists, more people will travel by bikes, and this can eventually improve the air quality as well as the congestion situations of the state. To reach these goals, the state shall examine the locations where there’s a great demand for protected intersections. These are places with a high rate of conflicts between bicycles and motors. Then the state determines which designation policies to use, including setting corner refuge island, forwarding stop bar, setting back bicycle crossing, and implementing bicycle friendly signals ( learn more at: ). After a period of time of application of these policies, the state can examine whether this designation effectively improves bicyclists’ safety by reducing the accidents of cyclists’ crashes at intersections, without intervention of regular motors’ flow. Then some amendments may be made according to the results.

Specific Example

The Salt Lake City in Utah is one of the leading cities in the United States that adopted protected bicycle intersection designations. This was included in the 200 West Improvement Project[3]. This project aims to maintain public infrastructure, and improve business activities as well as residents living conditions. It included removed parking area which set a barrier between cyclists and moving vehicles. As early as 2004, the city has prioritized 200 West for pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, and updated it in 2014. The city spent 2 years of planning and outreach including 5 rounds of canvassing and conversations with residents and businesses. The construction then started on August 2, 2015, and completed in October, 2015. The improvements include the forward stop bar ( a stop line for bicyclists far ahead than motor vehicles' waiting line ), the corner safety island ( a curb extension to keep cyclists away from moving vehicles at intersections ), and the setback bicycle crossing ( bike lanes bend far away from motor vehicles at intersections) . The improvements to 200 West now extend from North Temple to 900 South.



Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:

  1. Negative travel impact on the flow and speed of motor vehicles due to a lower velocity when turning because of the corner refuge island, and also a longer waiting time for cars to provide a head-start for cyclists. A right turn lane for vehicles may be removed for bike lanes, which reduces the speed even more. Big trucks are also difficult to make a turn due to the refuge island.
  2. Reduction of spaces for other public facilities (benches, trash bins, lights) on the places dedicated to protected intersection areas.
  3. Increased number of conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians because of more bicycles on the road.
  4. Reduction in number of riderships on public transportations like bus.
  5. Inconvenience for people who get off their cars at parking area to load goods or go to their destinations due to the shifted bike lanes.
Compatibility Assessment

Compatibility Assessment.png

If answered yes, the following questions indicate superior conditions under which the policy is more likely to be appropriate:

  1. Are the residents suffering from traffic congestions and looking for alternative ways of travel?
  2. Is there a demand for increased bicycle infrastructure?
  3. Is there a priority for bicyclists and pedestrians in the current community?
  4. Is there a goal of raising environmental awareness and establishing sustainable infrastructure?
  5. Is there a significant amount of conflicts due to accidents between cars and bicycles?
  6. Would the implementation of a protected bicycle lane be likely to reduce accidents and/or increase bicycle ridership?


Assuming that a jurisdiction has decided to adopt the policy, the following questions will need to be answered when determining how to implement this policy:

  1. What types of designations should be used in adopting this policy?
    1. Nick Falbo, a member of "Alta Planning + Design" provides four main ways of design[4].
      1. Corner refuge island: a barrier separates bicyclist with moving vehicles.
      2. Forward stop bar: ensures motor driver's clear vision of bicyclists at intersections, also providing cyclists ahead of time when crossing intersections.
      3. Setback bicycle crossing: one car length setback for enough reacting space for motors when approaching the intersections.
      4. Bicycle friendly signal phasing
  2. What types of maintenance is needed for protected intersections?
    1. Requires specialized sweeping and snow removal (if applicable) practices to keep clear of snow and debris.
    2. Needs the repaint of signages and markings annually.
    3. Needs reinforcement of corner refuge island every few years.
  3. What types of signal phasing modes should be used?
    1. Falbo advocated dedicated bike signals to prevent all cars from moving when cyclists are going through, or giving a head-start green light for cyclists.
      1. None of the leading cities (Davis, Austin, Salt Lake City, Boston) has included dedicated bike signals or dedicated and leading phase for cyclists.[5]
  4. How to monitor the process and examine the effectiveness of protected bicycle intersections?
    1. Portland State University established a $250,000 project, putting people in virtual street to test where protected intersections are needed. The goal is to use this data to show the demand for protected intersections.[6]
  5. Is there a sufficient demand to justify the cost of implementing protected bicycle intersections?
    1. Protected intersections require more work and design than normal bike lanes. This barrier may prevent the widespread of protected intersections for many protected bike lanes are considered as low cost tactical urban projects.[7]












  • Influence of Bike Lane Buffer Types on Perceived Comfort and Safety of Bicyclists and Potential Bicyclists. McNeil, N., Monsere, C. M., & Dill, J. (2015). Influence of Bike Lane Buffer Types on Perceived Comfort and Safety of Bicyclists and Potential Bicyclists. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (2520), 132-142. This article examines data from bicyclists and potential bicyclists to see the effectiveness of physical buffer zone comforting the cyclists.
  • Bikeway Networks: A Review of Effects on Cycling . Buehler, R., & Dill, J. (2016). Bikeway networks: A review of effects on cycling. Transport Reviews, 36(1), 9-27. The article is about examining the level of cycling as an effect of bikeway network constructions.
  • User Behavior and Perceptions at Intersections with Turning and Mixing Zones on Protected Bike Lanes . Monsere, C. M., Foster, N., Dill, J., & McNeil, N. (2015). User Behavior and Perceptions at Intersections with Turning and Mixing Zones on Protected Bike Lanes. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (2520), 112-122. This article evaluates bicycle user's behaviors at intersections in different design modes.
  • Effect of Bicycles on Capacity of Signalized Intersections . D. Allen, Joseph Hummer, Nagui Rouphail, and Joseph Milazzo, II. (2014). Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board 1998 1646:, 87-95. Through the videotaping of intersections in Davis, California, and Gainesville, Florida, a relationship was determined between bicycle volumes and the percent of the green phase during which bicycle traffic occupies a conflict zone between bicycles and right-turning motor vehicles.


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