19 July 2008

117 Safer Intersections in Copenhagen

The City of Copenhagen announced yesterday that 117 intersections throughout the city will be altered so that the stop line for cars and trucks will be pulled back by a minimum of 5 metres.

Vechicles turning right and hitting bikes is the most common form of accident for cyclists so Copenhageners can now look forward to increased safety around the city.
City Hall Square in Copenhagen.
Here's a photo of the main intersection next to the City Hall Square in Copenhagen, taken from the City Hall tower. Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard and Vesterbrogade.

In all haste I coloured the car lanes orange where the new stop lines would be placed. I don't know if this intersection is one of the 117 chosen and I merely guessed at the five metres distance, but it is an interesting indication of how far back the cars will stop from the zebra crossings.

There is a truck, coloured red, waiting to turn next to a wide bike lane, which is perfect for this illustration.

The idea is that all motorists, but especially truck drivers, will be able to see the cyclists who will be able to stop up by the zebra crossing.

It's a great initiative and the fact that 117 intersections will be changed really shows that the City is committed. It will take about two hours to alter one intersection, which is minimal disruption for the traffic. The budget is 3 million kroner [$300,000]. Rather inexpensive and a drop in the bucket for the annual budget of 75 million kroner for bike infrastructure in Copenhagen.

Work starts any day now.

Copenhagen City Hall Square with new stop lines and bike lanes
Here's the same photo with the existing bike lanes marked in blue to give you an idea of how they fit into the picture. 30,000 + bikes pass this intersection each day so many will benefit from the new stop lines.

Here's another intersection, previously Denmark's most dangerous until the City redesigned the bicycle infrastructure. Cycliss now avoid the right turning vehicles on a cycle track that continues - free of motorised traffic - to the right at the busiest corner. As well as pre-greens for cyclists and stop lines pulled back five metres.

The number of accidents involving bikes has fallen since. From 15 serious accidents a year to just one.


Anonymous said...

I have a question... do you know if will motorbikes be allowed to use these advanced stop zones? I'm interested because in my city we have them for cycles but there is a proposall to allow motorbikes too. I'm not sure that this is a great idea as it may put people off trying cycling. Thanks

Zakkaliciousness said...

No. The stop line is for all motorised vehicles, except for small scooters that use the bike lanes. The idea is that the bike lanes continue past the stop line, allowing cyclists to wait up by the zebra crossing, ahead of motorbikes, cars and trucks.

2whls3spds said...

Interesting concept....I wonder if we will ever see it here? God forbid we do anything to inconvenience a motorist!


Zakkaliciousness said...

the concept is good because making cars stop farther back doesn't really give the motorists a sense of inconvenience, i think. not as much as removing parking spots for bike racks, etc.

Anonymous said...

Don't most "right hooks" ( as we call them in the USA) happen when the bicyclist enters the intersection when the light is already green rather than when they pull up at a red light?

It's hard to see how these will help during a green light unless you have to stop and wait for a red light to enter the advanced stop zone.

Zakkaliciousness said...

In Copenhagen there is considerably more bicycle traffic flow. Motorists are generally more aware of cyclists. Pushing back the stop line for cars and giving the bicycle flow a head start will serve to make motorists aware of this flow and the possibility of more bikes coming up behind.

Intersections are the place where most collisions happen, right hook or otherwise. Anything and everything that helps reduce this risk of collision is welcomed.

Portland has done the same with their bike boxes - they've just painted them bright green.

I highly doubt that the City of Copenhagen - or any other municipal body - would start such a comprehensive project with taxpayers money if they're were quite certain that it will help.

Anonymous said...

Actually, recently Copenhagen did an analysis of their bicycling infrastructure and found that a lot of them increased accidents to bicyclists and other road users.

So, no, I'm not sure that Copenhagen is sure this approach actually reduces accidents. Simple flow pattern analysis makes it unclear what, if anything, these advanced stop boxes really do.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Which analysis are you refering to? There is one that highlights some increases. It is called:

"Road safety and percieved risk of cycle facilities in Copenhagen"

However, at the summary at the end of the analysis it says:

"It should be noticed that blue cycle crossings, retracted stop lines for cars and pre-green lights for cyclists have been used in only very few places on those streets where cycle tracks have been constructed in Copenhagen in the studied after periods. More extended use of these safety measures would very probably have improved road safety."

Which is why they are being implemented.
The pre-green lights for bikes was the first of the aforementioned safety measures to be implemented and they have had a massive impact.

By all accounts, the retracted stop line will have the same effect.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Ironically, that one report is often quoted by those wacko Vehicular Cyclists - the Flat Earth Society of the Cycling World - but they never, ever mention that last summary.

Anonymous said...

In any case, how does one work? Do you only proceed into the box if you have an advanced green or everybody has a stop?

Zakkaliciousness said...

Cyclists on existing bike lanes proceed, as per usual, to the existing stop line, up by the zebra crossing.

Where they currently are side by side with motor vehicles, the motorised traffic will now be stopped minimum 5 metres behind them at another stop line.

Whether or not a pre-green will also be present at these intersections is something I don't know. The pre-greens are currently in place in intersections with a high collision rate (which has fallen since their implementation as per the previous link).

It's all quite simple. A headstart for bikes. Visibility.

Anonymous said...

No - I mean what do you do if traffic is already flowing - obviously an advanced stop box can't help prevent a right hook in this situation unless the bike waits until there is a red light to move towards the intersection. Is that the plan?

Most right hooks happen when the traffic is already moving, not when the light goes from red to green, so there must be some plan to get bikes to stop when traffic is already moving. Otherwise, the boxes do no good.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Why would the bikes stop?! Vehicles that are continuing straight on have the right of way over vehicles that are turning. Regardless of whether they are motorised or not. Like anywhere else.

The retracted stop lines are not some magic wand, they are merely a tool to create awareness at intersections. Like Portland's bike boxes. Every worthwhile tool should be used wherever possible.

Personally, I rarely experience a car that turns right without yielding to bikes continuing straight on. Motorists here are cyclists, too.

And cyclists are aware of cars. Accidents happen - there is no such thing as a zero-accident society - but wherever we can reduce risk and increase awareness, we will do so. Despite the fact that we, together with The Netherlands, enjoy the best safety statistics in the world, we keep trying to make it better.

Anonymous said...

"Why would the bikes stop?! Vehicles that are continuing straight on have the right of way over vehicles that are turning. Regardless of whether they are motorised or not. Like anywhere else."

This is very confusing. "Anywhere else" you would not have vehicles going straight to the right of right-turning vehicles. That's what creates the conflict in the first place.

I thought the bike box is suppose to somehow resolve this turning conflict. At least that is what you imply. Now you say it is simply to increase awareness that there are straight moving vehicles to the right of right-turning vehicles and otherwise does nothing to resolve this conflict.

Oh well, I guess I'll never understand.

I suspect the lower fatality rate is due to the large number of bicyclists, not due to safety induced by these facilities. Perhaps in spite of these facilities.

Zakkaliciousness said...

I suppose it is hard to understand for some. The good thing is that it isnt' about one street corner in one neighbourhood in one Nordic capital.

100 million Europeans ride daily and there are dozens and dozens of cities throughout Europe with bike usage rates between 20%-50% - cities that were congested and polluted only a decade or two ago, so it is quite clearly a concept that homo sapiens can understand once it arrives.

Portland is leading the way and New York, by all accounts, is next. With other cities well on their way in North America. So hopefully you'll get to try it out in practice in the near future near you.

2whls3spds said...

FWIW I think Chicago is making great strides, from what I am hearing, and hope to see for myself soon.


Anonymous said...

We are not "flat earthers". Like all bicyclists we know that the earth is uphill in both directions!

(Thanks to MG for this)

m said...

I currently cycle in London, but I've cycled extensively in Germany (where I'm from), which also has an extensive segregated cycle network.

My impression is that cycling in Germany benefits from the "great numbers" effect, and especially from many drivers also sometimes cycling.

However, for the fast-ish cyclist, and by that I really mean anything faster than about 10 km/h, having traffic going straight to the right of right-turning cars really does create a conflict that I do not encounter in London, where I can safely stay behind of, or pass safely on the right hand side, (left-hand) left-turning traffic (the equivalent to Danish/ German right-turning cars).

I also very often see drivers in Germany, who are generally good at waiting for the straight-going stream of cyclists, get impatient and just squeeze in, cutting off cyclists.

Boxes like the one you describe really only alleviate the problem of everyone waiting for the green light, but not what happens when traffic is moving.

Moreover, if as you say in Copenhagen there is a steady stream of cyclists going straight, *and* if cars wait patiently, how do cars ever get to make a right turn?

Whenever I'm in Germany, cycling safely means not cycling faster than a maximum of 10-15 km/h. I could cycle perfectly safely at 20-30 km/h on the road if I were allowed there, and even more so if cars had a 30 km/h speed limit. But society, even the "cycling-progressive" country Germany, apparently still thinks it is more important that cars can do 50 km/h instead of 30, but that it is fine to slow all cyclists down to 10 km/h. Look at how much space is devoted to cars vs cyclists even on your pictures.

Cyclists are not a homogenous group. You have slow moving kids and old people, people with wide loads, and fast commuters. You want to encourage all of them to cycle. Not one solution fits all -- we need to demand more resources, because ultimately cyclists are good for society. On some non-residential roads, we may need to have both (very good, wide) cycle paths *and* the right to be on the road, and encourage fast cyclist to be on the road, where they are safer and less inconvenient to both cars and slower cyclists.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Cars have to wait for the bikes before turning right. And they do.

It's no different than cars turning left in an intersection have to wait for the cars heading straight before turning.

Why should it be different turning right or left?

Too many rules are not logical. Simple rules that people can understand are preferred. And considering that fact that everyone in Denmark and Holland live with it each day... it seems to work. Why fix it?

Many German cities have lowered the speed limit for cars in the city centres. This traffic safety trend is spreading.

Here we are creating bicycle motorways with a fast lane for faster bikes.

m said...

I'd say there are at least two major differences between cars waiting for oncoming traffic going straight when turning left, and cars waiting for traffic coming from behind going straight when turning right.

The first is that it is in fact easier to see what is in front of you than what is coming up from behind you and passing closely by your side. If a fast object is moving towards me, weather conditions allowing the horizon is the limit to what I can see. Driving regularly in Germany, I know that how far I can crane my neck, and how quickly I can switch back and forth between looking forward (which I have to whenever my vehicle is moving) and behind for cyclists coming up, put a much stricter limit on what I can see.

The second difference is that waiting for oncoming traffic when turning left is a "necessary evil" which we'll always have wherever there's two-way traffic. (Well-implemented roundabouts are one way to ameliorate this). Waiting for cyclists coming up from behind is a direct consequence of the segregated bike path, and is avoided for "regular" traffic by having right-turning traffic to the right of traffic going straight, by having cars switch lanes and merge zipper-like, and I've experienced this can work quite well when you're cycling, too.

Please note that I don't say that there are no benefits to segregated cycle paths in some situations and for some people. I'm just saying that the right hook is a problem that is exacerbated, if not caused, by segregeted roadside cycle paths, and that the advanced stop boxes far from completely get rid of this problem, because it often occurs in moving traffic, where the advanced stop box is useless.

I agree totally that Germany is way ahead say of the UK when it comes to reducing speed limit, but they haven't gone far enough at all, partly because of the strong car lobby.

I'm sceptical of cycle motorways. Fast cyclists easily do 20-30 km/h, and if you reduce the speed limit for cars to 30 km/h, the best cycle motorway is the road. Separate cycle motorways will always have to cross the existing road network somewhere, and as we know, intersections are where most conflict and most serious accidents occur.

Tallycyclist said...

@m Part of the reason cycling is so prominent in cities like Copenhagen is due to it's great infrastructure. I've been there 2x and cycled all over the city and it was really stress free and fun. Yes, right turning vehicles will have to wait for cyclists going straight, and that goes for whether you have separated bike lanes or the painted on-street ones. They have to wait for any pedestrians crossing (at least by law) so should we also have pedestrians sharing the road with cars and abolish the side walks?

What you suggested, which sounds like taking the lane, may seem logical in principle but in actuality it doesn't really work optimally for the masses. That's what we mostly have here in the US and guess what our cycling rate is to this day, under 1%. Copenhagen does have some cycle tracks that become a bike/right turn for car lane. It works okay there because everyone's use to cyclist, and cars have to merge into that lane, not the other way around. Where I live in Tallahassee, cyclist often have to cross a car lane to continue on the straight-way bike lane. Not pleasant when there's an endless stream of cars going 35 mph or more. Even in Copenhagen, I prefer intersections where cycle tracks continue all the way to the end.

It's really about subjective safety for people to want to ride (at least beyond that 1-2% that'll ride no matter what the conditions). Fast cyclist may be able to do 20-30 km easily, but that's the fast cyclist. What about everyone else? Most people in Copenhagen are not these fast cyclist, and I doubt 8 year old school children or 70 year old grandmas want to be in that category and share the road with cars. It's about creating a medium that will satisfy the majority of the population. Sure a city like Copenhagen probably isn't exciting for the cyclist who wants to ride 30, 35 or 40 km/hr the entire way, but the city isn't the right place to do that to begin.