Why colored crossings work: A call for paint on SF’s Market Street

August 19, 2013

Michael Andersen


Intersections are the trickiest part of good protected bike lane designs, and in a post last week, I Love Biking SF shows exactly why colored paint can help.

The site digs into the issue by examining the intersection in the photo above. It's Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, the most dangerous in the city. As the author writes, people in cars too often ignore the no-right-turn sign and concrete island, leading them to turn right in front of people on bikes or foot. (Thanks in part to a grant from our parent organization, PeopleForBikes, this intersection now has colored "super sharrows." However, I Love Biking SF argues that this isn't effective enough.)

Then the author, Chris, shares this Google image of a similarly broad intersection in Copenhagen, at H.C. Andersons Boulevard and Vester Farimagsgade:



Chris follows up with another Google Maps image of a two-way protected bike lane in Vancouver, BC:


Chris describes these markings as a natural extension of the crosswalk:

"Bicyclists are as vulnerable as pedestrians and pedestrians get crosswalks, but I don’t see why bicyclists do not get their own 'crossbikes'? Even better if crossbikes come with their own traffic lights, but that is wishful thinking."

Wishful thinking? Hopefully not. Chicago's Dearborn Avenue bike lane makes excellent use of bike-specific traffic signals, and there's no reason more protected bike lanes in the States — maybe including Market Street itself — can't begin to do the same.

As Memphis chief engineer John Cameron told us in an interview this month, bringing protected bike lanes to more U.S. cities will require "some time for both motorists and bicyclists to get used to this new concept." But looking at the difference among these images, I think it's obvious that fairly simple paint treatments can be part of this, helping people using both cars and bikes to intuitively understand not just that an intersection is asking them to proceed with caution, but why.

Green lane idea of the day: Green paint and other colored treatments create intuitive cues for people at intersections to be aware of other road users.

Images are from Google Street View, captured by I Love Biking SF.

See all Green Lanes blog entries

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