New ‘protected intersection’ looks extremely confusing but actually makes sense

  • The protected intersection is an innovation to keep vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians safe
  • It hails from the Netherlands – the nation boasting more bikes than its human population
  • It appears complicated but, in reality, it’s a pretty simple idea – and it looks like it’s working

Published on May 31, 2024 at 12:25 PM (UTC+4)
by Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

Last updated on Jun 01, 2024 at 2:02 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Tom Wood

With injury and collision rates higher on some busy road junctions, there’s a new idea aimed at keeping vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians safer: the protected intersection.

Hailing from the Netherlands – the nation boasting more bikes than its population and with its capital city, Amsterdam, having a near 250 miles of bike paths – it’s now been adopted by the US and is spreading around the world.

And, while it might appear complicated, in reality, it’s a pretty simple idea – and the protected intersection is already saving lives on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Let’s be honest – some intersections blur the lines of who needs to be where and who has the right of way.

The innovative road layout works by completely separating pedestrians and cyclists from the cars on the road.

Per the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), here’s how it works.

At protected intersections, a dedicated ‘bikeway is set back from the parallel motor vehicle traffic’ rather than merging with vehicular traffic.

What’s more, they have right of way over turning motor vehicles.

The setback between the car and bike lanes ‘makes cyclists more visible to turning drivers than they are on a conventional intersection’.

But wait, there’s more – corner islands further that protection and separation of the bike lane, as well as tightening the corner turn – forcing drivers to slow to less than 16 km/h (10 mph).

A ‘mountable override area’ can be added for trucks and other large vehicles.

A bike queue area after the crosswalk is the natural place for cyclists to wait, while the setback also forms a waiting zone for turning cars.

This means drivers can yield to bikes after starting to turn but before cyclists cross their path.

There’s also ample space for through traffic to pass without anyone who’s turning feeling rushed.

Pedestrian crossings are shorter and safer than they are at other intersections.

Both those on foot and using personal mobility devices benefit from pedestrian islands and curb extensions.

The numbers speak for themselves.

“In San Francisco, a protected intersection design resulted in 98% of drivers yielding to people on bikes, and 100% yielding to people walking,” NACTO said.

“A study in New York found that protected intersections had fewer vehicle-bike conflicts than even a dedicated turn lane with a dedicated bike signal phase.”


The great news: a protected intersection – or some variation on it – can work at any city or small-town junction, no matter how busy.

College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, was the first US spot to construct a non-signalized version.

A couple more were erected in Austin, Texas, the year before.

More recently, builds include San Luis Obispo on California’s Central Coast installed a protected intersection in 2022.

And Seattle followed suit earlier this year with Eugene, Oregon, getting onboard in August.

Wherever you are, keep your eyes peeled for one in your area or one of several new safety features.

Like the glow-in-the-dark lines on the roads being trialed in Australia to improve safety at night.

You can see them in action, here.

# Tags - Car News, Cars, Lifestyle


Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

London-based Amelia cut her journalistic teeth covering all things lifestyle, wellness and luxury in the UK capital. Fast-forward a decade and the experienced content creator and editor has put pen to paper for glossy magazines, busy newsrooms and coveted brands. When her OOO is on you can find her spending quality time with her young family, in the gym or exploring the city she loves.