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PBOT explains rationale of new "channelizer" islands on Spokane bike boulevard

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 29th, 2009 at 11:21 am

Spokane St. Bike Blvd - by Adams Carroll-6

In our coverage of the new bike boulevard on Spokane Street in Sellwood many of you have shared questions and concerns about the new "channelizer" islands that have been installed. The islands are meant to channel motor vehicle and bike traffic into specific areas at intersections to avoid pinch-point conflicts, but several readers have said they don't plan on using them and others say they actually increase danger for people on bicycles.

Here's how one commenter responded to them:

These channelizers are wonderful until you hit one at night and crash your bike and break your ribs. Like I did. What the hell are they supposed to do? I’ve been using this street for years and nobody warned me that someone would be pouring twenty tons of concrete in my path.


Greg Raisman with the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation has heard these concerns and he responded with a lengthy comment about them. In the comment, Raisman explains, in detail, the City's rationale for channelizers (and why PBOT prefers them over traffic circles). It's a bit wonky, but also highly informative (emphasis mine):

"The channelizers were based on designs seen in Utrecht, The Netherlands and developed in conversation with traffic safety specialists from Utrecht. In addition, they are a very common traffic calming element in residential settings throughout the rest of The Netherlands.

The basic answer is that they are a device that slows the speed of motor vehicle traffic by narrowing the travel lanes for cars. In general, motor vehicle speed is slowed in one of two ways. Either through "vertical deflection" where you send the vehicle over something like a speed bump. Or, through "horizontal deflection" where you introduce a curve in the travel line. In addition, "oppositional friction" can be used to slow speed as often happens on narrow residential streets in Portland (we often refer to the situation as courtesy queuing).

In the past, we've had two basic devices to slow speed on a residential street. Speed bumps, which are the most effective tool available to slow speed, and residential traffic circles.

The residential traffic circles are often considered a popular device because they are pretty. However, they have not proven to be very effective at addressing the safety concern from speed. That's why you will see some segments with traffic circles having speed bumps added (like on SE Lincoln or NE 53rd). Those new speed bumps are in place because the traffic circles did not bring the speed down to the desired travel speed.

The other problem with traffic circles is that they cause a very uncomfortable pinch point when a person on a bicycle and a person driving a car arrive at the circle at the same time. They are designed to have one vehicle go through at a time. However, when you have a driver that tries to pass while traversing the circle, it creates a very uncomfortable condition that can compromise safety, particularly for children or seniors.

On occasion, people who have not experienced this condition question whether it's a real problem. My suggestion is always to take a bike ride on NE 7th from Broadway to Alberta. There are a series of traffic circles on that road and exposure to motor vehicle traffic is high enough that you are sure to experience the issue. When you do, imagine you're traveling with an 8-year-old child or an adult who is a new, novice rider. This condition happens less often on successful boulevards because of the lower volumes of motor vehicle traffic. However, when it does happen, it's a problem.

In addition to not achieving desired speed reductions and causing pinch points, traffic circles are also quite expensive to install and have very high maintenance needs. Without proper maintenance, they can cause intersection visibility problems.

The channelizer produces a similar speed reduction benefit to a traffic circle by both narrowing the roadway and creating a courtesy queuing situation for cars. However, they present a bicycle rider with an option if they arrive at the same time as a motor vehicle traveling down the street. The bicycle rider can travel through the middle of the device at any time. But, if there is a car approaching at the same time, they can take the channel and have physical separation between them and the car as they travel through the intersection. This is particularly useful for children and seniors who often react in less predictable ways when facing more stressful traffic conditions. In addition, they are lower cost to install and have maintenance needs that are many orders of mangnitude lower than a traffic circle.

There are two of the channelizers in place. One at 7th and one at 15th. In addition to reducing speed, the one placed at 7th is to gently encourage motorists leaving Oaks Park to turn and continue their trip on Tacoma. A traffic barrier was not installed here because there was a need to allow motor traffic to continue eastward to 13th to be able to access the signal at 13th and Tacoma if they are heading eastbound. So, the soft-barrier approach with the channelizer was used to send the cue to turn. We do not expect all east bound travelers to turn because of this treatment. However, we believe there will be some increase in the turning movement in our after measurements.

The channelizer at 15th is in place to pay particular focus on reducing speed at the Sellwood Community Center. The combination of the new speed bump in front of the Center with the channelizer on the east side of the intersection should make this location acheive the lowest travel speed of any location on the corridor. In addition, St. Agnes School is one block to the north at 15th and Miller. The islands help create a shorter crossing distance for children that are walking to that school.

These are the only two channelizers that are currently slated to be installed. There are no additional examples on any of the remaining 7 bike boulevards that will be built by the end of June 2010.

If they are successful at reducing speed and provide the desired operational effects, it's possible they would be considered on future projects. All of these decisions would be discussed as part of open houses that are always held and publicized when new bike boulevards are in the design phase."

For more information about this and other bike boulevard projects, visit the City's website.

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Comments
  • Steven Vance December 29, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I didn't understand channelizers for a long time. I'm still not sure I do, but it helps to know that these were installed as an alternative to a traffic circle.

    I kept reading that these avoid pinch points. On a street without traffic calming, there are no pinch points. Traffic circles cause pinch points. So these islands supposedly have the same effect as traffic circles but don't cause pinch points. I get that.

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  • fredlf December 29, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Just a thought, but a modest blinking yellow light on the channelizer (an ugly neologism I must say) might help to both warn cyclists of the hazard and further calm traffic. Or maybe more subtle lights like those in the roadway at Hawthorne and 20th?

    Probably too expensive...

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  • BURR December 29, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Any curbed hardscape that narrows the available right of way width as a means of calming motor vehicle traffic, such as curb extensions, residential traffic circles in intersections, or these chanellizers, will also negatively affect cyclists.

    All of these treatments are specifically designed to slow motorists down and none of these treatments are particularly cyclist-friendly.

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  • Dave December 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    @BURR: I don't understand how any kind of thing which narrows the available right of way in order to calm motor vehicle traffic negatively effects cyclists.

    If you mean it negatively effects your ability to keep moving at a constant speed, then I understand that. However, I don't think continuing to move at a constant speed is necessarily the highest goal to strive for.

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  • bahueh December 29, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I don't get it...are some people in this town forgetting to actually watch where they're riding?

    one basic rule in racing is NEVER stop looking forward for any length of time...

    why? because you'll run into something/someone. its pretty easy.

    lights at night are good to have as well for not running into stationary objects. again, pretty easy.

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  • SE Cyclist December 29, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I've not seen channelizers used at intersections before, only mid-block. If I am turning from 15th onto Spokane while pulling a trailer with my kids I will not be riding around the island. If a motorist wants to drive through that space at the same time, I'll bet he'll be pissed at having to wait. He will claim I'm required to use the space behind the channelizer in spite of Greg R's statements. I'm concerned motorist-cyclists relations will be further strained. We'll just have to wait and see.

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  • Hart December 29, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    They need to pull out at least four or five car parking spaces on either side of those things then, otherwise they're forcing cyclists to swerve out of the lane and then back into it, which is wreckless and dangerous riding.

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  • Refunk December 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    SE Cyclist @ 5 - from the photo, that space looks ample to maneuver a trailer through. In fact, it may lead a bike driver to more considered, safer control, since the bump follows right after. Autos parking up too close behind might be more of a safety issue.

    As for comments about placement of flashers on the channelizer island, how about taking some responsibility as a cyclist and equipping yer ride with an actual headlamp for night ops, instead of a cute little blinky light? (if any!) The island in the pic looks like it has reflectors installed already, beside paint & signage.

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  • K'Tesh December 29, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Perhaps change the "leading edge" to be something more like a ramp to prevent a sudden stop might help.

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  • Paul December 29, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    The major problem with these channelizers is that they are placed right in the normal location of travel for cyclists. Once a cyclist gets to intersection, they are expected to swerve to the right to avoid hitting the median and breaking ribs like the above quoted rider. That's simply a design flaw regardless of the intention of Mr. Raisin.

    Seems to me like a well-intentioned engineering intervention but executed rather poorly.

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  • Steve B. December 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I think a lot of the confusion has to do with where in the street the channelizers are placed. I think the idea is to place them close to the intersection to discourage folks from turning onto Spokane. It would be great to see this sort of thing used on uphill segments, mid-block where there isn't extra concern about cross traffic.

    Thanks, Greg for the explanation, it is helpful to hear this is part of horizontal deflection, and an alternative from the traffic circles. I ride that stretch of 7th and know exactly what you're talking about.

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  • Jeff P December 29, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Hart/Paul have it about right...looking at the photo it appears they do less about reducing the car lane but instead reduce the bike lane width as well as change the bike direction. Sneaking these in behind parked cars doesn't help.

    I continue to believe the 'designers' are trying too hard.

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  • Brent Logan December 29, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    The pictured channelizer appears to allow cars to proceed straight ahead at full speed while forcing bicyclist to veer to the right and slow down. This amplifies the speed differences between bikes and cars at intersections.

    Is that really a good thing?

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  • Brad December 29, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Hmmmmm....

    Headlamp
    Proper Speed for Conditions
    Paying Attention to Surroundings
    Sobriety

    Just a few ways to avoid an embarrassing and painful channel diverter crash. Now if a car driver used that lame excuse after hitting a cyclist or pedestrian (but..but..I've been driving this road for years and that new stop sign/crosswalk/speed bump/etc. was never there before!) there would be calls for blood.

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  • cold worker December 29, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    am i wrong in assuming that there are no parked cars once you get through these? it empties into the intersection, right? so it's not like you're weaving all over the place, right?

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  • Nick December 29, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    It's unfortunate that this person had an accident, but isn't any change in traffic control devices bound to trip up some people who didn't expect the change? They appear to be marked quite well with reflective material.

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  • Zaphod December 29, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    This design makes perfect sense to me and I'm glad they are there.

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  • John Lascurettes December 29, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    @cold worker

    Note that the channelizers on on both sides of the intersection. So, yes, heading into an intersection, you have no parked cars. Heading out of the intersection, you might have parked cars you have to swerve back out to avoid when exiting the channelizer.

    Seems to me that the "horizontal deflection" is far greater on the bikes than it is on the cars.

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  • Dave December 29, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I agree that at first glance it seems that if this device is used in the future, it should be implemented so that bikes travel in a more-or-less straight line through the device, or take the middle of the lane if they want to bypass it - but we'll see how it goes and how it works out in actual use.

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  • BURR December 29, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Note that the channelizers on on both sides of the intersection. So, yes, heading into an intersection, you have no parked cars. Heading out of the intersection, you might have parked cars you have to swerve back out to avoid when exiting the channelizer.

    Seems to me that the "horizontal deflection" is far greater on the bikes than it is on the cars.

    Do we really need more 'traffic control devices' that increase cyclists' risk of being right-hooked at the intersection???

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  • Oliver December 29, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    What Brent@13 said.

    It doesnt' look as if the channelizer narrows the lane at all for the motor vehicle, but rather that it diverts the bicycle lane moving them away from the cars at the stop sign.

    Is this some sort of compromise design? Do the European models project into the motor vehicle lane or the other way round?

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  • valkraider December 29, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    If you are not able to see/avoid bright yellow curbs with a huge reflective yellow and black striped sign - then you probably shouldn't be riding a bike.

    Day or night.

    Sure - if the things were painted a flat dark grey color with no markings you might have a complaint.

    But come on. They are bright yellow and have big bright signs...

    And we complain that people in cars don't "see" bicycles...

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  • david....no the other one December 29, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Hhmmm? Seems like I've seen these before? Maybe in Ladds addition about thirty years ago? Hawthorne around 48th about 25 years ago. They did have a caged blinking yellow light, but not a vertical sign, some driver would have crushed it in a New York minute. The edges were rounded and had either a yellow stripe or were all yellow. As I recall on Hawthorne they were installed to keep motorists from entering Hawthorne on 49th or 48th whichever and going east on Hawthorne.

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  • JAT in Seattle December 29, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Am I alone in being a little tired of the fetishization of Dutch transportation approaches? The fact that the Bureau of Transportation representative had to explain how these thingies are meant to be navigated (and how many lingering questions remain after the explanation) shows just how in-apt they are.

    I don't want to poodle along at 12 mph on 50 Lbs of upright Dutch City Bike, and I guarantee that were I to arrive at the intersection pictured above, I would channelize myself to the left of that dangerously designed and installed obstruction, you know, like a damn vehicle. If there's a stop sign, I'd stop; if there's another vehicle to my right, I'd yield.

    I'm not sure I want bicycle facilites; I just want some respect on the roadway.

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  • chris December 29, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I don't see what was wrong with Spokane St before. It might have had more stop signs, they don't slow you down too much if you treat them as yield signs.

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  • BURR December 29, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    If you are not able to see/avoid bright yellow curbs with a huge reflective yellow and black striped sign - then you probably shouldn't be riding a bike.

    There's one of those red and yellow striped signs on the totally unnecessary curb extension on the SE corner of SE Grand and SE Clay, and it's down more than it's up. Big hint - it's not the cyclists hitting it, but rather, the motorists. Anyone want to make book on when the first of these signs on Spokane is taken out by a motorist?

    The thing is, hitting the diverter with your motor vehicle is unlikely to cause any personal injury, but hitting it on a bike sure as heck is.

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  • cold worker December 29, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    thanks john @18

    i'll take your word for it. i'm not seeing it but the pics only show one side of the road in all the ones i'm looking at. unless i'm missing one of them. it looks like all the pictures are the same to me.

    if these don't slow auto traffic what is the point?

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  • Jackattak December 29, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    @ valkraider #22 and others...

    I am not a "cyclist" (although I ride a bike every once in a while) so I was going to withhold my initial judgment on the commenter who was unfortunate enough to find themselves on the bad side of one of these bicycle channelers (let's be reasonable...these don't do a thing for automobile traffic, based on the photo).

    Assuming those who have commented on the injured cyclist's misfortune so far are cyclists, I feel much better about my judgment:

    You've got to be doing something entirely wrong while riding a bike at night if you hit that thing. ENTIRELY WRONG.

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  • Afro Biker December 29, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Ugly chunks of concrete. Waste of time and money.

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  • Max December 29, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I appreciate the explanation, but it doesn't address what I mentioned in my last post --

    The problem with the channelizers is that it forces bikes out of the flow of traffic, only to force them to merge back in ("pinch point") a little later to avoid hitting parked cars.

    This graphic from the boregonian:

    http://blog.oregonlive.com/commuting/2009/12/channelizing_gets_green_light.html

    ... shows an imminent confrontation between the yellow bike and the white car!

    Also: Greg says you have the choice to use it or not, but it is marked with bike lane markings. Doesn't that mean that by-law we are required to use it per ORS 814.420?

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  • BURR December 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    repeal ORS 814.420!

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  • Paul Johnson December 29, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    What are you doing riding at night without adequate lighting? If you had an adequate headlight, you would have seen the retroreflective paddle on the island. Your broken ribs are your own fault and I have little sympathy for that.

    Get a headlight so you can see and others can see you!

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  • Mark Lear - PBOT Traffic Safety Program Manager December 29, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    The intent of the channelizers is to reduce motor vehicle speed and volume and also provide a comfortable option for cyclists that may at times find themselves "pinched" within this traffic calming device -- this type of treatment is used in numerous bicycle friendly designs that were reviewed in developing Portland 20-year Bicycle Plan. We will use the placement of the sharrows to ensure that cyclists and drivers are aware that the pass through for cyclists is an option not a requirment. Due to the timing of stimulus funding, that is providing the funding for sharrow markings, we will not be installing the sharrows until Spring. To ensure that the placement of the sharrows achieves our intent, we will provide Portland's Bicycle Advisory Committee with a draft pavement marking plan in the next few months.

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  • Demian December 29, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I ride this portion of Spokane (up to 13th) all the time. I have similar concerns and confusion about these structures. They do create more linear deflection for bikes than cars. I've got to swing way to the right and then back out to the edge of the traffic lane when using one of these things. Coming downhill I tend to move at or near the speed of traffic and just stay in my lane. Coming uphill I've done both. I guess I'd prefer to ride in a straight predictable line then swerve in towards the curb then back out again.

    I think you could probably argue a ticket (if you were to ever get one for not using these things) based on the following exemption from ORS 814.420:
    (c) Avoiding debris or other hazardous conditions.
    'Other hazardous condtions' is pretty darn subjective.

    Also, these things are absolutely covered with reflectors. Even the wimpyest blinky light will make them light up. There's no excuse for riding at night without a light. I almost ran into another cyclist on the Springwater trail last week because he didn't have a light, reflectors, and was dressed in dark clothes. That would have hurt both of us.

    FWIW, I've had more issues with cars who don't realize the stop signs were turned 90-degrees then with these structures.

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  • Jeff P December 29, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    RE: Max [good point BTW] - by all means you must use the lane if it exists [assuming the exceptions don't apply] and similarly when you are in the intersection where the lane magically "disappears" - well, we all know what happens then!

    All hail added and redundant road use laws with poor pro-tem rulings!

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  • bobcycle December 29, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Comments here sure point out the immense diversity of bicyclists. So I guess if you are cruising along at less than 12 mph and have a 700 lumen $450 night light, and are willing to slow down to negotiate through the opening and then back into traffic, these channelizer things aren't so bad. If the intent is to slow cars then why not post speed limit at 20 mph and put in a permanent photo radar. That should do the trick.

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  • Brad December 29, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    A 100 lumen lamp would light that thing up a least a half block away. Approach at 15-20 mph, flick your hips right, roll through the channel, flick the hips back to the left, done deal.

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  • Doug Allen December 29, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Although 7th and Spokane is far from my normal bike riding territory, I did find myself making several auto trips to Oaks Park earlier this month. These things sure slowed me down in my automobile, because of their visible narrowing of the street. So yes, at least one motorist was slowed down, even after I knew to expect them. I would rate them fairly high in terms of slowing automobiles.

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  • KWW December 29, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    I'm still not buying it. The potential problem is motor traffic down the street, not the bikes.

    As I said, there isn't much of a pinch point with the channelizers in place for autos.

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  • Paul Johnson December 29, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Photo radar is not an effective traffic calming device. Just ask Beaverton about Allen Boulevard.

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  • Paul Johnson December 29, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I agree with Brad, my light's not even 100 lumens and it lights up retroreflective traffic control devices quite effectively.

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  • Anonymous December 29, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=50518&a=253268

    for a reasonably clear picture of how this is set up. if the clearance for motorists at these two intersections is actually reduced to 16 ft., it probably will have some traffic calming effect. but if the comparison is to a traffic circle, count me in favor of the circle, because it is easy to avoid the pinch there by taking the lane. have ridden 7th north to alberta any number of times (actually the relevant stretch ends at fremont), and how i would advise the eight year old or the novice (to answer greg's question) is "take the lane, don't let the overtaking motorist pinch you." the facility here, on spokane, forces the pinch, and 814.420 probably requires you to submit.

    oh, and re comment 36: it is possible portland does not have authority to reduce the speed limit to 20 here. this and the repeal of the mandatory far to right and mandatory sidepath laws ought to be much higher on BTA's agenda.

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  • Anonymous December 29, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    sorry if some version of this posts twice. a reasonably good graphic depiction of this project is at
    http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=50518&a=253268
    indicating that the distance between the islands at each of these intersections is sixteen feet. this probably does have the effect of slowing motor traffic, at least if there is oncoming. however, it does force the cyclist to the edge and then requires a swerve back into the travel lane to avoid parked cars. a traffic circle would accomplish the calming effect without requiring the cyclist to divert. to answer greg's question, how i would advise an eight year-old or a novice adult negotiating the circles on 7th betw. tillamook and fremont is: take the lane. technically, 814.420 does not leave me that option on spokane. also, re comment 36, possibly the city does not have authority to reduce the limit to 20 mph here.

    if BTA is looking for an agenda to further their former mission statement, let me suggest (1) get local authority to reduce speed limits, (2) repeal the mandatory sidepath and mandatory far to right laws.

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  • spare_wheel December 29, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    IMO, these appear to work a heck of alot better than traffic circles at reducing car speed. And I wonder how many of the people complaining about positioning and danger have actually ridden on Spokane. What I particularly like is that if you take the lane (and you really should on bike blvd) there is no way cars can pass at the choke point. I've been buzzed by demented drivers at traffic circles on several occasions.

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  • wsbob December 29, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Greg Raisman's comment emphasizes that these particular channelizers are trials, the idea being to see if and how well they work and how well they're suited as a solution to the situation. It's important to experiment.

    Not having ridden the street with these new features installed, I can't have much of a real sense of how they would function. Looking at that picture above with the red car in the left background, the channelizers don't seem to make a lot of sense; maybe it's 'the camera'.

    What reasoning determined the width of the channelizer island, and its placement affecting the width of the channel offered to bikes to ride through? Just looking at the picture, the island appears to either be wider than necessary, or extending too far into the channel(whose width looks skimpy) offered to people riding bikes through it. Again though, maybe it works just fine and a person has to ride it to know that.

    Before they actually install something like this, does the transportation department ever give the fixture a trial using a temporary mock up?

    Did they do it on this street? You know...set up something completely temporary made with cardboard, plastic bottles or whatever. Once set up, have people on bikes ride down the street with cars and have the bikes traveling 20mph veer into the channel when they come to the channelizer, just to see how well this European idea actually works in this particular location here in Portland.

    "Photo radar is not an effective traffic calming device. Just ask Beaverton about Allen Boulevard." paul johnson

    Paul, have you asked Beaverton about the effectiveness of photo radar? Read any news reports or come across any related information that says they don't calm traffic? Have those sources told you photo radar aren't calming traffic?

    I live in Beaverton, don't go over to Allen very often, but do cross Beav/Hillsdale quite a bit where the photo stoplight cameras are very conspicuously mounted on poles at the corner of the intersection.

    I'd be very surprised to hear they're not having some effect on increasing stop light compliance on streets that have them. Same with speed reduction where the photo vans are parked at points on Canyon Rd between West Slope and Sylvan.

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  • Paul Johnson December 29, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Depends on the traffic circle design. Good: SW Sorrento Circle in Beaverton. Bad: NE Coe Circle.

    Sorrento features choke points in advance that gives cyclists an opportunity to merge in safely and prevents passing by motorists entirely.

    Coe violates the MUTCD egregiously. Maybe if they changed the stop signs to yields and set the lanes to do the right thing instead of treating it like a glorified four-way stop, Coe wouldn't be such a tremendous pain in the ass for cyclists.

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  • N.I.K. December 29, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    @24 (JAT in Seattle) - No, you're not alone. From blind want of appropriation of engineering solutions from elsewhere to uhr-smug riffing on vacuum cleaners, The Copenhagen Kink some folks seem to have in their drawers is worrisome in the extreme.

    Test case? Okay, okay. But from what I see here, the same issue that plagues most other forms of physically separated infrastructure is a concern - that is, turning. What's PBOT doing to explain how to negotiate a bike and motor vehicle reaching this thing at the same time, explaining where the cyclist needs to position themselves in order to make a left, and so on? I'm sure the official line is that existing laws and a bit of subsequent reasoning determine all this, but people tend to react oddly to traffic control devices they've never seen before. Hopefully nobody suffers an accident from one of these things while they're new.

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  • N.I.K. December 29, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    And yes, I'm well aware that Greg Raisman has an explanation above. I'm more thinking about anyone who might be approaching such a device and isn't an avid reader of BikePortland.org. :)

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  • Doug Klotz December 29, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I haven't been to the site, but it looks like the same problem that occurs at bike boxes (Clinton at 39th heading west), and the little bike lanes at Clay and 11th and 12th. The idea that the bicyclist will veer over to the right perhaps has some validity. But, only if the city removes parking for at least 100 feet so you can get over there. At the Clinton location especially, it's difficult to get around that last parked vehicle, usually a big pickup truck, and maneuver over to the curb. If there are one or two cars stopped at the intersection it's impossible. None of these devices work well because it's politically unpalatable to remove enough parking for them to work. So I and many others will just take the lane.

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  • John C December 29, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    I am visiting my family from Honolulu for the holidays and decided to ride to downtown through the Sellwood neighborhood. Being originally from Portland, I am always touting to fellow cyclists in Hawaii the interesting and innovative solutions Portland has used to make cycling safe for everyone (auto drivers and cyclists). I came up on the "channelizer" and immediately thought about the interaction between cyclist and cars. It's awkward at best and certainly not intuitive. The space created for the cars would be perfect for small autos in Europe or Asia, but it is a little narrow IMHO. I understand how this would slow drivers down, I just don't know how "calming" it would be to pass another car in such close quarters. To make matters worse, as a cyclist you have to swerve to the right and then back to your normal position in the lane, next to the car that did not know how to navigate the "channelizer". Most every cycling solution in Portland have worked flawlessly, this one still needs tweaking. I am sure the design will evolve and become a standard feature, it just isn't that good in it's current form. Just my opinion of course.

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  • Todd Boulanger December 29, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    If some folks are concerned about the adoption of anything "Dutch" ... then it may make you feel better to know this type of device is in long time use in Vancouver BC [North America], etc.

    The long term success or failure of this type of design treatment will be reflected in how well it is placed in the roadway and how the city/ adjoining property owners maintain the curb zone (sweep leaves away from the gap/ reflectorized RPMs and keep the gutter from ponding).

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  • cyclist December 29, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    I've ridden past these things every work day since they were installed, I can't understand what the problem is.

    1) If there's no car coming from the opposite direction you just go right through the middle (as mentioned in the article above.

    2) If a car is coming, you move to your right, go through the intersection, and come back out the other side. Pretty simple. I did it a few times when a car wasn't coming because someone complained about the proximity of a drainage grate (which wasn't an issue).

    3) There are reflective signs that you can see from a block away with one of those weak blinky lights. I always ride with at least a blinky light, so I'm not sure if you could see it without any light at all... but if you're riding Spokane w/o anything at all you're just as likely to hit anything else that happens to be in the middle of the street.

    There's pretty sound evidence that narrowing a roadway decreases auto speed much more effectively than speed limits do. Think about how frequently you see cops with radar guns on side streets, there's no deterrent to speeding there! The only time cyclists need to use the sidepath is when a vehicle is coming from the other direction, cars on the other hand must wait for the car coming from the other direction to pass (two cars can't fit side-by-side through the middle). In effect the bikes get a free pass and cars get inconvenienced.

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  • BURR December 29, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    @ Doug K #49, the 'mini bike lanes' on SE Clay at SE 11th and 12th are about the dumbest things I've seen PDOT do in some time, and PDOT does some really dumb things when it comes to bikes.

    Especially SE Clay eastbound at 11th; why would you want to deliberately position yourself to the right of what for the most part is traffic turning right onto SE 11th? Stupid, stupid, stupid!

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  • Marcus Griffith December 30, 2009 at 5:31 am

    Todd (#51) brings up a vital point for long term success of the channels--keeping clean so they don't pond.

    As for not seeing them...umm, how do you not see a large chunk of cement? If you hit a road divider because you didn't see it, please don't blog about it because you are de facto admitting you were operating a vehicle on the road way in a unsafe and negligent manner. It would be awkward if the police department used your blog comment against you...

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  • bobcycle December 30, 2009 at 7:29 am

    hhmmmmm... wonder how visible a channelizer curb is under 3" of the white stuff???

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  • drew December 30, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Mark #33, while you are placing sharrows on spokane st, can you put them on the Sellwood bridge too? I would suggest the need for them would be greater on the bridge.

    There is a marked improvement in traffic calming with these channelizers. I was at first skeptical of them, but now I like them, and I bike that street most days. I don't use the channels myself, but they may be of benefit to some bicyclists. Lets give them some time; I think we will come to appreciate the design.

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  • Psyfalcon December 30, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Did anyone actually bother to read the article?

    "The bicycle rider can travel through the middle of the device at any time. But, if there is a car approaching at the same time, they can take the channel and have physical separation between them and the car as they travel through the intersection. This is particularly useful for children and seniors who often react in less predictable ways when facing more stressful traffic conditions."

    You don't like swerving over? Take the lane. Don't like playing chicken with cars? Take the other option.

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  • bahueh December 30, 2009 at 10:52 am

    those without lights need to google "MagicShine" and purchase one.

    $85...reported 900 lumens...tested at closer to 700L at http://www.roadbikereview.com with highly favorable reviews.

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  • Paul Johnson December 30, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Unless retroreflective devices turn transparent and snow doesn't stick specifically to chanelizing devices, then I would imagine it's just as visible in the snow as it is on any other day.

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  • Jim O'Horo December 30, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Demian @ 34, Todd Boulanger @ 51 & Marcus Griffith @ 54 all touch on my biggest concern with these types of treatments: debris. The diversion spaces are too narrow and/or winding for a big sweeper to get through, so the city never cleans them, and local residents simply don't either. The result is that they quickly fill with debris and become unrideable. I've seen this happen both in PDX and over here in Vancouver.

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  • Anonymous December 30, 2009 at 11:23 am

    psyfalcon 57, you might want to read 814.420

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  • BURR December 30, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    those without lights need to google "MagicShine" and purchase one.

    $85...reported 900 lumens...

    No thanks, these are the ridiculously bright, poorly focused lights that blind oncoming riders all the time on the Springwater.

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  • bahueh December 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Burr...yes, what was I thinking?
    bright lights on a bike are terrible ideas. I mean being able to see and all...

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  • h December 30, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I rode on the street one night. I had no problem seeing them on straight. but if i turned onto the street, I might not see it till its too late. Personally I dont like them. It is kinda scary to steer thru the narrow space. It is better to keep things SIMPLE. Please.

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  • Paul Johnson December 30, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Anonymous #61: Show your ticket or it didn't happen. Also be aware that there's a lot of the vehicle code that's no longer enforced. Did you know motorists at night are required to have someone walking with a red lantern 50 feet ahead of their vehicle?

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  • Paul Johnson December 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    bahueh #63:

    Be aware that you are required by law to have your headlights hit the pavement no farther than so many feet out, and are required to dim your brights for oncoming riders. This is why super-bright lighting systems typically come with a dimmer switch.

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  • matt picio December 30, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I agree with BURR (#62) - please don't. Illumination can be done with a simple 100 lumen light. 900 lumens is destroying the night vision of all your fellow riders.

    I'll reserve judgement on channelizers until I've actually used them, but I'm not real confident about them. Greg (or someone else), can you tell me which intersections in Utrecht currently have them? I'd like to see what theirs look like from overhead in Google Earth.

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  • matt picio December 30, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Paul (#65) - Can you quote the statute? I don't see that one in the ORS, which is the current vehicle code. There are a lot of laws which have been stricken from the books.

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  • Dave December 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I'm piping in with Matt and Burr on this one. The only thing that both bicycles and cars having ultra-bright lights does is make it harder for everyone else to see, thus requiring them to get brighter lights, and on and on goes the loop. I would venture to say you're making it more dangerous for yourself by limiting other peoples' vision.

    Not to mention you're also just reinforcing the excuse of "they didn't have a frigging spotlight attached to their bike, so I didn't see them!" And in reality, I think it actually happens that people simply look for neon clothing and bright lights, and if they don't see them, they just don't register that anyone is there.

    You can have a light that will illuminate the ground enough and make you visible enough for you to ride safely without blinding everyone else on the road, I promise.

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  • wsbob December 30, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    I haven't counted, but there seems to be close to an equal balance of comments both for and against the channelizers. How does the city or its transportation department determine how well this device actually functions in this particular location? Do they use cameras to photograph the action? Do they just rely on comments in the form of letters or phone calls from citizens to city offices?

    burr, are you sure it's the Magicshine brand that you're seeing on the Springwater that's as you say, 'poorly focused'? In addition to the roadbike review info on this light, there's also an extensive, ongoing thread about it at bikeforums.

    I recall some owners commenting there that the light does have a wider beam coverage as opposed to a spotlight beam, but blinding oncoming riders?...I don't recall anything like that as long as the tilt of the headlight on the bars is properly adjusted. It does have a high/low beam capability.

    On a somewhat different use of the light, I do recall people discouraging use of the light as a helmet light for the very reason that this location puts it in a place where it can blind oncoming road users.

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  • bahueh December 30, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    folks...700+L lights can be used just fine if they're pointed downward...my point was they're no longer as cost prohibitive as they once were.

    but by all means, redirect the conversation to something else to fit your personal opinions...seems like a strong light may have changed the circumstance for the guy who hit the divider. excuses aside, I'll keep my 700L on and pointed appropriately so I can actually....well, see where I'm going. I've found I get a lot more "respect" from drivers and have not had any drivers pull out in front of me since I started using it....even on the low setting.

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  • Hank Sheppard December 30, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    On so-called bike boulevards, bicyclists should just ride down the middle of the street, the more the merrier. That will calm motor vehicle traffic. PBOT needs to show a little nerve and put in more diverters, the only thing that will really reduce motor vehicle traffic on bikeways.

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  • bobcycle December 30, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    From photos can't see if there are NO PARKING signs near channelizer but from photo posted by J.Maus the channelizer at 7th almost overlaps the driveway of a townhouse on SW corner. So is it legal for homeowner to park in front of their own driveway? If so they would effectively close off the channelizer exit. See last photo with Subaru. http://bikeportland.org/photos/album/72157622803188349/spokane-street-bicycle-boulevard.html

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  • spare_wheel December 30, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    "bicyclists should just ride down the middle of the street"

    Ummm...thats the whole point of bike blvds and sharrows.

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  • are December 30, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    people have been prosecuted under 814.420 within recent memory. (here taking credit for "anonymous" posts 42/43 and 61, some kind of glitch over here). even if you can persuade a traffic judge to see it your way (and sometimes they don't), the fact remains that the existence of the statute provides a weapon with which the police can hassle you.

    i have not yet ridden this facility, and actually i accept the idea that a sixteen foot "channel" will tend to slow motorists down.

    however, i somewhat resent the fact that a traffic calming project has been presented to the public as a bike boulevard, when it also includes speed bumps and striped crosswalks. what is the motoring public going to remember? f*ck*ng bikes.

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  • bb December 30, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtMUhCQDw0M
    @1:16
    You can go here to see the channels from my ride. I don't ride in them either. We also have ramps with our chokers.

    The first segment is the main road and the second segment is the collector half mile to that. So you have a choice.

    I prefer speed tables to speed humps. Are you sure your using the correct term speed bumps?

    I find bicycles to be a great traffic calming device :) Yes Arizona bicycle are devices.

    You can email if you want to use the unedited video.

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  • bobcycle December 31, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Like many of you I have several bikes. A 1970's Royce Union Single Speed Folding bike, a Cannondale tandem, an upright Trek heavy weight touring bike, a light weight Klein road bike to name a few. On the Royce Union I'm a bit fearful on the road. Top speed 10mph. When on it, channelizers are great! I'll even use sidewalks to avoid narrow "pinch" points (yielding to peds of course). When riding the touring bike, comfortable in the road, but bike lanes, diverters and such are helpful. On the Klein, been known to shoot Sandy Blvd all the way into town or ride Broadway outside the bike lane staying up with moving traffic and avoiding the "right hook" of cars turning through the bike lane. Sometimes ride in pacelines where front rider calls out obstacles (e.g. "POST!" or "glass!" ). On the Klein anything in the roadway (e.g. a channelizer) while I am trying to stay right to avoid autos is a nuisance at best and potentially dangerous. Diverse riders, diverse roadway design, IMO how you view it all depends on what you ride and how you ride.

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  • Psyfalcon December 31, 2009 at 11:33 am

    61. Easy.

    They are not bike lanes or paths. Right from what I quoted. A cyclist can go through the middle at any time. They were not designed to be a bike lane, only another option.

    Has anyone been cited for failure to use the bike lane besides the people who decided all of SW Broadway was a hazard?

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  • KWW December 31, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Part of the problem with Channels is that there are NO other markings in the roadway to denote a bicycle boulevard at this time.

    So will there be future markings? If so, then this commotion over the channels will die down somewhat, imo, as the design feature is somewhat out of context.

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  • Nick January 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    We made a major bike lane mistake similar to this in Austin, TX and it was very dangerous and expensive (and in the news each day).

    The city should do a little research on this history to avoid repeating it in Portland.

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  • jacque January 1, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    It looks and sounds like these were installed to slow auto traffic.

    A few questions:

    Why are they called bicycle infrastructure? If the sole purpose is to calm down auto traffic, then it is auto infrastructure.

    Why does the auto traffic need additional infrastructure, paid for out of my taxes, in order to slow it down?

    Did someone determine that the posted speed limit was too high to be safe? If so, why wouldn't anyone have the political will to push through a change in speed limit? (no matter how seemingly "impossible" this is)

    Was it determined that all auto drivers should be expected to be lawbreaking sociopaths, so it is no use changing the speed limit?

    Why do we have speed limits?

    These aren't sarcastic comments posing as questions. I'd love to hear some answers. Thanks, J

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  • jacque January 1, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    forgot to add... I would expect these to do what they are intended to do: slow down drivers. I like the way narrow streets do that. Wish we had narrow streets.

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  • Paul Johnson January 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    @Nick: But that's the sun belt. Sun-roasted brain cells + automobile = dangerously stupid.

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  • are January 1, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    re 78. 814.420 says bike lane or bike path. these terms are not defined. you say the facility to the right of the channel is not a bike path. someone else with authority to write tickets might say it is. certainly a motorist wanting to squeeze through the channel will say it is. and yes, people have been prosecuted for taking the lane elsewhere than on sw broadway (though that is a good example of a poorly designed bike lane).
    http://bikeportland.org/2006/11/07/expert-witness-backfires-on-da-in-bike-lane-case/

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  • jim January 3, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    "nobody warned me that someone would be pouring twenty tons of concrete in my path. "

    Are you using a real headlight or just a little blinky light? It sounds like you may have been riding out of control if you didn't see all that yellow paint and just crashed right into an aise-land?

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  • KWW January 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Another option for that intersection is a 4 way stop sign, but we know how bicycles don't stop at those!

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  • Dave January 5, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Generally neither bikes nor cars stop at anything. It usually requires a human being activating the brakes in either case, and in either case, that human being is pretty much equally likely to do so.

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  • Paul Johnson January 5, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    We should be moving away from using stop signs except at very high conflict locations (streets intersecting bicycle boulevards) or blind intersections: ie, a more European approach to stop sign placement. Rampant overuse of stop signs where yield signs would work just as well has caused American road users to have some contempt for the stop sign, and causes road users to ignore them at locations where stopping is an important safety feature, not just a CYA measure.

    Really the stop sign should be as rare as the yield sign is today in the US, with most stop sign locations being changed to Yield treatments or removed entirely. I don't know why the FHWA has it's head up it's ass on this.

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