Floating transit stops require pedestrians to cross the bikeway, thus causing potential conflicts between pedestrians with visual disabilities, who are typically unable to hear bicycles, and moving bicyclists.
Construction of protected bicycle facilities is proceeding apace across the United States, and numerous design guidelines are available, such as the Massachusetts DOT’s Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide and the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ Urban Bikeway Design Guide. It is acknowledged that protected bike lanes impact the safety of vision-disabled pedestrians [Getting to the Curb: A Guide to Building Protected Bike Lanes That Work for Pedestrians (2019), San Francisco Vision Zero Coalition]. However, bike design guidelines that include specific treatments, supported by research, for enhancing the safety of vision-disabled pedestrians have not yet been identified. Of particular concern is safe access to “floating” transit stops, where transit passengers must cross protected bicycle lanes to reach in-street bus or light rail stops. A class action case in Victoria, British Columbia, on floating bus stops was recently resolved; the tribunal of British Columbia ordered that audible flashing signals must be installed at the site while ceasing installation of any further floating bus stops.
People with vision disabilities are disproportionately pedestrians and transit riders. Making public rights-of-way, including bike facilities, safely accessible to people with vision disabilities is required by ADA legislation and is supported by special funding in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for transportation safety programs to reduce crashes and fatalities, with a particular focus on bicyclists and pedestrians. Safety for pedestrians with vision disabilities in the vicinity of bike facilities is impacted by the fact that bicycles are largely inaudible, especially in the relatively noisy environments of public rights-of-way. Planning and Designing Streets to be Safer and More Accessible for People with Vision Disabilities—A Toolkit for Montgomery County and the Metropolitan Washington Region (2021) contains a number of suggested treatments to improve safety and wayfinding for pedestrians with vision disabilities, but their effectiveness is not validated by human factors research and there are no treatments suggested for improving the safety of pedestrians with vision disabilities when crossing bike lanes. Human factors research is urgently needed to address a number of issues related to bicycle yielding and detection of drop-offs where there is grade separation between pedestrians and bicycles.
Results of the research, or validated treatments to enhance safety for pedestrians with vision disabilities, will be included in a guidance document on making access to separated bike lanes, including floating bus stops, safe and accessible to pedestrians with vision disabilities. The treatments may be included in bicycle design guides, as they are updated, and may have implications for updates of the FHA’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the U.S. Access Board’s Public Right-of Way Accessibility Guidelines.