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DOT rolls out new head-start signal program for cyclists in NYC intersections

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The pilot program will run until October

In the past few years, as part of the larger Vision Zero effort, New York City’s Department of Transportation has marginally increased safety on city streets by installing more than 2,000 leading pedestrian interval signals (also known as LPIs) throughout the five boroughs.

The idea behind LPIs is simple: Pedestrians are given a “walk” signal a few seconds before a traffic light changes, giving them a head start on cars that may be turning into an intersection. And now, that protection will be extended to New Yorkers on bikes, as well as pedestrians.

The DOT announced today that it will launch a pilot program allowing cyclists to follow these signals at 50 intersections across the city. The initiative, which was announced on Streetsblog NYC, will run until October; starting it is as easy as throwing up some signs at intersections, as this tweet from the DOT demonstrates:

Under current New York City law, cyclists are required to stop at traffic lights and follow the same rules in intersections that cars do. While the new pilot doesn’t entirely change this—cyclists are still obligated to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, even ones with LPIs—it does “reflect[] a new and modern understanding of mobility in cities across the world, one that recognizes that bicycles and automobiles are two very different things,” as Mechaca and safe streets advocate Doug Gordon noted in the Streetsblog post.

Writing in CityLab in January, Laura Bliss outlined the benefits of LPIs:

For such a small cost, the results can be transformative: One paper published by the Transportation Research Board found LPIs can reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions by as much as 60 percent. In San Francisco, the intersection with the highest rate of pedestrian injuries from left-turn vehicle crashes saw those incidents drop to zero after an LPI was installed. And a 2016 study of 104 intersections by the NYC Department of Transportation found that pedestrian and bike fatalities and severe injuries declined by nearly 40 percent at locations where LPIs have been installed.

They cost about $1,200 to install, according to the NYC DOT.

Now, these benefits will be extended to cyclists as well—and not a moment too soon, since there have already been more than 350 injuries to cyclists (and three fatalities) on city streets since the beginning of the year, according to the latest Vision Zero data.