Across the country, more people are taking up cycling, and cities are rushing to accommodate them with bike lanes, bike share, and more bike corrals to increase cyclist safety. Protected bike lanes are crucial to the growth of cycling, as they allow people of all ages and abilities to ride safely.
But all the safety gains of protected infrastructure and getting people to open their doors with a Dutch Reach are often lost at intersections, which can be deadly. According to Streetsblog, around 50 percent of urban cycling deaths in 2017 occurred in an intersection. In New York City, that figure was 89 percent.
A promising fix to these tragedies is the protected intersection, which has four main parts, according to Momentum Magazine: a corner island, a forward stop bar for cyclists, a setback crossing, and bicycle-friendly signal phasing.
The concrete islands are one-car length away from the intersection’s entrances so that they can both buffer the bike lanes and prevent vehicles from turning at speed. The islands are also bump-outs, increasing visibility and reducing the distance to cross the intersection. The forward stop lines for bikes are there for the same reason. Bicycle-friendly signals include having separate signals for cyclists and drivers and timing changes to give cyclists a head start to get through the intersection.
According to Fast Company, the first protected intersection in the United States cost $150,000 and took five months to build, two big problems.
That’s where a system like GRIDSMART comes in, providing cities the tools to make immediate and cost-effective improvements for cyclist safety at intersections.
Vice President and General Manager Jeff Price said that GRIDSMART’s cycling safety features were originally part of a larger, added-cost package. “We realized that’s not the way it should be,” he said. “Safety should not come at a premium.”
GRIDSMART essentially allows cities to implement the signal phasing portion of a protected intersection. Price explains that the system actively identifies cyclists entering an intersection and will extend green signals, in coordination with the traffic signal controller, until cyclists clear safely. This approach also means that any false-positives result only in very short extensions, allowing it to err, if necessary, on the side of caution without impacting efficiency. Price described it as “Safety first, efficient by design.”
GRIDSMART is also a real-time system that adjusts to real-world conditions. Unlike the design guidelines, which use stop-lines to determine if objects are bikes and then gives a set amount of time for clearing them through intersections – which Price pointed out assumes all cyclists travel at the same speed – GRIDSMART tracks starts tracking cyclists when they enter the intersection and follows them through until they clear it. Fast cyclists don’t hold up automobiles, and slow cyclists are still kept safe.
As cycling continues to grow in importance to daily commuting, rider safety will become more and more important. GRIDSMART provides both improved safety and added efficiency as bicycles on roadways and in intersections continue to become more prevalent.