Posted by Will Vanlue (Contributor) on December 29th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
cycle track in Beaverton
(Photos: Will Vanlue)
After I shared photos of a psuedo-cycle track in Tigard, and when I visited an actual two-way cycle track in Eugene, some of you contacted me to share your experiences with a cycle track in Beaverton, about two miles south of Tualatin Valley Highway.
I went to check it out for myself and it was nice to have dedicated space for me and my bike. Unfortunately the cycle track is more of a proof-of-concept than it is a valuable piece of a transportation network.
At barely two tenths of a mile long the track is best suited for local traffic and doesn’t do much to connect other bicycle-friendly routes.
The cycle tracks runs next to Sexton Mountain Elementary School, along SW 155th between Sexton Mountain Drive and Rigert Road (you can see it in this satellite view of the area).
First, let me share what works well on this stretch of road.
Bicycles travel on asphalt raised up to the level of the sidewalk for most of the length of the cycle track. Planters and trees provide a barrier to motor vehicle traffic in those sections as well.
The bicycle lane drops back down to the level of the motor vehicle lane at intersections, sharing a space with motor vehicles at stop signs.
Initially I was expecting right-turning cars to pull over and block bicycle traffic but in my time riding in the area most cars kept to their side.
Textured pavement in the intersections, combined with planters and trees separating most of the bike lane, seem to be enough of a reminder that people in cars should be watching out for other modes of transportation.
The cycle track passes through three- and four-way stops along SW 155th, demonstrating that this style of cycle track can be adapted to different types of intersections.
There are also many elements of the cycle track that could use improvement.
Speed bumps have been installed in the motor vehicle lane in an attempt to limit travel to the legal, posted speed limit. The bumps aren’t particularly large though, and cars seemed to have no trouble passing over them without slowing down.
One person in a truck passed through while I was taking pictures, traveling at what seemed to be well over the posted speed limit. They didn’t need to slow down over the bumps at all. Only the four-way stop caused them to briefly reduce their speed.
The south end of the cycle track is also uninviting to bicycle traffic.
Coming from the south you have to share the road with motor vehicles traveling quickly downhill, without the aid of a bike lane, while watching for people opening the doors of parked cars.
Leaving the cycle track and heading back south in the opposite direction, you’re dropped off the track and onto a road with nearly no shoulder and no signs warning other traffic of merging bicycles.
This cycle track is a great addition to the neighborhood but it doesn’t provide much value (outside of improving access to the elementary schoo)l. It provides safer access to the school for kids and parents, and could be helpful if you’re already planning to ride on SW 155th, but it’s not worth going out of your way to ride along the track.
Without safe, convenient connections to the ends of the cycle track it will likely continue to only benefit short, local trips. However, this section of SW 155th can serve as a proof of concept showing that we can find plenty of room on the road for all of us, even in the suburbs.
Do you ride your bike along this stretch of road? How did you use it to travel around Washington County?
UPDATE: Bill LaMarche, Public Information Manager for the City of Beaverton, emailed me with some additional details about the track’s construction and some recent work done to smooth out the asphalt:
The cycle track was constructed with the SW 155th Avenue Improvements in 1996.
The project was designed by the City of Beaverton to help walkers and cyclists who use 155th in that area. The sidewalk was not originally extra wide but improved later.
The City’s Public Works Street Crew ground down the raised asphalt about a month ago due to tree roots.
You can see a photo of the asphalt smoothing LaMarche refers to here.
— Read more Washington County bike news here. Contact Will Vanlue, will [at] bikeportland.org with tips and feedback.