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New bike boxes give Hillsborough cyclists a 'green light' for safety

Aerial shot of a 4-way signal-controlled intersection. Green L-shaped boxes surround the area where cars stop at a light.
Hillsborough County
Hillsborough County is implementing green bike boxes to increase bicyclists' visibility. The boxes at the signal-controlled intersection of Sheldon Road and Citrus Park Drive are some of the first in the region.

Bike boxes are the green-painted, L-shaped sections of roadways at signal-controlled intersections. Officials say there have been up to 50% reductions in crashes between cars and bikes where the boxes are used.

Hillsborough County is taking steps to make its roads safer.

According to the Florida Crash Dashboard, the county reported over 1,200 vehicle accidents involving cyclists or pedestrians in 2023; statewide, there were over 11,000 similar accidents. Over half of the Hillsborough incidents resulted in serious injury or death.

Hillsborough is addressing the problem by implementing a new way for cyclists to navigate busy intersections created by the Federal Highway Administration — "bike boxes."

They're green-painted, L-shaped areas sandwiched in between the white stop bar for vehicles and the pedestrian crosswalks. They run from traffic lanes on the right side of the road over to the edge of it.

The boxes give cyclists ample room to queue up in front of stopped vehicles to increase their visibility.

A graphic image of an intersection with a car, crosswalk, and green bike lane.
Federal Highway Administration
The Federal Highway Administration created a new way for cyclists to move through busy intersections using "bike boxes." Hillsborough County is implementing the boxes at dangerous intersections to allow cyclists to line up in front of vehicles at stop lights to increase their visibility.

Hillsborough County Transportation Manager Bob Campbell said other municipalities that have installed bike boxes have seen reductions of up to 50% in crashes between cars and bicyclists. He hopes to see similar results here.

At intersections without the added protection of bike boxes, cyclists cannot make a direct left turn, and instead must cross the street before making a left turn with traffic.

"What we'd like to see is the bicyclist in front of the car and the driver knows a bicyclist is there," Campbell said. "When the light turns green to go, the bicyclist can go, and the car is behind the bicyclist and the bicyclist is fully within the line of sight of the driver."

The intersection at Sheldon Road and Citrus Park Drive was among the first in the region to get bike boxes. Countryway Boulevard and Citrus Park Drive also features them.

Not only will the boxes increase visibility, but officials said an added benefit is the reduction of crashes involving vehicles turning right.

“We're applying green throughout the county and it's clearly to communicate to the driver that you should be looking for a bicyclist there," Campbell said.

Additionally, the boxes should make roads safer for pedestrians in crosswalks by giving them more separation from cyclists.

Finally, the county said larger cycling groups can get through an intersection faster — causing shorter wait times for vehicles.

To pick the intersections most in need of the bike boxes, the county relied on a list that ranks corridors based on historical crash records from law enforcement.

Areas among the worst for cyclists and pedestrians are around the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Four corridors of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard are ranked as a "very high" priority. The section between 138th and Bearss Avenue has the worst rating in the county, between 131st and Fletcher Avenue is 10th, between Pine Drive and 131st Avenue is 18th, and between Fowler Avenue and Pine Drive is 20th.

The corridor with the best rating on the county's list is Exciting Idlewild Boulevard between Dale Mabry Highway and Crystal Lake Road in Lutz.

“We hope drivers treat everybody with respect and follow the motor vehicle laws and work together to get this crash and death rate down," Campbell said. "Everybody has a responsibility to do that."

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.