User Comprehension of Bicycle Signal Countdown Timers

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Transportation Research Record

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For a person on a bicycle at signalized intersections, trail crossings, or midblock locations, knowing how long they must wait to receive a green indication is valuable information. In the international context, this information is often provided by small, nearside bicycle signal heads that contain a countdown display that visually conveys the amount of waiting time. This paper presents the results of research to investigate the comprehension of bicycle countdown timer displays in the U.S. context. The study conducted an online survey to analyze the understanding and preference of three alternative bicycle countdown timer displays. Respondents were recruited by two recruitment methods: mailed postcards (568 responses) and social media ads (772 responses). A countdown timer with circular disappearing dots was then installed at an intersection in Portland, OR, and an intercept survey was conducted of users (29 responses). For both surveys, comprehension rates were established by coding an open-ended response to a question about the display's intended meaning. The surveys found that the bicycle signal countdown displays were intuitive, and the intended meaning was fully understood by over 60% of online survey respondents and 52% of the intercepted bicyclists. Partial comprehension increased to over 70% and 97% of those intercepted, respectively, which would result in safe user interpretation. A countdown timer may also improve the waiting experience for stopped bicyclists, as 70% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that they would feel better about waiting at an intersection if a bicycle countdown timer was present.


© National Academy of Sciences: Transportation Research Board 2023



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