At the time I predicted this would be a bad idea. I even had a macabre nickname for them. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of cycling and an even bigger fan of safety. But this just struck me as the wrong way to go about things. Mainly because I think it's very confusing for drivers. I would expect that some drivers will understand and obey the boxes, others will ignore them completely, and many will simply have no idea what to do. This type of asymmetric driver response is inherently dangerous. Add to the mix cyclists who could naturally expect to feel more and not less safe at these intersections, and you have a recipe for trouble.
Don't believe me? Here are some recent headlines:
- Collisions way up at some Portland bike boxes
- Bike boxes make some intersections worse
- Right-hook crashes increasing -- not decreasing -- at some Portland green bike boxes
- City Finds Bike Boxes May Actually Increase Crashes
- Report: Some green bike boxes are proving dangerous
The city now has an idea on how to fix this. Here it is (don't stare at it too long):
Now if you're a regular reader of this blog, and you've been patient enough to read this far, then you're probably wondering what Portland bike boxes have to do with lean or kaizen or anything really. So I'll come to the point. The addition of all that extra signage and striping is simply trying to address complexity by adding more complexity. Complex systems and process are by their nature prone to error. Yet in our problem solving efforts we often try to prevent errors by layering in more complexity. The solution to complexity is not more complexity. It's simplicity. Ironically, however, simple effective solutions are much harder to come up with than complex ones.
I don't have a specific solution to the bike box issues (nor will I entertain a "bikes vs. cars" debate), but I think that if the Portland problem solvers were to look for a simpler solution they would ultimately be more successful. I'll make a bold prediction that this new proposal will not have the effect intended.