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Should ODOT install sharrows on the Oregon City bridge?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 8th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

After requests by citizens, ODOT says they're considering the possibility of sharrows on the Oregon City/West Linn Arch Bridge.


With a major renovation nearing completion on the historic arch bridge over the Willamette River that connects Oregon City and West Linn, people are wondering whether or not bicycle access on the span could be improved if sharrows were installed.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently installed the markings on the St. Johns Bridge. Upon learning about work being done on the Oregon City bridge, reader Jonathan Gordon emailed ODOT staff to request they consider a similar treatment.

"I find that cars are much less likely to honk/yell at me on the St. Johns Bridge now that they expect to share the road with me," reads Gordon's email to ODOT Community Affairs Coordinator Susan Hanson.

sharrows on St Johns Bridge-9
New sharrows on St. Johns Bride.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Like the St. Johns, the Oregon City bridge is owned and managed by ODOT. Both bridges also share the dubious distinction of having no bike lanes or other space on the main deck dedicated specifically to bicycling. Another similarity is that both bridges have sidewalks that are narrow and require sharp turning movements and barely enough room for sharing the space with other users. But there are also major differences. The St. Johns has four lanes (two in each direction) and is much wider and longer, leading to higher motor vehicle speeds. The Oregon City bridge is narrower and shorter, and speeds are slower. While the latter might seem better for bicycling, it also means that if people on bikes are taking the lane, people in cars wouldn't be able to speed around them like the do on the St. Johns Bridge. (Perhaps the entire Oregon City bridge could be a no-passing zone?)

I too asked Susan Hanson about the possibility. She said they need to assess several things before they make a final decision. "We want to evaluate how they have worked on the St. Johns Bridge, especially because there are both similarities and differences in the two bridges," she said. Hanson added that there are also some "traffic control decisions that are being finalized with the City of Oregon City that might have an impact on this potential" and that ODOT would need to discuss the issue with other jurisdictions around the bridge.

The Federal Highway Administration gave the official sanction to sharrows in 2009, stating that the markings indicate, "the appropriate bicyclist line of travel, and cues motorists to pass with sufficient clearance."

At this point, Hanson says, "We are examining," the sharrow possibility.

What do you think? If you have feedback about this you'd like ODOT to consider as they deliberate, please email Susan Hanson at Susan.C.Hanson@odot.state.or.us.

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Comments
  • LoveDoctor August 8, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    "She said they need to asses several things before they make a final decision". Jonathan, are you insulting the fine folks at ODOT, or did you perhaps misspell "assess"? — Thanks for catching that mistake. Fixed it. - JM

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  • Dan Kaufman August 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Yes and drop the speed limit down to 15 mph.

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  • Zaphod August 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    It seems there's only one possibility for cyclists and that's to roll exactly where sharrows might be. So, given that, it seems logical that sharrows be installed to eliminate ambiguity for all road users. The sharrows are simply reinforcing existing law. An incremental improvement in safety and comfort with zero downside.

    Unsure why there's debate.

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  • JM August 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    The ultimate solution would be repurposing 1 of the 2 lanes for 2 way bike traffic and have the other lane as a reversible car/truck/bus lane. Signals at either end of the bridge would control access to the reversible lane.

    Crazy? For the US definitely. But, this type of solution is common in the Netherlands and is even applied to new underpass/bridge construction as a means to discourage driving.

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    • Spiffy August 9, 2012 at 12:09 am

      I think it's too steep going up to discourage that many... but in the future this could happen...

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  • John Lascurettes August 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    No need to read the article. Obvious answer to headline is "Yes."

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  • Sunny August 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Considering that there's a bike lane that goes right up to the bridge from the Willamette Drive on the West Linn side, sharrows would be a logical continuation in the absence of bike lanes. It would also be a reminder for drivers coming into Oregon City to slow for downtown and be on the lookout for slower moving traffic(bicycles and pedestrians).

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  • Steve August 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    I'd be curious to know more about what this means: "traffic control decisions that are being finalized with the City of Oregon City that might have an impact on this potential".

    I wonder if this has to do with the fact that main street has been reconfigured from a one-way prior to the bridge closure to a two-way street.

    I don't know if they're going to now permit left turns from main onto the bridge. Previously the only way was to turn right from main or come around the block via railroad avenue and then a left onto 7th and straight across the bridge.

    Given that the west linn-to-oregon city lane is downhill, bikes can take the lane. However, the oregon city-to-west linn lane, while not long is pretty steep.

    This would be a really great intersection to experiment with something like a pavement loop or push button bike-only traffic signal giving a headstart to bikes going from 7th in oregon city across the bridge to west linn.

    At the end of the day, given the canby ferry is the only route across the willamette south of the sellwood bridge, bikes are gonna be on the bridge, whether or not there are sharrows or "bicycles on road" signs or anything else.

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    • Sunny August 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      I usually climb on the sidewalk and descend on the road surface in such conditions. There's no use pissing off drivers and safety is not a concern for pedestrians since I'm moving slow uphill.

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    • Sunny August 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Now that you mention the Canby ferry, the 2 dollar per crossing for bikes is going to encourage more bridge use for those large cycling groups that find it appalling to have to shell out much more money for use of less than the space of a single car on the ferry.

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  • Ian August 8, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    I used to live in West Linn and drove over that bridge almost every day. The speed at which traffic moves across it is quite slow and drivers are already cautious since buses used it too and take up a considerable amount of space. It might turn out that sharrows also do more to increase vehicular safety on the bridge since cars will have to be even more alert to navigate with cyclists on the bridge

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  • Drew Devereux August 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Going north uphill, it is easier to ride the sidewalk for me. Not worth it to annoy the inevitable parade of motorists that would accumulate.
    Going south downhill I take the lane and go about as fast as cars anyways.

    That said, adding sharrows is worthwhile. Might as well plaster them to every mile of roadway in the US, since most motorists failed that part of the driver exam regarding the possibility of bicycles in the roadway when they got their license.

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    • Rex Marx August 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Yep, I was riding this bridge a couple times a week when open and I do the same. It works fine for me.

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  • jim August 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    A lot of people don't know what they meen. Some would just assume it's a carpool lane.

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  • rwallis August 8, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    To answer your question Jonathan - yes they should. It would be a seriously civil thing to do.

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  • GlowBoy August 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Yay! Sharrows FTW! Do it!

    I don't understand the argument about cars "not being able to pass" if bikes take the lane. If there isn't oncoming traffic, a car should be able to pass just the same as on any other narrow 2-lane road.

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    • peejay August 9, 2012 at 7:41 am

      Because some motorists might push their luck with the passing, and not be able to fully move out of the lane. Of course those same motorists, when told they cannot pass, would tailgate and rev their engines. We need a safe passing law with teeth, as well as a vehicular harassment law.

      But yes, sharrows.

      And a reduced speed limit.

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  • K'Tesh August 8, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    "people in cars wouldn't be able to speed around them like THEY do on the St. Johns Bridge."

    Add the paint, it's a cheap form of protection

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    • Todd Boulanger August 9, 2012 at 9:11 am

      Perhaps "protection" is not the best choice of wording...I suggest "cheap form of 'education'".

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  • Terry D August 8, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Absolutely....Sharrows are supposed to be the infrastructure choice of last resort for bicyclists....on this bridge there is no alternative so yes, they should be there as a matter of course and policy.

    If they want to be really fancy they can stripe an "advisory bike lane" up hill on the left side of the lane and sharrows downhill in the middle of the lane. That would actually be the most accurate depiction of what drivers may encounter because of the slope difference.

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    • Terry D August 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      sorry....bike lane on the right, no sense in putting a lane in the middle of the road....

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      • riversiderider August 9, 2012 at 9:29 am

        There is no bike lane on this bridge. My two cents is that sharrows can't hurt and they do raise awareness that the roadway is shared.

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  • biertodd August 9, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Newport cyclists (and cyclo-tourists) would love this kind of attention to detail. I'm not sure sharrows are the solution here though, as someone mentioned above, it depends on the direction of travel and ascent or descent speeds for the cyclists.
    The drivers that are 'advised' by signage of any sort aren't the drivers I'm worried about...

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  • Jim Lee August 9, 2012 at 8:26 am

    SHARROWS = VEHICULAR CYCLING

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    • Nick Falbo August 9, 2012 at 9:35 am

      NEIGHBORHOOD GREENWAYS = VEHICULAR CYCLING

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  • TK August 9, 2012 at 8:45 am

    This has to be the narrowest bridge over the Willamette in the metro area. Busses can hardly pass when there is oncoming traffic. While I'm generally all in favor of sharrows, I fear that encouraging bikes to take the lane on this bridge will inevitably lead to a cyclist getting clipped.

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    • Nick Falbo August 9, 2012 at 9:36 am

      I'm trying to think of the alternative for bicyclists crossing the bridge? If they ride far to the right, they *will* get clipped when people pass too close. If they're in the lane, they should prevent passing.

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    • Dave Thomson August 9, 2012 at 11:01 am

      People don't get clipped when they take the lane; they get clipped when they ride in the gutter. Really narrow lanes like on this bridge are actually safer than lanes that look wide enough for people to pass, especially if the cyclist rides in the gutter.

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      • Elmira Gulch August 9, 2012 at 11:34 am

        That has certainly been my experience, though taking the lane on a street where the usual motor vehicle speed is faster than bike speed has its own set of problems. A slower speed limit might help. It probably wouldn't be obeyed much, but at least it would curb the sense of righteous indignation at having to slow down for a bike.

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    • WWW August 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      Busses do not pass on coming cars on this bridge. When a bus comes to the center they wait till the oncoming cars stop before going over. Lived here for most of my life and never seen a bus pass over it without stopping and waiting for oncoming traffic to let them go.

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  • Joe August 9, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Roads like above share the S outta me, even if you have full access to lane some drivers get jumpy. cause crazy stuff if you ask me. I hammer thru stuff like this to live another day.

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  • Chris A. August 9, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Most drivers have no idea what sharrows are. It's not part of any testing procedure and wasn't even in the Oregon Drivers Manual the last time I checked (just checked the 2012-2013 version and there is now a section on sharrows).

    I saw my first sharrow about 2 years ago here in Portland and just figured it was some sort of preferred bike route, directed to bicyclists like myself, not motorists. It wasn't until I read more about them here on the Bike Portland blog that I learned that they are intended for motorists.

    My point being that typically, it's the bicyclists that are "sharrow aware," not the motorists. :-)

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  • Todd Boulanger August 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    In general, the critical issue for this and many other heritage bridges that state highway agencies manage are that they cannot easily be upgraded to meet current capacity, multimodal safety, and operational standards so stop trying to use the current playbook and start fresh with the layout and operation. It is the time to do so now that there is a fresh roadway surface to work with.

    Actually ODoT can likely do one better than simply slapping sharrows down...how about making it a low speed local access bridge that functions multimodally like a queuing street by removing the centerline and having a single wide (~12') center lane with a dashed bike lane (~4') along each curb side? [Dimensions are a guess from the photo and similar structures.]

    Pedestrians would continue to walk along the footpath and have a buffer from most traffic. Motor vehicle traffic would operate in the center wide lane until coming upon opposing traffic - then each would move and overlap into their side's advisory lane until they merge back into the center lane. Bike traffic would keep to their advisory lane and motorized traffic would pass bikes in the centre lane unless drivers had to wait for opposing motorized traffic to pass.

    This layout would have to rely on much lower traffic speeds and faster traffic deciding to take other high speed routes. Additionally the bike volumes would have to be low to moderate to allow frequent gaps in traffic.

    The key here is that any motorized traffic using the bridge wants to be downtown would continue into accessing downtown on the bridge (vs pass through) - that it would be their destination so slower speeds would be acceptable - they have reached their destination and only been delayed 30 seconds or so.

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  • K'Tesh August 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    or perhaps "cheap form of awareness" as someone suggests

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  • Jim Lee August 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    This bridge was built when model T Fords ruled the road.

    So narrow!

    It is astonishing that TriMet can run wide buses on it.

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  • Phil August 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    A sharrow on the way up would only serve to upset drivers. I ride the sidewalk. Sharrows on the way down makes sense.

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    • are August 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      we are talking about maybe a quarter of a mile. the posting is 25 mph, and i would think at least in the narrowed portion people would want to drive less than 20 mph anyway. why on earth should this be an issue?

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  • jim August 10, 2012 at 8:11 am

    This bridge was obviously never designed for bicycles, I think they probably thought they would have the common sense to stay on the sidewalk, or perhaps even just walk their bike across.

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    • are August 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      yeah, or just find some other bridge

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  • don arambula August 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    The 2010 Downtown Circulation Refinement Plan created in cooperation with ODOT and adopted by Oregon City includes a recommendation for bicycle sharrows on the bridge. My firm, Crandall Arambula along with DKS assisted the city in the creation of the plan. http://bit.ly/NsJtfA

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  • WWW August 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    You can't really speed on this bridge, especially if cars are coming from the other direction. It is very narrow as it is. It is hard enough to drive across it without scraping the side of your car on the curb (seen it happen many times) or worrying about hitting the car coming towards you. We call it the "Drive and Pray" bridge as you drive across it and pray you make it LOL

    As someone who uses this bridge often and cannot wait till it is open again. I Hate to say it and i know this won't be popular on this site but bikers should have to walk across the center span of the bridge, using the sidewalk. I know this will delay bikers some but the bridge is not that big/long and I guarantee if bikers were to share the road like this someone would get hurt/killed.

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  • Patty Freeman August 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Almost seems like a no-brainer. Wonder what they're assessing. I find that sidewalk nearly un-ridable, so narrow and with obstacles.

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  • Pete August 12, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I recommend "Bikes May Use Full Lane" signs in addition to sharrows. I saw these in San Carlos, CA, the other day - granted you can't tell them to use the other lane on this bridge, but explicit instructions are better than just paint on the road or the "Share the Road" dogma IMO: https://maps.google.com/?ll=37.502202,-122.250472&spn=0.000436,0.000648&t=h&z=21&layer=c&cbll=37.502259,-122.250394&panoid=SbSjXoM2er78ElSPk8LFcA&cbp=12,83.86,,1,-0.53

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