New “Bike Boxes” Send Cyclists to the Front of the Line

Ian Dutton of the Houston Street bike safety initiative snapped these photographs of yet another never-before-seen street design feature here in New York City. This is what’s called a "Bike Box" at the  intersection of W. 9th St. and Sixth Ave. Bike boxes allow cyclists approaching the intersection with a red signal to position themselves at the front of the line of vehicles. This makes bike travel faster and the right turn onto northbound Sixth Avenue safer.


New bike boxes are also being striped in on Carlton Avenue at Bergen Street and on DeKalb and Flushing Avenues in Brooklyn. Technically, these aren’t New York City’s first-ever bike boxes. There have been previous attempts to install them in various spots but the design of these new ones seem to be much bigger, clearer, cleaner and closer to what you see in bike-friendly cities elsewhere.

One city that appreciates its bike boxes is London. Traveling on a German Marshall Fellowship in March I met with John Dinunzio, a Project Coordinator with the London Cycle Network (or LCN+), working to build out that city’s bike infrastructure. John and his team are big proponents of bike boxes. I saw a lot of them throughout London. London motorists mostly seem to respect the bike boxes. Let’s see if New York City drivers do the same.

  • DeKalb and Flushing don’t intersect; do you have a corrected location?

  • Sorry if that’s unclear: DeKalb and Flushing not DeKalb at Flushing.

    I’m not sure which intersections are getting them along those two Aves.

    A quick look at the Bike Map and it’d probably be easy to figure out where they’re going to be…

  • I’m confused about where the people on foot cross? Mos of the time I move up sideways in to the space in front of the crosswalk.

  • moocow

    I just fell out of my chair. This is a huge step, get bikes out of the crosswalk, but give them priority over cars. I really cant believe it. Again, thinking back to how ridiculous the April 1st post was, this is change.

  • Bird,

    We should have made sure to show the crosswalk in the photo.

    The Bike Box goes behind the crosswalk. So, the peds have the crosswalk, the cyclists are in the Bike Box and the cars are behind the cyclists (in theory).

  • Danny

    These look like better implementations than the lamentable bike boxes by the Manhattan sides of the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges.

  • ddartley

    Actually, they’ve had one (albeit not as well-designed) for a long time at 8th Ave. at W.57th St. in Manhattan–since the class II lane was striped.

  • I think it’d make more sense in front of the cross-walk, so people can keep crossing behind the bikes. But, in any case, it is an improvement.

    I mean, this makes left turns … possible.

  • Cool. There’s been a bike box at the traffic light on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge for years, though.

    Here’s a screen grab from Google’s Street Level maps:

    It’s a narrow box between the stop line and the crosswalk. You can mostly see the bike symbol in the photo linked above.

    They have them in other places too.

    This page from 2003 has one at 120th and 2nd
    (scroll down).

  • #2: Flushing Ave is getting bike lanes? That’s surprising. Or did you mean Myrtle?

    Also, I’m confused by the two bike symbols in the bike box in the first photos. The one parallel to the direction of travel (in the foreground in photo #2) makes sense, but what’s the purpose of the other one (in the foreground in photo #1), which makes it look like bikes are coming off the sidewalk there?

  • Spud

    Since when has the lack of bike boxes prevented bikers from doing whatever the heck they want at intersections anyway?

  • Mike (#10):

    Good question. I’m not really sure, except perhaps that is to let pedestrians stepping off the curb know that they can expect to encounter bikes in this area.

  • “Since when has the lack of bike boxes prevented bikers from doing whatever the heck they want at intersections anyway?”

    Since never, Spud. But why make it so hard for um… less “wild” people to bike? If biking is only for hard-core trackies and seasoned messangers then it’s not going to be that popular. Maybe these boxes will get some of the more timid people out on the road.

    I must admit I don’t *love* bike lanes since I’d rather just find my own path, but some people won’t go on streets unless they have a lane. It makes people feel more safe.

    Let’s make it easy, you know, for the people.

  • ln

    When I was in london, I was often paused in these bike boxes, and they really do work. Plus its thrilling to be there at night, abreast with 10 or more other cyclists blinking lights together, reminding drivers that we go first!

    Unfortunately we may never see bike boxes on Houston Street, because some elected and appointed officials have allowed DOT to give up on making Houston St. safe for cyclists. I say we should paint our own!

  • If anyplace needs them it’s Houston. That thing is a giant death trap. Why did the DOT “give up” ?

  • flp

    yes, ddartley is correct on both points: there is a bike box at 8th ave and 57th, and it is not well designed.

    for those not familiar with the intersection or 8th avenue, the main problem with the bike box is that it also is the end of the bike lane which the d.o.t. and city council REFUSED to extend to and through columbus circle – yet, another half-assed attempt at “improving” cycling infrastructure!

  • alex

    Additionally, there has also been a bike box @ W.78th and Columbus since October 11, 2006. I just sent the pic into SB in case they want to publish it too.

  • alex

    Here is the link to the SB post with a photo of the box on W. 78th St. and Columbus Ave.

  • Steve

    The problem with that bike box that Alex links to is that it guides bicyclists to the right, when in all likelihood they will want to keep to the left while southbound on Columbus so that they can make the left turn at Columbus 77th and continue eastbound. Also, there is no bike box on the eastern leg of the intersection of Columbus and 77th, where one is deperately need because bicyclists proceeding west have to cross in front of vehicular traffic in order to stay in the bike lane as they cross Columbus.

  • Isetta

    This will never work. Most drivers already treat stop lines as “suggestions.” They’ll stop right over the boxes the way half of them protrude over the crosswalks already.

  • Stacy

    There’s been some Bike Box signage near Waterside Plaza for several years now though I don’t remember seeing an actual bike box as shown above. Still, I wonder how many people, particularly motorists, understand what a bike box, or even those chevron shared lane markings are supposed to mean. And if people don’t understand them, what’s the point?

    Maybe DMV should add some bicycle specific questions to the written test when drivers apply for a license. Maybe there should be a bike box and some bike lanes included in road test sites.

  • Steve

    Stacy, good idea to include bicycle signage and rules in the drivers’ license exam. As you and Isetta point out, most motorists don’t have a clue as to what bike boxes, Class II bike lanes, or “sharrows” mean. Bicyclists have to educate them. It’s a lot easier to do that when the signs and markings are there.

    flp (#16), I definitely agree that the interruption in the 8th Ave. bike lane north of 57th stinks. Instead of bike lane, they have created a parking lot for NYPD (on Central Park West). But the bike box does advise northbound bicyclists–correctly, in my view– to get right before entering Columbus Circle. If you enter Columbus Circle from the left side of 8th, you invite unnecessary danger and stress because you have to compete with both the northbound and southbound traffic in the circle in order to get to Central Park West.

    Also, I don’t understand how bike boxes would work on Houston–they are used primarily where bicyclistshave to switch sides of the raodway–where does that occur on Houston?

  • Steve: they are needed for the streets that cross Houston, that’s what I thought people were talking about.

    I’ve given up on going down that street. I just stay away from it after seeing a bad hit and run.

  • Isetta (#20):

    While I was observing, the cars were incredible respectful of the bike box. In 10 minutes, not one stopped in the bike box. Maybe that’s just because the fresh paint was so clear.

    However, because W. 9th St. makes a 30deg. left turn to become Christopher St. at this intersection, the whole end of the bike lane as it enters the bike box became a de facto second lane for cars continuing onto Christopher. If this situation continues, I think we’ll ask DOT for additional lane markings through Sixth Ave.

  • Gwin

    I would love to see a bike box at the intersection of Delancey and Allen… as it is, drivers do NOT respect the bike lane at all on the northbound side, using it as an extra right-turn lane to get onto Delancey street. The traffic cops there in the morning turn a complete blind eye to this…

    I have several calls in to the DOT to correct this (by putting up poles to protect the bike lane the way they have them at Herald Square) but so far, nothing’s happened. What a shocker.

  • Gwin:

    Funny you mention this. I had a drawn-out discussion with a bunch of cops over this. I was complaining to the Traffic Agents there about this very situation when a patrol car pulled up and did the same thing! I went and discussed it with the cops, who were sitting right there in their car blocking the bike lane, and they pointed out that the curb reg. actually is set to make that a turn lane in the pm.

    So what really should happen, at the least, is that DOT should mark that cars can use that lane at time – like what they do when bike lanes pass bus stops. Or even better – change the curb reg. so that bikes keep their priority in the bike lane.

  • LisaB

    As a casual cyclist, I have to say bike boxes make me feel much more secure in navigating intersections. Vancouver’s bike boxes are painted red so it’s even more obvious to divers:

    Interesting pamphlet on bike boxes too:

  • I was checking out the bike boxes on Market Street near the Manhattan bridge and EVERY car stopped in the right place. It was really great!

  • The wikipedia entry for “bike box” needs some TLC:

  • Gwin

    Ian: I don’t have a problem with cars using the lane next to the curb that is indeed cleared for turning at certain hours — it’s when they straddle the bike lane AND either the regular lane or the curbside lane that bikers are put at risk (since they merge into you without looking and/or force bikers to weave in/out of cars to get to the front)

  • Dave

    Ian – Gwin is correct that the “rush hour” parking regulations that allow the parking lane to be used as a moving lane are mutually exclusive of the bike lane. The parking lane is wide enough for vehicles to use that if they need to – the rush hour regulations do not give permission for cars to be in the bike lane, which is still illegal.

  • DXW

    San Francisco’s had a few for awhile. One on EB 14th approaching Folsom, and one on NB Scott approaching Oak (that one shows up in google streetview):,-122.436211&spn=0.00304,0.004989&z=18&om=1&layer=c&cbll=37.773146,-122.435732&cbp=1,362.28846312299,0.487919331531241,0


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