Saving Lives Through Protected Intersections

Editor’s Note: Below is a guest post from Charlie Ottoco-founder and former owner of Grand Teton Brewing in Wilson, Wyoming, and Victor, Idaho, now living and cycling during the cooler months in Albuquerque. Charlie has been a life long bike advocate and now, in retirement, spends part of each year bike touring in other countries with his wife, studying and documenting inspiring bike infrastructure.

By the way, if you’re at all interested in a transportation-related guest post, or perhaps frequent contribution, to Better Burque, don’t hesitate to inquire on how to do that. Trust me, it’s simple. – Editor


Have you ever felt in New Mexico like you’re taking your life in your own hands while driving, biking, or just taking a walk around the block?

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Have you ever thought that there must be a better way to just get across the street safely?

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The Protected Intersection

Well, a lot of folks have been working on safer crossings through the idea of a Protected Intersection. It does a much better job of separating pedestrians and cyclists, and reduces the chance for collisions between motorists, too. It looks a little different than what we’re used to, but it’s these small differences that make a big difference to peoples’ safety.

Protected Intersection

The protected intersection design can be used to replace outdated intersections with high incidence of cycle/pedestrian crashes. Or, components of it can be used to improve the safety future redesigns. For example, components of the protected intersection could used for Albuquerque’s upcoming Alameda Drain Multi-Use Master Plan where cycles and pedestrians will need to cross many roads on the way from Alameda to I-40.

alameda drain project

The protected intersection is designed to accommodate three separate modes of travel (motorized, cycle, and pedestrian) and provides separated, well-marked lanes for each. People entering a protected intersection know exactly where they belong and where they can expect to find the other types of users.

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More designs like this can be found here

Here’s how:

  • Corner Safety Island – The cyclists/pedestrians are physically protected by a “corner refuge island” (a curbed, raised concrete slab at each corner of the intersection) that separates cars and pedestrians.
  • Forward Stop Bar – The painted, forward stop bar for cyclists and pedestrians is located well in front of the stop bar for cars, enabling the drivers to see the cyclists and pedestrians who are preparing to cross.
  • Setback Bicycle Crossing – The cycle and pedestrian crossing lanes are set back from the roadway right-of-way, not right along the curb. When a car turns right, the driver and cyclists/pedestrians are further apart and can make eye contact and have more time to react.
  • Signal phasing and painted lanes – Cycle/Pedestrian friendly signals, and color coded, painted lanes make it clear where cyclists and pedestrians belong.
  • Painted “sharks teeth” indicate who has the right of way.
  • There are no “mixing zones” where faster traveling, 3000 pound cars are expected to mix with slower moving, 200 pound cyclists and pedestrians.
  • There is no crossover of right turning cars with cyclists and pedestrians who are proceeding straight across.
  • Cyclists turning left do not turn with the cars. Instead, they proceed straight and make their left turn buy crossing the intersection again, like pedestrians. There is no “mixing zone” where cars and cyclists are turning left together.
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A real-world example: 200 W. 300 S. in Salt Lake City, Utah


Here’s a video with more information on the SLC Protected Intersection pictured above:


And here’s how the Dutch have significantly addressed the problem of roadway space and right-of-way:


Thanks for reading! For more detail, here are supporting technical documents for our city planners and road engineers. Working together, we can truly save lives through better roadway design.


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