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PBOT adds new striping to NE Wheeler Ave

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 30th, 2011 at 11:38 am

New striping on NE Wheeler -3-2
New striping gives bike traffic a
buffer from cars on NE Wheeler
behind the Rose Quarter.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has begun implementation of a project to make bicycling near the Rose Quarter more comfortable.

NE Wheeler Ave between Winning Way and the Rose Quarter Transit Center now has wider bike lanes in the northbound direction and a new buffered bike lane and sharrows for bike traffic headed southbound.

The project is one of three "Lloyd District Bikeway Development" projects the City embarked on in December 2010. This particular project was targeted for changes because there is a gaps in the bikeways between N. Vancouver Avenue (at Broadway) and the Rose Quarter Transit Center.

A stakeholder advisory committee looked at several different options and decided on the current striping plan back in May.

PBOT project manager Ellen Vanderslice confirms that they've only implemented Phase 1 of the NE Wheeler/"Vancouver Gap" (my term, not theirs) changes. The next phase of changes will focus in the northern section of the project area (from Winning Way north to Broadway) and south to NE Oregon (where the Esplanade path comes out).

This two-stage left concept
for Broadway/Vancouver is
Phase 2 of this project.

Vanderslice says Phase 2 of the project will take longer because it includes more detailed traffic analysis and design/engineering work. One feature of this project is to create a "two-stage" left turn for westbound bike traffic at both Broadway and Vancouver and Multnomah and Wheeler. (Two-stage left turns are used when a standard vehicular merge movement is considered too dangerous for most riders. Instead, westbound riders would position themselves in the northwest corner of the southbound street to make the left. See graphic at right)

PBOT might also trim the existing curb at the northwest corner of Wheeler and Multnomah in order to gain enough room for a dedicated bike lane (between the turn standard turn lanes) for bike traffic headed straight into the Rose Quarter Transit Center.

Here's a tour of the changes...

Heading northbound, you'll notice a wider bike lane starting at NE Multnomah (see the old lane ground away)...

The lane gets buffered up near Winning Way (where the I-5 onramp is)...

Headed southbound, you'll notice a buffered bike lane begins at Winning Way...

But it ends mid-way down Wheeler where the Rose Quarter bus and service access is located (the latest drawings I have show skip stripes the whole way and green caution markings, but they were either dropped from the plans or they're yet to be installed). Some on the committee wanted a continuous buffered bike lane here, but ultimately agreed to a compromise in order to allow unfettered access for buses and trucks during big Rose Quarter events...

Then, sharrows appear as you approach Multnomah where bikes and cars mix (this is the location I mentioned above where PBOT might reduce with of the curb to allow room for a dedicated bike lane for through traffic)...

What do you think of the changes so far?

Changes are also coming to the NE 12th Avenue overcrossing and a project to make NE Holladay Street more bike-friendly is also ongoing. Follow all the news on these projects at the Lloyd District Bikeway Development Projects tag.

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Comments
  • noah September 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Hurrah for PBOT for implementing a long-needed change! Now if PPB would start enforcing the "bus/bike only" restriction in the opposite direction, I'd be in heaven.

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    • noah September 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Erm, "opposite" meaning "northbound".

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    • Paul Johnson September 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm

      It's not bus only going northbound, is it?

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      • noah September 30, 2011 at 1:31 pm

        Bus and bike only, as depicted in this article's first full-size photo.

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      • craig September 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm

        It is supposed to be bus/bike only on northbound Wheeler, north of Multnomah, and has been that way since I-don't-know-when.

        Google sat photo

        Project drawing

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  • Patrickz September 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    This is a route I use quite a lot and I welcome the changes; they're clean and clear. The wider lanes are a lot more comfortable in the "breathing room" aspect.

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  • Boneshaker September 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Very nice, especially in the southbound lane. Any chance they'll fix the bike lane that just ends @ 14th heading east on Everett?

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  • ME 2 September 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I like them as well. It was stressful before when the bike lane added just south of Broadway disappeared at the intersection just before the I-5 on ramp and you had to often times scramble with a car or bus.

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  • Ted Buehler September 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Hmmm. Buffered bike lane? Seems a "Bike Passing Lane" would have been more appropriate here.

    It's a classic example of a suitable location for a bike passing lane.
    * large number of cyclists
    * wide range in preferred operating speeds
    * uphill location

    See "page 2 of 41" at ftp://ftp02.portlandoregon.gov/PBOT/Bicycle_Plan_for_2030/Plan_Documents/Supplemental_Documents/Supplement_Appendix_D.pdf

    I'm sure people will use the buffer as a passing lane, but an actual passing lane would have been better because the widths are suitable for the operating requirements of two bicyclists going side by side.

    I didn't see this come through in the design phase, I guess I wasn't paying attention.

    Otherwise, looks great! Thanks, PBOT
    Ted Buehler

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    • Ted Buehler September 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      Whearas, buffered bike lanes are best suited for

      Application
      • Bike lanes with high automobile traffic speeds and volumes
      • Bikeways with bike lanes adjacent to on‐street parking  
      • Bike lanes with high volume of truck/oversized vehicle traffic

      (Same document, page "3 of 41")

      None of which apply to Wheeler. Low speeds, no on-street parking, and low volumes of any vehicles.

      Ted Buehler

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    • Chris I September 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm

      You can still use the buffer area as a "passing lane", but the buffer provides extra visibility for the bike lane, and thus an added measure of safety.

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    • Paul Johnson September 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      Or at least skip-stripe the inside lane line to indicate that lane changes for bicycles are, in fact, a legal maneuver.

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      • Toby September 30, 2011 at 2:16 pm

        No skip-striping needed.

        http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.420

        ORS 814.420
        Failure to use bicycle lane or path
        • exceptions...

        (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.

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        • Paul Johnson October 1, 2011 at 11:35 am

          Never mind that double-solid lines indicate that lane changes are banned. Though it's a moot point in the southbound side, since the left lane is a bus lane, so passing is prohibited as a result.

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      • Spiffy September 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm

        I'm not a fan of skip-striping on the inside line... it's harder for cars to see and then they end up driving in the bike lane... I see this all the time on the Holgate lanes... had they gone with a solid line then it would be more obvious that the lane is too narrow for cars...

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    • jim October 2, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      I wonder how many out of towners will look at the skinny bike lane thinking that is about the right size for a bike and also see the emergency parking to the right of that

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    • Ted Buehler November 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      Page has moved, here's the new link
      http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/334689

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  • Champs September 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Any chance of a bike alone being able to change the signal at Winning/Wheeler?

    I'll let the lights cycle through once or twice at intersections that don't recognize me, but with all the traffic accelerating onto the freeway, it's not a risk I really want to take.

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    • Steve B September 30, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      It does currently, but sometimes the wait time can be 60 seconds or longer, so a lot of people cut through it. Send in your concern/suggestion for a shorter wait for a signal phase and a more sensitive sensor to safe@portlandoregon.gov

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  • Bob P September 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    This is my daily route to work, and it leaves a lot to be desired, frankly.
    For one, I'm guessing they couldn't get the Rose garden people to agree to reduce it to one lane on the downhill, so the bike lane awkwardly disappears right where drivers headed right are going to swerve over at high speed.
    And the downhill bike lane contains the giant grate hole, it about takes up the entire bike lane. Before the stripping I would take the entire right lane and hold it all the way down the hill just to make sure I avoided that thing.
    And the ultimate fail is the sharrow markings in both lanes at the bottom of the hill intersection. Which lane should bikers queue up in? Who knows?! The bikers certainly don't, and each morning it's a new cluster of cyclists choosing the most appealing lane as they wait for the light. This frustrates cars who could turn right on red, and I've nearly been squashed by a bus who drove through the intersection in the left lane, and cut right in front of the group of cyclists who had queued up in the right lane.
    Now that I've typed this, I realize it was actually better before the new stripes.

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    • Lance P. September 30, 2011 at 1:12 pm

      In this design cyclist should never 'queue' in, but rather bunch. Left lane is for left turns only just as the signs clearly state. Right lane is for right turns or straight just as the signs clearly state.

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      • Bob P September 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm

        Which sign clearly states that?

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    • Paul Johnson September 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      Depends on which way you are going or if you intend to pass, since you can't make a left from the right lane.

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  • Allan September 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I came up with this idea too late to be considered, but we should really have a center-running bike facility all the way from Winning way through the RQTC. Next time we're repainting, maybe

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  • Paul Johnson September 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    I could see having a green lane where it's a shared lane, but extending the lane skip stripes down the existing lane wouldn't work since that would be a nonstandard pavement marking. Consistency is key when it comes to traffic control devices.

    This is a welcome change, though. I wonder if we could get ODOT on board for something similar on TV Highway.

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  • Babygorilla September 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Bob P
    Which sign clearly states that?
    Recommended 0

    Last pic. Left lane has a left only arrow. Right lane has a right only arrow but just below says "Except Bus / Bike). So, the only reason to be in the left lane is if you are, indeed, turning left.

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    • craig September 30, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      The sign above the lane says RIGHT TURN ONLY (EXCEPT BUS & BICYCLES)

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      • Bob P September 30, 2011 at 2:44 pm

        That doesn't meet my definition of clear. The green bike lane is more oriented to the left lane. If they meant for the right lane to be the clear spot for bikers to queue (or bunch, whatever), then they should paint a green box there or some indication. Now you've got two bike signs in each lane, making things even worse. I realize those are just sharrow signs, but can we assume that everyone else does?
        It's a goofy orientation, why not let cars take the right on red, buses must take the right lane and head straight through, and send bikes to the left lane where it's a natural line right to the green bike path through the transit mall.

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      • Bob P September 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm

        Actually, who cares what I think, I'm no traffic engineer. But if you are down there every morning, you'll see bikes waiting at the light in either lane, usually depending on what the first person to arrive did.
        So my original point was the existing signage was inadequate, and it's now even worse becuase there are giant bikes painted in each lane.

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        • Frank September 30, 2011 at 3:25 pm

          I like the lane; enables me to build up a nice head of steam and be sling-shot into traffic as I tip-toe past that sunken grate at speed. Ideal? No... and the dangerous grate will add some extra excitement for the uninitiated using it in the dark. But still better then the old method of suddenly merging into surprised traffic at medium velocity when the lane abruptly ended.

          I'm with you on the sharrows though. Regardless of what was intended, the reality is its a free-for-all where bikes going straight take up both lanes. This makes it more unpredictable for drivers and cyclists.

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  • Steve B September 30, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I really appreciate the attention and improvement to this section of a major bikeway spine in Portland, but that gap between the signal at Russel and where the bike lane just ends.. that's just not going to cut it. Great that we've come much closer to closing the gap, but we haven't finished the job until that bikeway connection to the excellent Trimet/Rose Quarter cut-through is seamless.

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  • Alexis September 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I must have missed that they aren't going to install a continuous facility down Wheeler to the RQTC. That's a bit disappointing. I hope the skip stripes and green paint will be added, and didn't just get dropped.

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  • Joseph E September 30, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    "Some on the committee wanted a continuous buffered bike lane here, but ultimately agreed to a compromise in order to allow unfettered access for buses and trucks during big Rose Quarter events..."

    Hasn't anyone heard of a cycletrack around here? Put the bike lane to the right of the bus parking. Problem solved! The road is at least 40 feet wide (plus a 12 foot wide bus parking lane) thru here, so there is plenty of room for a cycletrack on each side, plus a car lane each way. What's the problem, people!

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    • Joseph E September 30, 2011 at 6:04 pm

      And if they say that 52 feet isn't enough room... well, the entire area is NOTHING BUT right-of-way, besides the stadium itself. The freeway is to the right, with just "landscaping" in between. Can't we fit some high-quality, separated bike infrastructure in there, instead of these half solutions?

      Now I agree that a bike lane is better than nothing, and it's nice to have that now. But for the cost of a single concrete curb, we could have a permanent cycletrack. And concrete doesn't wear off like paint (or thermoplastic)

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      • craig October 3, 2011 at 8:55 am

        Good points. This, and the other 3 Lloyd District bicycle projects, were only funded at a level that would allow for low-level changes, i.e. paint & signs, and to a lesser extend signaling and new concrete. Bigger budget changes, like new construction, are also on the radar, but I think the objective was to improve things now in the short term with the money on hand. Also, there' s some caution about doing anything major in this particular zone until the N/NE Quadrant process gets further along (don't want to spend big bucks on something that may be torn up in the next five years).

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  • Miles Obrien September 30, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Great! Now if PBOT would start charging $100.00 a year for a bicycle licence I could go to bed with a smile on my face.

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    • noah September 30, 2011 at 7:11 pm

      I'm all in favor of that, as long as the fees remain proportional to the impact the vehicle has on the road. That would put the car license fee at about $40,000 per year. Traffic will be great!

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  • John Russell (jr98664) September 30, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    If the current path for the two-stage left from Weidler to Williams is any indication, there are changes that need to be made before it is implemented on Broadway at Vancouver.

    The turn from the bike lane is too sharp, forcing cyclists to slow down in the bike lane or swerve into traffic to safely make the turn. It should be straighter, more like any other ramp where the bike lane moves onto the sidewalk.

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    • are October 1, 2011 at 7:30 pm

      agreed, and one reason i rarely use the similar facility on eastbound broadway turning left onto williams.

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      • Schrauf October 2, 2011 at 10:43 am

        I think that is the same intersection. Eastbound Broadway is Weidler. I agree the right turn to prep for the left turn to Williams is way too sharp, but I guess they want to force people to slow down because it is also a sidewalk being crossed, as soon as you turn off Weidler.

        What is worse about this turn is that for some reason many people on bikes do not look at the traffic light or pedestrian signal on Weidler prior to shooting out into traffic on Williams to ensure it is still green and they will not be hit by traffic on Williams. Even worse there is usually a parked car blocking everyone's view until you are directly in the first traffic lane.

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    • are October 1, 2011 at 7:31 pm

      on the other hand, i don't really have a problem merging left in anticipation of the turn, but i do understand that others might.

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      • Ted Buehler October 2, 2011 at 4:26 pm

        are -- there's streetcar tracks on the left lane of Weidler. Bicycles can't safely merge left there unless they're riding with really fat tires.

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        • are October 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm

          there are two or three feet of lane to the right of the rails, and the timing of the light happens to be just right, but we digress . . .

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          • Ted Buehler October 3, 2011 at 10:15 am

            So you can be in the left lane to the right of the tracks. Okay. Now how do you turn left across the tracks with only 2' to begin your turn and get to a 45 degree angle for safe crossing of the rails? Seems pretty dicey to me -- you either need to be riding very slow or cross at an unsafe angle. Either of ehichputs you at risk for being struck from behind by a car if you make the slightest error.

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  • michael October 1, 2011 at 9:29 am

    I ride this stretch daily and noticed the new striping. Glad to see some changes.

    However, the most dangerous part of the stretch is just south of Weidler where there is a rt turn (from google maps looks like it is called N. Center Ct St). I have almost been hit here on multiple occasions as cars try to gun it past me and hit that turn. They are using it to make a loop back to the I-5 on ramp and avoid waiting at the light or to enter the rose garden parking lot. Wheeler curves left here and I have seen cars make that turn when they weren't even in the rt lane. Sketchy.

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