New traffic signals for cyclists to be installed

Early next month the City of Austin will install special traffic signals for cyclists. The purpose is to encourage cyclists to hit the brakes when they're supposed to making the roads safer for everyone.

For every cycling fatality bicycle safety instructor and public safety commission member, Preston Tyree, says there are 8-10 serious injury crashes and 300 near misses.

"About 75 percent of crashes between motorists and cyclists occur in the intersection so we have to find some way to change the movement in that intersection,” said Tyree.

Austin city transportation officials seem to agree. They recently reached out to The Center for Transportation Research at UT to study a number of intersections.

Since September, Civil Engineering Professor Randy Machemehl and his graduate students have monitored cameras counting traffic and noting compliance of traffic signals--specifically among cyclists.

Their findings will be used to weigh a before and after as the city plans to install signals specifically for cyclists at a dozen locations.

"We've seen really good compliance as a matter of fact better compliance than I anticipated,” said Machemehl.

But compliance is not perfect. Occasional bike rider Tom Kinsley admits to occasionally going out of turn.

"I think cyclists have a quick glance and if they can't hear any cars coming than it's more of a free pass,” said Kinsley.

He moved to Austin from Dublin where bike signals are common. He says he would pay more attention should they be installed here.

In addition to notifying the cyclist of when it is safe to proceed, city officials say the cyclist lights would turn green five seconds before the normal traffic lights to offer further protection.

Machemahl and Tyree have high hopes for them.

"Our primary emphasis is on safety, improving safety. It seems to me bicycle signals could improve safety. And that's sort of the Holy Grail for us in bicycle research,” said Machemahl.

Prior to the installation of the cameras, UT researchers are seeking your opinion on current bike and traffic behavior. Click here to participate

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