Why the U.S. Will Never Be Bicycle Friendly

Innovative protected intersections have potential, but…

Jul 8, 2014
Outside Magazine

Local laws give potential safer bike plans the red light.    Paul Krueger/Flickr

The United States has come a long way since the days of shoulderless roads and nonexistent crosswalks. Protected bike lanes have contributed to a 171 percent increase in cycling traffic in Chicago and a 126 percent increase in Rio Grande. When it comes to protective outlets, if you build it, they will bike.

That's where urban planner Nick Falbo and his protected intersection design plan come in. Based on designs used in Europe, he proposed intersections with small islands that wrap around each corner of cross streets, creating a more visible space in the middle of the street where cyclists can wait for a signal.

The design forces cars to turn corners before they can go forward, allowing cyclists to be seen crossing the road. With the design, cyclists even have their own signal phase at traffic lights. Brillliant, right? It would be if it could actually happen.

Many cities have ordinances about having intersections wide enough for colossal freight trucks to make wide turns. Making way for the design would require new legislation. "That potentially impacts our ability to use the corner island to control speed, and that's a key piece of the design," said Falbo in a Fast Company report.

The laws, along with maintaining snow clearance in winter and rephasing signals, could be enough to keep protected intersection plans curbed.

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