Tower Grove Ave to get bike boxes

The bike lanes on Tower Grove Avenue which were removed in May are being replaced with bike boxes, and we have preliminary sketches of how they’ll look.  The boxes will give cyclists space in front of the cars to cross the intersection safely and enter the bike lane beyond.  Here’s what we know, and a few suggestions.  Read more about bike boxes here.

Trailnet recently announced this project, which they rightly call an “advocacy win for Trailnet and St. Louis bicyclists”:

Tower Grove Avenue is soon to get a bicycle box installed at the Tower Grove Ave. and Vandeventer Ave. intersection heading southbound. A 4-foot wide ingress lane will be used to define the bicycle space and will begin 25 to 50 feet from the intersection to guarantee bicycle access to the box. This will reduce drive lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet–calming traffic and giving priority to people on bikes.

Schematic of bike box layout on southbound Tower Grove Ave at Vandeventer.

We recently got new details of what the lane configuration will be, along with a sketch (above).  Notable details include,

  • The left drive lane will turn left only, while right drive lane will be through and right.  Right on red will be banned.
  • A 4-foot wide ingress lane, 25 to 50 feet long, will be on the right against curb.  Drive lanes will be reduced in width from 12′ to 10′.  Bike boxes will be in front of both drive lanes with cyclist stencils painted in the middle.
  • Both the ingress lane and bike boxes will be painted green using the same paint used on parts of Chestnut and the newly done Germania Avenue.
  • A dotted line across the intersection will connect the right box to the bike lane on the south side.

Significantly, the left drive lane will remain left-only, with through- and right-turning traffic sharing the right lane.  By contrast, prior to May 2018, the left lane was through-only and right lane was right-only, with left turns not permitted.

While we are happy to see new bike infrastructure at this intersection, a couple concerns arise:

  • Both the left and right driving lanes will have bike boxes.  Given that essentially 100% of cyclists go straight through this intersection, bike boxes in left lane will be unused and confusing.
  • Right on red will be banned, a decision sure to annoy drivers.  Its likely many will blame the bike boxes for this change.  Instead, banning right on red is a consequence of making the left lane left-only.

An alternative which addresses these problems has through traffic in the left drive lane, the bicycle ingress lane between the left and right lanes, and a bike box in the left lane only – see illustration below.  This would allow for right on red and more realistically reflect the low volume of left-turning traffic.

Illustration of lane arrangements on Tower Grove Ave at Vandeventer as they now exist (left panel), as currently planned (middle) and a suggested alternative (right). Southbound direction is toward top of figure.  Right on red is banned in current plan, but permitted in alternative layout.

Design details aside, we are grateful the Streets Department is willing to try bike boxes in this complex and busy intersection.  We appreciate the time and energy spent by advocacy groups, city agencies, and engineers on this project.  It is a step in the right direction which we hope signals the City’s growing commitment to improving cyclist safety and accessibility.

Update 11/14/18: we got the additional details about the choice to make the left lane left-only.  Denis Beganovic, Complete Streets Coordinator for the Street Department, writes,

Thank you for the feedback.  Biggest issue with not having that left turn only is between the hours of 2pm and 6–7pm a lot of school buses and city trucks (city equipment services division is at the bottom of central industrial drive) make that left and so if that lane was a left and a through it would cause major back ups, especially at rush hour and the biggest complaint we get is from residents living off TGA about issues getting to their homes because of the med campus traffic getting stuck there waiting for a truck to make a left

Posted in Advocacy and Opinion, Tower Grove Ave
3 comments on “Tower Grove Ave to get bike boxes
  1. Chris Cleeland says:

    If the biggest problem with the left lane being left-only is city equipment services and school buses, then communicate with THOSE DRIVERS to approach central industrial from a different spot. For example, they could easily drive east on Vandeventer, or they could access Central Industrial from Chouteau. This is a small group of captive drivers with whom it should be EASY to drive home the point.

    I am in 100% agreement that the previous lane configuration is less likely to raise the hackles of the majority of drivers through that area, and would happily support further attempts to promote your alternate configuration.

  2. Chris Cleeland says:

    What plan does Mr. Complete Streets have for educating the multitude of drivers on how to behave in or around a bike box? For that matter, educate cyclists.

    These things are not obvious.

    If he thinks he can slap some paint down and claim “Mission: Accomplished!” then he naive.

  3. Dana Gray says:

    Thank you for sharing this information, offering a thoughtful alternative, and providing the Complete Streets Coordinator’s feedback.

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