Images: City of Davis
Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.
The city that brought America the bike lane 48 years ago this summer has done it again.
Davis, California — population 66,000, bike commuting rate 20 percent — finished work last week on a new intersection design ordered up by a city council member who had decided that initial plans didn’t measure up to streets he’d ridden in the Netherlands.
A year later, with the help of Dutch consulting firm Mobycon, Council Member Brett Lee’s proposal for a protected intersection has arrived at Covell Boulevard and J Street. And as the Davis Enterprise reported Sunday, it’s working perfectly:
There were no standing diagrams on the street, no big street signs attached to traffic light poles announcing the difference between a standard American intersection and the Dutch-styled one people were passing through.
Everyone went in blind.
Yet for busy lunch hour traffic — well, for summer — on a Friday afternoon, motorists along Covell Boulevard zipped on through, with bicyclists, pedestrians and skateboarders seamlessly following their paths across the so-called “Dutch junction” — modeled after designs in the bike-friendly Netherlands.
No one died. No near misses. Nothing even close. Just history in the making no one seemed to notice.
It’s exactly what fans of protected intersections would have predicted for a design that arranges traffic so people on bikes and in cars can easily make eye contact with one another without looking over their shoulders.
Davis, it turned out, wasn’t alone in its vision. Austin has already built two protected intersections in a still-uninhabited part of a new development and expects people to start using them in the next few months. It’s planning two more.
Salt Lake City is currently building another downtown and plans to open it in the first week of October. Boston and Sacramento are planning their own.
“What did surprise me was how intuitive the intersection is,” Davis bicycle coordinator Jennifer Donofrio said Monday. “Observing people use the intersection, they are able to use it without any sort of education or any sort of guidance.”