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#1 2019-06-01 02:59:05

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

I don't bike much any more, but when I do, drivers fail to yield to me at the green bike crossings at Dean Keeton (where the signs instruct them, YIELD TO BIKES), 100% of the time.

Today when I was driving, I stopped at a crosswalk where a ped looked like he was about to enter it, and the driver behind me laid on his horn.  That's a pretty frequent occurrence.

A few years ago I biked through the marked crossing on the I-35 service road at 4th St., forcing the driver to stop who clearly didn't want to.  He and his wife/girlfriend simultaneously both flipped the bird with both hands (4 total).  I'll never forget the look of disgust on her face.

But, you know, cyclists have to follow the law if they want respect.  (Applies only to bicyclists.)

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#2 2019-06-03 19:52:11

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 47

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

I've actually started collecting data on the I-35 crossings on Dean Keeton. Every time I interact with a driver at one of those crossings, I put an entry in a spreadsheet and copy the helmet cam video to my computer. I think those crossings are particularly bad and the city really has no excuse for this. There are so many things they could do that aren't expensive to improve the crossings (simple rumble strips would probably go a long way).

I'm doing an experiment as part of this: some days I use an air horn as I approach the intersection and some days I don't. In the morning before I ride to work I flip a coin. Heads means I use the air horn in the test area, tails means I don't. (Today is tails.)

While it's early, I believe the air horn makes a substantial difference. Most drivers aren't paying attention for cyclists. I also think that my new police style hi-vis vest is making a difference, though this isn't part of the experiment.

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#3 2019-06-03 21:29:29

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

That's quite a project, btrettel.  What do you plan to do with your data?

Those crossings are why my wife stopped biking.  After the umpteenth time that she tried to enter the crossing on her bike only to have a driver lay on their horn as they sped through it, forcing her to slam on her brakes, she gave up.  The last time she came home crying and shaking, almost catatonic, staring into space, just muttering over and over again, "He tried to kill me!"  She didn't move for hours.  Right after that I bought a car.

The irony would be if the drivers, as they're honking and speeding through the crossing, yelled out their windows, "Bicyclists have to follow the law if they want respect!"

My wife says if we win the lottery, she wants to fund a camera like the red-light cams that would automatically mail tickets to drivers.  My own fantasy is a sensor that lowers a railroad crossing-style arm when a bicyclist approaches.

In theory, the City did their part:  Only a few years ago there was nothing there (I biked through it for decades), but now they've marked the crossing with green paint, put in separator flags, and YIELD TO BIKES signage.  In a reasonable world that would be enough, but this is Austin, where drivers are more selfish even than average.

Your vest looked British to me, and then on closer inspection I see that the site selling it is indeed in England.  If that's working here, then maybe any safety vest would work (which I used to wear).  Whenever I'd bike to Home Depot and walked in with my vest, people would always start asking me which aisle products were on.  (I'd always just tell them, since I know the store well.)

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#4 2019-06-04 09:16:11

RedFalcon
Member
Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 196

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

btrettel wrote:

I've actually started collecting data on the I-35 crossings on Dean Keeton.

It would be a great idea to gather this info together, including videos, and bring it to the attention of the Bicycle Advisory Council.  I can help you with that.  This is exactly the kind of thing we need to be doing.

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#5 2019-06-04 13:05:46

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 265

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

You might find that part of the problem--maybe most of the problem--with those Dean Keeton/I-35 crossings are that they are placed inappropriately.
When I ride Dean Keeton under I-35, and I do it fairly often, I hold my line in the traffic lane far to the left of the paint and have never had any sort of conflict with another vehicle while doing so.  I suggest the paint should be moved to that part of the roadway instead. The current paint is telling cyclists to ride where they are more likely to be hit.

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#6 2019-06-04 17:44:00

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 47

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

MichaelBluejay wrote:

That's quite a project, btrettel.  What do you plan to do with your data?

I'm mostly interested in characterizing the extent of the problem. I probably would post it online but I don't intend to publish it formally. I might take RedFalcon up on his offer to help present this to the BAC. I attended one of their meetings in the past and thought it was a waste of time to be honest.

I just changed the experimental procedure: I'll now flip two coins. If the second coin is tails then I'll take off the vest before approaching I-35. I'll put it back on afterward because I believe it improves my safety, though. I also realized that I would sometimes wave at drivers on the no-horn days and I decided to stop doing that as few cyclists will wave. So the small amount of data I've collected so far probably is not useful now, but this is a longer term project, so I'm not worried.

MichaelBluejay wrote:

Your vest looked British to me, and then on closer inspection I see that the site selling it is indeed in England.  If that's working here, then maybe any safety vest would work (which I used to wear).

Yes, I ordered it from the UK. I'm not aware of a US style equivalent but would buy one. My own experience suggests that quite a few people think I'm a cop when I'm wearing it. There's a study that says police style vests don't make drivers pass cyclists any farther, but if I had to guess what the most important effect would be, it would be making drivers slow down. I believe drivers treat me differently wearing the police style vest than a normal one.

MichaelBluejay wrote:

In theory, the City did their part:  Only a few years ago there was nothing there (I biked through it for decades), but now they've marked the crossing with green paint, put in separator flags, and YIELD TO BIKES signage.  In a reasonable world that would be enough, but this is Austin, where drivers are more selfish even than average.

Whenever I see a "share the road sign" or a sign saying to specifically yield to cyclists, that just makes me believe the road is dangerous. Rather than improve the safety of the road, the city tries to "cover their ass" by putting up signs that the vast majority of drivers don't look at. That way if anything bad happens the city can just blame the driver, rather than the city's own bad design. As far as I'm concerned, such signs should increase both the driver's and the city's liability.

Jack wrote:

When I ride Dean Keeton under I-35, and I do it fairly often, I hold my line in the traffic lane far to the left of the paint and have never had any sort of conflict with another vehicle while doing so.

I agree with you and ride that way normally. For the purpose of the experiment I'm using the bike lane as the city intends as the goal is to show precisely how unsafe the road is for most cyclists.

I'm surprised that you never had any sort of conflict, as even taking the lane I can recall eastbound drivers trying to get onto I-35 turning directly into my path as I'm riding west.

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#7 2019-06-04 18:07:28

RedFalcon
Member
Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 196

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

btrettel wrote:
MichaelBluejay wrote:

That's quite a project, btrettel.  What do you plan to do with your data?

I might take RedFalcon up on his offer to help present this to the BAC. I attended one of their meetings in the past and thought it was a waste of time to be honest.

BAC meetings do sometimes feel like a waste of time, but presenting the data and getting a resolution passed would get the problem on the record.   Good idea to have a solution to propose at the same time. Sounds like you have ideas about that too.

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#8 2019-06-04 23:29:26

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

I'm a well-known pessimist, but I don't think the city put in the crossing as a CYA move, I think they were generally trying to improve the situation.  It does seem like an improvement over the nothing that was there before.  I think the fact that's not working is drivers' fault, not the City's.

Jack, to use your idea of riding to the left of the crossing, that means when going westbound I'd need to be in the car turning lane, which isn't wide enough for a car and a bike to share side by side.  When I'm *driving* in that lane going close to the speed limit, drivers tailgate me and show impatience/frustration that I'm not going fast enough.  I can't imagine how pissed off they'd be if a bike were blocking them, especially when there's a well-marked bike lane on the right side of the ride that I wouldn't be using.

At some point, a straight-bound cyclist is gonna have to cross the path of the right-turning cars.  I don't know how to do that in a way that drivers will actually respect, short of my idea of having a sensor notice bicyclists and trigger a railroad crossing-style arm to lower.

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#9 2019-06-05 13:16:50

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 265

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

btrettel wrote:
Jack wrote:

When I ride Dean Keeton under I-35, and I do it fairly often, I hold my line in the traffic lane far to the left of the paint and have never had any sort of conflict with another vehicle while doing so.


I'm surprised that you never had any sort of conflict, as even taking the lane I can recall eastbound drivers trying to get onto I-35 turning directly into my path as I'm riding west.

Maybe my sample size is smaller than yours!  Maybe just luck.  Even given that predictable conflict, you'd be worse off following the city's "facility" route--it essentially tells a cyclist to surprise drivers about their direction of travel.

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#10 2019-06-05 13:34:21

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 47

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

MichaelBluejay wrote:

I'm a well-known pessimist, but I don't think the city put in the crossing as a CYA move, I think they were generally trying to improve the situation.  It does seem like an improvement over the nothing that was there before.  I think the fact that's not working is drivers' fault, not the City's.

Sorry, I was unclear. I think the yield signs are mostly done as a CYA move. Some of the crossings at I-35 and Dean Keeton have TWO yield signs. Obviously these signs aren't effective. I think if you asked most drivers who went through those crossings they wouldn't be able to tell you if there were any signs at all, much less what the signs say. Any competent traffic engineer should know that these signs won't do much if anything as far as I'm concerned. So the question is why they are added at all. My guess is that the traffic code says to add signs to improve compliance, so that's what the engineers do rather than deviate from the code and increase their liability. I know from my experience as an engineer that it's not uncommon for parts of an engineering code to have no empirical backing.

I've thought before that standards committees are good places for activism...

If I'm wrong about the traffic code here in Austin, let me know. I'm a research engineer, not a "professional engineer", and I haven't read the local traffic code or even know where I could get a copy. I've tried to speak to traffic engineers in the city to learn more by calling 311 but for the most part I haven't been successful.

Last edited by btrettel (2019-06-05 13:36:49)

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#11 2019-06-05 14:06:55

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 265

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

MichaelBluejay wrote:

I'm a well-known pessimist, but I don't think the city put in the crossing as a CYA move, I think they were generally trying to improve the situation.  It does seem like an improvement over the nothing that was there before.  I think the fact that's not working is drivers' fault, not the City's.

Jack, to use your idea of riding to the left of the crossing, that means when going westbound I'd need to be in the car turning lane, which isn't wide enough for a car and a bike to share side by side.  When I'm *driving* in that lane going close to the speed limit, drivers tailgate me and show impatience/frustration that I'm not going fast enough.  I can't imagine how pissed off they'd be if a bike were blocking them, especially when there's a well-marked bike lane on the right side of the ride that I wouldn't be using.

At some point, a straight-bound cyclist is gonna have to cross the path of the right-turning cars.  I don't know how to do that in a way that drivers will actually respect, short of my idea of having a sensor notice bicyclists and trigger a railroad crossing-style arm to lower.

I'm quite sure that the city program put the crossing in that way with good intentions to improve the situation! 

The city's way to cross follows what some US bicycle safety experts would have recommended in the 1980s for a cyclist (without a bike lane)--stay far right, get farther to the right like you might be turning off right, then shoot across the road for a shorter distance crossing.  I have seen illustrated instructions.*  But that method tricks drivers into thinking the line of travel is along the curve and the dash across is a surprise.  It takes more skill and more situational awareness to use that route safely than it does to take the lane and stay left so drivers know what you are doing (and the painted route requires more situational awareness from the motorists too, which is a big part of the problem--yes the motorists often are at fault, but the striped route makes it harder for a driver to figure out, and the city made that happen).  My experience tells me that staying left of the mess--without even trying to share side by side--allows drivers to decide whether they have time and space to pass me before turning right or whether they would rather stay behind me before turning right.  It's never a long time for any of us; it's only a few dozen yards.  It's far easier westbound, actually, because it's easier to make good speed west than east.  I don't have to imagine motorists being pissed off about it; it might happen someday but it's really not very likely.  The further right I stay, the more I invite a motorist to think I don't mind being passed closely or cut off. 

The city could take a clue from its own installments other places.  For some intersections, a right turn only lane will put the bike lane to the left of that.  Right practice.  For these messy intersections, why not direct right turning traffic to the right side of the road (where it belongs)  earlier and forward-traveling cyclists to the left of the right turning traffic (where they belong)?   

*safety tip there would be for the cyclist to stop at the point of crossing, wait for no oncoming traffic, then sprint across, but that's not very convenient and it would take, what, signs to tell cyclists that's what to do?  I've tried the method at faster-speed, busier on-ramp intersections and it almost always feels more hazardous than getting out to the left and continuing forward in the rightmost lane that goes in my direction of travel.  This is a better way:  http://bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/chapter4a.htm

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#12 2019-06-06 02:04:44

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

Jack wrote:

For these messy intersections, why not direct right turning traffic to the right side of the road (where it belongs)  earlier and forward-traveling cyclists to the left of the right turning traffic (where they belong)?

Agreed.  I just took an aerial view of the area in Google Maps and there's indeed enough space for both a straight-through bike lane and a right-turning bike lane.

Seems like I recall that eastbound *used* to put the straight-through bike lane between the straight-through car lane and the right-turning car lane.  Is my memory correct, or did I do too many drugs in the 60s?

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#13 2019-06-06 12:05:32

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 265

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

MichaelBluejay wrote:

Seems like I recall that eastbound *used* to put the straight-through bike lane between the straight-through car lane and the right-turning car lane.  Is my memory correct, or did I do too many drugs in the 60s?

Whether you did too many drugs or not, I *think* you are right.  If you can remember that decade, you weren't there, they say.  Maybe the one who designed the current mess there was tripping at the time.  It would help explain why a bike lane tells newbies to follow a confusing and dangerous route instead of an easy and safer one.   

Someone wanting to go east on Dean Keeton/Manor starting from a point west of I-35 but south of Dean Keeton is better off crossing under I-35 at Manor Rd. (Clyde Littlefield when on campus) to avoid that mess while climbing slowly.  It's flatter there and has signals and nothing confusing.  Incidentally, tho' Google Maps satellite view doesn't show it yet, the city has changed the bicycle facility on Manor Rd. btwn I-35 and where it merges near French Pl. to eliminate the configuration of sharrows painted in the door zone of parallel parked cars (stupid!), took out the parking (!), and put up  instead a buffered bike lane with unsightly, unnecessary, and inconvenient plastic pylons.  Net gain for safety, IMO, but it would be better still without the pylons there to make it hard for cyclists to move left when they want to and impossible for motorists to merge to the curb before turning right, which is what we want them to do when cyclists are around.  At least the city didn't put up those dangerous giant concrete dot barriers like they have other places.

Last edited by Jack (2019-06-06 12:06:14)

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#14 2019-10-11 12:44:10

daveintex13
Member
Registered: 2010-01-07
Posts: 22

Re: Drivers never yield at bike and ped crossings

FYI: btrettel is presenting findings from the Dean Keeton/I-35 study:
---------------------------------
Bicycle Advisory Council
Tues, Oct 15 @ 6 p.m.
City Hall, Boards & Commissions Room (Rm 1101)
---------------------------------
Dean Keeton Street and I-35
Requestor: Koonz, BAC member
Presenter: [btrettel] • 

The purpose of this item is for [btrettel], Austin resident and student at UT, to present his study on how cars and cyclists interact at the Dean Keaton/I35 intersection.  (see Bike Austin Info forum discussion for context)

10-15 mins

Other: Given the changes being made to traffic patterns in the area around UT, this presentation could provide some useful insights and data about how cars and bikes interact in this area.

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