In September 2018, the New York City Department of Transportation and Vision Zero released a report titled “Cycling at a Crossroads: The Design Future of New York City Intersections.” Focusing on protected bike lane intersections, this report highlights ways that intersections serving motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians operate. It provides a comprehensive look into the city’s future urban planning operations.
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Cycling at a Crossroads: An Overview
“Cycling at a Crossroads” acknowledges that the growing network of cyclists in New York City presents significant design challenges for the city government. According to commissioner Polly Trottenberg, the number of cyclists killed in accidents has increased over the past several years, while other traffic fatalities have decreased.
The study attempts to find solutions to this issue by examining various intersection designs using three research lenses and associated methodology:
- Conflicts: Examining video footage of cyclists and drivers, their turning behaviors, and the conflicts that arise.
- Comfort: Administering a survey to cyclists to assess comfort and intersection understanding.
- Safety: Evaluating accidents that involved bicycles in protected bike lanes (PBLs).
The study focused on four types of PBL intersections:
- Mixing zone: The removal of street parking at this intersection increases bike lane visibility to turning cars. Yield signs and other markings guide cars to the shared intersection, where cyclists and drivers can communicate with each other.
- Fully split phase: A dedicated turn lane is next to a bike lane. Cars turn through the bike lane when a green arrow signals a turn and a red bike signal requires cyclists to stop.
- Delayed turn: A green turn signal gives cyclists a 10-second head start to turn. After this cyclist signal, drivers can turn while yielding to a yellow arrow, increasing visibility to pedestrians and cyclists.
- Offset crossing: The intersection has a tight radius designed to slow down vehicles and deflect the bike lane. This provides adequate queue space and ample reaction time to brake and yield if necessary.
By examining safety, comfort, and conflicts in PBL intersections, reviewing video footage, examining accident reports, and surveying cyclists, this study found the following to be true:
- Mixing zones reduced cyclist-vehicle collisions by 27%, making them the safest and most efficient way to allow cars to turn across a PBL.
- Lengthy delays experienced in the fully split phase can encourage risky behaviors from cyclists, such as running red lights. This makes cyclists susceptible to collisions. City planners should prioritize the fully split phase at wide intersections and two-way cross streets.
- The delayed turn intersection is like the mixing zone and has the lowest conflict rate but requires further conflict study.
- Offset crossing has the highest levels of cyclist comfort, but bicyclists yield frequently to cars due to decreased reaction time. The report recommends further study into a modified design.
Recommendations to Protect NYC Cyclists, Drivers, and Pedestrians
The report issued the following recommendations to increase intersection safety for cyclists and motor vehicle drivers sharing the road:
- Update intersection designs based on the study’s findings.
- Install and evaluate pilot tests along intersections requiring further study.
- Continue to upgrade 20 key cycling intersections.
- Update educational resources for cyclists and drivers on these intersections.
New York City hopes to implement these recommendations into future intersection designs, hopefully reducing the number of cyclist-vehicle collisions in the city.
Safeguards that our city puts into place do not always work; they merely reduce the possibility of an accident, not end them altogether. Accidents involving pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicles happen every day, sometimes with devastating results.
If you or a loved one was involved in a bicycle or pedestrian accident, you need a skilled personal injury attorney by your side to help guide you through the legal process. Contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff, LLP, today to schedule a free consultation at our New York City offices. Let us handle your case so you and your family can recuperate today.