Tactical urbanism, MUTCD bike sign edition

The Better Burque Tactical Urbanism Team (BBTUT) pitched in this morning to help City of Albuquerque Traffic Engineering bring the signs at the intersection of Copper and San Mateo into compliance with the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

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The problem was a sign pointing to a detector to allow bicyclists to trigger the green light, but no actual working detector to allow bicyclists to trigger the green light. Garbage bag, duct tape, problem solved!

The problem here is the sad saga of the not-yet-working bicycle loop detectors on the new Fair Heights Bicycle Boulevard crossing of San Mateo at Copper. (Loop detectors are those gizmos embedded in pavement that detect the presence of vehicles so they can get a green light. A bicycle loop detector has the magical ability to actually detect bicycles and turn lights green for us.)

We were pretty excited last winter when we got the Kermit-green pavement paint and Bicycle Signal Actuation Sign (MUTCD R10-22), matching up with the Albuquerque City Council’s R 2015-045, which calls for “more convenient crossings where bicyclists must traverse major streets” on bicycle boulevards. San Mateo is 90-plus feet (seven lanes) of speeding death, so a crossing with traffic light protection is a thing to be treasured for those of us on feet or two wheels.

Sadly, as we learn time and again, the gap between well-intentioned City Council ordinance and actual on-the-ground implementation in the real world of traffic engineering can, for pedestrians and bicyclists, be vast. Here be dragons. In this case, extensive research involving pulling bicycles onto the green paint “to request green” like the sign said led to the conclusion that the loop detectors didn’t actually work. The convenient crossing traversing this major street, promised by Bicycle Signal Actuation Sign (MUTCD R10-22), was a mirage.

Extensive exchanges (see here and here and here) have been inconclusive. As of last week, according to the city, “Bicycle detection is under repair.” In the meantime, city engineering staff back in February offered a temporary fix: “Signs will be bagged until the loops become operational.” Great for a while, until one of the bags disappeared. Rather than continuing to be pests with our repeated requests to put coverings over the signs (the city urged patience last time ’round, and it took six weeks), the BBTUT packed duct tape and a garbage bag on this morning’s ride, hoping to be of help in bringing the signs into temporary compliance with the MUTCD until we get those loop detectors working.


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