A wide swath of green paint marks Kansas City’s first bike box near 11th and Main streets. It’s the next welcome step in making downtown safer for bicyclists.
The city in the coming year plans to add more boxes at intersections along Grand Boulevard as a “road diet” reduces the number of traffic lanes and adds bike lanes in both directions. Other bike boxes will be painted at spots along Benton Boulevard as well, city officials say.
A bike box uses existing road space and is especially meant to capture the attention of motorists. Bicyclists are allowed to pull into the green space at selected intersections during a red light. That places them just ahead of cars and trucks, which are not supposed to stop on top of the green paint. Bicyclists then have a chance to more safely make left or right turns, or go straight, when the light turns green.
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“It’s a great idea,” says Eric Rogers, executive director of BikeWalkKC. Rogers adds that he hopes officials “rapidly embrace” the concept in other parts of the city.
They should. Seattle, Portland and other bicycle-friendly cities already have bike boxes. Most feature a bicycle stenciled into the green space, another way to alert motorists to the purpose of the boxes. Kansas City plans to add that feature to its current box soon, as well as future ones.
Kansas City also will put up signs that prohibit right turns on red by motorists and bicyclists at intersections with bike boxes, says Deb Ridgway, bicycle pedestrian coordinator for the city. That’s the right approach in deterring motorists from trying to get around a bicycle that’s stopped in the box.
Outlawing right turns on red at bike box intersections — while inconveniencing some motorists — will provide more protection for bicyclists as well as pedestrians.
Putting all of these elements together — the road diet, bike boxes, dedicated bicycle lanes and fewer right turns on red — would help encourage more people to pedal around Kansas City.