Update: By popular demand, we’ve added Long Beach as a local example of a municipality that has bike boxes.
(Ed Note: Most information on Bicycle Friendly Street treatments come from the Technical Design Handbook in the 2010 LA Bike Plan. Though we are happy to present it in bite-sized pieces, we highly recommend you download it yourself and have a good read. You can download the Technical Design Handbook here. For a refresher on what a Bicycle Friendly Street is check out our BFS tab by clicking here. You can also find previous posts on bicycle signals, signage, chicanes, round-a-bouts, loop detectors and other BFS treatments here.
We’re back with another installment in our long running series “Anatomy of a Bicycle Friendly Street.” Today, we look into the particulars of bike boxes. The bike box is designed to improve intersection safety by preventing bicycle/car collisions – especially those between motorists turning right and bicyclists going straight. It is typically used in conjunction with green colored pavement to further enhance the visual separation of bike infrastructure from vehicle travel lanes. At the recent ThinkBike L.A. workshops, the South L.A. team proposed a few bike boxes around the U.S.C campus, so we thought this would be a good opportunity to explain the treatment in more detail. More on bike boxes after the jump.
What is a bike box?
Bike boxes are designated as a non-standard treatment in the Bike Plan’s Technical Design Handbook (TDH) and is not yet an approved traffic control device in CA (San Francisco is conducting a federal study and so is Long Beach). They are applied at signalized intersections in conjunction with restricted right turns for motor vehicles. The treatment basically requires motorists at a red light to stop a few feet behind the crosswalk so that bicyclists can position themselves in front of the queue. The TDH recommends that bike boxes be 14′ deep to allow for bicycle positioning. On two-lane roadways, bike boxes can also facilitate left turn movements for bicyclists by making it easier for them to position themselves appropriately (in conjunction with advanced signaling). Below is a video developed by the City of Portland to educate residents about the merits behind bike boxes.
Advantages of bike boxes
- Helps motorists keep an eye out for bicyclists; or as Mr. Smooth would say:
if you see green, survey the scene
- Allows bicycles to move to the front of the queue while waiting for a green light
- On two-lane roadways, a bicycle box can facilitate left turning movements for bicyclists as well as through traffic
- Increases bicyclist visibility and gives them priority at intersections