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I was "surprised" and impressed to read the summary and see that it was direct. Too often, it seems as if bicycling-related research always is focused on making everything seem successful.

So the findings on the bike box were interesting. The findings don't surprise me because it's not a traditional bike box and the signal timing is so long that it's easier to go into the crosswalk. I wonder if a traditional bike box would have better results.

40% red light running.

Good analysis. I'd agree the impact on cars has been relatively minor. What this study doesn't seem to look at, however, is parking. Both cars parking in bike lanes, and the impact of the lost spots.

I won't dispute the numbers on cyclists running red lights. But I think it would be good to compare that to the number of car drivers who are running red lights. It may not be 40% but it's significant. This includes the common situation where several cars are backed up behind another car/driver waiting to make a left turn. The light turns red and the oncoming traffic stops. Then the first driver goes ahead and makes the left turn. The driver behind the 1st follows the unwritten rule that if the 1st driver was already waiting in the intersection, then the 2nd driver can piggyback on that exception to the red light rule. And then the 3rd driver figures that if the 2nd driver can ride through the red, he can too.

I see this fairly often and I know most people are familiar with this situation. (Many probably have done this themselves.) I saw this red light left-turn convoy in action just the other day. I think 4 cars total took the left turn on a full red light, simply because the 1st car was waiting in the intersection before that light turned red.

I think it's important to include theses stats on drivers in these types of reports. Otherwise, the hair trigger anti-bike folks will use those stats as a "gotcha" item and argue that no bikes should be allowed on the road because they are all scofflaws.

I usually quote a study that shows cyclists run red lights half the time, so 40% is an improvement.

I'd like to see stats on the percentage of cars that make full stops behind the white line when making right turns on red. Rolling right turns into crosswalks (on green or red, actually), with the driver looking over his or her left shoulder for traffic (instead at the people in the crosswalk) a pretty big danger in the central business district in my opinion. Since we're supposed to use the crosswalks for bike turns from the PA ave median lanes, this affects us as well as walkers.

@Michael H;

I think the difference you've got to make is bikes who stop, or at least slow down for red lights -- and those who just blow through them.

Don't forget that the timing of the lights as mentioned in the report results in "significant delays" for cyclists. Therefore they are practically inviting cyclists to perform "Idaho Reds".


Exactly. Signals on long straight stretches of road are timed solely for cars. On these roads, cars can make a succession of green lights, but cyclists may make only one or two, and eventually will get out of synch and have to stop a lot. As the survey notes, this is a major problem for the first few blocks of the Penn cycletrack starting at 3rd. Unless I really get on it, I end up waiting at just about every light on this stretch.

If I did an Idaho stop at these lights, my commute almost certainly would be no less than 5 minutes shorter. Not that 5 minutes is a lot over the course of a 60 minute commute, but it's 5 minutes of just standing and waiting for lights to turn.

As a concrete example, my commute from Capitol Hill into VA takes right about an hour and clocks in at 12 miles if I cut through downtown, which is the most direct route. If I cut down through SW, across the 14th St. bridge, and up the MVT, my commute is over 14 miles, but takes the exact same amount of time. Part of that is just typical city slowness, but mostly it's due to poorly timed lights.

I agree with JeffB -- there's blowing through a red light without stopping, then there's stopping, knowing the timing of lights and the fact that no cars are coming, then going through because the lights are not timed for bikes. Still illegal, but more about the improperly timed lights.

@Michael H - my understanding is that if a car making a turn can safely pull past the white stop line on green, but can't complete the turn because of oncoming car or ped traffic, that car can legally complete the turn on red. That applies to as many cars as can safely pull past the white stop line.

I agree that lots of cars that don't make it into the intersection on green still make use of the convoy to illegally turn left, but it's not every car that's illegal.

Side-finding of the study: Idaho stop is being practiced by 40% of cyclists in the District, and with no apparent deleterious safety effects.

Whether we can establish this as sanctioned practice isn't clear since our litigious society demands rules for the lowest common denominator.

However, there is real merit to considering it.


my understanding is ...
That is the how turns are commonly carried out but I believe actual regulation is that no vehicle shall enter an intersection unless there is sufficient clearance for them to complete the turn. In other words - no camping!

VERY glad to see signal timing called out on the east half of Pennsylvania. As for 15th, I have gotten 90% red lights before while riding down; the stretch south of Mass with lots of left-turn signals is particularly bad. Given that so much of DC has traffic lights every 500' or so (including many lightly trafficked residential areas like Capitol Hill), and given that we're getting into I'm-dripping-sweat weather, I'm beginning to really pay attention to signal timing.

Likewise, I'll echo RLL that the 16/U/NH bike box doesn't function very well. IME, it's always been faster to just cross with the crosswalks.

60% red light compliance is also much better than the 0% red light compliance that many people insist they see from cyclists! I very rarely see cyclists completely blow through lights; it's rare enough that I typically call them out ("not cool") when I do.

Another thing you really notice, especially during non-rush times, is that the light cycles are just too dang long. Cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers all made to sit and wait while no one is coming. My personal hunch is that pedestrians get the urge to jaywalk a clear street and cyclists get the urge to Idaho or go ahead of the green after about 15 seconds of pointless waiting. When you see there's still 45 seconds to go, and there's nobody coming...

I rarely Idaho lights at all when I'm in protected lanes. But I almost always try to filter up and get out in front of green when I'm in the lane. There are hazards either way, but I'd rather be up front where everybody can see me.

Even from 14th to 15th, unless I'm really hustling (and nobody else is there), I can't make it across 14th (from behind the crosswalk) in time to still have the green cycle signal to turn right onto the 15th cycletrack start at the Elipse.

BTW what is LOS? Line of Sight? TIA.

LOS = Level of Service. It's transportation engineer speak. LOS A is good and LOS F is bad (but not necessarily failing). GGW has a good post on this somewhere.

Did they change the timing of the bicycle light at 16th/U/NH? Because when it was first installed, I tried to use it and quickly gave up after waiting more than 1 light cycle. But for the last few months, it seems that the bicycle green is integrated into the cycle, so I've been using it. Still, I got into the habit of ignoring it in the first few months that it never seemed to turn green.

The Madonna del Ghisallo, patroness of cycling, smiles benevolently upon those who stop for red lights.

On the notes about "I'd like to see stats / compare that to the number of car drivers who are running red lights" -- I was thinking today as I biked in that "I'd like to see the stats on the number of pedestrians who cross when there is a no-crossing signal up." Pedestrians cross the street all the time when they don't have the ROW when there is no traffic - I would really like to see how that number compares to bikes. I wouldn't be surprised if it was very similar.

A few other things I would like to see numbers on:
-The number of pedestrians and cars that cross mid-block (like on Penn Ave).
-The number of times cars or trucks are parked illegally in the bike lanes. (Yesterday I went through and there were two cop cars, 3 cops on motorcycles, and everyone was out of their cars standing in the little space that was left to block the way to get through on the lanes.)

-I agree that lights aren't timed for bicyclists on Penn Ave and need to be looked at. If I could get through 2 or 3 lights at once, I would stop at the fourth and not consider going on red when the intersection was clear.

Did the report mention LOS for bikes at all? If they are measuring it for cars, they should do so for bikes now. I'm pretty sure the new Highway Traffic Manual has LOS for bikes in it now.

@ charlie, who said, "I think the difference you've got to make is bikes who stop, or at least slow down for red lights -- and those who just blow through them." -- I totally agree. See the pedestrian crossing against signal question above.

Great discussion everyone! Thanks for posting the summary of the report!

Really nice work. The one thing I wondered is how many more fatalities and serious injuries there were related to the facilities. As I post ad nauseum, collisions are a really bad way of assessing risk. Hit me with your car at 5 MPH 10 times instead of once at 50 MPH, what's more dangerous.

Also, I wish we could get off the whole "safety" issue as it's really boring. I'd rather talk more about comfort and quiet both of which better facilies can provide.

I really like to meditate on my bicycle, and I can only do this when I'm in a protected facility. Otherwise, I'm on the constant lookout for cars rolling up behind me, in front of me, car doors opening, and pedestrians jumping out between parked cars.

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