Bike Boxes in the Bike Lane

Do bike boxes help? Have you ever used one? Do you even know what a bike box is? Here is a picture to help understand:

Pic is from the Seattle Times, who published this article on the subject. I also came across this video with a bit more of an explanation.


I think they are a great idea in principle, basically empowering the cyclist to “take the lane” at the light. This only seems to work when cars are not allowed to turn right on red, which likely reduces the risk of the “right hook” in the first place. I’m sure the big box at least adds to a motorists awareness that there may be bikes nearby but hopefully it doesn’t give cyclists a false sense of safety.


Personally, if I can not establish eye contact with the car in front of or beside me, I assume they can’t see me and make sure I give them room for the right turn, until I establish for sure that they are going straight. Otherwise, I take the lane behind the car turning, so I cannot be overtaken, before the next car gets the opportunity to throw a “right hook”.


Has anyone used one of these? Does it help? Should they be put in everywhere?

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0 thoughts on “Bike Boxes in the Bike Lane”

  1. MikeOnBike says:

    Here’s lots of info about the ups and downs of bike boxes:

    The Oregon Vehicle Code does not allow cyclists to take the lane in this situation, so the bike box is an engineering patch for a legal problem. More enlightened states allow cyclists to leave the bike lane “when approaching a place where a right turn is authorized”.

  2. jt says:

    Recently started reading this site, and it, along with a couple of others, inspired me to start bike commuting here in Phoenix. I just read an article that one of our local towns (Gilbert, I think) is exploring the use of bike boxes. There are none in the Phx area, as far as I know.

    With respect to bike commuting, here is my story:

    Yesterday I decided it was time for me to commit to bike commuting as a regular deal. I haven’t been running at all, still hobbled by a balky achilles from Ultimate Frisbee, and I’ve been thinking about maybe riding as a substitute. So, I decided that Monday, Feb. 4 would be the kick-off date. I organized all my gear, packed my backpack with the real clothes I’ll wear at work, packed my lunch, and hit the sack on Sunday night eager for the new start. Monday morning, 5:30, and it appears to have been raining. Hmmm, maybe I should put this off. Nah, it’s not really raining, and I’ve got cool weather gear (in PHX, anything below 70 is “cool weather”), no time like the present. So, at 6:30 off I went. It’s only 6.5 miles, so it’s not really that big of a deal. Of course, it’s 6.5 miles farther than I’ve ridden in three months or so, and it’s dark, and slightly raining, but I get there with no problems and feel good about having been green for the morning, while getting a little exercise to boot.

    Yesterday afternoon at 4:40, I do everything in reverse, change from office clothes to bike gear, pack everything up and step out into … hmm, it’s not a whole lot brighter out here than it was when I got in this morning. I mean, that’s an exaggeration, but it does seem pretty overcast, and it’s kind of chilly too. Off I go for the ride back home. Within a half mile (just far enough that I’m committed to the ride), I’m being pelted by hail. The wind picks up and the hail turns to a downpour so violent that I can barely see in front of my bike. I’m instantly drenched, and I’m actually giving consideration to turning back and getting a ride from one of my colleagues. But, “it’s not like I’m going to get any wetter”, so I decide to just push on. What the heck, it can’t stay like this the whole time, right? Right. It can get worse. It can get colder, *and* windier. It can get so cold that your bike’s shifting mechanism freaks out from contracting metal cables and decides to shift incessantly, unpredictably, from gear to gear and back, so you can’t even trust your pedals. It can be so cold that it’s actually see-your-breath cold during every freaking red light you hit so you have to just stand in the freezing rain, steam pouring off your soaked clothing as your body dumps heat into the atmosphere. The longest 6.53 miles I have ever ridden. Worst. Bike. Ride. Ever.

    Today I drove to work. With the heater on.

  3. effemm says:

    We have them in the UK, except we call them “advance stop lines”.

    They’re more or less universally ignored by motorists, especially taxis and buses. There’s no enforcement either. I have yet to see a motorist pulled over for sitting in an ASL.

    Getting to the front of a line of traffic in order to “take the lane” can also be problematic, especially if the lights change just as you’re swinging into position. Combined with narrow left-hand (right in the US) bike lanes, they’re an invitation to get into a sticky position and give a definite false sense of security for the less experienced cyclist.

    I find it best to ignore them, and ride as I would if they weren’t there.

    jt, get back on the bike, it can only get better!

  4. kimbofo says:

    So that’s what they’re called!

    As effemm has pointed out, bike boxes are common in the UK. In London, where I cycle, they are painted on the road at most major intersections. I have mixed feelings about them. They’re wonderful if there’s loads of cyclists using them at the one time, because the group of you can sit in front of the traffic, knowing that the cars behind really have to let you get away from the lights first. But if you’re a solo cyclist just sitting out there with your bum exposed to the wind it can be a bit hairy when the traffic behind you start honking their horns or gunning their engines.

  5. Jett says:

    I haven’t seen these in Atlanta and don’t expect I will. They strike me as rude to motorists.

    Even when I have a bike lane that would allow me to advance to the front, it doesn’t seem right to make cars come around me again.

    And then there is the safety issue. If you stay behind the car, you’re not going to get right-hooked. If you’re moving toward the bike box and a car decides it can make the right, you still get hooked.

    Doesn’t seem intuitive or practical.

  6. Quinn says:

    I think those would Finally get it though the Thick skulls around here (Reno) that bikes need space

  7. John says:

    They have these all over Taiwan. I spent a month there last summer, and between the cyclists and the scooters the bike boxes get good use. However, it’s not so much for the right turn, as is featured in this article. Rather, it’s for making a left: as you approach an intersection where you want to go left, you stay on the right of the traffic, and go halfway across the intersecting street and stop in the bike box for the intersecting street (in front of the traffic that’s coming in from your right). Then you wait for the light to change, and go across the intersection with the traffic going straight. Essentially you make a right and a U-turn in place of a left.

    I thought they were pretty effective. Traffic in Taiwan is not at all like in the US, but I imagine they’d be a good thing here. At first glance it’s much crazier and more dangerous, but everyone is far more attentive, and there aren’t as many aggressive idiots. I felt far safer cruising around on a bike there than here in Baltimore.

  8. Rick says:

    I have never seen one before. Instead, I stop in the center of the lane. I stay in the center of the lane until I cross through the intersection.

    Of course, there is no such thing as bike lanes in Columbus either.

  9. Dan says:

    I think like some of the above posters, I make my own “bike box” by filtering up to the front of waiting cars positioning myself in front of them so I can be clearly seen

  10. RainCityCyclist says:

    Great posts! As a daily bike commuter in Seattle, there has been a lot of recent press locally of late about bike boxes, the frequency and incidence of “right hook” accidents, and how this bike box intervention could potentially reduce this type of accident.

    I recently read (unsure of source) that the “right hook” accounts for approx 10% of all bike/vehicle accidents, and this amounts to the single largest cause of cycling accidents. This data was also supportrd by a recent study in Portland, I believe. If this is accurate (and I’d like to see more data before concluding it is), then an intervention to adress this tspecific ype of accident is warranted. Is the bike box the answer? I already move to the front of the cross walk (allowing peds to pass, but being in front closer to the actually cross-traffic in front of the corsswalk). This works for me and doesn’t seem to piss anyone off. As someone who does own a car, I don’t like the idea of eliminating the ‘right on red” for cars in order to incorporate the bike box. Anyone else have similar expereneces, other solutions, or opinions?

    JT–Your day sounds like an average February commute day in Seattle. 🙂 Hang in there, its worth it and I’m sure it will get better! You’ll be laughing at your 04Feb commute in years to come…

  11. Steve says:

    I’m not sure how much this would help… most of the time I have been right-hooked has been into drivewaysor minor T intersections (i.e. a little side street of a main road). As somebody else already pointed out, the best solution is for the cyclist to take the lane at a place where a right hook may happen, and have the legal code allow it.

    Also, around here they are starting to have more places where the right-turn lane crosses over the bike path (or the bike path crosses over the right-turn lane depending on your perspective). These feel safer to me because there is a longer decision time and it happens further back from the intersection. But I’ve been nearly right-hooked on one of those too so I don’t know…

  12. peteathome says:

    These boxes seem to offer very little to solve the right and left hook problem and could likely make them worst. These only work if the light is red as you approach the box and you somehow know it is going to stay red as you enter the box. Otherwise, you are REALLY setting yourself up for a right hook if the light turns green just as you are entering the box ands start crossing to the left of a right-turning car.

    And, of course, if the light is already green they do no good at all.

    I suppose they could put a special signal near the bike box that tells you when it is safe to enter it. They do something similar in the Netherlands. Bikes have a separate phase and have to stop and wait for the bike phase to become green. I think most American bicyclists would dislike this as it really slows you down.

    An alternative would be a count-down signal near the box that tells you how long it will be before the light turns green.

    I think the simplest and safest thing is simply to have bikes follow the general rules of the road, i.e., merge into the car lane that goes in the direction they want to go. You stay right if you are turning right. You merge into the right-most straight-going lane if you are going straight, and so on. You start this merge well before the intersection so you have the time and traffic gaps to do this safely. You could make the directional lanes wide enough to share if lane sharing is an issue.

    If you are going straight or left and don’t want to merge into the traffic lanes, then you do a pedestrian maneuver – get off your bike and use the cross walk to cross the itnersection. If you are going straight, you hop back on on the other side and ride off in the bike lane. If you are going left, you cross again at the next walk phase and then ride off.

    Slower, but a lot safer than these illogical bike lanes that go to the right of right-turning traffic.

  13. MikeOnBike says:

    #12 peteathome said: “I suppose they could put a special signal near the bike box that tells you when it is safe to enter it. They do something similar in the Netherlands.”

    The link in comment #1 makes a similar point. Portland is doing a half-baked version of the bike box, leaving off a critical safety feature.

  14. Spenny says:

    Ha! even bike lanes would be nice, but i think my city hates bikers.

  15. Dave from Van says:

    Just started reading this site, but judging from the comments, it would seem mosst American cyclists would find Vancouver, BC to be valhalla. Secondary street bike routes parallel to most major auto routes are plentiful, cyclist activated buttons for crossing major intersections, access to most bridges, and for the most part, courteous drivers, and year round biking (rare for Canada) make biking here a dream, really.

    Bike boxes are well used here in Van.

    For an example, see here: (google maps), or point your google maps to Vancouver, search union st at main st and zoom in to the satelite image. In the photo you will see a bike box, but has since been amended to allow right turning cars an unfettered lane, the box now boundaries in the middle of the lane.

  16. Michael says:

    I ride a scooter, a little 50cc Piaggio Vespa here in London. The Advanced Bike Box (as it’s called here in UK) is a very useful addition to the streets although I’m not sure if I’m allowed to use it as a motorised scooter rider. I do and it works with the cyclists as they stay on the left of the box and us on the right (we drive on the left side of the road in the UK – so cyclists pass cars to their left ie. close to the pavement/sidewalk) and when they get to the trafficlights, they peel out into the stop box on the left, and the scooter riders who go past all the traffic in the oncoming lane then peel into the box from the right.

    I’m with other posters, the cyclists who go through red lights really don’t help your cause.

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