Bike Safety Workshop identified solutions to problematic intersections in Austin

Leslie Zhang

Eight groups of cyclists, drivers and engineers brainstormed design solutions to dangerous intersections identified by the City of Austin.

At the 2013 VeloTexas Bicycle Safety Intersection Design Workshop on Thursday, attendees examined eight of the 12 problematic intersections.

Lisa Smith, administrative associate at UT’s Center for Transportation Research, which hosted the event, said three of the problematic intersections UT students most likely travel through are Red River and Dean Keaton, Barton Springs and Riverside and South First and Barton Springs.

Reuben James, project engineer for consulting company HVJ Associates, said the main problem with the current Red River and Dean Keaton intersection is the presence of multiple conflict points, where the path of a bicyclist crosses with the path of a car, increasing the possibility for an accident.

“Primarily our biggest problem is we’re seeing our bicyclists having to cross multiple lanes of traffic,” James said.

Each team considered intersection geometry, pavement markings and signals when identifying safety issues and forming solutions.

Transportation engineering professor Randy Machemehl said there is currently a lack of guidance for Austin cyclists in intersections, leaving them to decide on their own how to navigate road intersections.

“Typically, if you take a bike safety course, the instructor will probably tell you if there’s a delineated bicycle lane,” Machemehl said. “It’ll probably stop some distance before the intersection and the safest thing to do is to assume a position in the travel lane and basically act like a car.”

Smith said the workshop aims to educate attendees on intersection design.

“The goal is to teach people about how to design intersections and the number one goal is to come up with a few ideas about how to enhance bicycle safety through intersections,” Smith said.

Machemehl said that in recent years, bicycling has become a more popular mode of transportation, which has led to increased concern regarding its safety.

“There is an increase in bicycle riding across the country,” Machemehl said. “Austin is having more of an increase than other cities due in part to the fact that our weather is better.”

According to Machemehl, Texas bikers reported 2,700 cases of injury in the most recent year statistics were collected, but the number underestimates the dangers cyclists face because it doesn’t detail near-misses.

“In Texas and most other states, reports on accidents are only required if there was an injury,” Machemehl said. “If there was no injury, the accident may not get into anyone’s database.”