How To Get Bicyclists To Obey Traffic Signals

After installing micro radar sensors in the pavement to monitor the behavior of bicyclists, Chicago has figured out how to make them obey traffic signals: give them their own.
"If you actually give a cyclist their own space and you give them their own signal, it's remarkable how their behavior changes," said Chicago Transporation Commissioner Gabe Klein at the Complete Streets Symposium hosted in Chicago Thursday and Friday.
In December, Chicago installed a two-way bicycle lane on Dearborn Street through The Loop, fitted it with signals and signs directed to bicyclists, and installed micro-radar sensors in the pavement that can detect bicyclists and differentiate them from cars.
Compliance with traffic signals jumped from 31 percent before the installation to 81 percent after, Klein said.
"So before the installation very few people were actually paying attention to lights, people were running them. It went from 31 percent before the installation, so only one third, to 81 percent afterwards. Just overnight. Just by giving them a space and a signal. Big big difference."
Because the city had to simultaneously upgrade the signals for cars and pedestrians, traffic time has also improved for cars and pedestrians using Dearborn, Klein said.
The Dearborn installation has not been without hiccups. In May, a restaurant put stop signs in the bike lane to remind bicyclists to stop for pedestrians. The city removed them and has painted signs on the pavement reminding pedestrians to watch for bicyclists.
Earlier this year the Chicago Department of Transportation adopted a policy prioritizing forms of transportation that have the least impact on the city: "All transportation projects and programs, from scoping to maintenance, will favor pedestrians first, then transit riders, cyclists, and automobiles.”
Not all motorists are thrilled with the new priorities, as expressed by "Mike," a commenter on Chicago's streetsblog:
The city streets do NOT revolve around bicyclists! There should be stop signs for bicyclists in every bike lane around the city. Bicycles should have to follow every rule other vehicles have to on the road, INCLUDING stopping at lights and signs. Bicyclists are NOT I repeat ARE NOT the reason these streets were created. Its for the CARS. Stop giving privileges to bicyclists, they pay no insurance, registration, licence plate fees, and are a general nuisance to the rest of the city. These bike lanes and bikers need to be regulated NOW!
Klein says motorists are not the only ones disturbed by rogue bicyclists:
"One of the biggest complaints you hear particularly from non-bikers, but even from bikers like myself, [is] cyclists who run signals."
From the bicyclists' perspective, traffic signals have traditionally been designed for cars, are often triggered when they detect cars (but not bikes), and sometimes it seems safer to disobey traffic signals. conducted a survey of bicyclists about this behavior and published the top reasons bicyclists disobey red lights:
I was turning left (the U,S, equivalent would be a right on red)
The inductive loop doesn't detect my bike
There were no other road users
It was a pedestrian crossing
A bicyclist was killed last week at an unimproved intersection in Chicago while turning left against a red light.

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