Intersections may be signalised to address a road safety, efficiency or operational issue or to improve crossing opportunities for pedestrians and cyclists. Signalised intersections are generally installed at intersections of major roads and, due to the temporal component, usually involve several approach lanes on each leg.

People choosing to travel by bike generally have similar origins and destinations to those who travel by motor vehicle and will therefore often choose routes that involve signalised intersections. Signalised intersections should provide the space and operational conditions to support cycling as a viable mode of transport option. Off-road paths and protected cycleways may be provided as alternatives to traditional on-road cycling facilities, and these paths often have to be incorporated into the functional layouts of signalised intersections. Signalised intersections can be designed to accommodate a range of target users. Spatial and temporal separation relating to different target users should be considered.

At signalised intersections different movements are separated in time and therefore the risk to compliant cyclists is generally lower than at unsignalised intersections.  However, if signal operation allows for filter turning, then cyclists are still exposed to risk from turning traffic that shares their approach leg and often also turning traffic from the opposing approach. Conversely, more confident cyclists who place a higher importance on journey time, often do not accept being held on a red signal while parallel through traffic has a green. European experience shows that signal compliance drops with a widening service level gap between through cyclists and through drivers, which in turn increases the crash rate. (‘Optimisation for bicycle traffic at traffic lights’1 ).  This is an area where much more local experience needs to be gained.

Turning right at signalised intersections can be difficult for cyclists particularly where several lanes must be crossed to reach the right turning lane and several lanes of opposing traffic may need to be negotiated.  The alternative is a hook turn manoeuvre, which allows cyclists to retain a kerbside position and cross an intersection in two stages.

This section provides advice on:

1. Alrutz, D., Willhaus, E., Meyhofer, H., Muller, H. & Schmidt, R. 1996. Optimierung für den Radverkehr an Lichtsignalanlagen [Optimisation for bicycle traffic at traffic lights]. Beiträge zur Stadtforschung, Stadtentwicklung, Stadtplanung [Contributions to urban research, city development, and town planning]. Hanover, Germany: PGV Planungsgemeinschaft Verkehr / Hannover.

  • Legal considerations

    The general legal requirements for traffic signals are set out in the Traffic Control Devices Rule Section 6.

    Cycles are considered a vehicle in New Zealand legislation and therefore cyclists must comply with standard traffic signal displays. Cyclists can be provided for separately using signal aspects that show a cycle symbol which override the circular disc display for general traffic when illuminated. The current meaning of the green cycle aspect is:

    While a green cycle symbol is illuminated, cyclists may proceed straight ahead, or turn left or right.” Road User Rule Clause 3.7.

    Other legal considerations include:

    These legislative aspects can result in confusion in some situations. For example, there can be potential conflicts between cyclists and other traffic when a cycle aspect is used in conjunction with a green disc.

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  • Design considerations

    It is critical that intersection layout and traffic signal phasing are considered together to ensure a safe and logical arrangement of a signalised intersection. This may require an iterative design process.

    Particular aspects that should be considered to accommodate cyclists at signalised intersections include:

    Signs and markings

    The signage and marking requirements for signalised intersections will be provided in the TCD Manual Part 4.  In the interim, marking requirements for cycle lanes at signalised intersections is provided in MOTSAM Part 2 Section 3.18.  There are no specific signage requirements for cyclists at signalised intersections.

    Coloured surfacing

    Green surfacing should be used to remind motorists of the likely presence of cyclists or where cyclists are likely to feel under stress from potential conflicts with motor vehicles. 

    Green surfacing should be applied:

    • in cycle lanes on the approach to intersections
      • especially for cycle lanes located between two general traffic lanes
    • in cycle lanes on the departure side of an intersection
      • especially when there is a lateral shift between the approach and departure lanes, or
      • especially when there is a high risk of motor vehicles encroaching on the cycle lane
    • where it is useful to alert crossing pedestrians to the potential presence of cyclists.

    The use of green surfacing is further described in the cycle waiting facilities at intersections section.

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