OMG, there are two more: War on cars continues with Madison bike boxes

Lots of talk of war currently on CHS. Must have watched too much football. Two more bike boxes come to Capitol Hill streets. Some details on how to use and how not to for riders — and drivers — here. By the way, if you’re worried that Seattle is the only place with so much hand-wringing over the new street features, you’ll find solace knowing that another Madison’s bike boxes have also sparked controversy.



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39 thoughts on “OMG, there are two more: War on cars continues with Madison bike boxes

  1. As a daily biker I like seeing these although I have to admit that I’m not sure what the hell they do for me. Are they like home base where I’m safe or like a penalty box in hockey where I go when committing a penalty?

  2. At first I thought to myself “Madison isn’t a major bike corridor (i.e., there’s no bike lanes on it) — why would they put bike boxes on it?” But it looks like they’re really there for folks biking on Union to get across Madison/12th. Kind of a goofy set up — if you’re coming westbound on Union, instead of doing what the cars do (turning left onto Madison on the east side of Pony), you’re directed to take Union all the way to that right turn only place on the west side of Pony, then use the crosswalk across Union, then use the crosswalk across Madison, and then get into the bike box. I wonder how many bikers will do that vs. just making the illegal left off of Union onto Madison? There’s a similarly confusing setup for eastbound bikers. I’ll be curious to see how it’s used.

  3. They’re to ensure safety for bikers when accelerating at stoplights. Bikers should have space to be in front of cars, in order to accelerate fast and move to the right. If they weren’t there, there’s more danger of bicyclists getting caught inside the rush of cars gunning it at a green.

  4. they promote awareness and make it a hell of alot easier to turn left. On top of that they alleviate congestiom for cars and almost eliminate the chance of collision. they are lovely and help everyone to boot. The one gripe I have heard from drivers is the lack of informatiobln on how to drive around them.

  5. As a daily bike commuter the last thing I want is “war” between cyclists and drivers. It is obvious which group loses in a confrontation.

    I am not against drivers and I don’t hate cars. I don’t run red lights or stop signs, on my bicycle or in my car. I don’t want to get in the way of cars if at all possible. When I’m on my bike I’m one less car in traffic, I’m one less parking space that is occupied, I’m one less person buying gas and pushing up prices.

    I don’t approve of the cyclists skipping lights and stop signs, riding dangerously and giving the rest of us a bad name. All I want to do is get to work safely in an environmentally friendly way. By getting out of a 3000+ lb cage and on a bike it is my life that is at risk, so I don’t see why drivers must feel so threatened by our presence.

  6. Fix the roads first, then paint your pretty green boxes if you have any money left over. The roads around capitol hill are shit, the city is broke, and the DOT is painting bike crap all over the place. insanity!

  7. Dave:

    I agree with you. I am a law-abiding driver and I have no problem with law-abiding cyclists and consciously look out for them when driving. The “War” being referred to is not between drivers and cyclists, but is one instigated by McMayor Mike McGinn. He has cobbled up policy after policy that seeks to make us conform to his opinions and personal practices regarding transportation. He made a direct promise to voters regarding the waterfront tunnel then subsequently revealed himself an unashamed liar by trying to stop the project. He’s tried to up-end long planned 520 designs. He wants to fill the city’s budget shorfalls in part, by burdening drivers with fees and taxes and maybe even tolls! Thus, more and more people conclude he has declared war on cars. He seems to delight in being contrary, and I find that despicable. I feel so strongly about this that I will actively work to unseat him in the next election. Anecdotally, his reputation is so bad that I have coworkers who live outside Seattle ask me what in the world voters were thinking when we elected him.

  8. as a non-car and non-bike owning pedestrian, I am terrified of all of you and your bad driving/biking.

    for the record, I’ve almost been hit by cyclists WAY more times than I’ve almost been hit by drivers.

  9. the seattle times reports these bike boxes cost $10,000.00 each. for the $30,000.00 we just spent creating three of them we could have hired one elementary school teacher. to me, that seems like a much more intelligent way to spend money.

  10. I ride my bike west on Madison every day to work. The 3-way intersection of Madison with 12th and Union is difficult and dangerous. If I am waiting at the light and keep to the right like a good cyclist, then the traffic tends to cut me off by making a hard right onto 12th or a “Y” right onto Union. So I usually pull into traffic so that I can proceed straight when the light changes without being cut off by a right-turning car. So far no one has plowed into me. Now there is a green box which may make it even less likely for anyone to plow into me. I am grateful for this. I wish all the car people wouldn’t gripe about these very small concessions made to cyclists lately compared to all the money spent daily to facilitate people getting around by car.

  11. Who’s the best person to write to voice my displeasure with these stupid, green wastes of money?

    Cyclists – good luck trying to legislate poor drivers out of the picture. At the end of the day, you’re a fleshy, squishy thing in a world of metal, teenagers, and cell phones. I love biking, but I’ll stick to trails and mountains thanks. I don’t have a fucking deathwish.

    Want to make a difference? Campaign to make a driver’s license mean something.

  12. I have my doubts that these boxes actually increase safety. I think they might be like the useless “sharrows”…”feel-good” graphics which do nothing for safety and waste taxpayer’s money.

    I notice that taking a “right on red” by drivers will be forbidden at those intersections with a box. That’s too bad, as this ability significantly improves traffic flow and decreases congestion on our streets.

  13. I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure jseattle is using a dash of sarcasm to mock the silliness of people that are standing up for cars as if they are even close to being marginalized in this so-called “war”. The amount of favor we have given to cars over the decades of building up our environment is insane. Justified or not, I can’t imagine a more selfish way of transporting one’s self than by personal automobile. I’m having trouble thinking of an equivalent example, but maybe it’d be like saying a patient’s bill of rights is a “war on insurance companies”

  14. perhaps this cold war will heat up as bikes get to goo to the front of the line and motorists can’t right turn. Perhaps the boxes will devolve into something out of those canned “hunts.'” with the boxes serving to hold the quarry until the hunter is loaded. I hope not.

  15. Me thinks I prefer hard numbers, i.e. science instead of making or accepting opinions based solely on anecdotal evidence which has a higher potential of producing biased conclusions. So show me some hard numbers that these investments are a detrimental or inefficient use of money and I will gladly pay attention.

  16. “Why is [preventing right turn on red] bad?”

    The answer should be obvious, but by preventing such turns, the bike blocks add to congestion because vehicles that might have turned right on red must now wait behind the bikes until the light changes and the bikes clear the block, which lengthens the time needed for their trip through the intersection. This has a ripple effect on the vehicles behind them.

  17. CHS Blog, thanks so much for labeling these little green zones a war. We really need more animosity on the roads.

    I really find it sickening that people would choose to commute by bike in an urban environment.

  18. What I was implying was that the net effect may not be bad. Sure, maybe automobiles get held up for an additional 10 or 15 seconds, but maybe that’s an acceptable and worthy tradeoff if it improves the safety of people walking or on bicycles. Right turns on reds are generally seen as safety hazards for people walking.

  19. “Right turns on reds are generally seen as safety hazards for people walking.”

    And straight through’s on reds — a cyclist favorite — are also generally seen as safety hazards for people walking.

  20. We could hire 133,000 of your cut-rate elementary school teachers for the price of the two lane wide (car-only) waterfront tunnel.

    We could hire over 3,000 cut-rate elementary school teachers every year for the annual costs of car infrastructure in this city paid by sales and property taxes.

    Two new red light cameras can pay for a new cut-rate elementary school teacher.

    Gimme a break. If the bike boxes prevent one serious collision or increases bike commuting a fraction of a percent, it will save the city money.

  21. So, Pragmatic, are you in favor of repealing the statute allowing a
    “right turn on red”? If so, you would have the majority disagreeing with you…

    There are 2 reasons why this right turn might be a safety hazard: 1) motorists sometimes try to turn when pedestrians have the right of way…while their light is “walk.” and 2) pedestrians often enter the crosswalk when they do not have the right of way…while their light is “stop” (red hand). The latter situation…very common on Capitol Hill especially, with everyone so self-important, decreases traffic flow through that intersection (impeding both right-turning vehicles, and also left-turning vehicles coming from the opposite direction) and increases traffic congestion.

  22. Cyclists approaching on Union: Wait for the traffic on Madison to get a red light then use the crosswalk to enter the bike box. When the light turns green you can bear right onto Union. You could also go left onto 12th although there is no turn arrow.

    Motorists: When the light is red, stop a few feet further back than before. Don’t turn right on red – same as if a car was occupying the right lane. Give cyclists ahead chance to make turns once the light turns green – same as if cars ahead were waiting to turning. Repeat this mantra until calm: “More bikes = less cars = less traffic”

  23. Really. So we’re painting these bike boxes to avoid the bicyclist’s share (10%) of all Right Turn on Red accidents, which even in their totality account for five-hundredths of one percent (.05%) of all accidents.

    I thought these things were an inconvenience and a waste before, now they’re absolutely ludicrous.

    How anyone could make an argument FOR these things at this point is absolutely beyond me. Doing so would only further prove that urban road cyclists have no sense.

    Awesome link there, ‘confused’.

  24. From your article:
    -The positive safety results come with a caveat. Monsere says that since conflicts (especially major ones) are rare, “It’s hard to be as conclusive as we would prefer.”

    -The decrease in fatalities due to right hooks is a statistically insignificant. This number of fatalities is too small and inconsistent over the years to mean a thing.

  25. Thanks for the RTOR paper, that was very enlightening. I love numbers and facts, so I humbly accept those numbers. However, harder to quantify is the increase in perceived safety and accommodation in the eyes of pedestrians that no-RTOR provides. For example, how many times have you, while on foot, tried to cross a street on a green but someone in a car in front of you is pulling out to see if cars are coming from his/her left, without looking to his/her right first? I know when I’m in a car, I do it all the time on accident. Maybe no collision results, but there is a clear demonstration of who exactly owns and reigns over this public space. I’m of the opinion that since high levels of pedestrian activity have so many benefits across so many areas, we should be trying to make pedestrians feel more comfortable and welcomed in our neighborhood, instead of treated a second-class beings since they are not in big metal boxes. Yes, even if this *GASP* slows down car travel. I’m not going to fall on my sword fighting for no-RTORs, but I like that we’re debating and re-analyzing accepted standards about urban car travel.

    All that said, Justin, these bike boxes are about more than just no-RTORs. They are about making travel on bike a less scary option in our neighborhood, producing effects similar to my arguments above about pedestrians. Uh-oh, did I just prove that I’m an urban cyclist without any sense???

  26. Am I only supposed to make personal judgements based on whether or not the majority disagrees with me? That’s one way to approach things, I guess…

  27. Check out the Vancouver Sun (, the newspaper for Vancouver, BC. Read their articles about bike lanes & rude bikers. Except for the names & places changed to protect the guilty, their quotes & comments sound remarkably similar to the “dialogue” taking place here in Seattle. Or: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  28. “Less Scary”? A false sense of security and reliance on other’s lawfulness is dangerous. You cannot possibly disagree with that. If you choose to bike in car-world, you should act like everything with four wheels is out to kill you simply because they CAN and will do so very easily. You can act as morally superior as you want, but at the end of the day the argument between you and +3,000lb of metal ends tragically.

    LAWS AND GREEN PAINT do not make you safe. They don’t even HELP make you safe. They make you THINK you’re safer. Still (and this hasn’t changed) all some inattentive fuck has to do to end your life is not see the “no right on red” sign and not check his mirror to see you coming up to use your little safety box. The fact that he broke the law is then completely irrelevant to you.

    I don’t need to tell you, as a cyclist, that drivers are inattentive all the goddamn time. Want to campaign for a no-car-city? At least I could see your point. Campaign for better driver education and stricter driving requirements? You have my vote. Get your head out of your ass with this “victory for cyclists” thinking and realize you’re still just as fucked as you were before.

    Cyclists unfortunately are also inattentive a lot of the time, too – unfortunately as the small fish in this pond, the onus is on them to be as aware and defensive as possible.

    I’m completely pro-cycling. Seriously. I’m also a realist and I don’t see these as anything but a nuisance to cars, a dangerous placebo to bikers, and a silly waste of money we don’t have.

    Finally, motorcycles have been coexisting with cars for almost as long as they both have existed. The difference between a motorcycle and a bicycle from a safety perspective really isn’t all that great. Yet, a motorcycle requires special safety training and licensing to operate while a road bicycle requires nothing. This is stupid. I assume cyclists must disagree with this and I’m exceedingly curious to know why.

  29. Your argument could just as easily be a reason to not install crosswalks because some inattentive fuck can still run a red light and mow down pedestrians who “stupidly” decided to walk in the crosswalk unaware of the risk of walking among cars. How do you feel about crosswalks?

    Also, it’s been shown in city after city that increases in bike presence is one of the best things you can do to improve overall bike safety. The more bikers, the fewer total injuries/fatalities. Safety in numbers. So even if these bike boxes just improve perceived safety, as you argue, the result will be a more inviting environment for more people to ride bikes, which would actually have the effect of improving safety overall. Yes to improvements in perceived safety!

    And I’m all for bike safety education.

  30. See – pedestrians and cars get along (cap hill jaywalking notwithstanding) because pedestrians always travel perpindicular to traffic, have very clearly defined “interaction zones” and generally move slower and more predictably than a bike does. It’s very easy when stopped at a red light to asses the pedestrian situation on the corner and judge your ability to turn right. This is something every driver does all the time and is extremely routine. Checking your blindspot when stopped at an intersection is not routine, and is not something most drivers would do out of habit, at all. I would say a jaywalking pedestrian is more like a bike than a pedestrian crossing at a controlled intersection.

    Safety in numbers? Yeah, sure, riding critical mass style is far safer than riding alone – but I’ll be shocked if I ever see more than one or MAYBE two bikes in a bike box.

    I know for sure their presense doesn’t encourage me to ride my bike on the street. :)

  31. Seriously drivers, either thank cyclists for cleaning your (our) air, or just STFU!!!!!

    This is a GREAT development and I strongly support more, more, more.

    I drive only when I have to ;-)

  32. They’re for preventing right hook accidents–a driver looking left to check for oncoming traffic, while running into a cyclist on their right.