What the Heck Kind of Intersection is That?

Example of a protected lane

Written by Theresa-Marie Wilson

Theresa-Maria Wilson has been a journalist covering the North Coast and South County area for over 20 years. She is also the founder of Cat Noir CC and is currently working on a novel.

August 27, 2021

The many folks who live on the North Coast and make frequent trips to and from SLO for work or special events will likely come across a screaming green new type of lane on the road.

A protected intersection, the first of its kind in the county, was installed at Madonna and Dalido roads. It is designed to increase safety for driving, bicycling, and walking.

This new protected intersection is the first of its kind in the county and more are planned throughout the city to improve traffic safety.

The intersection opened a few weeks ago and provides a more comfortable way to take left turns by bike without having to merge across several lanes of motor vehicle traffic.

“There are separated bike lanes adjacent to the crosswalks,” said SLO Active Transportation Manager, Adam Fukushima. “Folks on bike typically make left turns by using these bike lanes by riding around the perimeter of the intersection rather than crossing lanes of fast moving vehicular traffic, which is uncomfortable for many people to do on bike. “

The intersection also features wider sidewalk corner curbs with a corner island that helps safely reduce the crossing distance for walking.

“[It] can help reduce collisions with people walking and bicycling,” said SLO Active Transportation Manager, Adam Fukushima. “So called ‘right-hook collisions’ are one of the most frequent types of collisions in the city and can be helped with improvements such as these protected intersections by reducing the speeds of motor vehicles when making right turns as well as reducing the crossing distance for people on foot.”

The newly constructed intersection began in 2020 as part of transportation improvements approved by the city council related to the San Luis Ranch development project. The protected intersection is open but will be completed in late summer 2021 when a shared-use path is connected to Madonna Road.

Tips for Driving

  • For driving, a protected intersection is very similar to a typical intersection except for one new feature, a corner island.
  • When making a right turn, be sure to always keeo the corner island to your right.
  • Do not drive over or thrugh the marked corner island.
  • Avoid the curbs, including mountable truck aprons that help larger vehicles navigate a wider turn radius.
  • Look for bicycles in the bike lane. They will be travelling on your right-hand side.
  • Yield to pedestrians on the crosswalk as you would a typical intersection.

Tips for Bicycling

  • To turn right, stay in the bike lane and turn right without stopping unless there are specific markings. Be sure to yield to pedestrians.
  • To make a left turn, always proceed in a counterclockwise direction like you would in a roundabout to avoid merging across lanes of traffic (unless the bike crossing markings indicate two-way crossing is allowed).
  • Ride straight along the dedicated bike lane to the corner island on the other side of the intersection, turn left and wait at the limit line, requesting a green light in the new direction.
  • When the light is green and it is safe, proceed in the bike lane through the intersection in the new direction.
  • Yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, as you would a typical intersection.

Protected Intersections have been a best practice design for decades in Europe and are quickly gaining popularity across the United States to improve safety and comfort for all road users in cities like Davis, CA; San Jose, CA, and Salt Lake City, UT, Fukushima said.

A second protected intersection is also under construction at Froom Ranch and Los Osos Valley Roads and has an expected completion date later this summer. Following that, plans are to install one on Los Osos Valley Road and Auto Park Way.

For a video on how to navigate the new intersections, go to slocity.org.

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