The Florida Department of Transportation is holding a public workshop to discuss a proposed new bikeway through downtown Tampa. The proposed protected bike lanes would run from Jackson Street to Ashley Drive to Nebraska Avenue and would even include bicycle signal heads. Could the addition of more bike signals in our bicycle-accident prone city possibly make a difference to the safety of cyclists?
While bike signals are commonly seen in conjunction with protected bikeways in cities like Austin, New York, Madison, Washington, and Arlington, bike signals have only just come to our city. Tampa’s first protected bike lane on Cass Street downtown, which was unveiled in June, includes signals to reduce conflicts between drivers and cyclists.
Cyclistic infrastructure and safety is an issue that strikes close to home for Tampa. Florida has the highest bicycle accident death rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and worse yet, Hillsborough County and Pinellas County are two of the most dangerous counties for cyclists in our state.
What difference do these bike signal heads make to roads and could they be a possible solution to our city’s severe bike accident problem?
Leading Bicycle Intervals Can Reduce Accidents
Similar to Leading Pedestrian Intervals, which have been shown to reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions as much as 60 percent at treated intersections according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, Leading Bicycle Intervals can help protect cyclists from intersection conflict.
LBIs give bicyclists a head start at intersections by providing several seconds of green time before concurrent vehicular movement is given the green light. The benefits of the LBI is best seen when bicyclists are able to make lane changes or left turns quickly without the risk of conflict with vehicular traffic.
Intervals That Match Bicyclist Speeds, Not Car Speeds, May Reduce Conflict
Bicycle signals also help to prevent accidents by taking the speed and movement of bicyclists into consideration, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System. For example, while a car going through an intersection with a yellow light could easily and safely make this clearing, a cyclist at their lower speed likely could not. They would be put at risk of accident from opposite traffic that is given their green light.
These signals also take a bicyclist’s slower startup times compared to a vehicle by providing minimum green times that accommodate for this.
By providing signal phases specific to bicycles, cyclists can make more informed decisions on whether they should slow down and stop, or if they have adequate clearance to cross an intersection in time.
May Discourage Cyclists From Illegal and Unsafe Crossing Maneuvers
Just as bike-specific intervals can empower cyclists to make safer decisions, cyclists having to conform to signal intervals designed for motor vehicles may end up making illegal and unsafe decisions. This is most commonly seen when a cyclist rolls through a red light when oncoming traffic isn’t present in order to preserve their momentum.
At a typical riding speed of 10 mph to 12 mph, one stop-start is equivalent to biking an additional 300 feet, explains an article by The Washington Post about bikers blowing through red lights. Many cyclists want to avoid the exertion that comes with these frequent stops.
Bike-specific intervals, however, are timed in such a way to help cyclists go further by taking startup time into account. Cyclists can hit more green lights before having to stop, allowing those on bikes to maintain momentum in a far safer and legal manner.
Biking is Still Not Without Its Risks in Tampa
Even with recent safe biking initiatives, newly installed bike lanes, and bike share programs in the Tampa Bay area, biking accident rates — and car accident rates in general — are still disconcertingly high in our city.
Have you or someone you love been hurt recently in a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver? Read more to learn how our car accident attorneys can help pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists who were hurt in a serious car accident get the compensation they deserve. If you are ready to pursue a claim, fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.