New center design, scofflaw drivers may put cyclists at risk

A video showing motorists making illegal turns into bicycle and pedestrian traffic seems to corroborate fears that the design of a new bike lane in Arlington Center is flawed.

The illegal turns are shown in a bike-cam’s-eye view of the ride across Arlington Center outbound, using new bike facilities including a new signal at Swan Place. It was recorded and posted on YouTube by Brian Ristuccia.

Nobody was hurt, but someone could have been.

The new signal, activated on Tuesday, poses no problems during the video. However, at the Route 60 intersection Brian’s recording seems to show 2 cars making illegal right turns across the path of cyclists who have a green “go” bicycle signal.

The sequence begins just before the 3-minute mark.

I wasn’t sure if I was interpreting the video correctly, so I asked Brian (who had posted the video without comment) about it. He told me in an email,

The lights for the through travel lanes and bike lane turn green at 2:55 into the video. I hang back behind car #3 until I can see the driver acknowledge me in the side mirror.

I hang back behind car #2 because the driver is indicating right, partially in the bike lane, and I don’t see them check their mirror. They proceed against the red right turn arrow and no right on red prohibition—across the bike lane and occupied cross walk.

It’s hard to see in the video, but I recall the lady with the baby and dog had to step back onto the sidewalk. [emphasis added.]

“The lady with the baby and the dog” are at right starting around 3:05, and the movement Brian describes is not apparent. “Car # 3” is the blue sedan at left at about 2:40, which Brian passes on the right. He says,

It’s hard to see in the video, but I can tell from looking in the vehicle’s mirror that the driver of the blue car has acknowledged me, so I roll up a bit.

At 2:52, I’m hanging back behind the black car (mass reg GTE) because they’re encroaching on the bike lane, indicating right, and don’t appear to be checking their mirrors.

Good call, apparently.

Right around 3:03 I’ve done a shoulder check and confirmed the blue car appears to be stopping and decide to proceed across.

Brian says that faced with this scene 2 other cyclists “decided to take the sidewalk.” That’s not good news about the new design, which was supposed to lure bikes from the sidewalks and into the (safe?) streets.

Brian had a similar experience the only other time he rode this lane. His conclusion:

I can both [see] how novice cyclists are not going to have a good time with this facility and why experienced bicyclists are likely to avoid it altogether.

He has posted comments to Word on the Street before, so I hope he will be willing to field questions in the comments.

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3 comments so far

  1. Mark Kaepplein on

    Two possible solutions: 1. move the bike lane inside of the right turn lane.
    2. Move the cyclists signal light head to the near (east) side of the intersection so they can better see it as they approach the intersection while in motion, and the other benefit is that drivers won’t be as confused despite the big sign saying its a cycling traffic signal. The little bike icons are too small to make out from 50-60′ away.

    Oh, and this all was discussed on the Arlington List Facebook page over the past few days. I made a long list of all the problems with the Swan St. HAWK light.

    The whole project was never going to get cyclists off the sidewalks because its was chosen as bike lanes and not sidewalk grade bike track.

    • Charlie on

      Totally agree. Many advocates made the point that it needs to be a protected facility (either protected bike lanes or a multi-use path) if it’s going to really succeed as a Minuteman path connection. Between the choice of striped bike lanes and the odd use of a HAWK signal, I really fear that this project is going to create as many problems as it solves.

  2. Walter Mayne on

    It seems like replacing the green bicycle image with a green straightahead arrow would help. I assume there is already a no turn on red sign. As a defensive cyclist practice I recommend going left of the right turn lane.


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