April 10, 2012

Columbus Bike Detection System

The City of Columbus call center is known as the "3-1-1." I would have called it "Super Duper Awesome Columbus Call Center" but I have no say in what the city does.

Regardless, it's pretty cool. There's a variety of options you can select ranging from abandoned vehicles to water, sewers, and drains. What interests me are the Bike Related Items.

As you can see, there are 4 things a cyclist can do:
  1. Request a new bike path
  2. Repair or maintenance of a bike path
  3. Install bike racks
  4. Request adjustment to ensure two-wheel vehicle detection
To be honest, I don't know what happens if you choose any of the first three. I know Columbus won't immediately make a bike path if you request it, but maybe they track requests for future planning purposes. For repair or maintenance, I assume they would fill any pot holes but I don't know how wide of maintenance they cover. Do they street-sweep bike lanes? On Sunday, I requested that they sweep the Broad Street bike lanes by I-70. For the bike racks, Columbus will install 2 bike racks upon request by a business. So unless you own a business/property, option 3 isn't that useful either but it probably doesn't hurt requesting.

That leaves option 4 which is something that Columbus is very diligent about. When you stop at a traffic light (which all of you do, I'm sure) you want to be sure that you will be detected and get the green light like any other vehicle. Occasionally, you will not trigger the detector. After you have determined that the detector is faulty and you have waited some time, you can then treat the traffic light as a stop sign.

If you have an intersection that frequently gives you trouble and is in Columbus, go to Columbus 311 now and make a service request. It's easy and from what I gather from the Columbus Bicycle Subcommittee meetings, it sounds as though Columbus gets to the request within a week, if not faster. 

What happens after you make a request? Columbus crews will go out and adjust the traffic signal detectors. The result is a "sweet spot" which is on the right side of the detector. What will it look like?

The red box is the traffic detector area which you can usually see the outline to when you are nearing a traffic light. The blue circle is specifically for bike detection. Here's a picture closer up:

That's right. To be detected with the decal, you stop your wheel on the biker dude. Even if there's not a symbol, you would be able to be detected on the right side if the detector has been optimized for two-wheel traffic. If you know of a detector that works for bicycles but there is not a symbol, submit a 311 request and they'll mark it. Within the meeting notes of the last subcommittee meeting, you can find a list of traffic signals which have been optimized already but have yet to have a symbol installed.

Educational traffic signal video of the day:

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