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Cyclists say Vancouver/Williams are city’s best bike lanes

Posted by on July 13th, 2007 at 8:48 am

Hottest Day of the Year Ride
Bike lane on N. Vancouver Ave.
(File photo)

At the Platinum Bicycle Master Plan Steering Committee meeting yesterday, city bike coordinator Roger Geller shared results of feedback received at the recent series of Bike Master Plan open houses.

At each of three workshops, the 176 attendees were asked to list what they felt were the best and worst bike lanes in the city.

Winning by a landslide was N. Vancouver Avenue, followed by its close friend N. Williams Avenue.

It should come as no surprise that the bike lanes on N. Vancouver are the widest in the city at nearly 6 1/2 feet wide, which is sufficient width for two cyclists to ride side-by-side and is the same width Geller hopes to make the city standard in the future.

The two streets form a crucial couplet for north-south commuters and they’ve become bike thoroughfares during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

Besides great bike lanes, the Vancouver/Williams corridor was the focus of a major traffic safety improvement effort by PDOT last May.

What was rated worst?

The infamous West Broadway bike lane in downtown Portland. Home to the former Martini Bike Lane Guy and the dubious “Hotel Zone”, this bike lane is so unsafe many cyclists don’t even use it. The photos below tell the reason why.

Hotel zone bike lane
Hotel zone bike lane

What’s your take? Do you know of a better bike lane than N. Vancouver…or one that’s worse than W. Broadway?

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  • DK July 13, 2007 at 9:18 am

    I agree with Gellers\’ findings. Add to the fact that even well marked bike lanes throughout downtown are so abused by drivers, they all have a tendency to be unsafe during rush hours.

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  • jeff July 13, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Vancouver is great, but Williams is not IMO – lot\’s of parked traffic on the right, vehicles that frequently block the bike lane, construction that hampers visibility of cross streets, lot\’s of cyclists during rush hours, and of course – the impatient traffic trying to cross or merge Williams after exiting 405 at every side street within a few blocks of Fremont. I\’ve seen many close calls with car doors, and many near vehicle accidents with the 405 merge.

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  • Anonymous July 13, 2007 at 9:29 am

    I love Vancouver/Williams, except that a slowpoke like me has to stop at almost every light on both of those streets. I can\’t wait to get a better bike so I can make those lights!

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  • Tonya July 13, 2007 at 9:29 am

    I love Vancouver/Williams, except that a slowpoke like me has to stop at almost every light on both of those streets. I can\’t wait to get a better bike so I can make those lights!

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  • Jeff July 13, 2007 at 9:42 am

    The worst bike lane I regularly ride is from on Jefferson from SW Park to the Goose hollow MAX.

    Before 405 the buses are often pulling through to let people off. When they stop, the bike lane is blocked. There are often buses just idling on break in the bike lane on Jefferson and 10th (or 11th, I forget). Past 405 the pavement is rippled like a mild washboard so it\’s very unstable riding. With the construction that blocks the bike lane at SW 18th, everyone just uses the left side of the road instead.

    Maybe that bike line on Jefferson should go up the left side all the way from SW 1st.

    I still don\’t completely understand the correct and safe way to get from the bike lane to the MAX at that intersection of 18th and Jefferson.

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  • tonyt July 13, 2007 at 9:43 am

    N. Vancouver the best ????

    Okay, I just don\’t get it.

    I quit riding on Vancouver years ago after the constant car-passes-you-then-turns-right-in-front-of-you got to be more than I wanted to deal with. Practically every freakin\’ day it happened.

    It\’s actually one of the streets that I recommend that my newbie friends avoid.

    I\’ve seen the PDOT improvement and it helps, but I don\’t know. The best?

    Certainly it\’s popular and no doubt the volume of people who ride it contributed to its ranking, but does that make it the best? Is American Idol really the best show on television?

    What about safety? How about navigation through intersections? Aren\’t there more independent/objective ways of assessing and ranking?

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  • Joe July 13, 2007 at 10:21 am

    I enjoy the Vancouver/Williams bikeways. Hopefully some day we can reduce the auto lanes to just one in each direction for the full length of the streets when bike traffic increases enough. At times, there is certainly more bikes than can fit in a bike lane, but probably not enough yet to warrant widening the lanes just yet.

    SW/NW Broadway definitely the worst. It\’s more narrow than Vancouver/Williams and in a higher conflict area. I brave it on occasion.

    On occasion, I do experience an automobile passing on my left and making a right turn in front of me. Actually, i\’m surprised that the majority of the times, the driver will wait for me to pass before making the turn, and other times they safely turn in front of me without incident. I do slow down a bit if I see a car attempting to make a turn and don\’t mind doing so because it\’s the safe thing to do. I don\’t see other bicyclists slowing down in those circumstances and wonder if they actually speed up to create a conflict with the turning car to assert their \”right\” to the lane? I don\’t mind an occasional car in the bike lane because bikes more often are in the auto lanes, which is perceived as slowing traffic. I try to hold the \”share the road\” mentality when i\’m riding and wish more people would do the same, cyclists and automobile drivers..

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  • Go Rodney! July 13, 2007 at 10:24 am

    If you don\’t like Williams, check out Rodney. It\’s a great alternative to Williams, particularly if you\’re riding with a friend. It\’s much easier to hold a conversation on Rodney, a low-traffic street. You have to jog at Skidmore, but other than that it\’s smooth sailing straight north.

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  • tonyt July 13, 2007 at 10:44 am

    I prefer Michigan as a North/South route. It\’s more in my neighborhood, than Rodney, and is super chill.

    Rodney is nice though.

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  • Zig July 13, 2007 at 11:22 am

    I\’m not a fan of bike lanes that are filled with glass and other debris, which have caused me 4 flats so far this year. Culprits include SW Multnomah Blvd (an otherwise very nice set of bike lanes), SW Barbur Blvd, and NW St Helens Road.

    The problems are firstly, the imbeciles who through glass bottles out car windows, and secondly, street sweepers that sometimes sweep auto lane debris into the bike lane.

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  • Kirsty July 13, 2007 at 11:26 am

    PDOT and PDC have recently completed the first phase of transportation improvements along the Vancouver Williams corridor – primarily the striping of new pedestrian crosswalks, he addition of an extended crosswalk at Legacy Emanuel, tand the restriping and realigning at conflict intersections of the bikelanes.

    To celebrate, we\’ll be having a Vancouver Williams Share the Road event, Weds evening from 5:30 – 7:30pm on July 25th, at Dawson Park. Feel free to swing on by – there will be ice-cream for the first 200 folks to do so; free \”I Share the Road\” stickers; and Legacy Emanuel Trauma Nurses Talk Tough\’s five dollar bike helmet booth. We will also have a survey on speeding for folks to fill out, to help PDOT determine how to address this issue along a corridor that is heavily used by motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

    And it\’s all happening at the same time as the Dawson Park\’s summer Concert in the Park. We hope to see you there!

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  • Jessica Roberts July 13, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Zig (and everyone), call 823-1700 to request sweeping of bike lanes within the City of Portland. I usually find that they send out a sweeper truck within 48 hours. But they\’re cutting routine sweeping because of the PDOT budget crisis, so if you don\’t call, don\’t count on the sweeping fairy to come along and take care of it.

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  • Carrie July 13, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    Williams sucks!! There are buses and cars passing at high speeds, the bike lane is super narrow at times and lots of cyclists are just trying to get home. And the debris, always glass and other random items in the bike lane. I also prefer Rodney for the more mellow, relaxed commute home. For years I have been wishing for an overhaul to Williams. How about widening the bike lane all the way up to Portland Boulevard, and cutting the car lane down to 1? :)

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  • Zig July 13, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Rodney is nice, except for all of the stop signs.

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  • Jessica Roberts July 13, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    And the spots where you have to cross big streets with no help, like Fremont, Killingsworth, and Rosa Parks/Portland.

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  • peder horner July 13, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    I live on Vancouver, and my two favorite things about it are:

    1) Biking to work (OHSU) via Vancouver (Broadway isn\’t so nice, but it\’s quick and a straight shot)

    2) Watching all the cool bikes pass by from my front porch in the morning/evenings. I even saw two film crews filming cyclists on our street about a month ago.

    I say, \”More streets like Vancouver!\”

    Velo!

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  • aaron July 13, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    When I lived off of NE Ainsworth commuting downtown early in the morning via Vancouver was hands down the best part of my day!

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  • Todd July 13, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    I love the Williams / Vancouver! I use it everyday to and from work. The best part is that there are so many bikes out there that drivers know to expect us! I feel safest on that street. Its the only safe mild climb to get to the top of NE PDX too. After almost getting hit by an angry driver on NE 22nd I changed my commute to Williams and its a welcome sigh of relief espically after braving Lovejoy.

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  • Donald July 13, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Having been in the neighborhood for well over a decade now, I gotta say the V/W lanes rock! What an improvement over the previous situation.

    Also, in my opinion, as bike traffic has increased on this route, driver behavior has improved remarkably. I remember trying to ride to school (Jefferson) on this route back in the day and it was a real DeathRace 1984.

    My commute changed this week to include the dreaded Hotel Zone on SW Bway. This morning, from two blocks away, I spotted one of the bellhops holding a car door open for a guest, impeding the bike path. He got eye contact with me as the guest dawdled, oblivious of the riders bearing down him. I could tell the hop was really weighing the consequences of hurrying the guest. As it was, I had to take the lane and the hop gave me an apolgetic wave as I passed. (as he pocketed the tip the guest had been searching for…)

    Not looking forward to dealing with pinches in that area as documented in the photos above, though.

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  • Todd July 13, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Take the lane on SW Broadway, no reason not to since you are usually staying at speed with the cars playing red light tag. At least that\’s what I do about one block south of Burnside to Pioneer Square.

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  • Chad July 13, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    I also love my V/M daily commute…can\’t wait for my broken hand to heal so I can start and end my workday the right way instead of stuck in my cage of steel.

    Williams needs a little work, but judging by what they\’ve recently done to Vancouver, improvements on Williams can\’t be too far behind.

    Does anybody else think that it\’s pretty great that one of the first posts in this thread complained about \”too many cyclists\” during rush hour? Of all the problems we may have, this is the problem I\’d like to see more of.

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  • DP July 13, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Kinda funny, I do both Vancouver/Williams and the SW Broadway \”hotel\” stretch every day I commute in by bike. While all the complaints about those areas are true (especially the Broadway one) I really don\’t have any major troubles with it. I learned to make my turn off Broadway as early as possible (thankfully, for me, that has become right before the hotel zone). The only trouble I really have is getting back onto that mellow feeder street that enters Broadway right after the I-5 exit ramp. Can\’t remember its name… but nowadays I\’ve learned to just creatively use crosswalks as needed to make my way back over there. Still so much nicer (IMO) than trying to brave the I-5 entrance intersection.

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  • Tasha July 14, 2007 at 9:39 am

    I love Williams. A mellow uphill, lots of bikers, and you get to see all the changes happening everyday. I teach yoga on Williams, and half my students ride their bikes there. It\’s so nice to see. My opinion is that Lovejoy in NW is a pretty crap bike lane. Most of the time, cars are half in it and it crosses the street car tracks a lot (which is how I broke my arm last year) and goes onto the sidewalk at a few points. It\’s kind of strange. It\’s better than Everett though, as at least there IS a bike line!

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  • Todd July 14, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    The bike lane on NW Lovejoy starts around NW 10th or so. Further up its \”take the lane\” time. Watch out for the inattentive drivers on lovejoy, I almost got taken out once.

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  • Mr. Viddy July 14, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    Beaverton is not a pleasant place to ride a bike.

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  • Tasha July 14, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    I also like 19th/18th in NW. Nice wide lanes, though 19th ends too soon.

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  • wsbob July 15, 2007 at 1:03 am

    If you can keep up with the traffic, as someone else said earlier, consider using the full lane. It\’s safer. Use the bike lane as an escape option if you\’re not pulling the grade at speed, or if you\’ve got some really obnoxious driver behind you.

    For motorists, turning across the bike lane at intersections can be confusing. That was my experience a couple weeks ago. I was driving. The cyclist and I approached the intersection close to the same time, but I was ahead by a car length, maybe more. It was a green light straight ahead. My intention was to turn right.

    Obviously, you\’d wait for the cyclist, and I did, but for some reason, I wasn\’t quite prepared for it. I getting ahead of him before I reached the intersection, but not by enough, so then he was in my vehicles blind spot. I knew he was there, even though I couldn\’t see him, so I slowed down and let him pass, but I can see where this could really be a problem. This is one of the reasons I really feel that riding in the full lane is safer if you can keep up with the pace.

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  • Jerrod July 16, 2007 at 9:26 am

    The best bike lanes are sharrows. MORE SHARROWS! Yeah for sharrows!

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  • Brad July 16, 2007 at 10:09 am

    These may be the \”best\” bike lanes, but does that mean they are \”great\” or even \”good\”? This idea of a double-wide bike lane is a joke to me, you can\’t get me in the right-half of any bike lane because I don\’t want to be eating a car door. So fast bikes have to pass me on the left or (groan) right, and just last week a cyclist was passing me on Williams by using the car lane during rush hour, and the SUV behind him starts honking at him because he was daring to go outside the bike lane and slow her for five seconds. Really the best advice I\’ve gotten since starting to commute by bike has been: don\’t trust bike lanes, they just give you a false sense of security.

    How about putting lights on Rodney and big signs that say \”Bicycle Corridor — motorized thru-traffic prohibited, $1000 fine.\” Then give Williams back to the cars and trucks and buses. Just a thought.

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  • Adam July 18, 2007 at 9:34 am

    I support the vote for Williams and Vancouver as best lanes. I agree that SW Broadway is a pain, but I also agree with those who pointed out how it usually works just to get out in a lane of traffic, since you can keep pace with traffic. So, I don\’t really think SW Broadway is that bad. However, I would like to nominate NE Broadway as the worst. I find myself in traffic panic far more frequently on my way to Williams via NE Broadway than I do in downtown. The bike lane intersects with right turn lanes and forces cylclists across lanes of traffic. Getting to the Broadway bridge via the same route is often a harrowing experience, especially around rush hour. So, I think they had the right street for the worst bike lane, just the wrong quadrant of the city.

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  • John Lascurettes January 6, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    NE Broadway between MLK and Flint is pretty bad.

    But my vote for worst is the short section of NW Broadway; it’s worse than SW Broadway.

    Coming off the bridge heading into the flat, that section of Broadway is so damn bumpy it’s taken my pannier off and knocked lights off my handlebars. It’s also a collector of all the cruft that’s thrown from the vehicle lane. I tend to ride the car lane so I can keep full speed up and avoid the bumps and gravel.

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  • John Lascurettes January 6, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Speaking of sharrows (#28), who do we lean on at PBOT to get them on the one lane that TriMet wants us to use on the bus mall? http://www.portlandmall.org/news/mallsafety.htm

    I’ve got a connection at TriMet that says PBOT “is thinking about it” and that it would make TriMet happy if they did it.

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