City Finds Bike Boxes May Actually Increase Crashes


One encouraging result of the study, though, is that NE Couch and Grand is NOT among the most crash-prone intersections. Perhaps dorky neon signs are the way to go?
Why is the headline "may actually increase" when the text and the Twitter teaser is "have been proven to double?"
Having been hit at 11th and Hawthorne by a right hook I can tell you with confidence that the bike boxes do nothing if the driver of a car will look you in the eye and turn anyway.
Yes, please, more "dorky neon signs." So few people seem to actually realize they are supposed to yield right turns for cyclists.
@Reymont, because you can't establish the cause-effect relationship from a correlation. Obviously there's strong evidence suggesting the boxes are the cause (greater perception of safety, decreased caution) but simply saying crashes have doubled does not establish why. Maybe the increased friendliness toward bike commuting is causing more people to do it, thus raising the opportunities for crashes. This is the correct way to report the data.
Sounds like wetduck and i had a similar experience, I was right hooked on 7th and Madison in a bike box last year. I guess the guy really didn't want to miss his turn. Bike boxes aren't the problem though, they just aren't that much of a solution. We need more separation between bikes and cars, there will be more accidents until we get it. I got lucky when it happened to me.
An easy start might be enforcing the "No Turn On Red" signs. Looking at you, 26th and Powell southbound.
250 grand to install one traffic light??? I'd like the itemized breakdown. No, fuck it. don't need it. I just started a company called "Lightz N' Polez," half off all traffic light installations. Call me.
@TheTerminizer - That's reasonable, but you don't have to imply cause-and-effect in a headline. "Report Finds That Crashes Double at Intersections With Bike Boxes" seems more accurate than the current one. And more exciting!
Seems like novelty may be the enemy of safety. Familiar solutions like straightforward bike lanes may be the way to go.

Once traffic is moving, bike boxes don't do anything different than a bike lane. When at a stop, they allow more visibility for the cyclists before the light turns, but are people expecting cars to behave differently once the traffic is moving?
@reymont, way too little data here to in any way be able to say "proven to double"
Actually, plain bike lanes are a terrible idea. They are the reason bicyclists are almost always in a position to be right-hooked. And it is so easy for car drivers to not see cyclists, regardless of a striped separation or a different colored lane. We either need to design more separated facilities that are actually connected throughout the city (a la the Netherlands), or let people take the lane. Bike lanes are the suck.
Isn't the point of the bike boxes to situate bikes in front of cars at a traffic light? If the cyclist as pictured above stays to the right, then there might as well not be a bike box at all. Maybe blacking out the top right corner of green is a solution.
People could just stop being a-holes to each other on the road for starters, whether you're on two wheels or four.

And the cost for this option? 5 seconds of your precious commute time.
@Torando - "We need more separation between bikes and cars, there will be more accidents until we get it."

Agreed. Bikes need seperate pathways or roads closed to vehicle traffic, especially in high traffic areas like SW downtown. I can only imagine this increasing bike traffic, thus reducing driving traffic.

@TSW - the cost of installing such items doesn't come directly from materials, you have to figure in the man hour costs of several dozen people, plus insurance costs and everything else.
There is a much more interesting and informative discussion of the issue over at

For instance:
"From reading police reports they found that 88% ... of the collisions occurred during a "stale" green signal. Or ... when the light had been green for some time and not during the red phase or right as the light turns green. After observing the locations, PBOT also determined other similarities in the behavior of road users that they feel are directly contributing to the collisions:

All three locations have downhill grades on the treatment approach.
- A high percentage of cyclists were overtaking right-turning vehicles during the peak-hour observation periods.
- A very high percentage of vehicles (98%) yield to cyclists over-taking on their right."

The fix is working for what it meant to do: stop people from hitting bikes during red or just-green lights. After the light has been green, all bets are off.

In my experience, this problem is a combination of invincible-feeling bikers that assume just because they have "right-of-way" means they won't be hit (and therefore blow by cars with a signals on), and drivers that feel no obligation to look over their shoulder to see who might be using the road appropriately (i.e. bikers in the bike lane.)

Bad infrastructure for mixed use will always lead to problems.
Yea, I know. But it still seems excessive.

As it stands, you could alert drivers to mind bikers with a series of shocks to their genitals every few feet leading up to any intersection and they'd still turn right all willy-nilly. In my experience on bike, the worst offenders typically have cell phones up to their ears. Still. Despite a law against. I don't know what the solution is. Certainly the more safety measures the better. Perhaps enforce the cell phone law more vigilantly, for fuck sake? Hey City-can I do it and write down license plate #?
"...We can get closer to achieving our vision of zero crashes, injuries, and fatalities when we have safe, physically separated facilities and exclusive red, yellow, and green signal phases for people on bikes...."

Such a case of cognitive dissonance by the narrowly focussed Bicycle Alliance! The very act of creating these specialized bike boxes has resulted in more crashes! The old Law of Unintended Consequences has reared its head--in an effort to mitigate one type of crash, the designers ignored an equally probable one that, to be sure, was predicted by cycling experts such as John Allen.

Getting it half right only ensures you will exchange crash types.
I have to say, it's astonishing this people in Portland are just beginning to figure out that bike boxes are dangerous. Any decent bike safety expert, who understands traffic dynamics and the risks they create, could have told you that from the beginning. They could also tell you that all of the expensive, complicated stuff that is proposed as an alternative will not improve things. Cyclists must learn how to, and street designs must encourage them to, share the road with other drivers, as a normal, integral part of traffic. At on the order of $100 per person, education is the least expensive and most effective way to empower cyclists to travel anywhere, at any time, under any conditions. I highly recommend the CyclingSavvy program ( Small, simple streets with simple traffic patterns, with all drivers acting by the same rules, are the safest. Big, complicated streets with complicated traffic controls and complicated traffic patterns, with drivers divided in classes with segregated spaces and separate rules, are much more dangerous. Cyclists need to learn to take responsibility for their own experience.
Here's an idea. Ditch the bike lane 200 feet prior to the intersection, and put in sharrows in the center of the lane, along with "BIKES MAY USE FULL LANE" signs.

Bicyclists should never ride to the right of traffic that can and might turn right, and facilities that encourage them to do so are INSANE.
excellent, serge -- only i would change 'may' to 'MUST'.

but really, i think ERN and Tornado have it right: we need to be separated. but we also need to have separate bicyle/car signals -- when cars have a green light, bicyclists heading in the same direction have a red. pair that with a 'no right turns on red' rule for the cars, and we'll all but eliminate right-hook crashes.

someone needs to just pretty much copy and paste amsterdam's system.

(actually, the same advice could go for our bus/max system, too)
When Portland first started experimenting with bike boxes, many of us with an engineering view of the world pointed out that these boxes only work when bicyclists use them to get ahead of stopped cars at red lights. If the light turned green as a bicyclist approached the light and the bicyclist was unaware of the signal change, the box would likely INCREASE the probability of a right hook. The latter case was very likely to increase hazards more than any protection of moving ahead of cars at a red light. This seems to be exactly what has happened.

The Portland proponents felt the experiment needed to be done even though the outcome was pretty obvious. And likely they will continue pushing dangerous solutions that have obvious flaws. There are only three ways to decrease collisions at intersections, in addition to improving the overall quality of an intersection with better sight lines and lane control. They are:
1) For bicyclists to learn to properly integrate into the flow at intersections;
2) to separate bicyclist in space at intersections via overpasses or underpasses; or
3) to separate bicyclists in time via separate bicycle-only light phases.

#1 is rejected by most bicyclists who fear mixing with same direction automobile traffic, #2 is very expensive and #3 slows everyone down and I suspect would tempt many bicyclists to run their red light.
This letter from the City to the FHA doesn't come as a shock to me - I and others have been trying to warn people about this for years. But would anyone listen? No. I've been derided by cycling advocates on just about every forum - and I've no doubt this one will be no different.

If this is a shock to any cycling advocate, he/she must have been in a cave for the past four decades, during which time the vast majority of studies done on infrastructure safety (see… ) show quite clearly that segregation is more dangerous than integration.

Until cycling advocates stop blindly supporting every piece of half-baked infrastructure that comes along, and until they get serious about ACTUAL safety (rather than perceived safety), the facilities they support will continue to have a higher injury and death rate than an equivalent standard road with no bicycle facilities.

Pretty colored paint and specialized cycle lanes only complicate what is already a complex traffic system. This can only ever result in more accidents and more cyclists injured or killed. This is no way to increase cycling mode share. On the contrary, use of such facilities will only lead to more cyclists believing that cycling is too dangerous.

But hey, the bicycle advocates have their dogma, and they're sticking with it, no matter how many cyclists get killed. Sometimes I don't know why I bother. Then I remember it's about saving lives - something the so-called 'bicycle advocates' believe comes a distant second to getting people on bikes.
If Oregon would get rid of the mandatory bike lane law and allow cyclists to use the lane as is the safest thing, then you could merge into traffic at the light and TA DA- YOU DON'T GET RIGHT HOOKED.
Amazing isn't it? Ride like a vehicle operator and you get treated like one. You don't need bike boxes. You can be smarter than road paint and determine what is safest for you. Interesting concept isn't it?
By the way, I live north of you in Washington, and I CAN RIDE IN THE LANE.
Do yourselves a favor- lose the bike lane law.
Theres no box problem in europe, cause we dont have that option to turn right on red, due its not safe for anybody.
Oregon also has an archaic and inconsistent (with the UVC and virtually everyone else) that prohibits a motorist from merging into the bike lane prior to turning. That alone sets the stage for a right hook. As for everyone talking about right on red; have you read the article? This is a function of entering the intersection on a green when RTOR isn't an issue. READ!

As for separate phasing; are you kidding? Do you think cyclists will actually wait while the parallel car movement proceeds, or when there is little or no traffic? Additional phases will add even more delay, for all modes.

As for separation; it is an intersection. You can't spatially separate modes unless you have different grades (i.e. vertical separation). As noted, the temporal separation is simply not realistic for multiple reasons.
(1) Compliance with some road designs and traffic control devices has repeatedly been shown to be abysmal. Example: a formal study in Colorado showed that compliance with a bicycle-specific traffic light was essentially zero. So did field observation in Montreal by a qualified engineer. Because of that, it's no solution to say "we'll solve the problem with a signal." (Note also that the resultant gridlock would delay ambulances en route to their important destinations and increase air pollution.)
(2) Grade separation? Are you serious? First of all, go check out Chicago or Philadelphia, where the "subway" train runs on elevated tracks. First thing you notice: it's ugly. And it extinguishes privacy for second-floor apartment dwellers. Now check out the cost. Examine the potential for muggers. Et cetera.
(3) You should never make the rules for one intersection the opposite of the rules for another intersection, and the rules shouldn't change when you add paint. In Portland, if the bike lane is striped solid to the intersection, cyclists are expected to ride up into the coffin corner. But on streets with no bike lane, cyclists are expected to position themselves safely. But the "coffin corner" lesson spills over to the other streets.
I consider it pathetic that Portland views all of this as a problem to be solved on the basis of expensive individual interventions at individual intersections, rather than a systemic behavior that allows all road users to operate safely everywhere.
I'm having trouble with the sign-in process, and I don't believe in anonymous postings, so at the risk of redundancy, I'm John Schubert, reachable at
Just to clarify - when I wrote about "seperation" I'm not talking about designated bike lanes, or having overpasses on streets - I'm talking about shutting down entire streets to vehicle traffic. There's already existing perfect candidates for this in the SW Downtown area (like 5th & 6th, Flanders, Morrison and Alder) - just prohibit cars from traveling on those roads all together.

If readers are unaware, this city has most of the ingrediants to follow the Stockholm transportation model: lots of light rail lines, lots of bikers. What Stockholm did is put a unmanned checkpoint at all the enterances to the downtown area, where you have to pay a "Congestion Charge" (about $1.50) to drive into the main city during business hours. Hence, most people walk, bike, or take public transit downtown. This has resulted in a healthier and more vibrant culture for Stockholm.

With this concept understood, how many bikers do you think are hit by cars in Stockholm?