Friday, June 4, 2010

Crossing streets

This is my friend Alberto crossing a street in Vietnam. He told me that there are about 90% scooters in the modal split there, and that people even take them into shops etc. The noise level is very similar to Indian cities, however, there are already more cars in those places.

In Vienna, many streets have traffic lights. So crossing a street as a pedestrian (and often also cyclist) is done by the following procedure:
  • approach the junction
  • (press a button)
  • wait
  • wait
  • wait
  • cross
You're a poor guy/girl and have to cross once more? Too unfortunate. You'll have to wait again, because there are hardly any "diagonal" traffic lights. I don't know how there are called technically, but I mean those where you can use cross diagonally because all the vehicular traffic has a red light. In Austria (and most other European countries I know, apart from Ireland) motorists have green at the same time as pedestrians and cyclists on, e.g., a parallel segregated bike path. Of course, car drivers have to yield those, but sometimes there are dangerous situations, especially on bike paths that are somehow visually detached from the road. Be aware!

Many times on small roads I find that the traffic lights are not necessary because a) there is not much car traffic in the first place and b) pedestrians have green when most of the car traffic has too, anyhow.

In Vienna, there are a lot of traffic lights for cyclists. The seperate ones are pretty neat, as long as they are not "on demand" lights (it takes ages for them to turn green, and especially when I wear thick gloves in the winter, they are not so easy to use).

Two "on demand" traffic lights for cyclists in the 3rd district

However, most of the time cyclists' lights are included in the pedestrians' ones. This is a big disadvantage, because cyclists are much faster than pedestrians, and we could do with a much shorter clearing phase and hence a longer green phase (cyclists are actually much closer to "normal" traffic than to pedestrians). Especially on the Gürtel bike path, cyclists have a huge disadvantage due to these joint lights as well as due to turning cars -- we just miss the progressive signals at almost every junction, i.e. on average every 50-200 m. By the way, this is called "Grüne Welle" (green wave) in German. I like that term, but I would like it even more if it would refer to bike rather than car traffic.

How is it like in your town? Are there many traffic lights? Special ones for cyclists? Green waves for cyclists?


John Romeo Alpha said...

Phoenix, Arizona has such a wide variety of crossing types that you never know what you're going to get. We everything from HAWK (High-intensity Activated crossWalk), a few bike boxes, a very small number of cyclist-specific crossing push buttons out on the curb, loop detectors in the pavement that do detect bicycle wheels, to completely unmarked "you are on your own" cycle path crossing across five lanes of high-speed traffic. No green waves that I know of here.

Anonymous said...

On-demand lights are horrible, especially the ones that turn green ONLY when you press the button. I like to call them “Bettelampeln” (begging lights?) - you always arrive one second too late and then you have to wait a complete cycle. A good way to make cycling less attractive.


ibikelondon said...

We have too many different types of traffic lights and crossings here in the UK that sometimes their very diversity is a source of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists; some you can ride across, some you can't, some you have to walk your bike across, some have seperate bike lanes etc

In London we got our first major 'diagonal' X Crossing last year and it has really turned around Oxford Circus, the area where it is located.

Whereas it used to take about 20 minutes to walk around, now it takes just two or three.

No green waves for cyclists, or much cycling infrastructure at all to be honest, but we remain optimistic!

PS Are these photos recent? Is that SNOW I see on the ground? We've been having a heat wave here in London!

Sonja said...

There's no separate traffic lights for cyclists. You use cars' or pedestrians' lights depending on the situation. It's a bit strange though, because in law's eyes cyclists are similar to motorists, but if there's a bike lane, you use pedestrian lights.

Diagonal crossings are rare here. In fact, I know only one in my city Turku, but its right in the middle of the city, at the market square corner. It's pretty much the busiest pedestrian cross-roads in the city. For cars it's an ordinary crossing, but pedestrians can cross anywhere they wish when the light is green. Cyclists often walk their bike through that one because they don't wanna wait for the green lights for cars.

anna said...

Thanks for all the comments. It's very interesting for me to notice certain subtleties in different countries.

@ Mark: There is snow (the pictures are from January :)).

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