Santa Cruz, California
Cheryl Schmitt, Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, Santa Cruz, CA
Bicyclists’ inability to “get a green light” has been the cause of many a call to the Traffic Engineering office. The callers typically display frustration, confusion, and a sense of modal discrimination. The Bicycle Detection Program was developed as a two-phase strategy to address these complaints. Phase 1 involved correcting actual detection problems at each traffic signal. Phase 2 involved educating the public about how and where to be detected at traffic signals.
The City of Santa Cruz has 40 signalized intersections. Thirty intersections use inductive loop detection and 10 intersections use video detection. Typical loop layout is three “A” loops and a stop bar “Q” or “D” loop for each motor lane. Bicycle lanes typically have a bike “Q” loop at the stop bar for the minor legs. Bicycle detection is not always provided for the major legs if the signal rests in green on the major legs. Video detection intersections use Peek Video cameras. Four arterial corridors are interconnected using Traconet with Traconex controllers.
Complaint calls to the Traffic Engineering office have decreased dramatically. Bicyclists on the local e-mail bike list and bicyclists’ newsletter describe a greater level of confidence in being detected and willingness to wait through the red.
Some of the technical problems are difficult to solve. Turning up the sensitivity on the detector amplifier to detect bikes will sometimes work for a period of time, but it usually ends up “locking on,” causing a maximum recall condition. Rapidly decaying street infrastructure is resulting in more loop failures, with no funding in sight for repairs.
Video detection is much more reliable overall, but there was a learning curve for the field crew to become proficient with it. Nevertheless, the Bicycle Detection Program has been and continues to be a success.
Loops are approximately $500 each; for bike detection, there are typically two loops per direction of travel. Video detection is approximately $35,000 for a complete intersection installation. Pedestrian/bicyclist push buttons with the conduit and conductor to the controller cabinet is approximately $1500; each pole with push button is about $300.
City of Santa Cruz Public Works Department
809 Center Street, Room 201
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The modification (bicycle detector markings) that is the subject of this case study is allowed by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), but if used, one specific design is required. The specific markings used by Santa Cruz and shown in the article are not in conformance with the technical provisions of the marking shown in Figure 9C-7 of the MUTCD.