City of Austin installs new bicycle signals at a dozen intersections

The City of Austin is making some changes to city streets they hope will help protect cyclists.

“It's really exciting. Austin is on the forefront of this in the whole United States,” said Aleksiina Chapman, graduate engineer with the City of Austin transportation department.

New bicycle signals are being installed at 12 intersections around Austin.

“Most of them are downtown, but some are a little farther north in the west campus area,” Chapman said. 

“We're excited that the city is taking more of a stronger approach and putting in bike facilities for people on bikes,” said Mercedes Feris, executive director with Bike Austin. 

The first signal that will be fully operational is at the intersection of Rio Grande Street and West 24th, but 11 more will be installed over the next few weeks.

“In some cases we're installing them on busy bicycle corridors just to give bicyclists a few seconds to get out ahead of the regular traffic,” Chapman said.

The city hopes letting cyclists go before cars will decrease the number of car vs bicycle crashes.

“It increases visibility of people, because then, if you're on a bicycle, you're already out into the intersection by the time vehicles start moving, so you're way out, you have better visibility and it improves predictability of everyone in the street,” said Chapman.  

“I think it will reduce some of the crashes as everybody will have a signal as to who goes where and when they should go. So, as far as creating more clarity on who has the right of way for a turn, I like to assume that that will create less confusion on who has the right of way,” Feris said.  

The University of Texas Center for Transportation Research will be studying the new signals to answer some of the city's questions.

“Is this improving safety? Is this improving operations? And get a full picture of is this something we want to pursue at more intersections or is this something that maybe doesn't work?” Chapman explained.
While Bike Austin supports adding the signals on city streets, they said there is a better way to help protect cyclists.

“More protected bike lanes would be amazing and we want to grow more people on bikes and, so, in order to do, that the City of Austin’s bike master plan surveyed residents of the City of Austin and 40 percent of them stated that they would ride if they felt safe,” said Feris.