Designing safer intersections for bikes and pedestrians

Riding up to an intersection on a bicycle can be tricky and downright dangerous. Turning right isn’t so bad, but turning left is a whole other ballgame, especially when the road is busy and cars won’t slow down to let you change lanes. Even going straight, there’s the risk that a car won’t see you and then turn right in front of you.

To fix this, smart people and cities are designing and building safer intersections. Here are two examples that are being used in many Canadian and American cities.

Protected Intersections


These are the latest and greatest in safe intersections for cyclists and pedestrians. The idea is to separate cars and from bikes as much as possible by building a buffer between cars and the bike lane at each corner. This helps create some space between cars and bikes when turning right. To solve the left turn issue, these intersections have a separate set of traffic lights for bikes. These traffic lights allow bikes to go before the cars so they can turn left without merging into traffic and go straight without the fear of being hit by a car turning right. These intersections also benefit pedestrians by creating more of a buffer between the sidewalk and vehicle traffic. In 2014, Vancouver became the first city in North America to build a protected bike lane. Salt Lake City was the next to follow in 2015.

Check out this video to see how it works.

Want to learn more? Check out this article by

Bike boxes


Bike boxes are a more common approach. They’re currently used in many cities including Edmonton, Portland, Ottawa, Seattle and Toronto. A bike box is a blocked off area in front of where the vehicles stop. A bike box can be one lane wide or multiple lanes wide, depending on the size of the street. When cyclists want to turn left, they come to the front of the intersection and pull in front of the cars into the bike box. This avoids the problem of crossing lanes to turn left by allowing the cyclist to just pull in front of the cars.

Check out this amazing video by the City of Edmonton. They explain how to use bike boxes with animated Lego people…it’s great.

To learn more check out this article by the City of Guelph. 

Could an intersection in your city benefit from being converted to a protected intersection or by adding a simple bike box? Contact your local city council and suggest the change. You’ll be making roads safer for everyone.

Do you know of another technique that cities are using to create safe intersections for cyclists? If so, leave a comment.


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