‘Bike boxes’ pop up at Grand Rapids intersections

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Drivers in downtown Grand Rapids will notice something new at two intersections: bike boxes.

The designated areas can be found along North Division Avenue at Lyon Street and Pearl Street NE. At the intersections, green paint shows how the bike lane opens up, allowing bicyclists who are turning left to move ahead of traffic stopped at a red light.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. explained how the new traffic construction works on Twitter Tuesday.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials says bike boxes increase visibility of bicyclists and help groups of bicyclists together so they can clear an intersection quickly, decreasing confusion and delays.

While city leaders have heard concerns and confusion over bike lanes in the past, Transportation Planning & Program Supervisor Kristin Bennett said they haven’t yet heard criticism over the bike boxes.

“We haven’t really heard anything specific about this,” she said when asked if there had been pushback from drivers.

“We do hear concerns that bicyclists maybe don’t belong on the road, but they are a roadway user like everyone else,” she added. “They pay taxes and a lot of people need to get around on a bicycle. It’s their primary way of getting around.”

The intersections where the bike boxes have been installed do not currently have left turn lights.

“If we had that much left turning, eventually the signal might warrant to go to a left turn phase,” Bennett explained. “At this point in time, the fact that it doesn’t means that we’re able to push enough of that left turn traffic through without having that extra phase.”

Crews installed the bike boxes July 23, weeks after adding bicycle lanes north of that area as part of “A Better Bikeway” pilot program. Bicyclists on North Division Avenue between Michigan and Coldbrook streets are separated from vehicle traffic by painted lines and a series of posts.

The city has also added more green pavement to highlight “conflict zones” between cyclists and motorists.

About two months ago, Grand Rapids posted a 295-page draft of its Bicycle Action Plan, with an aim of making the city a “world-class bicycle community for all.”

“Eight to 10 years ago, there was a real concerted effort on the part of city leadership that we needed to do more for all types of transportation and not just facilitate only driving,” Bennett explained Tuesday. “Can we make the streets work for more people?”

Bennett said bike boxes may be added to more intersections in the future. The city is seeking public input on the Better Bikeway program, which you can provide online.

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