Home > Complete Streets > People on bikes deserve to be put in boxes

People on bikes deserve to be put in boxes

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The bike box

via StreetsWiki

Another north American city is moving forward with bike boxes. Edmonton–yes up there, where it is cold, it snows, and people bike with ice skates on–is joining cities like Portland, Minneapolis, and Madison in the intersection installation safety design.

The bike box works by increasing visibility of and for people on bicycles and by allowing them to clear the intersection more quickly, thus reducing congestion for everyone.

Here are two instructional videos.


Without the Legos, but with some big guy screaming “bike box”.


Apply locally

In Traverse City, Front St. downtown could be improved with a bike box or two, but there are other quieter areas that could also use one. The obvious location I notice almost every week is at the main entrance to the college. Bike boxes on Fair St. would serve people approaching on the street as well as people utilizing the Civic Center trail system. Right now, coming out of the Civic Center people on wheels get dumped into an odd situation. A bike box would provide design and the space for them to join the street and cross E. Front with the light and other traffic.

Currently there is a committee working on a non-motorized plan for the City (RE). It is unclear how leading edge the City is prepared to go, but a bike box is becoming pretty normal for Cities that have high numbers of people who are on bikes and who want to be on bikes.

If you think treatments like bike boxes should be considered in Traverse City, please email the chair of the committee and the City Planner with short, positive support for bike boxes and more.

EMAILS: Tim Werner werner_tm@yahoo.com, Russ Soyring rsoyring@ci.traverse-city.mi.us

You can explore other recommended treatments in the online NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. This is thee resource for safe, comfortable, and inviting bike networks in the United States. Many Cities are even adopting it as policy. The new version is updated with a section devoted to bicycle boulevards.

Don’t you deserve to be put in a box?


via City of Minneapolis 

UPDATE: Traverse City did have a bike box for an hour back in 2010. It was located at N. Barlow and 8th St. A grumpy neighbor washed it off.

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  1. September 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    I just returned from 9 years in Portland. Bike boxes are just one of the many innovation the city was using to highlight bike transportation. In PDX, bikes are actually, (catch this): TRANSPORTATION! Not merely recreation devices for nice Sunday rides on pretty trails. BIkes do the hard work of moving 9-13% of the population around on a daily work commute, and up to 40% of the trips in some parts of town.

    The green bike boxes took some getting used to. There is a warming-up-to-the-idea period. In use however, they give credance to the right of the bike to be in the intersection, protect the riders by giving them ‘front and center’ visability, and avoid right-turn run ins. The bikers tend to take their riding skills more seriously too. It’s a win-win!

    Here in Traverse, I notice bikes doing all sorts of wacky things – riding on sidewalks, running the wrong way down our nasty-bad one way streets. No helmets either! Sheeesh. I think the whole bike thing needs to evolve and a HUGE emphasis on ‘how to ride an urban bike’…and, for cars – how to not hit our urban bikers.

    On the plus side, it warms my heart to see al the bikes parked on Front Street on the end of the day. A friend keeps hers outside there and uses it to get to yoga, groceries, etc. Many, many more bikes around.

    Can we have a bike loan program next? Toursist on bikes! yeah.

    One other idea – that would help the whole bike in the community skill set: Have a Sunday urban bike ride, closing off a loop of neighborhood/downtown streets for several miles and open to bikes, skates, wagons, baby-buggies. Get people feeling safe on the streets and make it a festival while you are at it, with…. FOOD CARTS.

    Thanks- here’s to the future!

    Alexis Wittman, LEED-AP
    Northport and Portland.
    ps. The Portland Bike Boxes are BIG green squares.

  2. September 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Excellent description of the benefits to the bike box & mentioning the green box. I almost included another Streetfilms video focused on just that, but figured it would be over-the-top.

    Green Bike Box

  3. Me
    September 18, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I don’t care for the design described in the diagram or on the video. Currently at traffic lights I get over to the middle or side of the lane (depending how wide it is) if I want to go straight and get into the turn lane if I want to go left. By moving over to the middle/left side of the lane, it allows right turning traffic to go around me while I’m waiting for the light. These designs are just going to irritate drivers because they’ll be forced to stop and wait for a right turn rather than going around.

  4. Bill
    September 19, 2012 at 7:46 am

    The comment above from “me” is a very good one. Although I personally like the idea of bike boxes, it is important to be very careful where we would put them in Traverse City. Portland’s bike boxes work because of their high number of bike lanes, and bike boxes are meant to compliment the functionality and complexity of bike lanes. We are not Portland in this regard, and I have learned here that monkeying too much with the norm can cause backlash. If these bike boxes are placed at the wrong spot – motorists can be irritated. But…there are some streets in my opinion where they can be placed where the box does not restrict traffic flow (particularly right turners) and solves a safety issue. Some that I have in mind:

    1. Woodmere and 8th. Currently, the bike lane simply dead ends in between the left turn lane and the right turn lane forcing the cyclist to wait at the light and then squeeze into the left turn lane traffic once it is clear to turn left onto 8th – an unsettling place to wait with traffic flowing on both sides of you. A bike box there would give the cyclist somewhere to wait at the light that allows them to take off with the light – and most often make an immediate right onto Railroad Avenue and getting out of the way of accelerating traffic on 8th (I say most often because my guess is that the majority of cyclists headed north on Woodmere choose to keep north rather than use a west bound 8th Avenue that is not terribly bike friendly).

    2. The bike lanes on State and Front Streets. Even though I believe that these bike lanes either need a buffer zone away from the parked cars or need to be replaced as door zones only, they are still there and probably would be for a while. But another problem with their design is that, because of space limitations, they overlap the right turn lanes at intersections. At a red light, cyclists would likely sit in the right turn lane as they wait for the light to turn green – blocking potential right turning traffic and causing irritation towards cyclists. A bike box at these intersections will give the cyclist a place to wait for the light to turn green other than in the right turn lane. It is on an extremely slow speed road, so most cyclists should be able to accelerate into traffic or back into the bike lane at speeds that will not hold up traffic.

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