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Are bike lanes a haven or a hazard?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 3rd, 2006 at 11:14 am

Benson Hotel bike lane, Portland OR
[The infamous Broadway Blvd.
bike lane in front of the
Benson Hotel.]

The use and installation of bike lanes has long been a debate within bike advocacy circles.

On one side, you've got some cyclists who feel we should ride defensively on the roadway and that bike lanes offer only a dangerous and false sense of security. They believe bike lanes actually cause more accidents than they prevent.

On the other side are most bike advocacy groups and transportation planners. Their more widely accepted view is that bike lanes afford real safety benefits that encourage more people to ride. They would point to surveys and research that shows more bike lanes cause an increase in ridership, which in turns causes a decrease in crashes, thus making the roads safer (see chart below for an example of this).

[Click chart to enlarge.]

Without bike lanes, I wonder what would be come of the riders do not possess the skills and comfort level to ride among motor vehicles. What about kids, families, my Mom? They will simply not ride on a busy road if it doesn't have a bike lane.

This issue surfaced recently after several local cyclists were cited for various bike lane infractions during Wednesday morning's Police enforcement mission (In particular there has been a discussion about the bike lanes on SW Broadway Blvd.).

The comments on my report on that event included the following from a reader named Randy:

"I have repeatedly advocated that the City NOT install bike lanes in the downtown core. The City has chosen to ignore this advice and instead install a variety of mostly unsafe bike lanes within the downtown area, the worst case probably being SW Broadway.

Randy thinks all downtown bike lanes are unsafe for the following reasons:

  • Conflicts with parked vehicles; I am personally aware of numerous dooring incidents and at least one fatality involving the SW Broadway bike lane.
  • Conflicts with turning vehicles.
  • Conflicts with delivery vehicles and valet parking operations.

The downtown bike lanes are unnecessary for the following reason: In most cases you can ride at the speed of traffic, since the downtown signals are timed for 12-15 mph."

[Riding south on SW Broadway Blvd.]

In defense of the bike lanes on SW Broadway (site of the infamous Martini saga) is long-time PDOT bike guy Jeff Smith. Jeff (who ironically was cited for a bike lane infraction yesterday morning) was instrumental in the striping of the Broadway bike lane. He contends that the decision to stripe that street was based on observing how cyclists used the road:

"The design was vetted by the City's Bike Advisory Committee to make sure this was something they were supportive of (incidentally, the BAC rejected an opportunity to provide a bike lane on SW 3rd between Burnside and Madison, mostly because the grade is so much less steep than Broadway). We also took a quick look at where in the street people where riding pre-bike-lane.

I don't have the numbers in front of me right now, but my recollection is that more than half of the cyclists on Broadway at that time were riding in the right-hand third of the right lane; which is to say, essentially where a bike lane would be. Now, this was a fairly small (about 100 cyclists) sample, and the coding of rider postion was done by eye, so it doesn't prove anything conclusively - but we have similar results on other streets (Sw 3rd, Sw Madison) when looking at cyclist lane position pre-bike-lane.

If you were going to ride in the right-hand third of the right lane, wouldn't you prefer to have a bike lane?"

With an update of Portland's Bicycle Master Plan in the works, I think this is a great time to have this discussion.

How do you feel about bike lanes?
Do you seek them out or avoid them?
Do you think advocates and planners should look at other solutions to encourage ridership and keep us safe?

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Comments
  • Greg Raisman August 3, 2006 at 11:20 am

    One more important chart to look at on this subject is here http://bikeportland.org/wp-content/images/bridges_bikewaymiles_big.jpg.

    There does definitely seem to be a correlation that as bikeway miles increase (which in Portland have largely been bike lanes), the numbers of riders increase.

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  • Roger J August 3, 2006 at 11:33 am

    My commute consists of laned and unlaned roads these days. I definately like having a bike lane on roads where the posted speed is in excess of 40mph. However, I see the bike lanes on SW Boradway and NE Broadway as death traps more than anything.

    When I worked in NW Portland, I started to commute on NE Broadway until one too many inattentive drivers tried to get a parking spot by running me over. I much preferred the unlaned Knott street routes and felt infinitely safer.

    A bike lane on SW Broadway downtown to me is really more of a liability to the city than an asset in terms of usefullness and safety. With the recent enforcement of the bike lane law, I'll probably just stop riding on SW Broadway altogether.

    Having said all this, I enjoy having a bike lane on roads like SW Multnomah and Hall Blvds.

    -r

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  • Cecil August 3, 2006 at 11:40 am

    I am a fan of bike lanes, and want more of them, but I also understand that they sometimes give riders a false sense of security - much like crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security. Just because you are in a bike lane or crosswalk does not mean that you can relax your vigilance for the occasional (and not so occasional) stupid driver. As for the dangers of the bike lane on Broadway, that street is dangerous with or without a bike lane, especially the commerical cancer section between Washington and Main streets. I don't ride my bike on it at all - in or out of the bike lane.

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  • Austin August 3, 2006 at 11:51 am

    Did you know that perceived safety in a car or SUV is directly proportional to the number of cup holders it has? And that if you were in the fuzziest, marshmallow car out there, it would not feel safe without them? Consequently, some of the safest cars are those that are small, nimble, and where the driver is constantly reminded that they are in traffic. (http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html)

    I think that the same argument applies here, and it is really a question is one of actual safety versus perceived safety. In other words, if you are downtown taking a lane on Broadway, you are constantly reminded who your three to six ton neighbors are and you ride accordingly. But if you are in a bike lane, that six inch white stripe gives you the perception of a safe space (at least until you hit the end of the block, and someone turns in front of you). I would contest that in town you are probably a little safer in the middle of the lane.

    The twist to the argument is one of participation. The more riders there are on the road, the safer it becomes for all of us. So if ridership defines what is actually safe (more riders=more safe), the focus should focus on what people perceive as safe, so that more people feel comfortable getting on the road.

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  • Dom August 3, 2006 at 11:53 am

    I think bike lanes are a small step in a large scale. I ride in bike lanes but def. don't feel safe in them. Cars easly can swerve into them, parked cars often open doors blindly into the bike lane, and delivery trucks refuse to honor the lanes.

    I would love it if they had some sort of traffic barrier that prevented cars from being able to so easly enter the lanes.

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  • Jeff Smith August 3, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan, this is a good discussion to have, because there are indeed some good arguements against bike lanes. However, I'm not convinced that the negatives outweigh the benefits that bike lanes offer, particularly to the less-experienced cyclist.

    Randy says "the downtown bike lanes are unnecessary for the following reason: In most cases you can ride at the speed of traffic, since the downtown signals are timed for 12-15 mph.” Well, perhaps most cyclists can do this speed on the flat...but Broadway's not flat. It climbs pretty steadily from just south of Burnside up to PSU. I would doubt that most cyclists on Broadway are able to -- or want to -- maintain the 12 mph speed to keep up with traffic. Potential research project?

    I'm unable to consult bike count data, as I'm writing this from home, but I'd speculate there are at least 3 times as many cyclists on Broadway now as there were prior to the bike lane went in approx. 5 years ago. That, in itself, says to me that people like it --- of course, you can still make the "attractive nuisance" arguement, but nonetheless: people tend to cycle on streets where they feel most comfortable.

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  • Russell August 3, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    I’m not a general fan of bike lanes, but I can understand the reason for them outside of downtown. When placed appropriately (not pan-caking a bicycle between moving traffic and parked cars, etc), I think they can be a good part of bicycle planning. I think they are over-relied on now. There is no reason for bike lanes downtown besides creating a death trap. I understand the bureaucratic holdup with sharrows, but what is the reason for not using Broadway for testing?

    I think some bicycle infrastructure like mini traffic circles, curb extensions, and bike lanes can create more danger than they ostensibly alleviate and I want to see more ideas like Sharrows, diverters, driver/bicycle education, and better signage instead. The more tools a planner has to use when looking at a particular problem, the more likely the solution won’t be worse than leaving it alone.

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  • Dabby August 3, 2006 at 12:09 pm

    I truly believe that bike lanes could be a effective and safe haven for the everyday, for any cyclist.
    Sadly, lack of enforcement of traffic violations in bike lanes by cars, by managers and employees of hotels, and abuse of bike lane priveliges by many others, including but not being limited to:
    Taxicabs, UPS, Fed X,postal workers, City of Portland trucks and autos, Tri Met buses and Supervisor vehicles, OHSU and Lewis and Clark Shuttle buses, limosine and town car operators,
    Renders the bike lanes unsafe, and halfor more of the time unusable. These groups have been given a golden ticket by the city of Portland.
    Were it not for these factors, and you will notice that none of these factors I mentioned even has to do with riding a bike, the bike lanes would indeed be a safe haven.
    So, in conclusion, this really boils down to the city and the police focusing the efforts in the proper direction, instead of letting money, big business, and progress mandate the choices for them.

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  • Neil August 3, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    Some bike lines are great like the ones on Murray Blvd just south of Highway 26. Others like the SW Broadway ones are awful. One obvious difference between the two is the presence of parked cars and the desire of drivers to park in the bike lines. So the answer is: it depends.

    I don't ever like being forced to use the bike lines, though. It should be at my option whether I use them or not. This is just because so many bike lanes prevent me from going the direction I want to go (always following the traffic).

    BTW, on SW Broadway, I prefer to ride *on* the left painted of the bike line. This keeps me as far away from those parked cars. There is a bit of hill here, so I can't ride the same speed as the cars.

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  • Russell August 3, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    I would also say in response to Jeff Smith that while "more than half" of riders on Broadway may have been that far to the right - it means plenty (if not close to a majority depending on the %) were taking the lane(s).

    By putting a bike lane on Broadway, now EVERYONE is required to be there, it's ghettoized those of us who want to be in traffic into one long door zone. I feel penalized and put at risk on the rare occasion I ride that street now because "more than half" of the riders prior to the bike lane didn't take the lane as they were entitled to.

    I'd also love to hear the story of the police ticketing Mr. Smith. Is he gonna fight the ticket?

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  • Ken August 3, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    I ride on SW Broadway everyday to work (from Main south past 405, and am referring to this section only). I always ride in the bike lane. As a bike rider, you just have to be conscious of cars and buses in this lane. It really isn't that big of a deal. I do wish that there would be more bike lane enforcement for cars using them improperly (parking, turning, opening doors etc.). I am more than comfortably and competent to ride in traffic, but I feel like the bike lane is far safer here. The absence of a bike lane would create far more dangerouse conflicts between traffic and bikers.

    Although it is true that some lights are timed to 12-15 MPH, it is not true for all of them, especially near PSU. And the cars are definitely not usually going 12-15 MPH in this area either. I have never seen a biker keeping up with normal traffic here.

    I do agree that some bike lanes make biking more dangerous. I don't feel that this section on Broadway fits this category. I'm sure some commuters are inconvenienced by it, but I feel they are the vast minority and overall this is a safer option for most bikers.

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  • Donna August 3, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    I'm not intrinsically opposed to bike lanes. When I travel from the SW 158th/Merlo MAX station to SW Cornell and Science Park Dr. twice a month, I really appreciate them.

    I don't see where they do more good than harm, downtown. If the City wishes to give delivery trucks, taxi cabs, hotel valet parking, etc. a "golden ticket", as Dabby put it, don't jail me in a dangerous bike lane with those maniacs. Someone on another thread pointed out that the Broadway bike lane closer to PSU was very helpful. I don't ride it enough to form an opinion, but I generally have found downtown bike lanes to be pretty hair-raising.

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  • Brett August 3, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    I commute 16 miles round at least four days a week. I ride another 30-50 a week on top of that. I ride a road, a track (with mech-brake), a bent, and my lead-sled commuter. My routes are about half bike lane and half not. I think Portland does a fantastic job of working with bike riders. I've lived in four countries, eight states, and countless cities and the only city that was better was West Berlin before the wall came down... and I even wonder about that now that I write about it. Anyway, the answer to the "... a haven or a hazard?" question is YES. The answer is to get more involved with the powers that be, and helping those decision makers make sound choices moving forward.

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  • brett August 3, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    I've just moved here and live near PSU, so I've had to use the Broadway bike lane fairly often, and I agree that what makes it a little nerve wracking is the cars (often in front of hotels) and delivery trucks that force you to swerve back into traffic. If the cops can crack down on bike commuters, why not deter such behavior with a few well timed crackdowns on these safety violators?

    I wish we could have the European version (was it in Copenhagen or Amsterdam?) that doesn't sandwich bikers between parked cars and the moving traffic. Would that be possible on Broadway?

    Also, at the risk of detouring the topic, can anyone recommend some relatively safe alternative downtown routes to Broadway? I'm trying to figure out the best ways to get around downtown, both N/S and E/W and would appreciate any advice.

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  • brett August 3, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    Oops, and I should say I'm not the Brett above, though I'm glad he spells his name right. Maybe I'll start calling myself "otherBrett" here.

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  • natallica August 3, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    i seek out bikes lanes and then decide if i feel safer using them or taking another street with less traffic.

    i agree with neil, when bikers need to be traveling on a busy street with what they consider to be a dangerous bike lane, they shouldn't be forced to use it. i have avoided the sw broadway bike lane for that exact reason.

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  • C3PNo August 3, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    "If you were going to ride in the right-hand third of the right lane, wouldn’t you prefer to have a bike lane?”

    or

    If you were going to jump off a cliff, wouldn't you prefer to have pillow wrapped around you?

    Peoples' traffic behavior is not a mandate for traffic policy. Behavior is a reaction to policy. Proper signage, inluding "Bicycles in Lane" and "Bicycles allowed Full Lane" (which, coincidentally, is an ORS) would help bikeys with their confidence in taking the lane. Education at this juncture is imperative.

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  • Jason August 3, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    I love bike lanes, but mandating their use is a serious mistake. I've been hit twice by tri-met in the bike lane on SW Main between 1st and 2nd and I wouldn't use that lane for the world.

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  • Nick August 3, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    I am fine with a bike lane on Broadway. But make it twice as wide, paint it blue, and enforce it.

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  • Randy August 3, 2006 at 1:27 pm

    Just because there is a correlation between the number of miles of bike lanes and increases in bicycle ridership, it doesn't mean there is a cause-and-effect relationship. I challenge anybody to prove that a cause-and-effect relationship actually exists.

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  • no one in particular August 3, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    Ken: The real pain on SW Broadway is between about Burnside and Main. I have to say that past Main, where you ride, the street is much better. Down around all the shops and hotels is where you see the erratic drivers often stopped in the lane unloading at hotels or cutting in and out of parking spots without looking.

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  • Preston August 3, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    It's funny. As a suburbanite (Beaverton) I really appreciate bike lanes as most roads out there are high speed roads (even if the speed limit isn't high). I don't feel safer, but at least I know that there's a reminder for those motorists that pay attention. That said, 30% of the time or more cars are swerving in and out of the lane, turning right around me when I'm in the bike lane and other illegal activity.

    As far as downtown goes, I echo those who are wary of bike lanes. In the end what it comes down to is that it shouldn't be law that bikes have to stay in the bike lane while meanwhile cars are allowed to run rampant, breaking the law left and right. Of course I'm going to ride with traffic, take the lane, do whatever I have to do to protect my safety. If motorists are too ignorant or impatient to obey the rules, the bike lane becomes patently useless.

    So in summary, I think bike lanes are good. But they're only as good as the motorists who share them with us and the police officers who enforce them. Which is to say that currently bike lanes are close to worthless.

    You can guess where I think change needs to take place.

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  • Tankagnolo Bob August 3, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    I love bike lanes but do NOT assume I am totally safe in them. I always assume that I am invisible, that I am NOT seen by cars and ride defensivly. When traffic is thick, ie Broadway, I either go slow if the traffic is fast, or if the traffic is jammed in rush hour, have a great time hauling through it and beating the cars accross downtown.

    Bike lanes give me more space, but I do NOT see them as a "wall" of protection from cars, that would be a big error.

    I have cycled since 1954 and the roads get safer all the time. In the late fifties and early sixties, the big hazzard was dodging empty beer bottles being thrown at you from cars. Its better now.

    Tankagnolo Bob

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  • Brett August 3, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    "A person is not required to comply with this section unless the state or local authority with jurisdiction over the roadway finds, after public hearing, that the bicycle lane or bicycle path is suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed."

    The above passage is from the ORS. Has this happened for Broadway, or does it need to.

    Help

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  • joe August 3, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    i was a manager for the quiznos in the pearl for a while and would end up riding down 14th and use the bike lane there. worst idea ever! every morning it would be a fight not to get hit by some one on their cell in the biggest suv they could find. i was talking to some bike cops that would come in and they said and i quote...straight from the horses mouth "i would never use the bike lanes anywhere. it's so much safer just to ride in the lanes, no one ever pays attention to the bike lanes". i'm not making this up, 2 bike cops told me this while ordering food

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  • Tiah August 3, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    As any of us who actually ride around in the city, dodging cars, trucks, buses,pedestrians,and other cyclists knows the bike lane does not ensure one's right to safe riding. It can offer up a bit of security in that whilst riding in it the cyclist should think "Look, here is a recognized space for me!". This thought though is really only for the cyclist since we all know that the aforementioned vehicles often are not paying attention. I like to ride in the bike lane when it is logical to do so, but what about when I need to turn right and I am on the far left off a heavily congested street(i.e Broadway downtown)? or what about when I want to go straight and the truck in front of me decides it doesn't really need to use a turn signal, nor does it's driver need to check for a cyclist in the bike lane?
    As many of you have already stated we can not take our safety for granted, and really any time we take to the road we know what challenges we face. That is half the battle, right?
    Bike lanes are not needed all the time,as we have the right to ride in traffic, some people actaully do feel safer riding in the bike lane. It cna be helpful at times to have the lane to zip through but more often than not if you are riding in traffic you will really have to immerse yourself in it.
    Sharing the road is not easy when half the people out there aren't paying attention. It is like the world though. So, keep riding(as safely as you can), keep your eyes peeled and be ready to make turns you didn't intend to at any given moment. If you get stuck in heavy traffic and actaully have the oppurtunity to talk to any drivers who may have just tried to turn you into road kill that could go a long way.Then again it may not, the best thing we can all do is just keep riding, our presence can't be ignored if we don't go away.

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  • Greg August 3, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    I think we might want to consider a new direction instead of debating the safety of bike lanes and the ticketing of those of us that choose not to ride in them. Perhaps we should focus our attention towards getting the police to issue citations for drivers that interfere with bike lanes. I have more than once watched a driver block the bike lane in plan sight of an officer and seen nothing done about it. If the police want to write tickets, I say they should focus on making our bike lanes safer by trying to "educate" by way of a citation drivers who illegally use these lanes.
    Just my 2 cents
    Greg

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  • Jonathan August 3, 2006 at 2:47 pm

    Hey Brett, in response to comment #24 I asked pretty much the same question for all bike lanes as I heard a while ago that it had not been done for any bike lanes. That is just what I heard I hope that someone could look it up? I'm not sure where to do that.

    -Jonathan

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  • dayaram August 3, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    Do I use them? Yes
    Seek them out? NO
    Feel safe in them? No more than elsewhere on the road.

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  • Doug August 3, 2006 at 3:04 pm

    I ride the bike lane on Broadway from SW Washington to SW Madison every day and have to say that in my opinion it's much better for there to be one than not. I ride over the Hawthorne Bridge on my way home and I have basically three options for getting home:

    1) Take Alder to 3rd, 3rd to Madison and Madison to the bridge, following all of the rules of the road (which means staying in the middle of my lane, as a car would) and taking 15 minutes to get to the bridge

    2) Take the same path (or similar) to get to the bridge, but riding between lanes, on sidewalks and between traffic and parked cars in order to whittle my commute time down by 5 minutes or so

    3) Take the bike lane on Broadway, whizzing past traffic (legally), dodging the occassional car and getting to the bridge fairly quickly.

    One thing about the Broadway bike lane is it lets me quickly and legally beat traffic during rush hour downtown. Yes, it is dangerous, but I would argue no more dangerous than weaving in and out of traffic between lanes on the road. If you'd prefer option #1 then more power to you, but I think most of you who dislike bike lanes would take option #2 instead, which in my opinion is both dangerous and gives bikers a bad rep in the eyes of drivers.

    I do agree that bike lanes can add a false sense of security, but if you keep your eyes and mind focused on the road I think it's a safe and better alternative to having no bike lanes at all.

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  • Jeff Smith August 3, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    C3PNo:
    "Education at this juncture is imperative"
    Couldn't agree with you more, with or without bike lanes. The BTA is doing a great job with middle school kids, who are a captive audience & are sponges for information, but the difficulty is adults --- we know it all. As for the jumping off a cliff, I believe that you believe it, but that doesn't make it so for everyone, anymore than my insisting that bike lanes are safe does.

    Russell: you bet I'm going to fight it, I'm not surrendering $242 to the whims of the police. I left the bike lane some 200' before it ends (coming off the sidewalk at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge I moved to the lef lane because there was an opportunity to do so, thereby avoiding all the right turners at 2nd Ave.) and was cited for failure to use a bike lane. What i did was in no way unsafe, nor did i impede traffic, & for all the cop knows I could have been preparing to make a left turn on 3rd.

    And, yes, I still like bike lanes - just not an unreasonable interpretation of what constitutes "failure to use a bike lane".

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  • Martha August 3, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    Speaking of bike lanes, has anyone noticed the yet-to-be-opened street near OMSI that will divert traffic around the big pipe project? It's striped for two lanes of traffic plus one bike lane that has two-way arrows. That is, it's a two-way bike lane over on one side of the street. Cyclists headed away from downtown will be located between the oncoming cars and the oncoming bikes. How many head-on collisions (bike-to-bike and bike-to-car) do you think they'll have, given the high volume of cyclists, both experienced and clueless, in the area?

    That's one bike lane design that is downright dangerous. It would have been better to leave out the bike lane altogether, and spend that money on signage to alert drivers of the shared roadway. Designing for bicycles is site-specific. Designs that work well under certain conditions can be dangerous in other conditions. It takes a skilled engineer to know when to employ any given design. Unfortunately, too many traffic engineers lack an intuitive knowledge (and personal experience) of designing for bicyclists.

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  • Jonathan Maus August 3, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    In resposeto Greg in comment #27. He said:

      "Perhaps we should focus our attention towards getting the police to issue citations for drivers that interfere with bike lanes."

    Funny you mention that. While at traffic court recently I noticed several drivers there for tickets for driving in the bike lane. I met the officer who issued them. He's a cool guy and a cyclist too!

    I got his card and plan to interview him soon. Stay tuned.

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  • Joe Planner August 3, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    Downtown will always attract drivers from outside the Portland region. I suspect that such drivers are less likely to be paying attention to cyclists who probably aren't common where they are from. With this being the case, more effective measures are necessary to improve safety and perception of safety for cyclists.

    Unfortunately, removing a lane of parking on any street downtown will be almost impossible, Another option is providing a bike route on select streets as an extension of the sidewalk, by removing one lane of traffic, pushing the street parking one more lane toward the center of the street and extending the sidewalk for two-way or one-way bike traffic only. Enhancements could include low metal barriers to keep pedestrians out of it. It's not the best idea in the center of downtown, but it could be a solution in some segments of the downtown street network. Cyclists who prefer to ride in the road should still be able to, provided they can obey traffic laws. Meanwhile, less fierce riders can take the far safer protected bike paths.

    On a side note, any improvements done to the bike network will require $$$. How can we start to contribute to the infrastructure we use so frequently?

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  • mikey August 3, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Couple of questions:
    1-In the photo pictured, do I have the right to ride by this car and slam the door shut, as long as there is no body parts sticking out?

    2-Why do I see the meter maid parking in the bike lane on the Burnside bridge heading east.

    1 more-Is it legal for police to park their motorcycles on the sidewalk when they are doing a sting, such as 25th and Harrison, SE?

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  • Jon August 3, 2006 at 5:33 pm

    I am indifferent to bike lanes. If there is one I'll use it, but only if it goes where I'm going. Broadway for example my route puts me on Broadway for 4 blocks, I put myself in the middle lane immediately when I turn right from Yamhill so that I don't have to wade through irascible drivers who cannot tolerate the idea of a cyclist getting in front of them. Once I pass all the cars and SUV's backed up at Salmon waiting for ped's to cross, I immediately get myself in the left lane until Madison, where I turn left.
    Also bike lanes don't seem reliable, they often just end, motor vehicle drivers don't notice them, some bus drivers believe that half of the bike lane is actually a bus lane.

    As I write this a co-transport lane came to mind. It looks like this: paint an entire traffic lane blue, or dye some concrete blue and write every ten feet on the surface of the lane, using text cars can read (not some 12 inch diameter silhouette of a bike), "BIKE AND CAR LANE WATCH FOR BIKES" Probably a bad idea and the paint would likely be very slick when it rains and chunks of the paint would come up and go into the water cycle, and cars would drive in the "blue" lane just for the novelty of it. nevermind.

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  • Dabby August 3, 2006 at 8:39 pm

    I am sorry to once again say this, but many people are missing the point.
    We need 100 percent of vehicular bike lane violations cited, no matter what.
    Also, there is no requirement to ride in the bike lane. I don't care what the police think. They are once again manipulating the law.
    More signage will not work.
    More bike lanes downtown will not work.
    Police enforcement of ACTUAL violations will work.

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  • Andre August 3, 2006 at 8:43 pm

    I personally have been trying out alternates for broadway to make it through downtown going south to barbur. So far my favorite is to use 11th which has no bike lane, far less traffic (at least at the times I've tried it, I'm not going this route very often) and no freaking hotels.

    I've been also kicking around the idea (not that this is going to happen) but to have a police sting on right turners doing the old cut off manuver into the bike lane. This would be accomplished by having an officer ride in the bike lane up broadway several times and calling the radio for people to get tickets.

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  • Randy August 3, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    Unfortunately, given the current police attitude and leadership (Mayor included), I don't think we can count on the police for ANY assistance in this regard. It's been suggested numberous times in the past, and they're simply not interested.

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  • Tbird August 4, 2006 at 1:39 am

    The real issue regarding bike lane safety extends beyond the bike and to the other folks on the road, namely drivers of cars, trucks, buses etc. Bike lanes themselves are the best solution to cyclist's safety.(but, here's the catch...) Only if the other vehicles on the road can defer right of way to those in the bike lane. A big "IF"
    I have lived on PDX for only a couple years, and now I'm living in the Netherlands for a year. The scene here is incredible, BIKEs HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY, over all other traffic, pedestrians included. That doesn't mean there never collisions or some issues here, but considering some of the news read on this site in the last few weeks, it really addresses some glaring safety concerns. Namely the cyclists place on the road is defined and protected by law. I know PDX is not going to just jump up and accept universal right of way for cyclists, but the technique really works.
    Food for thought...
    tbr

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  • John August 4, 2006 at 2:00 am

    Mr. Smith.

    You clearly were breaking the law. You deserve the fine, and the irony of it is frankly delicious. It was your choice to lobby for the bike lanes instead of against the restrictive law, and now you're literally paying the price.

    Don't expect to win in court. I have some experience in these matters.
    "Were you in the bike lane?"
    "No your honor"
    "Guilty. Please pay the fine plus court costs on the way out"

    As for the "Public Hearing" requirement, pay attention Dabby and Brett. This appellate ruling says that the mere act of a public entity painting a bike lane creates the legal presumption that a hearing occurred.

    Read 'em and weep:

    http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A115242.htm

    As ye sow so shall ye reap. Keep your asses in the lane where they belong. Want to make a left turn? Not allowed. Try three rights.

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  • Brett August 4, 2006 at 6:25 am

    John,
    ref 41
    Dude, who the heck are you? What's up with the 'tude? I asked a valid question and you hose me... you don't know me well enough for that.

    Thanks for the info though, much appreciated.

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  • nuovorecord August 4, 2006 at 6:45 am

    I think a better solution to the "bike lanes in the downtown area" question is the use of sharrows instead of the bike lanes. In my view, they make more of a statement to drivers that they are sharing the road space with bicycles than the presence of a bike lane does. This is due to the fact that there's a reminder painted in the traffic lane every few yards or so. The bike lane is obviously ignored by many and enforcement is obviously not a top priority. So why not replace them with sharrows and give cyclists the freedom to manuever around traffic as they need to?

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  • Michael August 4, 2006 at 7:13 am

    “If you were going to ride in the right-hand third of the right lane, wouldn’t you prefer to have a bike lane?”

    This is misleading. If you are in the bike lane then motorists pass you in their lane. If you are riding toward the left of the bike lane due to door avoidance then the motorist are about 2 feet away from your center line. That leaves you about 18 inches of wobble room. Not much!

    If the bike lane were not there and you were in exactly the same position relative to the parking lane then you would be essentially "taking the lane." In my experience when you take the lane the passing motorists will most often move to the full next lane to the left of you. This means there will be 6 to 8 feet between you and the passing motorist.

    I would would rather have 6 feet of wobble room than 18 inches.

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  • Michael August 4, 2006 at 7:15 am

    “A person is not required to comply with this section unless the state or local authority with jurisdiction over the roadway finds, after public hearing, that the bicycle lane or bicycle path is suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed.”

    How is this process initiated?

    Let's do it! Let's use the law to serve us and our interests.

    SW Broadway would be a perfect place to begin.

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  • Brent Zenobia August 4, 2006 at 7:17 am

    I'm studying the psychology of bike adoption (see http://www.bikeportland.org/2006/08/02/psu-engineer-wants-to-understand-why-you-ride/) and would like to offer a comment.

    Novice riders do not perceive safety issues or bike lanes in the same way as experienced riders. During the earliest stages of deciding whether to ride, novice riders are more focused on other considerations: "Gosh, I sure see a lot of people riding bikes around these days. And suddenly I'm seeing more of these special striped bike lanes than I ever noticed before. That must mean a lot of people are riding, and that ODOT is looking out for their welfare. I'll admit that I'm kind of intimidated by cars, but I guess if ODOT says so these striped lanes should protect me. Maybe I should give biking a try." At this stage there may be a certain amount of naive, magical thinking going on in terms of the amount of protection that bike lanes afford.

    Observability is a big factor in encouraging novice riders to try riding, and bike lanes are pretty observable once people's curiosity about biking has been piqued. Bike lanes do play an important role in that regard. And this is the reason why novice riders look at bike lanes to provide magical protection: since the bike lanes are suddenly visible to them, they must be pretty visible to the cars, right? Thus, they conclude that bike lanes provide more protection than is actually the case.

    Bike lanes just aren't that visible to drivers because they are still wedded to their cars and aren't that curious about bikes. Drivers don't pay much attention to signage that isn't directed to them; they reason that bike lanes are meant for people driving bikes, not people driving cars. This well-researched phenomena is called selective perception: people who aren't interested in X's will tend not to see X's; once people start thinking of owning an X themselves, they will begin to see X's everywhere they look.

    Experienced bike riders learn very quickly that bike lanes don't provide magical protection. Just last Tuesday I was riding along the eastbound bike lane on NW Vaughan for the first time. Just as I passed NW 23rd headed toward downtown I was horrified to discover that I was suddenly riding right next to the freeway entrance ramp, and cars trying to merge onto I-405 were whizzing by me at 55+ MPH. The drivers were focused on merging traffic and were looking in the other direction. The only thing protecting me was a thin stripe of paint.

    There's the dilemma. Bike lanes almost certainly do increase ridership because they're a visible sign that bikes are legitimate form of traffic. However, experienced riders know that they provide little to no protection because car drivers don't see them.

    The solution, in part, is to raise the visibility of bike lanes to cars, and that takes more than just a dab of paint. Vision isn't enough, drivers face too many competing distractions. Drivers need to hear an audible signal that they've ventured into the bike lane.

    I suggest using those raised reflective domes they use on the interstate to warn drivers when they've ventured onto the shoulder. Also, I think Nick's idea of painting the lanes blue is a good one, although paint alone isn't going to solve this problem. We need to break through the selective perception problem of drivers just not seeing bikes or bike-related traffic signals, and that requires some audible cue like the sound and feel of tires running over the reflective domes.

    Brent Zenobia
    Portland State University

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  • Donna August 4, 2006 at 7:23 am

    John,

    I'm confused. If leaving the bike lane to make a left turn (or for any other reason) is not allowed, then what does this passage from ORS 814.420 mean?

    (3) A person is not in violation of the offense under this section if the person is able to safely move out of the bicycle lane or path for the purpose of:

    (a) Overtaking and passing another bicycle, a vehicle or a pedestrian that is in the bicycle lane or path and passage cannot safely be made in the lane or path.
    (b) Preparing to execute a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
    (c) Avoiding debris or other hazardous conditions.
    (d) Preparing to execute a right turn where a right turn is authorized.
    (e) Continuing straight at an intersection where the bicycle lane or path is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right.

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  • Michael August 4, 2006 at 7:25 am

    Getting from downtown to the Hawthorne Bridge.

    I would like to comment from over 25 years of bike commuting from downtown to my home near Mt Tabor. (Do you know that the nice Hawthorne Bridge sidewalks used to be 4 feet wide wooden planks? That was fun.)

    If you are heading to the H Bridge from most of downtown you can find a less busy street heading east. Take whatever street works for you all the way to either the riverfront sidewalk or the sidewalk on the west side of Front/Naito. Either of these sidewalks is a good, safe ride.

    On the river sidewalk there are many pedestrians. You have to ride slow and courteously (what's wrong with that?), but you get a nice view and a quiet ride. It is rather like sharing the H Bridge with pedestrians.

    On the Front sidewalk there are very few pedestrians, but it is technically illegal. I have been using it for several years and never had a ticket, even when sharing it with police on bikes or in plain sight of police in cars. It is wide and there are good cutout ramps at every intersection. Motorists are actually very good at letting you cross safely along here, for some reason.

    Neither of these are perfect bike highways, but they are far better than the city streets.

    I had this fantasy that the Front upgrades would include a real, separated bike lane in each direction. Maybe next time in 20-30 years...

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  • Michael August 4, 2006 at 7:38 am

    Bike lanes - some are good, some are bad. It is not sufficient to simply paint them and walk away. They need to be monitored and evaluated in actual use. Usage should be observed and cyclists should be stopped and asked for feedback. If we approach the bike lane question sensibly then we might enable the learning process more effectively. We might then be able to better make needed changes and corrections.

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  • Austin August 4, 2006 at 7:38 am

    Brent,

    Thanks for adding your valuable insight. I think that it is difficult for a lot of us riders to remember what it was like to jump into traffic for the first time.

    You make a great point about observability, and I am wondering what your take is on removing signage in an attempt to make roads safer (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html).

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  • Michael August 4, 2006 at 7:44 am

    Removing signs???? Have you ever experienced this? It is VERY scary. I recently visited Peru where traffic anarchy is a way of life and the bigger the moving object, the more rights it has. (Pedestrians have zero rights.) This kind of driving is not something I would ever want here. No way.

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  • Scott Bricker August 4, 2006 at 8:08 am

    This is a great discussion.

    In our Blueprint for Better Bicycling we found that bicycling in downtown is a top concern of bicyclists in the region (http://www.bta4bikes.org/at_work/blueprint.php.) This includes confident riders that ride east and west of the river, many of them don’t’ want to ride in downtown.

    The City of Portland will be redoing their Central City Transportation Management Plan (in addition to their Bicycle Master Plan.) In this Central City Plan we will have to take a very hard look.... to my knowledge I have not heard any silver bullet solutions.

    I hope we can continue to apply the principles that we learned in our Blueprint. Most cyclists prefer lower traffic streets. Does that mean a Parks Blocks bicycle boulevard? I don't know.

    You can bet the BTA, et. al., will be weighing in on this process hard. I also expect that we will try and facilitate discussions to cull out design solutions.

    Finally, as was well discussed, bicycle lanes have their pros and cons. They can be dangerous, like on Broadway, but they also have so many benefits. For me the fact that bike lanes are not congested is the top benefit of downtown bike lanes. (I hate car congestion when I'm in it.)

    Scott B.
    BTA

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  • Brent Zenobia August 4, 2006 at 8:55 am

    Austin,

    I visited the web site you suggested. Personally, I am horrified by the idea of removing all the traffic signals. I've seen that kind of traffic anarchy in India. There, the traffic doesn't have lanes -- just directions. The general idea is that you should strive not to hit anybody. But what happens when you do? How do you determine whose fault the accident is when there are no rules governing who has the right of way? How would a jury decide such a thing?

    For myself, I would want to look at more than just the accident rate; I would want to dig deeper to understand *why* the accident rate appears to have gone down. I suspect it's because the drivers have become hypervigilant. Hypervigilance is an uncomfortable "jumpy" state on the edge of panic, and is definitely not something you want to encourage.

    Far from "calming" the traffic, these roads may be achieving exactly the opposite: they are producing edgy, nervous drivers who are supercareful because the road is so dangerous. Supercareful driving is why the rate appears to have gone down, but ultimately it's illusory. The reduced accident rate on these roads may be a byproduct of the fact that they're relatively rare. Drivers say to themselves, "Look out, here comes that dangerous roundabout" and for the limited time they're on that stretch of road they take extra precautions. But what happens when such roads become common? People can't maintain hypervigilance indefinitely. As people drop their guard the apparent reduction in accident rate could turn into a sudden sharp increase as drivers become fatigued and unable to maintain their hypervigilance.

    This isn't traffic engineering. It's just idealogy.

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  • Joel August 4, 2006 at 9:08 am

    There are good lanes and bad ones. The good lanes were added by widening the road and striping, thereby giving riders a full lane outside the lane of traffic. This is the case on a lot of roads out here in Hillsboro and Beaverton.

    The bad ones may even have extra space, but are put in next to parking spaces. This is terrible. I refuse to ride in the in the "door zone". Nobody checks the lane before they open their door or pull out. Okay, a few.

    The worst is here in Hillsboro at NE25th and Cornell. One lane goes to a turn lane plus two through lanes, and those jockeying for a position to go through routinely use the bike lane to pass the turning cars. I've nearly been run onto the sidewalk every week - the most recent by a truck from Olson's Cycles. That's right - by BIKE SHOP EMPLOYEES. One of the few cases where the sidewalk may actually be safer.

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  • jami August 4, 2006 at 9:31 am

    dooring and right turns are risks one figures out pretty quickly -- by experience. assuming that a novice rider isn't rocketing along at 20 mph on a brakeless fixie, generally the first lesson in the hazards of the bike lane goes okay.

    i really like bike lanes -- i don't like pissing off drivers -- but they should pretty much always be optional for the many safety reasons discussed here and in the law itself.

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  • Austin August 4, 2006 at 9:32 am

    Brent,

    Thanks for your assessment. So how do you get drivers to overcome their "selective perception" without causing them to become "hyper vigilant"? Is the key for drivers to see the bike lanes or the riders?

    I have noticed that there seem to be a couple of basic modes of driving. The first is the NASCAR highway version, where drivers seem to be gaming the system to get there as fast as possible. And second is the city version, where drivers are constantly on the lookout for bikes, peds, car doors, dogs, cats, runaway livestock, etc. And typically, drivers tend to run into problems when they think that they on the HWY 26 International Raceway, but actually on NW 14th and Everett.

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  • Dabby August 4, 2006 at 12:04 pm

    I love it when one person takes a statement like removing signage, and interprets it as a statement to remove ALL signage.,
    This is either a case of misinterpretation, or manipulating someone else words to your own benefit.
    Drivers can barely deal with signage as is,without adding more to the confusion.
    Bicyclits can barely deal with signage as is, without adding to the confusion.
    Getting drivers to drive properly, and bicyclists to ride properly is the key.
    When you have cars making quick, last second decisions based on a bike being there,it is bad.
    I personally prefer when a car kames no extra decisions or moves in reference to me being near them.
    This means I can watch their eyes, I can more correctly predict what they are going to do, and I can stay alive.
    I have thought this to be true for years, and I still beleive it today.
    Of course, we all need to be more aware. But this is true for not only bicycle/ car relations on the road, but for every other part of life.

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  • Greg August 4, 2006 at 12:08 pm

    Has anyone else noticed that the new police bike safety and theft website says to avoid the 'door zone'? From my experience many of the downtown bike lanes a just that! Can't believe they tell us for our safety to avoid the door zone, but then issue citations when we follow this advice.

    http://www.portlandonline.com/police/index.cfm?c=ecjii

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  • Brent Zenobia August 4, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Dabby,

    You raise a good point -- so I went back to the article on Wired and reread it. Sure enough, the article implies that ALL the signage has been removed:

    "It's a busy junction that doesn't contain a single traffic signal, road sign, or directional marker."

    "The circle is remarkable for what it doesn't contain: signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it's unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins. To an approaching driver, the intersection is utterly ambiguous - and that's the point."

    I always make sure I make eye contact with drivers as I negotiate an intersection. The signless approach assumes drivers are paying attention. But what if that assumption is flawed? What about drivers who are yakking on cellphones? Who pays the price then?

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  • Roger Geller August 4, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    In my professional capacity I appreciate bike lanes (and all the facilities we've built) because I've seen the increase in ridership that correlates with having them.

    On a personal level I appreicate them even more. Here's a story about my first experience with a bicycle lane: In 1992 I moved here with my family from Somerville, MA (an urban burb of Boston). I rode my bike to work in Downtown Boston almost every day (not in winter). I was perfectly comfortable with this--I had my speedy road bike, I had my cleated shoes, I had my lycra. Life was good.

    Soon after moving here I took a ride (same bike, lycra, shoes, etc.) up to Marine Drive and came back south via some street and ended up on Burnside where I entered a bike lane...and I relaxed. I noticed the feeling of relaxation because it was so unexpected and so foreign. I never realized I'd been tense riding a bicycle. I just rode. Everywhere. But, when I hit that bicycle lane I noted this distinctly unknown feeling I was having. I wasn't totally relaxed; I was still on the street after all. But, I no longer worried about the cars behind me. I no longer worried about holding up those people stuck behind me. I no longer worried as much about somebody doing something rash. It was a revelation.

    Here's another story: once I started working in Downtown Portland I commuted from NE down NE Broadway. I put on the same lycra, shoes, same speedy road bike, and rode fast down Broadway--keeping up with traffic--running red lights to stay ahead of the queue. I made good time. I was also typically the only cyclist on the road or Broadway Bridge at the time. Of course, there were other cyclists, but we were so small in numbers and scattered across time that I saw them infrequently during the 14 minutes it took me to get to work. Then, the City striped Broadway with a bicycle lane. I started riding slower. I wore regular work clothing. I got a more comfortable hybrid and ditched the speedy road bike for commuting. I no longer needed a shower when I got to work. I no longer needed to change my clothes. The ride was much more pleasant for a number of reasons. Now, repeat this scenario several hundred more times (and then some) and you've got a pretty good explanation for why bicycling has increased so much. For, more importantly, I was no longer the only cyclist out there on my daily commute. Now, I'm never the only cyclist--even in the dead of winter. Is this attributable to the presence of bicycle lanes on Broadway and good facilities elsewhere. Yep.

    Are bicycle lanes the end-all and be-all? No. Here's my take on the SW Broadway bicycle lane (which I have ridden daily for years and have never had anything even close to a safety problem with it) and other bicycle lanes: an analogy to motoring is apt here, I think.

    Automobiles are capable of going quite fast. People want to go as fast as conditions allow, and often faster. Hence, the source of much conflict between people driving cars and people in nhoods, etc. While it's fine to go 60 mph on the freeway, we want autos to travel significantly slower on urban arterials and residential streets, even though the design of these streets would seem to allow for high speeds. Why do we want them to go slower? Because conditions merit slower speeds for safety. There are pedestrians, cyclists, other motorists and high speeds result in dangerous conditions.

    Similarly, some bikeways allow for cyclists to go as fast as they can. Some don't. SW Broadway is one of those situations where cyclists cannot go as fast as they'd like. The travel lanes are narrow. The bicycle lane is narrow. There is a lot of parking activity. There are a lot of turning movements. It's a dense, heavily-used urban environment with a lot of activity. These are all cues that cyclists should adapt their speed to the conditions on the roadway. That's what we want motorists to do, right?

    Almost every morning I see cyclists on NW and SW Broadway doing just the stupidest things--just like I see motorists doing the stupidest things. Things that are unsafe, inconsiderate, illegal, etc. These things are generally done in the name of speed--saving time, which is ironic because I usually catch up with these cyclists (and motorists) at the next red light down the road.

    While I recognize that the presence of bicycle lanes are going to offer some disadvantage to the strong and skilled cyclists among us, they also allow more of us to use a bicycle for transportation. The bicycle lanes on SW Broadway are not dangerous. Behavior poorly adapted to the conditions on the roadway is what is dangerous.

    Go slow on Broadway and you won't have a problem. If you want to go fast, then perhaps the state law needs to be changed so you can legally take the lane even in the presence of a bicycle lane. That way, those who want to safely go fast, and who are capable of it, can be in the travel lane, while those who benefit from the bicycle lane can go slowly.

    Whaddaya think?

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  • Michael August 4, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    One place intersection anarchy might work in Portland - SE 60th and Belmont. During any kind of peak usage it is very congested. If there were fewer rules there the traffic could move through easier and faster.

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  • Roger Geller August 4, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Regarding the crash history of the bicycle lane on SW Broadway, following is an email I wrote in July, 2005 reporting on an analysis of the bicycle crash history on Broadway. Keep in mind these are reported crashes only and don't take into account crashes that are not reported (such as minor doorings, etc.)

    Roger

    In response to a similar concern expressed by one of our Bicycle Advisory Committee members at July's monthly meeting, I took a look at reported bicycle crashes on SW Broadway between January 1, 1991 and December 31, 2002 (the latest year for which we have crash data).

    During these 12 years there were 23 reported bicycle crashes either on Broadway or at an intersection with Broadway. Of these 23, only three occurred after the bicycle lane was striped (lanes were striped on Broadway south of Jefferson in 1997; the lane between Burnside and Jefferson was added in 2002). In only eleven of the 23 crashes were cyclists traveling along Broadway. Of these 11 crashes: two were "doorings" (occuring in 1992 and 1993); one was a sideswipe (motorist made an improper lane change--1999); in two cases cyclists either ran a stop sign or signal (2002, and 1995, respectively); in one the motorist ran a signal (2002); one was an angle collision, in which a motorist made an improper turn (2001); in one a motorist was improperly backing up (1994); and three collisions were "right-hooks" (1997, 1998, and 1999). In two of the eleven crashes the cyclists were clearly at fault. The nine remaining crashes with cyclists traveling on Broadway occurred at these cross-streets: Oak, Washington, Taylor, Burnside, Clay, and unknown (4).

    Several years ago Cambridge, Massachusetts experienced similar concern about one of their newly striped bicycle lanes when a cyclist ran into an opened door, lost control, spilled into the adjacent travel lane and was run over by a car. In response to concerns that the bicycle lane was unsafe the City of Cambridge undertook a comprehensive study to investigate how cylcists position themselves relative to parked cars in the presence and absence of bicycle lanes. They found that in the absence of bicycle lanes cyclists position themselves closer to parked cars than when using a bicycle lane. Based on this, they concluded that it is better to provide bicycle lanes than not. Cambridge's study, which was recently accepted for publication by the National Academies' Transportation Research Board, is available at: http://www.cambridgema.gov/~CDD/et/bike/bike_lanes.html#hamp.

    I also have available a study evaluating bicycle lanes adjacent to motor vehicle parking in Florida in 1999 that was prepared by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. This center is one of the premier bicycle and pedestrian research centers in the country. They found that narrowing travel lanes to stripe bicycle lanes next to parallel parking is "successful" in terms of encouraging cycling and providing a safe riding environment. This includes 4.5 foot bicycle lanes adjacent to 10.5 foot travel lanes, as found on Broadway.

    Also regarding safety, a 2003 study in the journal Injury Prevention concluded that "a motorist is less likely to collide with a person walking and bicycling when there are more people walking or bicycling." To the extent that bicycle lanes have been effective in encouraging increased bicycling, they also promote safety for bicyclists.

    Of course, experienced, strong and confident cyclists will comfortably negotiate urban streets without a bicycle lane by "taking the lane," i.e., riding in the middle of the travel lane. But the experienced, strong and confident are relatively few. As our count data has demonstrated over the years, more people are encouraged to bicycle by the presence of bicycle facilities (daily bicycle trips on the Broadway Bridge have grown from 755 in 1992 to 2,081 this year. Some of the most dramatic growth in trips across the bridge occurred following the striping of the SW Broadway bicycle lane. Removing this bicycle lane would likely have the effect of discouraging bicycle trips to the Downtown.

    Without doubt our attention to conditions on Broadway are rightly focused by the recent tragedy of a traffic fatality. While conditions on Broadway are tight, I have never seen the type of problems described here, and I ride that route every day. What is important where bicycle lanes, travel lanes, and parking lanes are narrow, as they are on Broadway, is that cyclists ride slower than they might streets with both wider bicycle lanes and less activity. Perhaps it's somewhat analogous to motorists needing to slow down when driving on local streets compared to arterials. Keep in mind that nobody at PDOT has yet seen the complete traffic investigation regarding the recent cyclist fatality on Broadway. Once it is in hand we will certainly carefully evaluate what happened, see if it fits any type of pattern, and try to improve conditions if we can.

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  • jami August 4, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    roger, i don't know if bike lane law needs to be changed. i think the police just need to be clearer on what the law is. on the stretch of broadway bike lane most of us consider a problem (because cars are parked in it at least 75% of the time), there's clearly an exception in the law allowing you to take a lane. and in a courtroom, any reasonable judge would say that hey sure you know that part's coming, you can get over a block or two in advance. but should we really have the hassle of going to court for something common-sense like avoiding the constant obstacles created by the benson hotel? no. the police should just know that bikes very rarely are required to be in any bike lane, because there's always some hazard or other. it's the nature of biking.

    next time i'm biking home from powell's, i'll make a point of taking my time in the lane near the benson's extra parking spaces in the middle of broadway there. perhaps if a lot of bicyclists slow traffic there for long enough, the city will decide that the benson really shouldn't make a policy of screwing up the traffic plan, breaking the law (it must be illegal to repeatedly, intentionally park in the bike lane!), and endangering bikes like it does.

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  • Scott Bricker August 4, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    Simplistically - life evolves, so does Broadway, and so do I. I agree that the nature (and safety) of Broadway have changed since the number of bicyclists have tripled. I retract saying that Broadway was dangerous (in my previous post), rather there are many hazards and bicyclists must be very cognizant of them. Contrary to Roger, I ride Broadway when I want to get downtown quickly; on my suit and tie days I take the Park blocks or 9th Avenue.

    The bike lane is good. (In fact Roger please replace the piece of the bike lane that was removed when the bridges were under construction.) Ride them safely and be alert; take the lane when you need to, yes it’s legal as of 1/1/06. Ride on the Park Blocks if you want a mellow ride.

    Scott
    BTA

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  • Russell August 4, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    Roger,

    I can see the rationale for Broadway being stripped. My concerns about Broadway are two-fold: The first problem is not with the bike lane per say, but with the law that forces all bicyclists into that lane. If the lane were an option rather than a forced issue, I wouldn’t mind it. It shouldn’t cost me $242 to choose not to be sandwiched in a spot that isn’t safe at speed. Secondly and related to that, why should I ride that street slower in the bike lane when I could ride with traffic in the traffic lane? Slow down is probably good advice to avoid getting doored in the bike lane, but I’d rather avoid getting doored by not being there in the first place.

    I avoid Broadway when practical, so I’ll admit my experience is less than many who’ve posted. I’m only on that street once a week or less. I can’t think of a trip I’ve ridden the road where I haven’t had to leave the bike lane to avoid a taxi or a parked car however. Usually it’s not too difficult to navigate, but it’s annoying – and it’s another reason the bike lane would be better off being an option rather than the law.

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  • Russell August 4, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    Opps, I read your second post before your first post.

    Whaddaya think?

    I think the law needs to be changed.

    ...and I like showing up to work sweaty.

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  • Preston August 4, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    I think the reason you see so few crashes on SW Broadway is because cyclists smartly leave the bike lane and take the right lane. The bike lane didn't fix a problem that does indeed exist. The bike lane simply created a scenario where I can get fined for protecting myself.

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  • Randy August 4, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    I doubt most doorings on SW Broadway are ever reported - even relatively serious ones.

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  • John August 4, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    Donna asks:

    "I’m confused. If leaving the bike lane to make a left turn (or for any other reason) is not allowed, then what does this passage from ORS 814.420 mean?"

    Donna, what it means is the police and judges are free to second-guess your decision to leave the bike lane. Passing? You're on a bike - slow down. 200 feet before the intersection? That's too far away to be preparing for a left turn. The officer will state that you're in the wrong and the exemptions do not apply, the judge will agree, and you will get to pay $250.

    Brett, didn't mean to "hose" you. It's guys like Jeff Smith who deserve the hosing, and it looks like he's getting it thanks to the Portland PD. Maybe after he's done paying his fine he can send me a $50 check to cover my ticket for failing to use a bike path. Of course, MY solution was getting the ordinance struck down, not asking for more bike paths.

    It's the sheer stupidity that angers me. The stupidity of demanding special facilities that, good or bad, EVERYONE is FORCED to use. Maybe the "bicycle advocates" should spend their energy getting these laws off the books.

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  • joe August 4, 2006 at 9:02 pm

    what the hell is up with portland in the last few months, it's like we are getting shit on from every angle

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  • Randy August 4, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    Roger Geller is right by sheer volume of verbiage. See, he's convinced Scott Bricker to change his mind, so don't expect any help from the BTA, the status quo is GOOD, no existing bike lanes will be reassessed for safety and more unsafe bike lanes will continue to be built.

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  • Donna August 5, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    Roger,

    With all due respect, how can you come to conclusions about SW Broadway bike lane safety based on the accident statistics when the police systemically refuse to investigate collisions involving bicycles?

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  • Steve August 5, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    Just a question, not an observation: Has there been any noticeable increase in police ticketing of cyclists since mayor Potter took command? Was it this bad under mayor Katz?

    He was a cop at one time. Maybe he doesn't like cyclists and is telling the cops to do this excessive policing of cyclists? Just a thought, not an observation.

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  • Tree August 6, 2006 at 12:09 am

    Mayor Potter is a bicyclist, no way is he against cyclists.
    Roger, you can bike slower, but if someone opens their car door right in front of you, you can still get hurt or fall over if your pedals are clipless. I speak from experience - on SW Broadway at that! Even though I think bike lanes can be dangerous, I still prefer to have them because often times you can pass the cars stuck in traffic, and I'd rather do that than sit behind them and wait. More and more drivers learn about yielding to the bike lane. It seems like the professional drivers of diesel delivery trucks, commercial bus lines and, hello!, TAXI CABS, are the biggest hazard.

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  • Michael August 6, 2006 at 6:19 am

    Commercial vehicle vilations can be reported to ODOT which is supposed to take reports seriously.

    More info on the old blog entry: http://bikeportland.org/?p=535

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  • Dabby August 6, 2006 at 11:27 am

    The notable icrease has occured, as I have already pointed out, when the new police chief took over over.
    I ask again, is it better to target and profile the citizens you rely on to get buisness done in Portland, as the new chief is doing? may be doing?
    Or to come onto someone you are working with, as our past chief did?
    Which is the lesser of crimes?
    TO me, while I agree that it is bad, and should not be done, we all know the desire we may get for another person. This can be overwhelming.
    But, the desire to target and , though strangely fitting words, racially profile groups by the police is a far worse crime, and proof of encouraging this, due to hate crime laws, should be dealt with by assigning jail time.

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  • Dabby August 6, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Also, I agree witht the statement that the police refuse and ignore investigations inot bicycling related accidents, unless there is serious injury or death.
    This is a fact.
    This fact skews the stats on this matter.
    But, really, we should not be basing any of this on statistical information.
    The majority of stats gathered for any certain purpose, are gathered by a company being paid to look out for the best interest of financial gain, or to get someone out of trouble...

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  • SKiDmark August 6, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    Bike lanes, for the most part are very safe. The one on Broadway is suicide. You have people exiting parked cars and cars and trucks trying to get across the bike lane to park and going across the bike to get back into traffic. Bike lanes really only work on streets where there isn't parallel parking.

    The biggest problem with bike lanes that I see is that uneducated car drivers think that we are only allowed in bike lanes and have no right to be in the street otherwise.

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  • Randy August 6, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    "The biggest problem with bike lanes that I see is that uneducated car drivers think that we are only allowed in bike lanes and have no right to be in the street otherwise."

    Cops seem to think the same thing.

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  • watergirl August 7, 2006 at 6:13 am

    If the PPB wants to do an enforcement action, why don't they visit the bike lanes on Naito, by McCormick Pier, on a Saturday around 8am? The lanes are filled with jog-walkers, even though there's a sidewalk. Same up on Willamette Blvd, just south of UP in the early evening. Nothing is more fun than having a runner block the bike lane while a bus is tailgating you.

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  • Ian August 9, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    I worked for two summers in Eindhoven, NL. I biked *everywhere* and the bike infrastructure was the finest I have ever seen. Most notable was the full separation of the "fietspad" from both the sidewalk and the main motorways, as noted in the following image.

    http://flickr.com/photos/susan18/117355272/

    I would like to see more separated bikeways designed like this in the Portland area.

    Ian

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  • Ian August 9, 2006 at 1:26 pm

    And here's a little more of what I'm talking about, this time from Amsterdam:

    http://flickr.com/photos/ngroody/195793608/in/set-72157594208274300/

    Note the stratification: car lane - parking (if any) - bike lane - sidewalk - storefronts.

    (Also note the typically Dutch sight of the lady riding sidesaddle on the cargo rack. Charming!)

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  • Steve August 9, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    Portland cops would give the cyclist in the photo (of post # 82) a ticket for two riders on a bicycle.

    However, I do like the looks of that bike lane in the photo. That same setup might cost money to implement here and that could make it difficult to duplicate.

    What could be done here is to have some existing one-way streets through downtown modified so that in one lane only cyclists are allowed. Maybe one or two streets going N/S and one or two going E/W. Allow few or no turns from the car lane crossing the bike lane - just like is now the case on Burnside for cars - usually you can't make a left, you have to go around the block (3 rights). If it works out OK, then maybe it could be done in more places. It shouldn't be too big of a deal to try it as an experiment at least on one or two streets......BUT, DON'T DO IT IF THE IDIOTS IN CITY HALL WILL THEN SAY THAT IF YOU GET OUT OFF THOSE STREETS YOU WILL GET A TICKET!!!!!!!!!

    There might be some resistance to the idea from some in the downtown area, but it should be a piece of cake to do in residential areas.

    Or, in residential areas there could be some streets where NO CARS are allowed except for those people who live on those streets: they would be allowed to drive on those streets for less than one block just to get to their house. Most people would BEG to live on such a street just to get away from the noise of motorized vehicles. PLEASE, MAKE ALL THE STREETS NEAR MY HOUSE BIKE BOULEVARDS THAT ARE FOR CYCLISTS AND RESIDENTS ONLY! NO THROUGH TRAFFIC ALLOWED! YES! YES! YES!

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  • Steve August 9, 2006 at 10:42 pm

    When did the police start their excessive ticketing of bicycles? Any data on that?

    Any idea about what started it?

    Are the ticket writing cops usually riding bicycles? If so, can you outrun them? They're on mountain bikes, right?

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  • Frank August 10, 2006 at 9:25 am

    Has anyone seen the video rendering of the max on the bus mall? The bike lane is put between the car traffic and max/bus traffic. How safe is that? I believe bike lanes create a false sense of security. I do not seek them out. I prefer the most direct route. I have no problem riding in traffic. If you're going to create a space for bikes that is seperate from normal lanes then you can't possible expect the laws governing normal lanes to apply. It just doesn't make sense. "Oh, here's a space for you, but you need to pretend you're a 12ton car" Thanks city of portland!

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  • adam August 10, 2006 at 10:33 am

    bike lanes need to be twice as wide as they are now.

    I like the lanes but I am always aware of the dooring, car parking and cars unparking so
    I can stay safe.

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  • Paul Tay September 10, 2006 at 7:01 pm

    Bike lanes: Seperate and UNequal. Roadway ghetto.

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  • [...] The idea that typical bike lanes (usually sandwiched between motor vehicle traffic and parked cars) offer little more than a false sense of security is something that has sparked considerable debate on this site. My post, “Are bike lanes a haven or a hazard?” (which has 87 comments so far) was written to address the growing concern over bike lanes on SW Broadway Blvd. in downtown Portland. This bike lane is notorious (to the point of being avoided by many cyclists) not just because of a fatality in it a few years back, but because trucks, cabs and cars from hotels and businesses constantly disregard it as a legitimate traffic lane. [...]

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  • Ken June 28, 2012 at 7:39 am

    I'm sorry. People are dying, getting hurt and tentions are rising. Bicyclists are provoking drivers by slapping cars and calling people names. I have a bike and I ride it the park for a reason. The business culture as well as the toursim culture of NYC streets requires that vehicular traffic be given the priority that it deserves. It is more likely that drivers rather than cyclists create the lions of GDP in NYC. Cycling may be environmentally friendly, but such riders are not likey to be going to places to spend money which increases GDP. Parties of four are not going to restuarants, purchasing large items or even going to work. They are for the most part engaging in recreatioinal activities. With malls and rediculous turning lanes the mayorand city council has chocked the traffic chicken to death, resulting in massive delays and excessive idling. Ooops there goes the blow back unintended consequences negating the entire purpose. It looks nice but doesn't function very well and simply creates a false sense that it is safe and environmently sound urban policy. The traffic is so bad from this boondoggle of a policy, that at times emergency vehicles seem to almost give up in efforts to get to the sick and injured. Well at least the place will look good. The stupidity just continues. In two years this life long New Yorker will retire and hopefully find sanity somewhere else, leaving the city to poor bikers who get killed and motorists who get sued and lawyers who get rich. I say, if you want ride on the rode get insurance, register your bike, pay your tickets and hope you don't get killed.

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    • Over and Doubt June 28, 2012 at 11:08 am

      Er, Ken? You do realize you're on BikePortland, not BikeNYC? Not that we don't have some of the same symptoms sometimes, but things sound pretty grim back east.

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