• What Can Be Done About Right-Turn Only Lanes If All You Have is a Bucket of Paint?

    by  • April 23, 2011 • Traffic Control • 3 Comments

    The Dutch have been dealing with the right-turn only lane problem by re-designing their intersections. But what if that is not a practical option? What if, in practice, all you have at your disposal to make intersections with right-turn only lanes safer for bicyclists is a bucket of paint?

    Delaware is grappling with this question. And recently a Bike Delaware-sponsored Bike Lane Working Group identified two options, the second of which would be a Federal Highway Administration – approved experiment on a combined “pocket” bike lane / right-turn lane. Currently, there is one such approved experiment in the U.S. It is being undertaken by the city of Columbia, Missouri: 

    Click on image to expand (+)

    Columbia’s combination bike lane / right-turn lane is part of a larger experiment that they are undertaking on colored pavement.

    Can Delaware do an experiment that uses green colored pavement, too? If we can’t, what should we do instead?


    James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware. He is a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (by whom he was named the 2014 Professional of the Year, Nonprofit Sector), the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Delaware Bicycle Council. He serves on the board of directors of Delaware Greenways and the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance and as the co-chair of the policy committee of the Advisory Council on Walkability and Pedestrian Awareness. He holds engineering degrees from Yale University and the University of Texas at Austin and is the only registered lobbyist for cycling and walking in Delaware. He helped create, and continues to lead Bike Delaware's participation in, the Walkable Bikeable Delaware campaign. During his tenure as Bike Delaware's executive director, Delaware advanced in the national Bicycle Friendly State rankings for five years in a row, farther and faster than any other state, ever.

    3 Responses to What Can Be Done About Right-Turn Only Lanes If All You Have is a Bucket of Paint?

    1. Peter
      April 23, 2011 at 1:44 pm

      why are right-turn lanes necessary at all? seems like a solution in search of a problem.

    2. Frank Warnock
      April 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      Peter, well said in many instances. But we're dealing with the built environment. The electorate would impeach anyone who goes against "speed at all cost" and continued expansion of car LOS. Right turn-only lanes are a key expression of these two. So, while we would love to "demote" right turn lanes to multi-purpose (as suggested by Peter Furth), or keep them as shoulders or bike lanes leading right up to the intersection, it's not a reasonable expectation this will happen. At the least, the pocket lane concept puts a band-aid on this inherently dangerous design, with a proven record of increased safety and comfort for bicyclists.

    3. James Wilson
      April 24, 2011 at 11:03 pm

      "Auxiliary" lanes (both left and right) are spaces provided for vehicle deceleration. Traffic engineers have solid data that, when cars are traveling at high-speed, these deceleration lanes reduce crashes. (The data indicates that at the speeds that characterize arterial roads, a car traveling as little as 10 mph less than other cars may be 100 times more likely to be involved in a crash than a car traveling at the same speed as the rest of the traffic.)

      On a high-speed road, right-turn only lanes improve safety for motorists.

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