Bicycle-specific traffic signals are starting to pop up next to the normal traffic lights. At least, 16 U.S. cities have installed these lights which feature a bicycle shaped signal. A few of the cities that have incorporated these lights into their traffic system include: Austin, Denver, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, Salem and Washington D.C. They have not shown up in Louisville, Kentucky, yet.
Why do we need these bicycle specific signals?
While traffic lights allow enough time for motorized vehicles to clear the intersection, the lights may not allow enough time for bicycles to make it across. In other words, it gives the bicyclist a head start in the hope of preventing a serious bicycle accident. These signals can also help prevent collisions when a motorist is turning right and a bicyclist is going straight by helping the cyclist get a small head start.
There is not a consistency in all of the bicycle signals, yet. Some of the bicycle signals stand alone, while others are incorporated with traffic lights. Some bike signals are timed, while some are only activated when a bicyclist reaches an intersection. These signals are mainly being used in cities that are trying to make streets more bicycle friendly or on intersections that are extremely complex. For example, bicycle signals were installed in Salem, Oregon. A Salem resident, Joel Cleland, rides his bicycle two miles to and from work every day. With the signal lights, he said, “It’s a lot quicker and easier to make my way through that intersection now. I’ve never waited more than 20 seconds for the new light to turn green.” The bicycle signal costs $1,000 to install. Do you think they are worth it?
Bike signals like this can help protect bicyclists. However, there are still too many bicycles accidents here in Kentucky. Did you know that in Kentucky, if you are hit by a car while riding a bike, walking or even standing on the side of the road, you should be coverage by insurance? The PIP insurance of the car that hit you should cover your injuries. If that car does not have insurance, then the PIP insurance you have on your own car should cover you. If you do not own a car and you do not live with anyone who owns a car, then you may be eligible for benefits under the Kentucky Assigned Claims Plan. If the car that hit you did not have insurance, then you would submit the claim under your Uninsured Motorist Benefits, unless there is an exclusion in your policy.
It is important to ask your insurance agent if you would be covered under your policy in these circumstances. This is especially true in today’s economic environment. With gas prices going through the roof, many of us are walking or riding a bike when we have a short distance to go. Make sure you are covered.
As a bicyclist myself, I would love to see bike signals here in Louisville. It is hard to get through an intersection from a complete stop. Bicyclist often have to coast through a stop sign or a red light to make sure they keep enough momentum to make it all the way through. The main benefit may be the attention it gives to the drivers of cars that bicycles are on the road. Just being aware of these two wheeled vehicles will help prevent serious injury and fatal accidents. Always be on the lookout for cyclists.