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New Infrastructure, New Rules

June 13, 2013

We’ve all seen them. The green boxes at certain intersections around Austin. Part of the ongoing expansion of cycling infrastructure in Austin. But if you’re not familiar with a bike box you’ve likely wondered “what are they?” We asked Nadia Barrera with the City of Austin Public Works Neighborhood Connectivity Division about them and here’s what she had to say.


What’s that Green Box?

The two green boxes at the intersection of Barton Springs Road and Lamar Boulevard are called “two-stage turn queues.”  They help cyclists navigate turning left through an intersection.

Cyclists: Use the boxes when you want to turn left.  For example, if you are traveling eastbound on Barton Springs and want to head north to downtown on Lamar, continue straight at the intersection of Barton Springs and Lamar through the green light rather than getting in the left turn lane. Upon reaching the green box, position yourself and your bicycle in the box facing north. When the light turns green for northbound traffic on Lamar, continue northbound.  This maneuver is typically know as a “box left turn” or a “Copenhagen Left”.

Motorists: People driving motor vehicles should stay behind the green box while waiting at the red light.  If a cyclist enters into the box, they have priority at the intersection.  When the light turns green, wait until it is safe to pass the cyclist on the other side of the intersection.

And there you have it! New rules of the road for new cycling infrastructure!

56 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2013 7:20 pm

    Really???? I can’t wait to read about the first cyclist-on-cyclist accident when a “Left Turn from the box” cyclist gets T-boned by a straight-through cyclist… And think about it – you are having a straight through cyclist, being passed by motorists on the left, go RIGHT, then STOP in the middle of the intersection, in his “Space”, and then make a left…?

    Wayyyy too complicated. Just control the lane, signal left, move left when clear, signal left again, wait for traffic, and then pedal on, turning left. Problem solved, uncomplicated, and it follows the current rules of the road.

    • djcurtin permalink
      June 13, 2013 7:53 pm

      Richard, we appreciate you reading the blog.

      Not sure that the diagram does the layout justice in that the northbound bike box is in fact far removed of the eastbound right most lane/bike lane that riders would be continuing down Barton Springs in. Thus, not sure that a t-bone situation could readily arise.

      The design is such that once the eastbound rider in the right most lane/bike lane has a green light and wants to proceed North (or if they approach the intersection with a green and want to go North) they simply move to the right as they proceed to through the intersection and stop at the box. This eliminates the need for the inexperienced/nervous rider to cross multiple lanes of traffic to get into a left hand turn lane as they come to the intersection and eliminates then potentially being in a line of cars rather than at the front or back of said line where they are safer and more visible.

      For the experienced rider, yes, moving to the turn lane and acting like any other vehicle is an easy enough solution. But the bike box is designed to give slower/newer riders an easy means of navigating a complex intersection.

      Thanks again for reading!

      • Andy Morris permalink
        June 13, 2013 9:45 pm

        Newer riders will find it just as baffling as everyone else

  2. Concerned Reader permalink
    June 13, 2013 8:29 pm

    I would be happy if cyclists would at a bare minimum obey the existing traffic laws. If I had a dime for every cyclist I’ve seen blow through a stop sign, red light, fail to signal for a turn, fail to signal a stop, on top of all the other dangerous and illegal moves I’ve seen, I would be a rich man. My bet is that these boxes will be promptly ignored, cyclists will keep ignoring all traffic laws, and then whining about it when they pay the ultimate price for doing so. Instead of making it more complicated, why don’t we figure out how to get cyclists to actually obey the law and stay safe?

    • Cyclist/Motorist permalink
      June 13, 2013 8:44 pm

      Re: Concerned Reader – If I had a penny for every time I’d seen a motorist do any of the things you mentioned, I’d still have more money than you with your dime.

      • Ezekiel Jackson permalink
        June 16, 2013 3:25 pm

        Re: Cyclist/Motorist – What’s the purpose of your comment? Is it that cyclists don’t need to be obey the laws because motorists don’t always either? And how is that helpful to anyone?

    • concerned_RN permalink
      June 14, 2013 4:02 pm

      If they want to be treated like a car (using the roads), I’d like to see them stay in their lanes, wear a helmet, stop at stop signs and red lights, and not be on their cell phone and not drunk. Since when is it ok for a drunk bicyclists to be riding around in the street but not ok for a drunk motorist to be driving? Everyone needs to follow the rules and stay in their spot, otherwise we’ll have more ghost bikes around Austin.

      • Chris C permalink
        June 19, 2013 1:59 pm

        The laws that govern cars are meant to protect others from potentially reckless behavior on our part. We carry insurance to protect people we hit. We can’t drink and drive because we might kill someone else or damage their property.

        If a person on a bicycle doesn’t follow these laws the danger is highly skewed towards them. Sure, all road users should follow the laws but lets rethink the anger against some people on bikes disregarding car-centric traffic laws on the ‘it’s not fair’ basis.

    • C2S permalink
      June 19, 2013 2:07 pm

      Which cyclists are you referring to?

  3. Eric M permalink
    June 13, 2013 9:19 pm

    The problem I see with these type of fixes is that the word just doesn’t get out to the public, and very few people on either side of the equation know what to do to make it work right. Multiple public service announcements WITH VIDEO on multiple delivery platforms are a must for this to work and it must be continuous rather than for a predetermined limited period of time. It will cost more money, but without it the money used to build this infrastructure is simply wasted.

    • June 20, 2013 5:06 am

      Exactly my feelings. Just putting something in and hoping people know how to use it is ludicrous… Even if cyclists searched out what the boxes were all about, would the drivers care to find out what the laws and protocol should be for the boxes. COA should try to spread the word better before just throwing things in to the street.

    • osakadenise permalink
      June 23, 2013 1:25 am

      AGREED! I’ve mentioned this post to most folks I’ve spoken to in the last 2 days (5 of them regular cyclists) and NO ONE knew what the boxes were exactly for – they knew the green boxes were for bicycles, but not HOW.

  4. June 13, 2013 9:20 pm

    What section of the Vehicle Code supports bicyclists turning left this way? A bicyclist will be beyond the limit line of the intersecting street and therefore in violation of the requirement to stop behind the limit line, right?

  5. Andy Morris permalink
    June 13, 2013 9:44 pm

    How about we all just drive by the same rules, irrespective of what we are driving?

    All these extra facilities and extra rules just make things more confusing, and dangerous and persuade a lot of new cyclists that its all just to dangerous and that hey are better off on the pavement

  6. June 13, 2013 9:49 pm

    For that matter, is this in the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or the subject of an approved Request to Experiment? If not, is it legal to use in Texas?

  7. Troy permalink
    June 13, 2013 10:41 pm

    Love it! Keep up the good work, Nadia. Left turns can be tricky and this will, in-fact, give new riders the confidence to cross busy intersections safely. This blog post is a good first step in getting the word out (apparently there are lots of car-drivers following), but I do hope we see more messaging around this mystery box. Cheers.

  8. Chris permalink
    June 13, 2013 11:04 pm

    There is only enough space for the box pictured. Not possible to put a box in any other corner without causing conflict with overtaking traffic.

  9. 4ankG permalink
    June 14, 2013 12:16 am

    Expecting motorists and cyclists to learn what they’re supposed to do with this box is quite a stretch when on-coming motorists don’t seem to know that when I’m signaling a right turn, I’m not waving at them and when overtaking motorists don’t seem to know that I’m signaling a left turn and not waving them around.

    • C2S permalink
      June 19, 2013 2:05 pm

      Every driver knows the left and right turn hand signal…it’s taught in driver’s ed and tested for. It’s a case of selective memory…too many drivers want to demonize us as uncooperative when the reality is they’re resentful because their vehicles own them, not the other way around.

  10. June 14, 2013 1:21 am

    Makes sense to me, given that the box is positioned in front of a right turn only lane and behind the bike lane. Not sure if I would use them but I like having the option for really busy roads.

    • C2S permalink
      June 19, 2013 2:01 pm

      It’s basically the two crosswalks solution many of us use now, except it finds a vacant spot in the intersection for us to use instead of clogging up sidewalks. I get it.,

  11. Ellen permalink
    June 14, 2013 2:43 am

    Please post an instructional video of a cyclist approaching the actual intersection and using the green boxes properly. That will be very helpful.

    • Andy Morris permalink
      June 14, 2013 6:03 pm

      A facility that needs an instructional video to know how to use it properly is fundamentally bolloxed.

      Wouldn’t it be easier to learn how to ride like a grown up?

  12. edgar c permalink
    June 14, 2013 4:06 pm

    This is frustrating to see that we have so many cyclists now, that my city has to make new traffic laws for them. Where did all these people come from? Thanks for screwing up my city hipsters….ya’ll were never welcomed by the way. Austinites just despise all of you cyclists who think we even wanted all these damn hippies riding around town.I would know, because I am one myself who saw my wonderful serene city turn into a stupid hipster town. Go home already.

    • RightToBikeState permalink
      June 15, 2013 10:04 pm

      edgar c – Once upon a time, there were horses. Then there were bicycles. Then there were cars. Bicycles didn’t go away nor should they. People with your bad attitude and ignorant resistance to an alternate means of transportation aren’t welcome. There are lots of people that aren’t “damn hippies” or “stupid hipsters” – many of them are professionals that have already ridden to work by the time that you get out of bed. Some people have to ride a bike for their transportation needs, some people choose to. That’s the glory of living in the USA – we get to choose and remember that BIKES were on the roads before cars. Maybe YOU should find a new home since your bitter, angry attitude belongs somewhere besides Austin.

    • C2S permalink
      June 19, 2013 1:56 pm

      They’ve been here since the 1960s. Have you? Log off and spend more time with your cats. The world is changing and clearly you can’t handle it.

    • C Sea permalink
      June 19, 2013 6:15 pm

      Cyclists should have to take a class like new drivers do. Then they should be required to get a license and have insurance.

      • C2S permalink
        June 19, 2013 9:45 pm

        Why? They aren’t driving death machines like auto mobile drivers are. Only their own life is at stake.

    • Bianchi Joe permalink
      June 20, 2013 6:25 am

      “Austinites just despise all of you cyclists who think we even wanted all these damn hippies riding around town.I would know, because I am one myself ” — edgar c

      Newsflash: the hippie cyclists your despise are your neighbors. And some of us have been here for 35 years. I’m sorry you let yourself become old.

    • Charles permalink
      June 20, 2013 1:49 pm

      Lol, are you sure you’re from Austin? “damn hippies”? Plenty of us Austinites have been cycling here for decades.

  13. lou permalink
    June 14, 2013 8:52 pm

    This is actually how I prefer to make left turns, but I’ve had to make do without the box. Being in the middle of the street is a scary place. I’m glad Austin is trying to make the infrastructure better for cyclists and motorists. Why is everyone so uptight about the change? New things will take time to get used to, but if we didn’t adapt we would all still be on horses.

  14. June 15, 2013 2:32 pm

    If we think we can teach everyone (cyclists and motorists alike) “new rules for new infrastructure,” why don’t we just try teaching the cyclists the “current rules for current infrastructure” first, before complicating everything?

    • C Sea permalink
      June 19, 2013 6:13 pm

      Cyclists should have to take a class just like new drivers do. Then get a license and insurance.

  15. F U Driverz permalink
    June 15, 2013 8:22 pm

    To all the people complaining, just shut the fuck up and move to San Antonio where they don’t make an effort to promote bicycle safety. I hear the margaritas are great oh and that lovely river walk. No bikes there to disturb your nice sunday drive in your always lonely, empty pickup truck just itching to get some pussy and another broken heart in that god forsaken wasteland.

    TL;DR? If you don’t ride bikes, shut yo fatass up. Thanks

    • C Sea permalink
      June 19, 2013 6:12 pm

      I think you should have to get a license and insurance in order to ride a bike.

    • Andy Morris permalink
      June 23, 2013 8:48 pm

      I ride a bike, these facilities are dangerous for cyclists because they depend on everyone learning new rules just for these facilities. This will not happen and cyclists will get killed.

  16. June 15, 2013 9:03 pm

    It is very frustrating to see so much hatred toward cyclists AND from cyclists in the comments here. Cyclists are traffic and we have as much right to travel by bike as anyone else does to travel by car or giant gas-guzzling truck. In fact, cycling reduces pollution and wear on “your” roadway–not to mention all the health benefits for cyclists which could translate to reduced demands on the healthcare system. But respect and tolerance are very important for cyclist safety–please try to remember that the cyclist you pass with inches to spare, while cursing these “damn hippies,” is someone else’s daughter, father, or even grandmother. But yes, cyclists do need to show a bit of respect as well, and some of us do–so please don’t punish us all for the sins of the few. I don’t want to get honked at or buzzed by a 2+ ton car because someone else is too cool to wear a helmet, signal turns, stop at traffic lights, or generally behave responsively. We need MUTUAL respect…

    • Andy Morris permalink
      June 15, 2013 10:02 pm

      Sadly these sort of facilities will only increase distrust and resentment between cyclists and motorists as no one will know what is expected of them and what they can expect of everyone else.

      I am a cyclist of 35 years and I hate this sort of thing. It treats us like stupid children, but expects us to learn a whole new set of rules and makes our safety dependant on everyone else understanding the new rules.

      • June 18, 2013 2:56 pm

        YES! If anything, this will also cause cyclists to appear erratic. Please, just let us be traffic… and start ticketing both drivers and cyclists who don’t signal and drivers who refuse to yield plenty of space to a cyclist signaling a lane change. Treat us like adults, give EVERYONE on the road a bit of respect, and traffic will flow much more smoothly.

      • C2S permalink
        June 19, 2013 2:35 pm

        It’s A GREEN BOX IN THE INTERSECTION. Drivers are trained very early on to absorb what brightly colored indicators mean. It has a bike symbol and an arrow indicating the path of travel. I know most Texans are stupid, but come on. This is Sesame Street shit.

    • ester permalink
      June 19, 2013 3:12 pm

      I agree. I ride a fixed gear, but I ride with a break, wear a helmet, and follow traffic signals. Cars often honk at me while I’m in my specified lane following cycling laws….just to try and scare me. Drivers can be aggressive, but sometimes they are also considerate. I would rather everyone share one road than have different rules for everyone…including bike lanes.

      I stay to the right, and am going to continue using the left hand lane like any other normal person. I dislike being treated like a special demographic that somehow cannot figure out traffic laws; and I dislike that this treatment enables motorists to treat me in the same regard.

      • C Sea permalink
        June 19, 2013 6:11 pm

        All cyclists should be required to have a license and insurance.

  17. peepants permalink
    June 18, 2013 6:13 am

    Please put handles on the city buses so that we can grab on and do thirty down lamar with ease. If you don’t follow the rules you don’t have to worry about new ones 🙂

    • June 18, 2013 2:59 pm

      If you don’t follow the rules, you make a bad name for all of the cyclists who do–and you actually make cycling less safe for all of us by inspiring hatred for cyclists. Thanks. Much appreciated.

  18. vic permalink
    June 19, 2013 2:22 pm

    facility/space is already available for two-phase-left-turn, it is the far-perpendicular (not UK) lane. i use them when i’m out of position and traffic is heavy. i rather see standardisation on laws against dooring and initiatives on road sharing –not bicycle isolation. paint on the road is not a barrier.

  19. C Sea permalink
    June 19, 2013 6:09 pm

    Most bicycle riders in this town don’t even stop at signals or signs. Most of you think it is ok to ride right to the front of a line of cars even though you are supposed to stay in line. A lot of you aren’t smart enough to stay off a busy street by going through a neighborhood. We shouldn’t be wasting money on this. I think all bicycle riders should be required to have a license and insurance. If you ding a car or run over a pedestrian in a cross walk you should have to pay for that. I saw a guy hit a woman’s car on Guadalupe last year and he just rode off.

    • Robo permalink
      June 25, 2013 9:09 pm

      That’s a hit and run and they would have been ticketed the same way as someone driving a car if they were caught. How many times do you think that happens on any given weekend in any of our over crowded parking lots in this city?

  20. June 19, 2013 7:22 pm

    The day they pay a registration fees and carry insurance for riding a bike on the street is the day I think they get priority at an intersection, until then use the crosswalks signals and walk the bike across the street like normal people…..The green box thing is very confusing and I don’t get it …from what I can tell, a lot of people don’t get it…this will cause more problems then solve them. Let’s not make intersections more dangerous by adding new rules and boxes…it’s a distraction.

    • C2S permalink
      June 19, 2013 9:47 pm

      It’s called progress. Of course you don’t get it.

  21. June 20, 2013 2:06 am

    If there is an ongoing struggle to create equality between cyclists, and motor vehicles, that will never happen as it is simply untrue.

    I moved here from Chicago, and every person (not everyone, but enough to cause this citation) who biked frequently did not remain safe. There was some accident at some point or another – a dooring here, being hit by a car there. It became a phobia of mine: -other people- getting hit by cars, I saw it way too much.

    I am sooo for anti-petroleum/green practices, but the merging of cyclists in with motor vehicles is a very strange attempt at circumventing what could be an amazing future for cyclists. They really need their own roads – integrated more with things that travel their speed, joggers, or at the very least with something that is less damaging to collide with (a slower-moving object; anything that isn’t a car).

    I pride myself on predicting movement patterns in traffic because I enjoy the feeling of knowing what will happen, predicting when someone will be unpredictable, and most importantly: being courteous by maneuvering myself in a way that is helpful to others. Getting out of their way, moving over when it’s clear someone will want to change into my lane to pass a car they are wanting to get around, the list goes on forever.

    Austin Texas does not give me the idea that the general public prides themselves on this – I feel like most other drivers are stuck in a tiny bubble, either looking at their cellphones, or simply not concerned with all 360 degrees of activity surrounding their vehicle.

    I hope this new, somewhat interesting (and seriously dangerous), proposal works out – but I can see so many people ignoring it, swerving over and wondering “why that person is just idling in the middle of an open lane.”

    It isn’t going to make people driving cars any happier having to slow down, wait for a one-lane-clogged road to return to its normal bandwidth after 1 cyclist has slowly gotten out of the way safely, intersection after intersection. I can see this only making people drive faster, or avoid the routes with these additions and force other roads to bear the burden of new traffic.

    A new system would mean getting the cyclists off of the road, cars are ****ing dangerous.

  22. CMM permalink
    June 20, 2013 1:41 pm

    If this infrastructure is, as has been said, in place to help new and inexperienced riders navigate the intersection (experienced riders can execute a left turn with traffic), I’m a little taken aback at the logic that we should be enabling inexperienced riders to enter into challenging and dangerous traffic situations like that at Barton and Lamar. With or without the box, if you aren’t comfortable riding with traffic you should not be riding on busy roads, period. As an avid Austin biker I can tell you that turning left at that light is not difficult for anyone who knows what they’re doing. Since riders don’t need to pass a test and be licensed like drivers, we have all the more personal responsibility to be competent and responsible on the road. More bike infrastructure is great, but It concerns me that we are enabling and encouraging irresponsible cycling.

    • Robo permalink
      June 25, 2013 9:08 pm

      It’s a green box. At a very busy intersection. One skim of the post and I understood completely how to use it. What are so many of you missing? Anyone ever try to cross a really busy road to get to the left turn lane? This is way safer. And probably faster. And easier. And will probably piss off a lot fewer motorists than seeing a cyclist dart across 3 lanes of traffic. To the motorists angry about this: Really??? This gets cyclists OUT of your way. And your angry about it? Grow up, you don’t own the world, the city, the streets. You aren’t the only people on the road. Same goes for the cyclists but, as pointed out several times already, the danger is greatly skewed towards the cyclist, not the distracted motorist in their 2 ton metal box.

      • Robo permalink
        June 25, 2013 9:12 pm

        Ahh, that should have been its own new post, not a reply to CCM.

  23. June 30, 2013 6:47 pm

    If a car is going the speed of an average cyclist (not an avid cyclist, who can be at the speed of cars nearby, but likely around 7-12mph), it can be ticketed for obstructing the flow of traffic.

    The laws of the streets are targeted towards the vehicles that ride on them, integration of other mobile types should adhere to that. If you’re asking why, it’s because of the beginning of this very paragraph. They were designed for travel of speeds, widths, and danger of an automobile. Cyclists need their own paths to condense their very traffic onto so the playing field is leveled for them. Austin really isn’t that big, and offers weather that makes riding for an extra 5 minutes to get to these specific paths a painless thing. I don’t see overwhelming cyclist traffic necessitating integration with existing roads, but I will occasionally see a lot of cars backed up because one cyclist demands to be recognized as a vehicle – which it isn’t.

    • Robo permalink
      July 1, 2013 9:17 pm

      A cyclist CAN be ticketed for obstructing traffic if they are doing so, just as anyone else. However, a cyclist also has a right to take the lane if safety dictates. (for example, if a parked car is in the bike lane, the cyclist can take the whole lane to get around the car, then must move back into the bike lane) There is nothing wrong with having a bike lane and there is also nothing wrong with being held up for a lousy 15 seconds to get around a cyclist. People get in their little metal boxes and suddenly, the rest of the world doesn’t exist. The bottom line is, we’re all people trying to get some where. People that have never ridden a bike act like cyclists have never driven a car and been stuck behind slower traffic. That just ain’t the case, brah.

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