Friday, January 10, 2014

Bike signals recognized by Federal Highway officials

Traffic signals that are specific to bicycles have been approved by the Federal Highway Administration and are now part of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the sign/signal bible for traffic engineers.
Bike signal on Custis Trail
at Oak St - Google Maps

If you've ridden the Custis Trail in Rosslyn you may have seen bike signals at the intersection of Lee Hwy and Oak St. If you click on the image on the right from Google Maps street view you can just make out the symbol of a bike in the small traffic signal above the ped hand signal.

The ped and bike signals have different timing. The bike signal stays illuminated longer because it takes less time for a cyclist to cross the intersection than it takes a pedestrian, one of the many ways in which pedestrians and bicyclists are different.

These signals can now be used without the need for special permission from FHWA. From the Streetsblog post Bike Signals Get the Green Light From Engineering Establishment:
The decision should lead to more widespread use of bike signals, which can be used to reduce conflicts between people on bikes and turning drivers, give cyclists a head start at intersections, or create a separate phase entirely for bicycle traffic. They are often used in tandem with protected bike lanes.

Prior to the Christmas Eve vote by the committee that updates the MUTCD, bike signals were considered “experimental.” Communities seeking to install them first had to fund expensive engineering studies.

But no longer. In a memo regarding the approval, Federal Highway Administration officials noted that bike signals have been shown to improve safety outcomes as well as compliance with traffic rules by cyclists. Crash rates involving cyclists have been reduced as much as 45 percent following the installation of bike signals, FHWA reports.
Hat tip to GreaterGreaterWashington.

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