Infrastructure Explained: the 'Bike Box'

Bike box
Bike box University Ave and 6th Ave

We've adapted a post by BikeSD which explains and illustrate bicycle infrastructure designs that are relevant to scooter riders and others in the mobility (or 'low-speed') lane. These are the designs we want to see on our streets. These are designs that provide solutions for rider safety and comfort. All of the infrastructure featured is from the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide which “is based on the experience of the best cycling cities in the world.” And here at RideSD we want San Diego to have the best riding experience in the world! So let’s start with BIKE BOX.

What is a bike box? If you google bike box, you will see a shipping box, but that is not what we are talking about. A bike box is a designated area (generally painted green) at the head of a traffic lane at a signalized intersection (an intersection with a stop light or traffic light.) It provides low-speed road users with a safe and visible way to get ahead of a line of traffic during the red signal phase (when the light is red.) Nearly all the benefits of a bike box are related to increased safety for riders. But, there are some benefits to motorized vehicles that come from using bike boxes.

Bike Box Benefits

A bike box increases VISIBILITY of people riding scooters, bikes and other mobility devices. There are things that riders do to make themselves visible such as wearing bright clothing and using flashing lights. Being visible is key to bicycling safety. A bike box on the street helps bicycles be more visible at intersections. The bright green painted box highlights a location and motorists can expect to see someone on a mobility device in that location.

A bike box decreases the chance of a RIGHT HOOK which is a leading cause of both car vs bike/scooter and car vs pedestrian crashes. A right hook dangerous crash that involves a vehicle turning right into the path of a pedestrian or a bike/scooter going straight. Bike boxes can help prevent this kind of crash because mobility riders are positioned at the front of motor vehicles at the intersection.

A bike box provides PRIORITY for low-speed riders at signalized intersections of major streets. Groups of riders together can clear an intersection quickly, minimizing impediment to transit or other traffic. This priority has benefits for motorized vehicles because the people riding in the bike box clear the intersection more quickly than a line of bikes/scooters, so right turning traffic moves through the intersection more quickly.

Bike Boxes in San Diego

Bike box in Hillcrest showing car encroaching
Bike box in Hillcrest

The intersection of University Ave and 6th Ave in Hillcrest has a bike box as part of the recently painted bike lanes. Cars are supposed to stop at the edge of the box, but have not yet learned how to use the infrastructure. Some bike boxes have WAIT HERE painted at the limit line of the box.

The new infrastructure on University Ave helps with comfort and safety. It is not perfect, but it is a start.

Uber's JUMP dockless scooter

Uber scooters giving free rides till January 9, 2019

Uber's JUMP dockless scooter

Uber uses the moniker 'JUMP' for its bike and scooter service. And both JUMP bikes and scooters are getting free rides and helmets through Jan. 9, 2019. Riders can get up to five, 30-minute rides per day. Scooters will then cost $1 to unlock and $0.10 a minute after the free rides have been used.

Uber's JUMP e-scooters work by reserving and unlocking them using the Uber app, via a small icon "switch" at the top of the Uber app screen. If there are no Jump devices near the users, the option to reserve bikes/scooters is not shown to the user. Confusing decision by Uber, if it wanted to bring greater awareness of bikes and scooters to its user base.

The new Uber scooters also bear a similar resemblance to competing Lime scooters, though instead sporting a red and black color scheme.

San Diego is the fourth city to receive the company's scooter service. Just last month, Uber introduced JUMP bicycles to San Diego, adding about 300 bikes to the city's plentiful dockless transportation options. These red e-bikes were spotted in Hillcrest last month, as reported by BikeSD:

Lyft scooter, photo courtesy the company

Lyft scooters follow Uber's JUMP into San Diego

Lyft scooter, photo courtesy the company

On December 19, 2018, rideshare service Lyft announced Thursday it is joining Uber's 'Jump' in offering dockless electric scooters in San Diego. Lyft marks the fifth entrant in the local market after Bird, Lime, Razor and Uber.

The scooters that Lyft is deploying seem to be of the first generation model, with thumb throttles and small wheels. What sets Lyft apart from Bird and others is that Lyft scooters can be reserved using the Lyft app. This gives Lyft a large pool of potential users in the city, right out of the gate. It remains to be seen whether this is enough to pull riders from earlier entrants like Bird and Lime.

More info on the Times of San Diego article on the Lyft launch.

J Street receiving the first stripe for the Downtown cycletrack

New downtown 'mobility lanes', scooters to follow

The first stripes of the Downtown Mobility Plan are laid on J Street, December 2018

Map of the 2018 Downtown Mobility Plan
The Downtown Mobility Plan (DMP) has broken ground in San Diego as of December 19, 2018! Paint crews began striping thermoplastic lanes along J Street and the entire DMP Phase 1 should be complete “in a few months time,” according to Mayor Faulconer. This day has been a long time coming after years of planning, delays and cost overruns, but we’d like to offer our thanks to Mayor Faulconer for pushing this project forward over the last couple of months. We note that in 2016 the mayor pledged to complete all cycletracks during his 2nd term.

The Downtown Mobility Plan’s first phase will create Class VI bike tracks on:

  • Beech Street from Pacific Highway to Sixth Avenue
  • Sixth Avenue from Beech Street to Harbor Drive
  • J Street from 1st Avenue to Park Boulevard

These tracks are two-way cycle tracks (special bike lanes that provide a right-of-way for cyclists and scooter riders within the roadway). Parked cars, flex posts, and or grade variations will separate the tracks from vehicular traffic. When all three phases are fully built-out, the Downtown Mobility Plan will provide 9.3 miles of these two-way cycle tracks around downtown San Diego, connecting points like the Convention Center with Balboa Park.

photo of DMP press conference Dec 21, 2018
R-L: CM Chris Ward, Mayor Faulconer, SDCBC's Andy Harkan, BikeSD's Nicole Burgess, and Randy Torres-Van Vleck at the press conference announcing the start of the Downtown Mobility Plan bikeway. - Dec 21, 2018

More on this from the San Diego Union-Tribune story. We applaud the mayor for getting this often-delayed project out of the City’s Streets Division and onto city streets.

While Phase 1 is a great start, Phases 2 and 3 represent the greater share of the Downtown Mobility Plan bikeways and will likely not unfold as quickly or easily as Phase 1. Natalia Torres, Associate Civil Engineer for the City’s Streets Division, explained that the later Downtown phases may not be managed by the City’s Streets Division but instead may be handled by the Department of Public Works (DPW). For those not familiar with the city’s bifurcated engineering divisions, this could be bad news for cyclists and scooter users because DPW is often slower to roll out infrastructure. DPW staff typically handle physical infrastructure like drains, underground wiring, and things like Americans with Disability Compliance elements. DPW often takes longer because they deal less often with things like bikeway design and surface configuration. And given that later phases of the Plan involved difficult pedestrian and bike connections to the notoriously bad Pacific Coast Highway, this challenge will be significant for DPW staff to handle.

RideSD, BikeSD and other mobility advocates will need to continue to press the city to move forward on the DMP, especially to push the city to use the Streets Division to implement Phase 2 and 3 of the plan so that it doesn’t get slowed down. And we expect continued opposition from groups like the Little Italy Association, which has a history of opposing bike lanes in their district.

Even though today was a day to celebrate a small victory for biking, scooting, and walking safety, there’s a long road ahead to complete the full vision of the Downtown Mobility Plan. The news media will move on from this story. Elected officials may change or depart. Engineering staff may move on to other projects. But RideSD will be there, making sure that the Downtown Mobility Plan continues to get attention and move towards full completion.