THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
By TIm Doulin
The so-called “bike boxes,” pavement markings in the shape of a box, are to be installed next year on Milton Avenue on both sides of the intersection at W. North Broadway.
When the traffic signal is red, bicyclists will be allowed to ride past stopped vehicles on Milton to wait in the box at the head of the line until the light changes.
Drivers on Milton will stop behind the bike boxes. Right turns on red will be prohibited.
“The bike box gives bicyclists the right of way at the intersection,” said Mary Carran Webster, Columbus assistant public service director.
Sensors will be installed in the pavement to detect when a bike is there and trip the traffic signal. Currently, bicyclists use a pedestrian push button to change the signal.
Only a few cities in the country have bike boxes, said Jeff Stephens, executive director of Consider Biking, a bicycling advocacy group in Columbus.
“This is a really progressive step that will send the message that there are a lot of bikes here, let’s give them priority and get them to the front of the line.”
The boxes are part of an upgrade of the half-mile route called Bike Boulevard that connects the Olentangy trail from Northmoor Park to Clinton-Como Park in Clintonville.
Each day, hundreds of bicyclists — as well as many runners and walkers — use the trail, which stretches about 14 miles between Worthington Hills and Downtown.
A gap in the trail between the two parks requires bicyclists to ride on city streets.
Bike signs and pavement markings with the figure of a bicyclist and the letters “BLVD” recently were installed on Olentangy Boulevard, Kenworth Road, Milton Avenue and Riverside Drive.
Parts of the route have been repaved, to the delight of those who use it.
“With these expensive bikes, bumps don’t do wonders for the rims,” said Greg Hatosky, a Downtown resident who rides a Giant hybrid that cost about $900.
Some bicyclists were not familiar with bike boxes but liked the concept.
“It’s a wonderful idea,” said John Paraskos, an Upper Arlington resident who regularly uses the trail. “You really are right next to the cars and really don’t have space. So it would remove you from traffic.”
Though called the Bike Boulevard, the streets will remain open to vehicles.
Bike boxes might back up traffic a bit, said Mary Irish, who has lived on Kenworth Road for 30 years. “People depend on being able to turn right on red there to keep the traffic flowing. But if that’s the way it is, then that’s the way it is.”
The city needs permission from the Federal Highway Administration to put in the boxes, Webster said. “Other people are doing it, so we don’t anticipate we will have a problem.”