Where Are the Best Places for Protected Intersections in Your City?

How a protected intersection could fit into the Portland streetscape. Image: Nick Falbo via Bike Portland
How a protected intersection could fit into the Portland streetscape. Image: Nick Falbo via Bike Portland

Protected intersections are the best new thing in American bike infrastructure since, well, protected bike lanes. They greatly reduce the potential for turning conflicts between drivers and cyclists — left turns on a bike, especially, become easier and less stressful — and they make pedestrian crossings much safer too.

So far, a few cities around the country have raced to install their first protected intersection, but the design is still very rare. That means there are a ton of opportunities in American cities to create safer and more inviting intersections for biking and walking.

Which locations could benefit from protected intersections? Here’s a fun exercise courtesy of Nick Falbo, a key figure in the introduction of this design in the U.S. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland says Falbo sketched out what six sites in the city would look like with protected intersections:

Nick Falbo, who works as a senior planner for Alta Planning and Design but did this project as a volunteer on his own time, said he got the idea to create them after he gave a presentation about protected intersections at a conference last fall. A city employee who was attending, he said, asked where in Portland protected intersections could go.

“I’m thinking, like, where can’t they go?” he said.

The catch is that in many cases, the city would have to re-allocate road space away from auto parking and standard travel lanes to create the protected intersection and accompanying protected bike lane…

Above is an example of three streets where no traffic tradeoffs are needed at all: the newly important bike intersections at Southwest 3rd, Stark and Oak downtown. On all three streets, Falbo suggests switching the position of the parking and bike lanes to put bike lanes along the curb. Presumably this would require removing a parking space or two to keep open lines of sight at parking lot entrances, but that’s doable.

Today, all of these streets have wide buffered bike lanes. Why don’t they already have parking-protected lanes? On 3rd Avenue, it’s not clear. But on Stark and Oak, the reason was that the Portland Fire Department said it needed both lanes of traffic in case a ladder needed to reach one of the buildings there. If parking spaces ran down the middle of the street, they might not have a place to position the side braces of their ladder truck.

Falbo questions whether that’s really a problem, pointing out that if necessary, a single mid-block parking space could be kept clear for that purpose.

So, where would you like to see protected intersections in your city?

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: Tim Kovach makes the case that if you want to improve air quality, you’ve got to address sprawl. Streets.mn says expanding Minneapolis’s drive-thru ban won’t hurt the city. And Greater Greater Washington reports that a wider I-66 is coming for the D.C. area, but with tolls and some transit elements.

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