Monthly Science: Burnett Signal Timing

The NYS DOT has been improving the pedestrian crossings at the Burnett – Rt 55 intersection. I expect this will be a bullet item in their Complete Streets compliance document, with favorable job reviews for all parties. The situation for bicyclists using the intersection, which provides the only access from Poughkeepsie to the Dutchess Rail Trail, hasn’t changed in the slightest. No signal timing adjustments, no bike-capable sensor loops, no lane markings, no shoulders, no nothing.

Here’s what NYS DOT’s Complete Streets program looks like from our perspective, with the four-digit frame numbers ticking along at 60 frame/sec.

We’re waiting on Overocker Rd for Burnett traffic to clear enough to cross three lanes from a cold start:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 0006
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 0006

That building over there across Burnett is the NYS DOT Region 8 Headquarters, so we’re not in the hinterlands where nobody ever goes.

We’re rolling:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 0258
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 0258

The Burnett signals just turned green, although the cars haven’t started moving yet, and we’re accelerating out of Overocker:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 0463
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 0463

About 1.5 seconds later, the vehicles have started moving and we’re lining up for the left side of the right-hand lane:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 0752
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 0752

There’s no traffic behind us, so we can ride a little more to the right than we usually do, in the hopes of triggering the signal’s unmarked sensor loop:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 1178
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 1178

We didn’t expect anything different:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 1333
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 1333

We’re rolling at about 12 mph and it’s unreasonable to expect us to jam to a stop whenever the signal turns yellow. Oh, did you notice the truck parked in the sidewalk over on the left?

As usual, 4.3 seconds later, the Burnett signals turn red, so we’re now riding in the “intersection clearing” delay:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 1593
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 1593

Two seconds later, the Rt 55 signals turn green:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 1711
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 1711

Did you notice all three eastbound lanes of Rt 55 (on our right) were occupied? That means a driver can’t come zipping through without stopping at the green light in their direction.

One second later, we’re still proceeding through the intersection, clearing the lethally smooth manhole cover by a few inches, and approaching the far side:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 1771
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 1771

Here’s what the intersection looks like behind me:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - rear 1
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – rear 1

Another second goes by and we’re pretty much into the far right lane , with the westbound traffic beginning to move:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 1831
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 1831

The pedestrian crossing ladder has fresh new paint. They milled off the old paint while reconstructing the crossing, so the scarred asphalt will deteriorate into potholes after a few freeze-thaw cycles. Not their problem, it seems.

Although it’s been three seconds since Rt 55 got a green signal, the eastbound drivers remain stunned by our presence:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - rear 2
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – rear 2

After another second, we’re almost where we need to be:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 1891
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 1891

There’s a new concrete sidewalk on the right, with a wheelchair-accessible signal button I can now hit with my elbow when we’re headed in the other direction. It’s worth noting there is no way to reach Overocker by bicycle, other than riding the sidewalk; there’s only one “complete” direction for vehicular cyclists.

One second later puts us as far to the right as we can get, given all the gravel / debris / deteriorated asphalt along the fog line near the curb:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - front 1957
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – front 1957

Which is good, because four seconds after the green signal for Rt 55, the pack has overtaken us:

Burnett Signal - 2020-09-25 - rear 3
Burnett Signal – 2020-09-25 – rear 3

If you were the driver of the grayish car in the middle lane, directly behind the black one giving us plenty of room, you might be surprised at the abrupt lane change in front of you. Maybe not, because you had a front-row seat while we went through the intersection.

Elapsed time from the green signal on Burnett: 25 seconds. My point is that another few seconds of all-red intersection clearing time wouldn’t materially affect anybody’s day and would go a long way toward improving bicycle safety.

Unlike the pedestrian crossing upgrade, NYS DOT could fix this with zero capital expenditure: one engineer with keys to the control box, a screwdriver or keyboard (depending on the age of the controls), and the ability to do the right thing could fix it before lunch tomorrow.

But it’s just a typical bike ride on NYS DOT’s Complete Streets, where their planners & designers claim to “promote pedestrian and bicycle travel for all persons.” Maybe that’s true somewhere in NYS DOT’s fantasies, but you’ll find far more evidence from our rides, with plenty of numbers, showing that’s not the case around here.

2 thoughts on “Monthly Science: Burnett Signal Timing

    1. In NYS, blowing through stop signs / traffic signals is just how it’s done, by cars and bikes alike.

      We’re approximately the only “vehicular cyclists” who stop at signs & red signals, which can lead to confusion for folks who expect us to keep on rolling, regardless of cross traffic.

      I’d settle for NYS DOT just setting the signal timing with bike speeds in mind. [sigh]

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