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Advanced stop line bike boxes are not the answer

24 May 2010

Advanced stop line (ASL) bike box. (From Wikipedia.)

The Problem

Although I dislike Toronto’s focus on bike lanes for main streets, I do think our main streets need to safe for the more experienced cyclists who use them. And that brings us to a problem: left-turns.

If you’re on a bicycle in Toronto, making a legal left turn on a street like Dundas or College is difficult and dangerous. The law requires you to turn left from the left-most lane, which means you’re riding between streetcar tracks. Streetcar tracks are dangerous because your tire can become caught in them, throwing you from the bike, and they’re slippery in rain or in winter.

And first you have to get into the left-most lane, which means changing lanes into motorized traffic, while still trying to cross the streetcar tracks at a safe angle.

Advance stop line (ASL) bike boxes still have problems

One solution often proposed to help with left turns is the advanced stop line (ASL) bike box, based on the fact that they seem to work in Portland. (Indeed, Toronto is already trialing ASL bike boxes, and they generate a lot of excitement on the usual blogs.) But Portland doesn’t have as many streetcars as we have, and ASL bike boxes do nothing to help with the danger of streetcar tracks.

Another problem with ASL bike boxes is that they’re only of use during red lights. If you want to turn left on a green light, you have to wait for a red light (while holding up bicyclists behind you), get into a left-turn position, and then wait for a green light again.

Not to mention the fact that ASL bike boxes prevent motorists from making right turns on red lights, which is sure to be unpopular in Toronto.

The Solution

A better solution to this problem is the “hook turn”, which I’ll cover in my next blog post.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 15 June 2010 13:48

    Love your site concept Giddy-Up !

    I’ve been spouting off on this subject, before becoming fully informed, but here’s my rant so far…Which i promise to moderate as I get a clearer picture of things 😉

    This obviously well-intention yet simplistic initiative could just be another artificial barrier to actually smoothing traffic flow…and a new way to create acrimony between Cyclists and Motorists.

    By frustrating Drivers who could otherwise make a red-light RH turn, this will just drag the overall poor traffic flow average down even further…and raise the average blood pressure of traffic bound motorists looking at a car sitting idle at an intersection that they could otherwise turn safely through…With abit of basic common sense on everyone’s part.

    Luckily/historically…When a light turns green, the right of way for crossing Pedestrians, already holds up RH turns for cars long enough for any Cyclists to move through the intersection as it is. If there are no Pedestrians waiting when I get to an intersection, and a RH turning driver has their signal going already, I don’t presume to be able to block his turn by moving up ahead of them (effectively slowing all traffic behind us as well). This plan is going to piss off even the most considerate Motorist, and create longer term issues down the road…Surely

    As for Cyclists and Motorists waiting for a LH turn at a red light…The Cyclists can already safely walk their bike across the pedestrian walk to the LH corner during a red light, and wait for the green light to the opposite the side of the street that will allow them to finish crossing the intersection to the opposite side/corner once the light is green…Usually faster and MUCH safer than trying a LH turn ACROSS oncoming traffic that gets released on the same green. Unless we’re it’s a rare advance green of course.

    Ultimately…Most people’s consideration and general knowledge of traffic rules is abysmal as it is…This is just going to add more chaos, and frustration, as Motorists and Cyclists vie for this new artificial piece of space at intersections, rather than working things out with self-awareness and basic logic.

    This might work under specific/ideal circumstances, but right now I suspect that this is going to be just like the “sharrow” as far as myopically well-intentioned waste of public resources goes…Albeit with much more Driver hostility created along the way this time.

    I’ll be hoping to balance this view with some positive results…

    SEE ALSO: “Us and Them”

    Just Sayin

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