And then there were two: Salt Lake City’s protected intersection opens

October 16, 2015

Michael Andersen, Green Lane Project staff writer

The American bike-infrastructure breakthrough of the year is rolling onward.

The video above gives a good look at the new intersection in downtown Salt Lake City of 300 South (also known as Broadway) and 200 West. It’s similar to a common Dutch intersection style but reimagined and renamed for the U.S. context by Nick Falbo of Alta Planning + Design. (Alta, which specializes in biking and walking infrastructure, was a consultant on this project and produced the video above.)

Here’s another look at the intersection, this one from above:

Photo and rendering: Salt Lake City.

The first U.S. city to build a protected intersection was Austin, Texas, last year — but it’s in a still-unfilled residential development, so not really in use yet. (Austin is working on a few more.) The first to open one was Davis, California, in August. Salt Lake City’s, however, is the first such intersection to be planned after Falbo’s influential video on the subject. It follows his prescriptions fairly well — though like all of them, it doesn’t include the dedicated bike signals and dedicated or leading phases that Falbo says help minimize the chance of conflict.

However, the intersection does have the essential ingredients in Falbo’s recipe: a forward stop bar that gives people biking and walking a head start, and a corner safety island that’s wide enough for right-turning cars to yield to someone biking while letting other cars pass behind them.

This island does the most important job of a protected intersection: it channels traffic so that people on bikes and cars don’t have to look over their shoulders for one another whenever they cross paths.

When SLC’s intersection got a preview last month on WBUR’s Here and Now news show, host Robin Young asked whether Utah’s capital has a leg up on installing these intersections because its streets are so unusually wide. That certainly made things easier in this case, but it’s not essential for a protected intersection. In addition to the generous space for people biking and safety islands that are bigger than they really need to be, this intersection includes dedicated left-turn lanes from every direction, a wide median down the middle of 300 West and parking lanes on both sides of both streets.

As Massachusetts DOT is likely to demonstrate in its highly anticipated bikeway design guide, you don’t even need protected bike lanes to have a protected intersection.

It’s exciting to see this sort of change racing forward; it’s even more exciting to see Utah, Texas and California at the head of the pack.

The Green Lane Project helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. You can follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about protected bike lanes. Story tip? Write [email protected]

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