Intersection observations were undertaken at two contrasting locations in Eugene, OR on a sunny June evening. I counted pedestrians and bicyclists, and made general behavioral observations on all users. The findings are below.
13th and Hilyard observation: 5 pm to 6 pm, Friday, June 17th
13th and Hilyard, looking North from Hilyard st.
One-way northbound Hilyard st. crosses one-way westbound 13th ave about five blocks from the University of Oregon campus and in front of Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene. At the intersection, Hilyard has three lanes of auto traffic and a bike lane on East side of the street. 13th goes from three auto lanes to one through the intersection, as the two lanes on the North side of the street turn left onto Hilyard towards Franklin avenue and the Ferry St. bridge over the Willamette river. 13th has a bike lane on the South side of the street that continues through the intersection. On the East side of the intersection, bike traffic is two-way; a contraflow bike lane takes cyclists West to the intersection of 13th and Hilyard, but does not continue to the other side of Hilyard. Both Hilyard and 13th have sidewalks that continue, with crosswalks, on both sides of the intersection. The intersection is regulated by stoplights, which split right-of-way roughly evenly between traffic moving along 13th and Hilyard.
The silence of the intersection struck me during my hour of observation. While a general humming roar of car engines filled the space, it was noticeably free of voices, laughter, and other human noise. This was despite a constant stream of automobile, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. Seldom did any road user verbally acknowledge another. Even pedestrians walking together or people driving with passengers did not appear to be conversing.
The signal lights served to direct all traffic. Drivers and pedestrians were strictly observant of the signals, with the exception of a few drivers who took a free left-on-red onto Hilyard while pedestrians had the right-of-way in the crosswalk. Drivers stopped at lights would, with noteworthy regularity, come to a full stop and then look down into their vehicle and/or touch their face.
Most bicyclists strictly obeyed traffic signals. Both 13th and Hilyard were busy with automobile traffic during the observation period, and there were very few opportunities for bicyclists to cross against a red during “gaps” in oncoming traffic. The few bicyclists who did cross in such a manner did not do so in a way that appeared to cause oncoming traffic to slow; these cyclists appeared to treat the stop light as a stop sign.
About a third of the bicyclists that passed through the intersection either came from or entered the sidewalk rather than a bike lane. For bicyclists attempting to continue on from the Westbound contraflow bike lane on 13th, the sidewalk is the only option on the West side of Hilyard. Others seemed to choose the sidewalk instead of an adjacent bike lane traveling in the same direction. There seemed to be a desire to travel in both directions on both 13th avenue and Hilyard street, based on the observed use of the sidewalks by bicyclists.
Two of the three people on skateboards who passed through the intersection during the observation period did so in a way inconsistent with the design of the street and difficult to defend logically. One, wearing headphones and carrying a full laundry basket, crossed Hilyard about fifteen yards from the light at 13th in front of oncoming traffic, causing a car to slam its brakes. This individual proceeded onto 13th going Westbound in the Eastbound-only bicycle lane. Another person on a skateboard passed through the intersection riding against traffic on Hilyard.
Pedestrians moved through the intersection cautiously, waiting for pedestrian signals and using sidewalks. Two pedestrians during the hour conflicted with cars turning left onto Hilyard without yielding. In one instance the pedestrian shouted criticisms and swearwords at the driver.
Pedestrian Count (includes skateboarders): 165
Bicyclist Count: 113
8th and Monroe observation, 6:15 pm to 7:15 pm, Friday, June 17th
8th and Monroe, looking North on Monroe St.
For contrast with the stop-lighted, one-way intersection observation above, I observed at 8th and Monroe, a four-way stop at an intersection of two way streets. Both eighth and Monroe have sidewalks but no bike lanes, though 8th has a residential character and Monroe is a designated part of Eugene’s bicycle network, and has speed bumps to the South of this intersection. A small strip commercial development with a parking lot sits on the Northwest corner of the intersection, there is a church on the Southwest, and businesses with small parking areas occupy the other two corners.
No users of any mode came to a full stop at the stop signs unless there was traffic through the intersection. All users used the stop signs as yield signs, reducing their speed, checking for oncoming traffic, and proceeding through the intersection. Bicyclists would apply their brakes, look both ways, and roll through the intersection. Drivers would slow, roll through the sign, look left, roll into the immediate crossing lane, look right, and then accelerate through the intersection. Pedestrians would look both ways some distance before the curb and then step off it looking straight ahead without wavering, unless a car rolled up to a stop next to them, in which case peds would often give “the glance,” the one that says you will NOT hit me with that vehicle, sir/madam.
There was noise and interaction at 8th and Monroe. Pedestrians talked and joked with one another, and even with me as I stood and made my observations, which had not happened at 13th and Hilyard. Bicyclists conversed. There were observable nonverbal interactions between people, as glances and gestures helped regulate movement through the space. Commonly, when one car would proceed through the intersection right after another one going the opposite direction, the second driver would watch the first car all the way through the intersection, even diverting their gaze from the road ahead to watch the other car pass. People played our car stereos, asked for directions, etc.
In the parking lot across the street, a little girl in a pink dress cut like a sailor’s uniform went in circles on a pink bicycle, lit with late-day light.
Drivers seemed to accelerate as stress relief or to erase embarrassment. Sometimes, when a bicycle turned in an unexpected way, drivers would hit the gas harder than they otherwise might have after the bicycle cleared the intersection. At times when two cars arrived simultaneously and had a momentary indecision about who should go, the one that ended up going would hit the gas unusually hard.
One man who had run past me during my observation at 13th and Hilyard ran past me again at 8th and Monroe. Another man passed me singing “this is a song that never ends…”