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NYC designs the future of safer intersections for cyclists

89 percent of bike collisions happen at intersections. DOT’s new street-design guidelines aim to slash that statistic and save lives.

DOT installed a pilot Offset Crossing intersection at Columbus Avenue and West 70th street in Manhattan. It includes buffering traffic from bicycles, shortening the crossing distance for pedestrians, and a waiting area for cyclists.

Courtesy DOT

Over 1,000 miles of bike lanes snake through New York City, and every year since 2015, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has added at least 50 more miles. Streets are safertoday than in years past, but the city is far from reaching its Vision Zero goals of no fatalities from car collisions.

In 2017, 4,397 cyclists were injured in car crashes and 25 cyclists died. Parked cars and trucks routinely block bike lanes. Community boards sometimes oppose protected bike lanes.

New modes of transportation are coming, and street design is woefully obsolete.

This week, DOT published “Cycling at a Crossroads: The Design Future of New York City Intersections,” a study that proposes new intersection design guidelines that, the city hopes, will reduce collisions between cars and bikes and save lives. They include measures to increase visibility, clarify right of way, reduce vehicle-turning speed, and improve circulation at intersections.

DOT’s study found that Offset Crossings, like this one, reduced crashes and made cyclists more comfortable.

“[A]s overall traffic fatalities have declined and cycling has increased within New York City under Vision Zero, the number of cyclists lost in fatal crashes has remained stubbornly and tragically high, with deaths actually increasing over the last several years,” DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg wrote in the study’s introduction. “With the goal of reversing that trend, DOT has taken a closer look at cyclist safety. And specifically, because 89 percent of crashes occur within intersections, our Transportation Planning and Management team was charged with doing a clear-eyed analysis of how we could further improve intersections to keep cyclists safe, especially as vehicles turn.”

The study focused on four intersection types on one-way streets with protected cycling infrastructure, like parked cars, bollards, or barriers buffering bikes from traffic.

A current generation Mixing Zone intersection joins cars and bikes in the same lane.

Courtesy DOT

Two of the designs are already established in the city: the “Mixing Zone” intersection where bikes and turning vehicles share space—like a bike lane converging with a turning lane—and have been shown to reduce crashes by 27 percent. The “Fully Split Phase” intersection has separate traffic signals and lanes for bikes and cars; it reduced crashes by 54 percent. DOT recommends prioritizing this design for two-way streets with wider intersections.

DOT piloted two new designs for the study, which focused on Manhattan. In the “Delayed Turn” intersection, vehicles and bikes share a Mixing Zone-like lane but bicycles get a head start with the signal. The “Offset C