City Finds Bike Boxes May Actually Increase Crashes

by Sarah Mirk : portlandmercury – excerpt

One of the biggest safety problems for bikes and cars sharing the road is right hooks—drivers turning right crashing into cyclists, especially at busy intersections. Since 2008, Portland has tried to stop right hooks by painting green “bike boxes” at 11 problem intersections.

But do the boxes actually make cyclists safer? Just this year, Portlander Kathryn Rickson was killed at an intersection with a bike box on SW 3rd and Madison and many people have complained that the bike box on NE Couch is still a right hook zone. A 2010 study found that the bike boxes make cyclists and drivers feel safer at the intersections, but we’ve never had hard data on whether the boxes actually reduce the number of crashes.

Until now. Yesterday, the city released a depressing letter (PDF) to the Federal Highway Administration that shows the bike boxes may have actually doubled the number of crashes.

In the four years leading up the installation of the bike boxes, there were 16 right hook crashes at the problem intersections involving bikes. In the four years since their installation, the intersections had 32 right hook crashes involving bikes.

The vast majority of the new crashes—81 percent—occurred at just four of the eleven intersections, at SW 3rd and Madison, SE 7th and Hawthorne, SE 11th and Hawthorne, and NW Everett and 16th. At the other seven intersections, right hook crashes slightly declined.

What appears to be leading to the new crashes in that people are biking through the intersection faster, overtaking cars that are turning right. While the bike boxes have been good at stopping right hooks when both the car and bike are starting up from being stopped at a light, 88 percent of the crashes happened at a “stale” green—not from a dead-stop but from a turning car striking a cyclist who’s in motion, pedaling down the block and through a green-lit intersection. That’s the kind of crash that killed Rickson this spring… (more)

If you read the comments you will see that there are a lot of different attitudes about this among the cyclists. This is a good time to stop the street changes while the issue is reviewed and other ideas are considered that are less costly and less disruptive. That is if you want to solve the problem of making biking safer instead of forcing people onto bikes.


San Francisco police concerned about new bike lane confusion

By David Stevenson : ktvu – excerpt


More and more people are using two wheels instead of four to get around in San Francisco, but authorities expressed some concern Thursday that confusion by drivers over brightly colored new bike lanes could lead to accidents endangering cyclists.

San Francisco bicyclists are increasingly claiming their share of the city’s roads. Cycling increased 96 percent between 2006 and 2013. The city boasts a network of 215 miles of bicycle lanes and shared-use paths, aimed at enabling more people to get out of their cars and onto two-wheel transportation.

But police on Thursday told KTVU the growth of new designated bike lanes is sparking concerns about the interaction between cyclists and motorists at intersections.

Specifically there is concern that confused or careless drivers attempting right turns are cutting off cyclists.

“There’s a lot of confusion as to how to properly negotiate certain segments of the roadway,” said San Francisco Police Commander Mikail Ali. “Cars making right hand turns at intersections is probably one of the number one sources of conflict between motorists and bicyclists.”

Ali said many drivers don’t realize they must merge into the bike lanes to make right turns. The key, he said, is to use the broken lines in the bike lanes as the cue to “take” the lane- while keeping an eye out for bicyclists.

Cyclists can either stay behind the car in their lane or pass on the left.

“Signalling is a huge component,” said Ali. “The idea there is to simply avoid the potential collisions that have occurred, in some cases fatal, where a car’s making a right-hand turn in almost a button-hook fashion.”

It’s the kind of turn that Ali blames in part for the death of 24 year-old Amelie Le Moullac, killed last August by a truck turning a corner at Folsom and Sixth streets. Four bicyclists were killed in collisions with vehicles in 2013. One has died so far this year.

On Market Street in the city’s Financial District, cyclists said reckless right turns by motorists are a daily danger.

“I’ve pretty much learned to just swerve to the left when it happens,” said Stephanie Koehler. “Like, use my instincts as fast as I can to get out of their way.”… (more)

At Safe Streets Rally, SFPD Blocks Bike Lane to Make Point of Victim-Blaming

by Aaron Bialick : sf.streetsblog – excerpt



Turning right safely. Right hook accidents happen when right turning cars don’t merge into the far right lane before turning right. All right turning vehicles are supposed to merge to the far right, whether there is a bike lane of not. The officer was trying to point that out.

San Francisco Police Sergeant Richard Ernst apparently decided that the best way to make Folsom Street safer was to purposefully park his car in the bike lane this morning and force bicycle commuters into motor traffic.
Staff from the SF Bicycle Coalition were out at Folsom and Sixth Streets, handing out flyers calling for safety improvements on SoMa’s freeway-like streets in the wake of the death of Amelie Le Moullac, who was run over at the intersection last week by a truck driver who appeared to have made an illegal right-turn across the bike lane on to Sixth.
When Ernst arrived on the scene, he didn’t express sympathy for Le Moullac and other victims, or show support for safety improvements. Instead, he illegally parked his cruiser in the bike lane next to an empty parking space for up to 10 minutes, stating that he wanted to send a message to people on bicycles that the onus was on them to pass to the left of right-turning cars. He reportedly made no mention of widespread violations by drivers who turn across bike lanes instead of merging fully into them…

As KRON’s Stanley Roberts and Streetsblog explained yesterday, few drivers seem to understand how to properly make a right-turn in a bike lane — they’re required to merge fully into it, like any other traffic lane, while yielding to people on bikes. Instead, many drivers turn across the bike lane, setting up bicycle riders for a “right hook” crash.
Right hooks were the causes of death for Le Moullac and Dylan Mitchell while they were biking this year. The third victim, Diana Sullivan, was reportedly run over while stopped at a red light at Third and King Str Add Polleets. None of the truck drivers involved have been cited or charged… (more)

Instead of jumping on the officer and assuming he is  wrong, the Bike safety people should take the lead and educate folks on the proper way to share the road.


SFMTA needs to educate the public about merging right turn lanes with bike lanes

Posted by concerned cyclist :

SFMTA needs to spend some of their PR funds on educating the public on the proper ways to merge right turning traffic with bike lanes at intersections. They also need to re-stripe the bike lanes and post signs so that motorists and cyclists know that right turning cars and cycles are supposed to merge as they approach an intersection. Cyclists should either queue up behind right-turning cars, or pass them on the left, (NEVER ON THE RIGHT) when it is safe to do so. There are plenty of signs indicating bus and right turn only lanes, but no signs indicating the same for bike lanes. Most people are probably unaware of Vehicle code section 21717.

Vehicle code section 21717 obligates cars to merge into bike lanes when making right turns in the presence of a bike lane. Unfortunately, most drivers do not know this, and try to avoid the bike lanes entirely, which results in them crossing the bike lanes to makes their turns at the last possible moment. Often their right turn signal is either missed or ignored by the cyclists who is passing on the right on their car without regard to their intention to turn right into the intersection, crossing the bike lane.

Drivers violate VC 21717 by right-hooking the bike lane instead of mixing and merging. They mistakenly believe they are forbidden to merge into the bike lane (despite the dashed lane marking near intersections). Uninformed cyclists exacerbate the problem by squeezing between the car and the curb even when the car is doing the right thing. Some cyclists verbally abuse drivers in the bike lane near intersections when drivers are merging as required by law.

The Bicycle Coalition, in its taxi-driver training class, tells the cabbies that “If a cyclist can fit between your cab and the curb, you’re not close enough.” Everyone needs to get this message.