Protected Bike Lanes: Intersections and Driveways
Protected bike lanes will increase the comfort and safety of cyclists and other road users, but they should be designed properly at intersections to avoid safety issues. All road users will need to be more aware of each other at these intersections. The potential safety issues raised at intersections by separating bike and vehicular traffic, particularly on busy streets, are outweighed by the increased levels of safety overall.
Intersections can be made safer for all road users with a few simple design elements:
Left Turns- Bike Boxes and Launch Pads
Cyclists can turn left from a separated bike lane by continuing straight through an intersection to a bike box, or launch pad, where they can wait to cross the intersection. This way cyclists do not need to wait in moving traffic to make a potentially dangerous left turn, and car traffic does not need to wait for cyclists to clear the intersection. Bike boxes are already being installed in many areas of Toronto.
On sections of bike lanes with bike boxes, cyclists can also enter the bike box, move to the far left side of the box, and wait to go through the intersection. Here, the physical separation between the bike lane and car lanes would be dropped in advance of the intersection.
Right Turns- Separate Signals and Visible Lanes
Right turning cars might be less aware of the presence of cyclists when the two are separated, which creates a risk of collisions. To minimize this risk, all road users should be made more aware of each other at intersections. Like the zebra striped pedestrian crossings at busy intersections, clearly marking bike lanes at intersections can reduce the risk of collisions and injuries. ALTA planning recommends colouring the lane 5 metres before an intersection, to increase the visibility of cyclists for drivers and also indicate to cyclists where they should be on the road.
Separated bike lane in Vancouver with clear, bold intersection marking. Photo: Alexander Pope
Photo: Kyle Gradinger
Separate signals for bicycles are another way to reduce potential conflict at intersections. Cyclists and pedestrians are given a protected signal phase for crossing. Right turns by vehicles are prohibited, allowing cyclists and pedestrians to clear the intersection safely. The signal could be bicyclist actuated, so that it would only run when cyclists are present.
Clearly marked cycle path crossing a driveway. Photo: Cycle*Dallas
On streets with driveways, the physical barrier of the bike lane can be dropped at driveways, but other design elements like grade separation and markings should be continued. Protected lanes would not introduce any unique conflicts from standard, un-separated bike lanes. For drivers, the cycle track would be no different from where sidewalks cross driveways. Drivers would be responsible for making sure the path was clear as they exit or enter the driveway. For cyclists’ safety, the cycle track could maintain priority at driveways.