COLUMBIA — Buried beneath the asphalt at the intersection of Worley Street and West Boulevard lies a magnet that senses cars and changes the light to green, alleviating an unnecessary stop at a red light during the middle of the night.
The sensors at this and two other intersections have been adjusted to give bicycles the same luxury as automobiles. A bike can pull up to the newly painted symbol— the figure of a person on a bike— and trigger the light.
This is the first project to be completed in Columbia under the $25 million federal grant the city received in 2005 to encourage nonmotorized transportation.
Each intersection costs about $100, most of which is in labor, said Ted Curtis, Columbia’s Bike/Ped program manager.
The sensors are already in place to detect automobiles, so the sensitivity just had to be adjusted to account for bicycles, he said.
The city has also painted the symbols at Worley Street and Clinkscales Road and Worley Street Road and Bernadette Drive.
Plans to paint the symbols at about 18 more intersections, primarily along Broadway, should be carried out by the spring, said Curtis. The timeline is dependent on the weather.
Ian Thomas, executive director of Columbia’s PedNet Coalition thinks the symbols are a “big help” to bicyclists.
He explained that before the adjustment and symbols, cyclists had to either wait for a car to trigger the light or blow through a red light, which can be dangerous.
Phase two of the process will be adjusting sensors and painting symbols at state-controlled intersections in Columbia.