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A look at the “hotel zone” bike lanes

Posted by on November 1st, 2006 at 3:07 pm

Hotel zone bike lane

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the new “hotel zone” bike lane markings on SW Broadway in front of the Heathman and Benson Hotels.

Since that post I’ve been observing both hotels to see how quickly they try to remove vehicles from the bike lane and how proactive they are in preventing encroachment in the first place.

First, let’s face the facts. Having a bike lane in these areas is not an ideal situation for anyone involved.

To the hotel staff, it’s just a nuisance, to their guests, it’s likely they don’t even know its there, and for cyclists, it presents a choice between slowing, stopping and waiting, or merging with downtown motor vehicle traffic for a few yards.

To me, it’s a matter of respect. As long as the bike lane exists, I think it’s only fair to expect that bicycle traffic is given the same consideration as the motor vehicle traffic.

Here are photos of both hotel bike lanes in action:

Hotel zone bike lane Heathman Hotel bike lane
[Benson Hotel (L) Heathman Hotel (R)]

On the left is the Benson Hotel, who I found to repeatedly leave motor vehicles in the bike lane. Small buses, taxis, and private vehicles regularly obstruct the bike lane for far longer than “momentarily,” which is what the law allows (ORS 811.560 says vehicles are exempt from staying out of the bike lane only when, “standing or parked momentarily for the purpose of and while actually engaged in loading or unloading property or passengers”).

On the right is the Heathman, who I found to be going out of their way to keep cars out of the bike lane. I was shocked to see that a valet had the cars parked in the motor vehicle lane with their hazard lights on, keeping the bike lane free and clear.

The valet actually told me that city parking enforcement regularly tickets motor vehicles that are in the bike lane. Cool.

I think some day these bike lanes will be removed or dramatically re-configured (although it will take some innovative thinking and guts to make this happen). Until then, remember to use extra caution in these areas.

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Comments
  • Jeff November 1, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    Hmm. I’ll just keep riding in one of the auto lanes. Even if the cars are double-parked in the auto lane with their hazards flashing, there’s still a good chance of getting doored.

    … Or, I’ll just ride down SW 3rd. Traffic stinks but I’m a lot less likely to get hit, doored, or yelled at.

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  • Bjorn November 1, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    I had a door opened into me from the left by a tinted out windows limo in the right hand auto lane. I’ll ride around the left from now on. There isn’t anywhere to go when there are cars on both sides and the door comes open blocking the lane.

    Bjorn

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  • Sarah Bott November 1, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    I ride this route most days to work. It has been my observation that the situation for cyclists is much worse in front of the Benson.

    On most occasions, Benson staff have not attempted to move out of the bike lane or get their clients to close their doors, even as cyclists approach. I have the feeling they are courting the customer to get the tip and to hell with the cyclist!

    Up the road at the Heathman, I find a different situation, with aware and courteous bell hops who try to accommodate cyclists.

    I understand it must be very difficult for the hotels to have drive up and drive away traffic and in the middle of it “have to” accomodate cyclists, but the fact of the matter is, we’re all in it together and need to find a way to get along. Hopefully peacefully and without a lot of cursing and obnoxious behavior or accidents on either end.

    I find it disturbing to see so many cyclists exhibit a lot of anger at the hotels and be very cycle-centric. Because I see a lot, a lot, a lot of “bad bike etiquette” on my daily commute as well. I’m talking about passing closely without signalling, cutting off other cyclists, running lights, and essentially acting like Portland streets are PIR for lawless cyclists.

    My point is, there’s room for improvement for all of us.

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  • Jeff S November 1, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    Yeah, I’m with Bjorn — I have no desire to run a bike lane gauntlet between parked cars on both the right (legally parked) & left (double parked). Better they just double park in the bike lane, and i can skirt around to their left in the half-a-lane that’s left over…no merge necessary, because autos can’t use it…

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  • Cate November 1, 2006 at 8:42 pm

    I totally agree with Jonathan and Sarah – there’s a world of difference between Benson and Heathman employees. As long as the Benson has the City in their back pocket, it will probably stay that way.

    Although bike lanes on Broadway are not the optimal solution, I wonder if the City can think beyond. (Did you notice in the Enrique Penalosa YouTube video how even in NYC the bike lanes are on the left side of the one way street?) Sam says he’s willing to put “crazy” ideas on the table, but where are they? Does the City have, as Jonathan said, the “innovative thinking and guts to make this happen”? I haven’t seen it…

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  • andrew morton November 1, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    hehe, good to know that the heathman has gotten tickets. i know i’ve been late for class several days because i’ve stopped to call the parking enforcement line and report their cars.

    put the number on your cell phone: 503-823-5195 they actually show up pretty quick and pass out the tickets.

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  • colin November 1, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    even worse than the benson is the underground parking garage on broadway and stark. i bike down sw broadway from the bridge to PSU five days a week and the other two for work. it’s not uncommon at all for someone to make a quick right (through the bike lane) without signaling into that garage.

    a couple weeks ago, i was following another cyclist near that intersection when a van swerved (not signaling) and nearly hit the other cyclist. as i passed it on the left, it was still in bike lane, i smacked the rear window with an open hand. i didn’t do any damage, it wasn’t my intent to, but the satisfyingly loud sound was definitely heard by the driver (who had their window open).

    that’s the scariest part of the ride for me. if it’s particularly busy, i’ll sometimes forgo the bike lane for the length of ankeny to alder and just take the regular street lane.

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  • Michael November 2, 2006 at 10:04 am

    I would still like to know if this bike lane, and all the others, have gone through the public hearing process that is required in order to enforce their use.

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  • Jessica Roberts November 2, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    I don’t ride it enough to have an opinion, but if you agrees that the Heathman is making an effort to find a working compromise, it would make a huge difference if you would write them a note thanking them.

    I don’t know who you’d address it to (General Manager?), but here’s the mailing address:

    Heathman Hotel
    1001 SW Broadway
    Portland, OR 97205

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  • Cate November 2, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    Great idea, Jessica. Here’s a link:

    http://www.heathmanhotel.com/hotel_information/contact/

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  • andrew morton November 2, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    colin, i think that parking garage you’re talking about is where the benson vallets parks their cars.

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  • Sarah Bott November 2, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    Jessica, I think thanking the Heathman is a great idea. This post is timely because I had been observing the remarkable difference between the two hotels for the past year.

    I’m going to send an email myself.

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  • Macaroni November 2, 2006 at 11:41 pm

    On SW Broadway everybody seems to have their preference whether it’s going around the left of a car in the bike lane or around the right of it, or riding in the auto lane vs the bike lane with occasional impediments, or wanting cars to block the bike lane rather than the car lane (I personally never like seeing cars in bike lanes)…it doesn’t matter which option one chooses, there can be a close encounter any which way. It must be hard to please us bicyclists because there are so many differences of opinion. I think the law should decide.

    I will say that about a week after the hotel markings were put in the bike lane I noticed the lane in front of the Benson was empty every morning. I thought maybe they were having people bring their cars around the corner but it sounds like the cars are being moved sooner. So, that’s a huge improvement.

    I agree that cars turning into the parking garage can be an issue, I just keep my eye on them and assert myself by yelling out (not angrily) “bike lane” or some such, so the driver wakes up.

    On a different note, one good thing that comes about because of all the rain is that all the amateurs are staying home. I saw about 2 bicyclists this a.m. It’s awesome when there are tons of bikers out, but I don’t miss red light runners, knuckleheads without lights (fine if you want to endanger yourself, but if I can’t see you, you are endangering my life) or lane hogs who think they’re the only ones on the road – move over if you’re sight seeing, please.

    I live in NE Portland and bike downtown everyday. So many drivers I come upon are generous and share the road, usually letting me go first, etc. It feels good to once in a while let the driver go first, to not let the adrenalin override courtesy. But I only do this if the the rule of the road isn’t being broken because I think it’s very important to be consistent, and that’s one major reason why it ticks me off when a bicyclist in front of me lets or encourages a car to cross the bike lane in front of them because they are afraid to pass it – one day that same driver might cut across in front of someone else and kill her or him.

    Ahhhhh…………………good night.

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  • Cate November 6, 2006 at 10:00 am

    I received this nice response from The Heathman:

    Cate:

    Thank you for your email and I will pass this along to the front. We try our best to accommodate all and since we are part of the downtown core of businesses, it is very important for us to ensure that all individuals respect each other.

    Sincerely:

    Stephen R. Galvan
    Director of Sales & Marketing
    The Heathman Hotel
    1001 SW Broadway
    Portland, OR 97205
    (503) 790.7113 / Fax (503) 790.7111
    SGalvan@heathmanhotel.com

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