Bicycle-specific traffic signals are starting to pop up next to the normal red, yellow, and green on traffic lights. At least 16 US cities have installed these lights, which feature a bicycle shaped signal. A few of the cities that have incorporated these lights into their traffic system include: Austin, Denver, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. They have not shown up in Louisville, Kentucky yet.
Why do we need these bicycle specific signals? While traffic lights allow enough time for motorized vehicles to clear the intersection, many times they do not allow enough time for bicycles to make it across. In other words, it gives the bicyclist a head start in the hope of preventing a serious bicycle accident. These signals can also help prevent collisions when a motorist is turning right and a bicycle is going straight by helping the cyclist get a few second head start.
There is not a consistency in all of the bicycle signals, yet. Some of the bicycle signals stand alone, while others are incorporated with traffic lights. Others are timed, while some are only activated when a bicyclist reaches an intersection.
These signals are mainly being used in cities that are trying to make streets more bicycle friendly or on intersections that are extremely complex. The bicycle signals were just put in Salem, Oregon. A Salem resident, Joel Cleland, 39, rides his bicycle two miles to and from work every day. With the new signal he says, “It’s a lot quicker and easier to make my way through that intersection now. I’ve never waited more than 20 seconds for the new light to turn green.”
The bicycle signal costs $1,000 to install. Do you think it’s worth it?
As a bicyclist myself I would love to see them. It is hard to get through an intersection from a complete stop. Bicyclist often have to coast through a stop sign or a red light to make sure they keep enough momentum to make it all the way through. The main benefit may be the attention it gives to the driver’s of cars that bicycles are on the road. Just being aware of these two wheeled vehicles will help prevent serious injury and fatal accidents.
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