Here’s Why Mixing Zones Scare People on Bikes So Much

DOT's preferred intersection design for protected bike lanes doesn't do enough to protect cyclists from careless drivers.

jaxbot mixing zone

Along protected bike lanes, mixing zones are NYC DOT’s preferred design treatment at intersections where drivers can turn across the bikeway. Drivers are supposed to slow down and let passing cyclists proceed, but if the person behind the wheel is careless or impatient, the design doesn’t offer much in the way of protection — just ask Jonathan Warner.

Warner was approaching Fourth Street in the Second Avenue bike lane yesterday when a driver veered into him across the mixing zone:

Mixing zones begin far ahead of the intersection in order to give motorists and cyclists a clear view of one another, but they often don’t function the way they’re intended. In Warner’s case, an illegally-parked construction vehicle obstructed the view of the approaching driver, who then veered into the path without yielding.

Intersections with mixing zones have a higher rate of cyclist injuries than those where cyclists and turning drivers each have a separate signal phase, and last year, a turning box truck driver killed Kelly Hurley in the mixing zone on First Avenue and Ninth Street.

DOT has taken some halting steps toward upgrading its bike lane intersection designs. The agency has piloted this design at a handful of Manhattan intersections:

70-and-columbus

While projects like the upcoming redesign of Fourth Avenue call for similar treatments, DOT has hesitated to make this design standard.

So far, the agency has no plans to retrofit most Manhattan intersections with the design above. And last month, DOT Bicycle Program Director Ted Wright defended the inclusion of mixing zones in the agency’s plan for crosstown protected lanes, arguing that they would be safer on relatively low-speed side streets than on avenues.

On Twitter yesterday, Warner said even at lower speeds, mixing zones pose problems.

DOT has said it will release full results of its study of bicycle intersection designs sometime this spring.

  • reasonableexplanation

    My mistake. I forget sometimes that you have a very …special outlook on these things.

  • JarekFA

    The dangerous mixing zones at least requires the turning driver to slow down to a speed suitable for making a 90 degree left turn. On 1st ave here, the driver just needs to “change lanes” at speed, meaning, up to 30mph if that’s the rate it’s traveling at. At least have the bike lane in green and have other physical barriers/impediments forcing the cars to slow down are must haves for me.

  • Vooch

    White Sea Canal

    🙂

  • Vooch

    A humane outlook 🙂

  • Right, the bike lane should be green. That is a good point.

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When DOT presented plans for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue, one point of contention was the design of intersections. How many intersections will get split-phase signals, where cyclists and pedestrians crossing the street get a separate signal phase than turning drivers? And how many will get “mixing zones,” where pedestrians and cyclists negotiate the same space as turning […]