At certain intersections, the pedestrian control signal changes before the traffic control signal for drivers changes. Generally, the pedestrian signal changes around 3-7 seconds before the traffic control signal. This period of time is called the Leading Pedestrian Interval, or LPI. It exists to allow walkers to get into the intersection before the cars are permitted to proceed. The walkers are thus further into the road and more visible to drivers by the time traffic starts moving.
Bike riders, however, currently do not enjoy the protection that the LPI provides to walkers. This is because bike riders are required to wait and go when the traffic signal changes for cars, rather than when the signal changes for pedestrians. A proposed bill introduced by a Brooklyn councilman would change that and allow bikers to follow pedestrian signals where they conflict with traffic lights at intersections. This could ultimately reduce bicycle crashes.
The leading pedestrian interval has made a big difference in saving lives. According to Brooklyn Spoke, 44 percent of pedestrians who get hit by drivers are in crosswalks. However, when LPIs are used and pedestrians get a head start on traffic, there may be as much as a 60 percent reduction in pedestrian-vehicle collisions.
Councilmember Menchaca, who is an avid bicycle rider, aims to allow bike riders to have the same head start as pedestrians so they can also benefit from the security it provides. His bill, which proposes changing the rules to let bikers obey the pedestrian signals instead of the traffic signals, was introduced on February 5, 2016, and currently, it remains unclear whether it will actually pass.
Still, there is plenty of reason to think passing such a bill would be a good idea. Not only have past studies shown that the LPI provides a dramatic reduction in pedestrian-car crashes, but other cities have already made a similar change for bikers and demonstrated its effectiveness. In Washington D.C., for example, the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013 gave bicycle riders permission to cross at intersections when the pedestrian traffic control signal changed.
Brooklyn Eagle indicated in a previous article that bicycle riders and safety advocates have enthusiastically endorsed the proposed bill. One fellow councilmember, who is also a bicyclist and a co-sponsor of the bill, indicated: “Leading pedestrian intervals are already working well, providing people with an important window of protection when they are most vulnerable crossing dangerous intersections. Extending this protection to cyclists who are vulnerable in intersections in the same way is an important step and has the added advantage of allowing cyclists to get ahead of traffic as they proceed down the street making them much safer that way as well.”
With lots of support, the bill seems likely to move forward. However, even if the bill passes and bicycle riders do benefit from the rule change, it is important to realize pedestrians will still be protected. This is because pedestrians will still have the right-of-way. Pedestrians will continue to benefit from the LPI while bikers also get to reduce their chances of a collision with a car by increasing their visibility at intersections. If you have been injured in a bike accident or any other type of accident, contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff today.