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Transportation Research Record

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Improved bicycle infrastructure has become increasingly common in the United States as cities seek to attract new riders, including the demographic who do not feel comfortable riding with motor vehicle traffic. A key tool in designing low-stress networks is the use of separated or protected bicycle lanes, and intersections are the critical links. This paper presents an analysis of the perceived level of comfort of current and potential bicyclists from 277 survey respondents who rated 26 first-person video clips of a bicyclist riding through mixing zones, lateral shifts, bend-in, bend-out, and protected intersection designs. A total of 7,166 ratings were obtained from surveys conducted at four locations in Oregon, Minnesota, and Maryland, including urban and suburban locations. Survey respondents were categorized into four groups based on their response to attitudes and bicycling behavior by cluster analysis. Descriptive analysis and regression modeling results find that designs that minimize interactions with motor vehicles, such as fully separated signal phases and protected intersections, are rated as most comfortable (72% of respondents rated them as very comfortable or somewhat comfortable). Mean comfort drops off significantly for other designs and interactions with turning vehicles result in lower comfort ratings though there are differences for each design. Importantly, as the exposure distance, measured as the distance a person on a bicycle is exposed to traffic, increases the comfort decreases.

As cities strive to make streets safe and comfortable for bicycling, facilities that provide separation from motor vehicle traffic on the roadway have become increasingly common. As of 2019, there were 519 documented separated bike lanes totaling 393 lane-miles around the United States according to the Green Lanes Project's Protected Bike Lanes Inventory, up from less than 1 mi in 2007 (1). Generally, separated bike lanes assign bicyclists and motorists their own space on the roadway. At intersections, design options for separated bike lane intersections can be in one of three categories: (i) designs that maintain separation between bicycles and motor vehicles up to the intersection (e.g., straight or maintain separation, bend-in, bend-out, and protected intersection), (ii) designs where bicyclists mix with or cross the path of turning motor vehicles (e.g., mixing zones and lateral shift), and (iii) designs that use bicycle signals to fully separate the conflicting movements between bicycles and motor vehicles in time (2). The selection of the design is often challenged by space constraints and the need to accommodate turning vehicles. Safety (in relation to reported crashes and observed conflicts) is an essential consideration in the selection of a design. However, the perceived comfort of various intersection designs is also a key consideration for cities attempting to build connected comfortable networks, given the link between comfort facilities and ridership (35).

This paper presents research that adds to the relatively scarce data around the perceived comfort of current and potential bicyclists at intersections for newer designs on separated bikeways. The data used in this study were obtained from an in-person rating of curated video clips, shown from the perspective of a bicyclist, riding through the various intersection designs with consistent levels of interactions with turning motor vehicles. A total of 277 survey respondents rated each clip on a comfort scale providing 7,166 ratings. Respondents also answered questions about whether they would ride specific designs with a 10-year old child, indicated a preference for paired sets of intersection designs, and answered questions about their travel experiences and demographics.


Originally published by National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.



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