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To reduce right-hooks, City turns on illuminated bicycle sign at Couch and Grand

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

New sign went up yesterday.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) turned on an illuminated bicycle sign on NE Couch at Grand Avenue. As we reported last month, the intention of the sign is to reduce the risk of right-hooks at an intersection where several injury collisions have taken place.

A bike box has already been installed at the intersection, but collisions have continued. The problem is that, even though there’s no right turn on red allowed, that law — and the presence of the colored bike box and lane — don’t work as effectively to deter right-hooks during green lights. This sign is an attempt to address that issue.

The new sign was turned on yesterday and it’s the first of its kind in Portland. I observed it in action as people streamed down Couch during this morning’s rush hour.

This woman really likes it (see it in upper right of photo)…

And here’s how it looks from a different angle…

When you approach the intersection on a bike, here’s what you see…

The sign is placed on the northwest corner of the intersection at the same level as the main traffic signals. PBOT has installed sensors so that the sign only goes on when a bike is present. The sensors are very sensitive because I noticed one signal cycle that began with the sign unlit, but as a person on a bike approached the intersection, the sign illuminated immediately.

Peter Koonce, Manager of PBOT’s Signals Division, says they’re attempting to make sure the sign only appears when a bike is present. This sign cost $3,500; but the pole its mounted on had to be custom made at a cost of $5-6,000.

“If we can avoid one crash by spending $10,000,” said Koonce this morning, “that’s a good investment.”

I didn’t get a chance to talk with any people driving through the intersection, but my hunch is that it’s very visible. The lights in the sign are very bright and the red “Yield” triangle blinks on and off. People on bikes definitely seemed to notice it. I overheard one guy on a bike say, “Hey, look at that thing!” as he rode by.

One thing I noticed is that the sign illuminates several seconds prior to the signal turning green — that caused confusion with some riders. Maybe people are getting more used to bike-only signals (which look similar and are placed in a similar spot) and so they are conditioned to proceed. But in the case of Couch and Grand (a major arterial), you definitely do not want to jump the light.

Both of these guys rolled forward when the bike sign came on — even though the light was still red…

Have you experienced the new sign yet? If so, please let us know what you think.