Two Ways to Ride Through an Intersection

John Allen


For this month’s Safety Corner, we travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I visited recently and recorded video with my friend Pamela Murray.

The video embedded in this article shows two ways to ride through the same intersection. Pamela pointed out several features of the intersection to me as we rode.  Traffic noise made some of her comments hard to make out, so I’ve posted them on the screen.

Pamela likes to ask questions, to prompt people to think. Though Pamela’s own preference is clear enough, she want s people to think about what they need to do to be safe, whichever choice they make. The intention is to build situational awareness.

Here’s the video. It raises questions not only about what bicyclists need to do, but also about whether reconfiguration of the intersection with a bike lane is actually complete. Anyway, let’s let the cameras roll, and I’ll pose a questions below the video.


Questions for bicyclists:

How many different traffic signals are there?

Which one do you follow as a bicyclist?  When do you proceed?

Why does a sign say cyclists push ped button?

What if you don't push the ped button? How would you determine that? (Look at second run in the video to try to figure this out).

Do you expect that a bicyclist who had not seen this intersection before would understand the signs and signals? Did you identify the bicycle signal in the video before it was highlighted?

What potential hazards do you see for riding in the bike lane? In the travel lane?

In either case, what skills do you expect a bicyclist would need to to be aware of potential hazards and avoid them?

How might your choice depend on your speed?

Bicyclists are generally slower than motor vehicles. Whichever choice you make, is the signal going to be yellow long enough to warn you? How do you find out?

How would you turn right here to have the least amount of conflicting traffic? Turn left?

If the yellow is too short, what should you do?

And ultimately: How would you ride this?

About the design of the intersection:

Do signs give the appropriate messages, now that it has been reconfigured with a bike lane?

Are the signs where motorists will be looking?

Are footrests worth the trouble and expense to install? What is their benefit? For what kind of bicyclists? What are those bicyclists to do where there are no footrests.

What do you think about the positioning of the “push button” sign and pushbutton relative to the footrest?

Does a “no turn on red” sign need to be visible when the signal is green? What do you think of an LED “no turn on red” sign which is illuminated when turns are prohibited?

Why do you think that the bicycle signals are up on tall poles, above bicyclists’ eye height? (There is a reason!)

Flex posts are meant to keep motorists out of the bike lane. But what is their effect on bicyclists – particularly, the ones before the driveway to the ATM?

And finally, some big questions:

Which of the two ways to travel through this intersection do you think is safer? Which way is more convenient? For what kind of bicyclist?

Does this intersection give bicyclists and motorists the inscentive to obey the signals? How?

Does the bike lane installation make it safe for a child or novice adultt to ride the route that Pamela and I did? To what extent, and how?

What changes would you recommend to make the intersection work better?

What else might help you answer those questions? ( You could explore Google Street Views are here: )

I’m interested in your comments, and I’ll review them next month. Send comments to jsallen [at] (John Allen)