Portland's experimental green bike boxes, which began popping up around the city in 2008, have somehow made a handful
of tricky intersections even more dangerous.
At least that's what the crash numbers seem to suggest.
"The crash data trend suggests that right-hook crashes are increasing
at some of the treatment locations installed in the first phase,"
said city traffic engineer Rob Burchfield in
a signed "progress report" to federal highway officials that
was released late Monday (PDF).
During a four-year period, the number of crashes involving a motor vehicle
turning right into bicycle riders, so-called "right hooks,"
doubled from 16 to 32, Burchfield writes.
Burchfield said most of the right-hook crashes occurred at four intersections,
including Southwest Madison Street and Third Avenue, where Kathryn Rickson
was killed in a crash involving a right-turning semi freight truck.
The letter also lists Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard's intersections
with Seventh and 11th avenues and Northwest Everett Street at 16th Avenue.
The letter appears to be in response to questions from Mark Kehrli, director
of transportation operations at the Federal Highway Administration, regarding
Burchfield said the crashes involved people on bicycles who were going
downhill and picking up speed. "The speed of cyclists overtaking
right-turning vehicles is likely a contributing factor that may explain
the safety performance" of the locations, he said.
At the same time, Burchfield said studies show about 98 percent of vehicles
properly yield to bicyclists at the boxes. He is also confident that the
boxes are also ultimately preventing conflicts as the volume of bicycle
commuters passing through the boxes increase.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation, he writes, is developing plans for
possible modifications at the four bike boxes with crash problems. They
run the gamut, from including separate right-turn lanes and just prohibiting
vehicles from turning right.
Portland State University is in the process of conducting an ongoing study of how the bike boxes are working out.