North Side drivers who use 73rd Street have undoubtedly seen these new pavement markings and wondered, “What are they and what am I suppose to do?” These new striping patterns are Indianapolis’ first Bike Boxes. What are bike boxes? According to the DPW’s Bike Boxes website (they actually created a dedicated site to talk about these),
“…by definition, a designated area at the head of a traffic lane at a signalized intersection that provides bicyclist with a safe and visible way to get turning bicyclist ahead of queuing traffic during the red signal phase. Bike boxes serve as an advanced stop bar and do not affect moving traffic.”
So, now that we know what they are and what they do, what can cyclists and motorists expect out there in the real world? First, the familiar sight of a bicycle should clue drivers off that the new striping is to aid cyclists. What they won’t be familiar with is the additional space at the head of the line where the bike is located.
The pictures I snapped, at the intersection of 73rd & Spring Mill Road, indicate just how the boxes work. The existing bike lane feeds into the box at the head of traffic, allowing cyclists to bypass stopped auto traffic at the signal and obtain a safe area to turn left or right onto Spring Mill. Spring Mill Road has also been outfitted with a number of sharrows (sorry, no bike lanes), so from a network perspective, the bike boxes serve a real function in giving cyclists some visibility on what is, for lack of better description, a high speed suburban style through-way.
Indeed, as I was taking these pictures during morning rush hour, cars zoomed by at uncomfortable speeds by pedestrian standards. This is compounded by the lack of sidewalks. I have to admit, when I first read about the locations I wondered, “Why here?” and after visiting to take the photos I can vouch, the need for safe facilities for cyclists seems real here. I only stopped at 73rd & Spring Mill for these photos, but similar layouts are also employed at 71st & Cross Key Drive and 71st & Lakeview, on the west side.
Will these new safety improvements boost cycling share in these areas? Time will tell. As I pointed out in yesterday’s post about the coming 71st Street Bike Ways, this corridor is highly suburban so there is a clear need for making the roads safer for cyclists.