If you drive around Hillcrest lately, you have likely encountered some new street markings.
The green boxes in front of intersections before the crosswalks are known as “bike box” and they are supposed to reduce accidents.
The problem is that not many people know what they are just quite yet.
Christie Tuttle, who was trying to be safe using one of the bike boxes, had to get on the sidewalk Thursday after a couple of close calls.
“Just like 30 seconds ago and I almost got hit twice,” she said. “They said sorry but I almost went flying off my bike both times.”
The bike boxes are still new in San Diego County with boxes only in National City and Hillcrest.
“There’s definitely a learning curve for the bike box,” Bike SD's executive director Judi Tentor said. Her organization advocates for more bicycling infrastructure in San Diego.
The box works by allowing cyclists to safely wait inside the green box, which is painted on the right lane away from the corner where cars make right turns.
Drivers are supposed to stop before the box — not in it — leaving the green area open for cyclists to safely get in front.
“[It’s] an inexpensive way to keep bicyclists visible and help drivers see bicyclists,” Tentor said.
The boxes have been extremely successful in Portland and they keep bicyclists safer by clearing the intersection more quickly, Tentor said.
A 2011 study by Portland State University found that the number of bicycle vs. vehicle accidents decreased and yielding behavior increased. More than three-quarters of cyclists surveyed felt safer in intersections with the bike boxes, according to the study.
“Any step you take to help make us more visible is great but there's no education because I didn't even know,” Tuttle said.
Drivers and riders need to learn how to use them here in San Diego, she said. Some bicyclists in Hillcrest on Thursday didn’t know what they were even as they were standing in it and some drivers were seen stopping in the box instead of before it.
“We got to figure it out together,” Tuttle said.
The city of San Diego said it plans to add more bike boxes when and where they are appropriate.