ladderphotoPima County is experimenting with a cost saving measure that they hope doesn’t sacrifice cyclists’ safety.

Matt Zoll, Pima County’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager said the department tried a new green paint treatment at on Magee Road heading toward La Cholla Boulevard.

The county created a ladder of green paint and asphalt to highlight a conflict point between cyclists and merging motorists.

Zoll said the scheme utilizes two feet of green paint and six feet of asphalt as opposed to a full green lane.

The treatment costs 50 percent less than the full green lane. He said the labor is about the same, but they save about 66 percent on the material.

“It saves a little money and kind of breaks things up,” Zoll said. “It is unique enough to make drivers recognize they need to have a little more caution.”


15 thoughts on “County tries out cheaper alternative to green lane”
  1. Very cool. I hope people realize what it means, though. I had no idea until I read the article. Hopefully, with time, it’ll keep cyclists safer.

  2. “It saves a little money and kind of breaks things up.”  This quote will look good on a gravestone.

  3. Does your average motorist have any idea what green lanes or green ladders mean?  Probably not.  Green paint here and there doesn’t eliminate the need for cyclists to look back before merging across to a straight-through lane.  Common sense compels you to glance back first before merging across a turn lane, even if you think you have the right of way.

  4. Silverpedals is right, motorists have no idea what it means.  It’s nice, but pretty worthless.  Cyclists are responsible for their own safety and need to always look.  I think we all know that.

  5. The pattern is like a zebra crossing for pedestrians in Britain.  It catches the eye.  The key thing is that it calls attention to the transition.  A sign for a bike crossing might help to explain what it is for.

  6. We also plan to add LOOK markings with arrows pointing either to the right or the left depending on the merge. For instance, in the photo this is a merge for vehicles coming from the right side. The LOOK markings would be in the bike lane for the bicyclist–one set about 200 feet before the merge and another set about 50 feet before the merge. Just as 3wheeler and silverpedals said, the cyclist always has to be looking when they’re approaching these intersections (including scanning over their shoulder towards the back in some locations) and signaling or waving as necessary to catch the drivers attention and get them to yield. Drivers also have special yield signs so that it’s clear they need to yield to cyclists.
    Incidentally, the marking material is a special thermoplastic that we put down, not paint. We learned about 6 years ago that we could not use paint as it would only last about a week (literally). The thermo lasts 8 to 15 years, depending on wear.

  7. I wish we could have used a solid green rather than the ladder treatment but we were compelled to reduce costs for these. Typically there are wear marks and tire marks on the green anyway where drivers cross it, so to an extent we get a ladder effect happening over time even with the solid green. Between the green material, look markings for cyclists, and yield signs for drivers we hope to continue to have a strong safety record with these merge locations. So far in 6 years at our 7 existing locations I have not been notified of any crashes.

  8. i don’t think the green lane markings help much at all… at the top of the 4th ave underpass, where 4th ave meets with toole and congress, i’ve seen so many cars hanging halfway into the green bike lane (so much so that i must get off my bike and walk it past the offending vehicle), as well as stopped at the light halfway or more into the forward-most green area that cars are supposed to remain behind. just because the markings are there, doesn’t mean that the people in cars will avoid them or even know why they’re there in the first place.

  9. @silverpedals I’m hopeful the city’s education plan for the streetcar bicycle markings will help. 
    It’s one of the first times they are actually spending money on educating both motorists AND cyclists about the markings. 
    This isn’t in the city, but hopefully it will reach more people.

  10. @lindsey I have found that these markings (at least the solid ones) do help.  The difference between riding a conflict point with markings versus without is significant in driver behavior.  If nothing else, it does cause them to realize I have a right to be on the road and their attitude is better.

  11. What a POS that intersection is. Although I get the feeling the purpose of it is to drive westbound motor traffic from the mall to Ina rather than to Magee. Why would you want to sit through two sets of traffic signals at the same intersection? From the perspective of people headed west from northbound La Cholla, this intersection is a big turd.
    Should have included a *much* shorter version for cyclists rather than force them to add a couple more minutes (at least) to a simple left turn. Not that left turns are that simple in typical mega intersections. And what the hell about Oracle? I’m not convinced.
    Anyway, what does the little sign say where the westbound loop connects? “[line drawing of bicycle] yield to vehicles” I believe. I’m not on a vehicle now?
    I’ll add a me too to the chorus of not believing drivers know what the green paint signifies. I’m not even 100% sure. Something to do with cyclists.

  12. The faster way for a cyclist is to take a box (or hook) left turn. As you’re headed northbound, stop at the westbound bike lane and turn your bike so you’re headed west. Then proceed with westbound traffic.

  13. We plan to install box left turn symbols of the same design as the ones that will  be installed along Grant Road as part of the indirect left turns with that project. I had recommended doing a short loop for cyclists but our project management didn’t approve it. For drivers, as they go through the loop northbound to westbound they (in theory) have either no wait or a very short wait to continue westbound through the signal because it should change to east-west green not too long after they’ve first gone through the intersection. We’ll see how that works over time as traffic builds up when the La Cholla project north of Magee gets built.

  14. Colored lanes for merge areas have been found to have positive safety benefits for cyclists. The most comprehensive study done on this was by the Highway Safety Research Center on the Portland blue bike lanes (the feds now require them to be green). The study found a statistically significant increase in motorists yielding to cyclists and an increase in the number of drivers slowing at the merge points. The number of merging conflicts went down. However, they also found a decrease in the number of cyclists scanning as they approached the merge points, which we’re trying to address with our LOOK markings. More information can be found at

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