If you’ve ever driven near a bike lane and not known what to do, you’re not alone.
A forthcoming video from the Local Road Research Board seeks to answer common questions about on-street bike lanes and help bicyclists and motorists better understand the rules. The video is due to be released this spring; in the meantime, we thought we’d give you a sneak preview by addressing three common misconceptions about bike lane rules and safety.
1) Are bicyclists required to use a bike lane, when present?
No. Although bike lanes usually provide the smoothest, safest and most efficient method of transportation — for everybody — they are not required to use them. They are allowed to ride outside bike lanes to make turns or avoid debris, and they still have the option of using an adjacent trail where available.
2) Are vehicles allowed to enter bike lanes?
Yes, but only to park or turn onto a driveway or street. Motorists should treat bike lanes like any other lane of traffic and yield to approaching bicyclists, but they do have the right to enter bike lanes when turning.
3) Do bicyclists have to follow the same rules as motorists?
Yes. Bicycles are considered vehicles under Minnesota state law and have the same rights and responsibilities. Cyclists are required to obey stop signs and signal their turns, just like motorists.
Watch for the LRRB’s new bike safety video on Crossroads this spring. In the meantime, check out MnDOT’s tips on bicycle safety.
The Transportation Engineering and Road Research Alliance and Road Dust Institute conferences are being jointly held this week in Minneapolis. Among the many research topics being presented are several recently completed studies funded by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board.
The LRRB, which celebrates its 55th anniversary this year, is one of only two statewide organizations in the United States that fund transportation-related research projects and education on behalf of local governments. In honor of the TERRA and dust control events, we thought we’d take the opportunity to highlight a few of the latest pavement and dust control-related research projects from the LRRB. If you’re at TERRA today, be sure to stop by their booth and check out their latest research results, videos and more.
This report summarizes the field performance of local roads containing recycled asphalt pavement (RAP), associated field and laboratory work with asphalt activation, and design and performance testing of high-RAP bituminous mixtures. Conclusions include:
• Transverse cracking performance of county highways averaging 20 to 26 percent RAP was improved when PG 52-34 binder was used.
• Coarse aggregates from plant mixing achieved a more uniform coating and were subjected to less abrasion than those from laboratory mixing.
• IDT critical temperature results showed that the addition of RAP significantly increased the critical temperature, predicting less crack resistance.
Minnesota generates more than 200,000 tons of shingle waste each year. While a small portion of recycled asphalt shingle waste (RAS) can be incorporated into hot-mix asphalt (HMA) pavement mixtures, there is still a lot of waste left over, prompting MnDOT to investigate other potential uses. Alternative options include improving the performance and quality of gravel surfacing and reducing dust by replacing common additives such as calcium chlorides with RAS. This will remove valuable RAS materials from the waste stream, supplement the use of more expensive materials, and improve the performance of local roads.
More than half of our local roadways are gravel roads, making them a vital part of our transportation system. One of the drawbacks and biggest complaints about gravel roads is the dust they produce when vehicles drive over them. Residents that live on gravel roads deal with the dust that settles on their homes, yards, and parked cars. Dust can also have adverse effects on air quality and the environment. To help control the dust on gravel roads, the Minnesota LRRB has developed this new guidebook, which summarizes a variety dust suppressants, their effectiveness and impacts.
This video above showcases a new kind of intersection conflict warning system being developed for use primarily by local agencies at rural, two-way stop intersections. Called the ALERT System, it uses a simple but ingenious combination of radar, wireless communication and flashing LEDs to alert drivers to the presence of approaching vehicles, thereby helping them identify safe gaps in the cross traffic and avoid potentially deadly collisions.
These types of systems are nothing new; MnDOT and other state DOTs have been developing them for more than a decade under the ENTERPRISE pooled fund program. MnDOT also recently kicked off a three-year project to deploy 20–50 of its Rural Intersection Conflict Warning Systems at selected at-risk intersections across the state. The main difference with the ALERT System is that it’s designed to be cheaper and easier to deploy than existing ICWS technologies. While that might sound like an incremental improvement, the difference for cash-strapped local agencies could be huge.
Since the ALERT System uses solar power, it doesn’t have to be hooked up to the power grid — which means that, in theory, county public works crews could install it themselves. The system also uses a simplified controller that doesn’t require a traffic signal technician to install and maintain, and detects vehicles using radar rather than in-pavement sensors. These factors might encourage greater adoption of ICWS technologies, which studies have shown to reduce both the frequency and severity of crashes.
The project is now in its second phase. It still faces a number of hurdles before could be ready to deploy, but Vic Lund, the traffic engineer for St. Louis County and the project’s main champion, says the results so far have been encouraging. In the video below, Lund shares his thoughts on the project, its challenges and the future of Intelligent Transportation Systems in Minnesota.
- Warning system aims to alert drivers to potential crashes (Catalyst article)
- Advanced LED Warning Signs for Rural Intersections Powered by Renewable Energy (Technical Summary)
- Advanced LED Warning Signs for Rural Intersections Powered by Renewable Energy (Research Report – Phase 1)
Minnesota’s next round of transportation research projects will explore using traffic signal data to predict crashes, evaluate various impacts of bicycling on the state and address a range of other transportation issues.
The state’s two transportation research governing boards have authorized funding for a total of 24 new research projects. MnDOT’s Transportation Research Innovation Group (TRIG) and the Local Road Research Board announced their Fiscal Year 2015 funding awards this week after hearing proposals from researchers in several states. MnDOT Research Management Engineer Hafiz Munir said the projects, which are listed below, reflect the needs of state and local practitioners.
“Many of the projects fall under the ‘traffic and safety’ or ‘materials and construction’ categories, which I think reflects MnDOT and local agency priorities,” Munir said. “Ultimately, all of these research projects address business needs of the people who build and maintain our roads.”
Links are provided to brief descriptions of each project (as provided by the researchers who submitted the proposals).
- Study of De-icing Salt Accumulation and Transport Through a Watershed (PDF) – LRRB
- Culvert Length and Interior Lighting Impacts to Topeka Shiner Passage (PDF) – MnDOT
- DSRC Based Warning System for Workers Safety (PDF) – MnDOT
- Examining the Impact of ASE in Work Zones on Driver Attention (PDF) – MnDOT
Materials and Construction
- Alternate Design Methods to Renew Lightly Traveled Paved Roads (PDF) – LRRB
- Optimal RAP Content for Minnesota Gravel Roads (PDF) – LRRB
- Bio-Fog Seal Evaluation (1) (PDF) – LRRB/MnDOT
- Full Depth Reclamation (FDR) for Urban and Suburban Street Application (PDF) – LRRB
- PCC Pavement Thickness Variation Versus Observed Pavement Distress (PDF) – MnDOT
- Evaluation of Recycled Aggregates Test Section Performance (PDF) – MnDOT
- Bio-Fog Seal Evaluation (2) (PDF) – LRRB/MnDOT
- Traffic Impacts of Bicycle Facilities (PDF) – LRRB
- Assessing the Economic Impact and Health Benefits of Bicycling in Minnesota (PDF) – MnDOT
Policy and Planning
- Barriers to Right-of-Way Acquisition and Recommendations for Change (PDF) – LRRB
- Modernizing Road Construction Plans and Documentation (PDF) – LRRB
- Stakeholder Attitudes, Knowledge and Engagement in Local Road Systems Planning Decision-Making (PDF) – LRRB
Traffic and Safety
- Examination of Driver Performance and Distraction with In-Vehicle Signing (PDF) – LRRB
- Safety Study of I-35W Improvements Done Under UPA Project (PDF) – MnDOT
- Evaluation of Intersection Conflict Warning Systems (PDF) – MnDOT
- Evaluation of Safety and Mobility of Two-Lane Roundabouts (PDF) – LRRB
- Framework and Guidelines for the Development of a Twin Cities Meso-DTA Model (PDF) – MnDOT
- Development of a Queue Warning System Utilizing ATM Infrastructure: System Development and Field Testing (PDF) – MnDOT
- Estimation of Traffic Conflicts at Signalized Intersections Using High-resolution Traffic Signal Data (PDF) – MnDOT
Regardless of whether you’re familiar with the term “frost heave,” if you live in Minnesota and drive on the roads, you’re already familiar with its destructive capacity. Many of the dips, bumps, potholes and cracks that appear on our roads every spring are a direct result of frost heave, which occurs when water accumulates in the soil beneath the pavement and begins freezing and then thawing along with the changing seasons. The resulting expansion and contraction weakens the road base and leaves it susceptible to damage from traffic loading.
These new videos produced by the Local Road Research Board explain how frost heave works, and describe some of the strategies public works departments use to combat it. The top video is is the shortened, executive-summary version, while the bottom video is the full, 13-minute version meant for transportation professionals.
The Minnesota Local Road Research Board is a major source of funding for transportation research in the state. Occasionally, it also produces educational videos designed to raise public awareness of important transportation topics.
Two new video offerings from the LRRB (embedded above and below) are focused on save driving in work zones. While not directly research-related, they might prove a useful resource to transportation professionals. More importantly, they serve to remind us all of the very real and dramatic consequences of work zone crashes, of which there are approximately 2,000 per year in Minnesota.
You might want to also check out some of their other recent YouTube offerings, including explanations of why we need stop signs and speed limits, as well as a fascinating look at how potholes are patched.
MnDOT Research Services recently released its 2013 request for proposals. If you have any kind of direct interest in transportation research in Minnesota, chances are you might have known that already. But those with more of a general curiosity might be interested to see the list of research need statements from the RFP, as they provide a nice preview of the next round of potential MnDOT research projects.
As you can see, some are of a highly technical nature. (It’s safe to say that a study on “PCC Pavement Thickness Variation Versus Observed Pavement Distress” would be of interest mainly to engineers.) Others, however, like “The Economic Impact of Bicycling in Minnesota,” might have a broader appeal. In any case, it’s a fascinating glimpse at the myriad of issues that MnDOT is attempting to address through research and innovation.
Here’s the list of research need statements from the 2013 RFP, broken down by category:
- Weights and Measurements for Verification of High Organic Soils
- Automated flocculation dosing rates based on real-time turbidity and flow monitoring
Materials and Construction
- PCC Pavement Thickness Variation Versus Observed Pavement Distress
- Evaluation of Recycled Aggregates Test Section Performance
- Design Guideline for Stabilization of Unpaved Shoulder—Phase I (Synthesis study)
- Optimal RAP Content for Minnesota Gravel Roads
- Modernizing Road Construction Plans and Documentation
- Alternate Design Methods to Renew Lightly Traveled Paved Roads
- Full Depth Reclamation (FDR) for Urban and Suburban Street Application
- Prevention of Stripping Under Chip Seals
- Bio-Fog Seal Evaluation
- Understanding and Communicating the Tradeoffs Associated with Urban Roadway Design
- Traffic Impacts of Bike Lanes
- The Economic Impact of Bicycling in Minnesota
- Coordination of Inter-City Multimodal Investments
Policy and Planning
- Methods for Evaluating the Economic Development Potential of Transportation Projects
- Barriers to Right-of-Way Acquisition and Recommendations for Change
Traffic and Safety
- Evaluation of Intersection Conflict Warning Systems
- Dynamic Traffic Assignment (DTA) Mesoscopic Travel Model
- Driver Performance with Future Warning Sign Delivery
- Evaluation of Safety and Mobility of Two-Lane Roundabouts
- Safety study of 35W improvements done under UPA project
- Development of a Queue Warning System Utilizing ATM Infrastructure