AUSTIN (KXAN) — Whether you travel through South Congress Avenue and Oltorf Street behind the steering wheel, on foot or on a bike, you’re likely to notice things are moving through the intersection quite differently.
Bicyclist Tim Robinson says the changes seem to help traffic flow. “I think it’s going to be really dependent on the drivers paying attention still,” says Robinson.
To make the intersection safer for bicyclists, they are now separated from cars and pedestrians by protected lanes and state of the art signal lights.
The city says protecting bicyclists at the intersection was a top concern because of the number of crashes between vehicles turning right and bikes, also known as “the right hook.”
“The bike signal protects the bicyclists so when the bike signal is green the cars get a red indication so they have to stop. So that’s minimizing and eliminating the conflict there,” says traffic engineer with the Austin Transportation Department, Amica Bose.
A bike signal color is only visible to those who are actually in the bike lane, which helps stop any confusion between who has the red light and who has the green between bicyclists and cars.
The bicycle signal is triggered by motion detection equipment underground. Where Congress Avenue and Oltorf Street meet is the first intersection in Austin to use this technology.
“Drivers will have to get used to it as much as I will,” says Robinson. “I think it’s good this infrastructure is being put in to pay attention to people that are using this.”
Bose says the city is working to expand this technology to more intersections around town. “This solution may not work everywhere but there are other ways we can provide protection as in provide raised separation between the bicyclists and the car traffic. Providing them better and high-quality facilities,” says Bose.
Last summer the South Congress Avenue and Oltorf Street intersection was identified by the Austin Transportation Department as a top priority location for safety improvements as part of the 2016 Mobility Bond. Raised medians and additional turn lanes were also added at the intersection to help improve traffic safety.