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Portlander’s ‘protected intersection’ concept gets first on-street demo (in Minneapolis)

Posted by on June 19th, 2014 at 9:16 am

PopUp Protected Intersection Event 04

A temporary “protected intersection” at Open Streets MPLS June 8.
(Photos courtesy Alta Planning and Design)

A Portland planner’s concept for a way to almost completely eliminate bike-car conflicts from American intersections got its first road test in Minneapolis this month.

Bikeways for Everyone,” a Blue Cross Blue Shield-funded, Minneapolis-based advocacy coalition with a goal to build 30 miles of protected bike lanes by 2020, invited Nick Falbo of Alta Planning and Design to create a one-day demo at Open Streets MPLS, the city’s version of Sunday Parkways.

It was a follow-up to the group’s pop-up protected bike lane, installed during last year’s Open Streets MPLS (and again this year) to introduce the concept of physically separated bike lanes to more ordinary riders.

This year, they invited Falbo to expand on a concept he started developing last fall and further honed over the winter: a riff on Dutch intersection design imagined in the context of large American streets with protected bike lanes.

As we shared on BikePortland in February, here are the four ingredients of Falbo’s design, which was first imagined for the corner of Southeast 122nd and Division:

FullResolution_Blueprint_ProtectedIntersection(1)

Here’s how it might work for someone riding through one on a bicycle (follow the blue arrow):
FullResolution_ProtectedIntersection(1)

By adding the eyelet-shaped curbs to the intersection, Falbo’s design shortens the crossing distance for bike traffic and puts right-turning drivers in a position where they can easily see a bike that’s crossing.

Here are some more shots of it in action in Minneapolis on June 8:

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PopUp Event - Nick Falbo Ride

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PopUp Protected Intersection Event

PopUp Protected Intersection Event 02

“I was really impressed with how children seemed to get it intuitively,” Falbo writes in an email. “They’d roll up through the intersection and just turn slightly to the left and sit in the protected area before crossing. I couldn’t imagine the same thing happening with more conventional designs.”

Falbo, who lives near 82nd Avenue in Southeast Portland, said he’d first hoped that the first demo could be in Portland.

I scanned the Portland Sunday Parkways maps for potential locations where it might be appropriate but unfortunately the routes are almost always on our neighborhood greenways. These streets are too small and not appropriate for the protected intersection design.

Lyndale Ave in Minneapolis was perfect. It was closed to cars as part the annual Minneapolis Open Streets events, and I jumped at the opportunity build a temporary installation. The street normally has 4 lanes and parking. By reallocating two of the travel lanes, we had plenty of room to create a 10 ft cycle track on each side of street, maintain on-street parking, and have room to maneuver around the corner refuge islands.

One important thing to understand about Falbo’s design (which was featured in Wired this morning!) is that it’s mostly theoretical. Falbo’s design presumes two major two-way streets that meet at right angles and both have one-direction bike lanes on each side.

As Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller noted in an interview two weeks ago, that sort of intersection is pretty rare — and there aren’t yet any such corners in the United States where two protected bike lanes meet.

But that doesn’t mean the design isn’t useful. Two weeks ago, a Portland State University study found that although 96 percent of people who bike in protected bike lanes say they improve safety, between 15 and 37 percent of people feel unsafe at intersections where they have to merge with turning cars.

At an intersection that doesn’t force bikes and cars to merge, meanwhile, only 2 percent of people said they felt unsafe. In the long run, Falbo’s concept could be a great way to bring that sense of safety and comfort to more American streets.

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don arambula
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don arambula

May be better for cyclists, but not ideal for pedestrians. Too many crossing conflicts; undesirable pedestrian ‘island’ isolation between bike lane and travel lanes. Better solutions exist.

Ian
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Ian

“…there aren’t yet any such corners in the United States where two protected bike lanes meet.”

Ouch. We have a long way to go.

Joe
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Joe

progress is awesome.

Kirk
Guest

Great work Nick!

Max
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Max

This would be interesting to try out on a future Sunday Parkways on NE 28th @ Glisan. Thanks Nick! The easiest way to convince people we need better bike infrastructure is to let them try it out for themselves!

Steve B.
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Steve B.

Cool to see this idea in action. Way to go Nick!

Craig Harlow
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Craig Harlow

This is fantastic, but didn’t we see nearly the same concept in a video from Copenhagenize a year or two ago (which I’m now unable to find)?

Derailleur
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Derailleur

I wish Nick would quit claiming to live in Lents. He’s not nearly cool enough to live east of 82nd.

meh
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meh

So no more left turns for bikes.
Requires the double cross.

Eric
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Eric

Yay, more urban construction!!!

paikiala
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paikiala

From the diagram, 6 ft bike lane + 3 ft protection + 8 ft parking lane + 10 ft auto lane + 5 ft for half the turn lane = 32 ft half street x 2 = 64 feet curb to curb, minimum. Portland curb extensions are usually 6 ft wide, 7 at most and the “islands are 10 ft deep”, hence the 3 ft raised buffer (could be 4′ if the curb extension is 6 ft wide); the auto lane should be 11 feet for trucks and buses; the bike lane would be better at 6 feet.

SE 82nd is 56 ft curb to curb. Where in Portland would the diagram work?

davemess
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davemess

Note multiple people on bikeshare bikes (the lime green ones). Is one of those people Nick himself?

spare_wheel
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spare_wheel

IMO, this infrastructure basically assumes that cyclists will not jay bike, bike at very slow speeds, and that pedestrians and cyclists will both pay very close attantion to each other’s right of way. Moreover, it’s the kind of infrastructure that seems intentially designed to slow cyclists down. How are we going to compete with the convenience of motorvehicles if we build infrastructure that intentionally makes cycling annoying?

I am willing to bet that for the same approximate cost bike-specific signals could be implemented. Bike specific signals would allow simple and straight signalized crossing and avoid pedestrian conflicts.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

For those not familiar with it, this stretch of Lyndale is 4 lanes (two each way), with no bike lane or center two-way turn lane, much like Division was between 60th and 82nd until a few months ago, or like East Burnside is from 13th to 68th today (and quite a few other Portland streets, of course).

Like those streets, its capacity is underutilized most of the time, and often it invites people (many of whom live further out) to drive too fast through a moderately dense central-city neighborhood that has substantial bike-trip demand and a pretty fair amount of pedestrian traffic around a few busy retail and restaurant locations. Like those streets, it screams for some traffic calming and (possibly protected) bike lanes so it feels less like a commuter boulevard, and more like the vibrant commercial district that it is in places – and would be all the way from 31st to Franklin if it felt safer).

One key difference, which might pose a minor challenge in Minneapolis, is snow removal. Minneapolis does have a bunch of special narrow snowplows that clear their extensive network of off-street paths, and I presume those would have to be used here to clear the bike lanes through these intersections (or, really, any protected bike lanes), since standard snowplows won’t fit. The edges of the “islands” will probably have to be marked with poles so the plows don’t hit them. These problems are soluble, and fortunately we don’t have to worry about them in Portland.

If Minneapolis, with its climate challenges, can explore this there’s no excuse for us not to. Keep nipping at Portland’s heels! Now that it’s been demo’ed on a street that’s closed, the next step is to get a longer-term pilot installation somewhere we can demonstrate how it works WITH traffic flowing. Hopefully with the signal timing adjustments to make it work really well … I’m sure Peter Koonce already has the details worked out.

Champs
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Champs

Don’t be too envious about whose idea it was and who tried it first. Lyndale & 25th is a bad intersection not unlike almost any SE residential street that meets up with 39th. This experiment isn’t being done at speed or even in a place where you’d implement the idea.

Source: lived in the neighborhood for years, including a stint one block away from that intersection on Aldrich.

steph routh
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steph routh

Boy, I just love the stuffing out of the chutzpah that this has taken to get going as a conversation. I have lingering questions about curb-to-curb needs for paratransit, but what is so awesome is that an on-the-ground demonstration allows us to both ask questions and find answers. So badass.

John Liu
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John Liu

I, too, am wondering where such a street would fit in Portland. Basically you need a roadway that is 7 lanes wide curb to curb. Bike+buffer, park, drive, turn, drive, park, bike+buffer. What streets are those, in our city?

Cora Potter
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Cora Potter

Yep. Just about any arterial street East of 82nd that intersects 122nd looks like Lyndale at the intersection…

was carless
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was carless

I don’t understand how they can afford this. Wouldn’t that cost millions of dollars? I thought this country was a bankrupt 3rd world country by now!

Denver Igarta
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Denver Igarta

Impressive, Nick. You make us proud.

Biker dude
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Biker dude

Without any cars or trucks, I’m sure the demo project will work great! : ) More seriously though, these need to handle trucks that may turn in the intersection. And what concerns me is that motorists will not tend to yield at the crosswalk/crossbike. They may yield to peds but what if there are no peds and a fast moving (10-15mph is fast moving in this scenario) cyclist enters the crosswalk/bike as the motorist is turning? Yielding rules and habits will be seriously tested by this design.

Kate
Guest
Kate

If the bikes are turning left in the bike lanes w/ their own signal why is the auto left turn pushed back from the intersection?

Btw – i don’t mind making that kind of cross on a big intersection, never felt all that comfortable riding in with traffic for a left turn – its scary.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

YES–love this protected intersection demo!!! I’ve been wondering for awhile about how to demo this kind of intersection treatment.

As a practical matter I’m curious how this kind of demo can be replicated in other places (such as SF where I live).

We really need to get this demoed in lots of places–really exciting work!

Koen
Guest
Koen

For a Dutch person all this dicussion is really funny. We heave these things all over the place and no one thinks twice about them. We get upset if they’re not in place. But every situation needs its own variation on this theme, so yes, you can use it on streets with only bike lanes in one direction, or two, or all four, five or more, no problem. The key point is to think flexible about it.
Good luck, I really like the efforts, who knows, maybe we’ll learn something new from it.