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New signal on NE Lloyd gives bike riders a jump on other traffic

Posted by on October 3rd, 2012 at 11:09 am

New bike only signal at MLK and Lloyd-3
The new signal makes it easier for this person to merge left over two lanes of traffic.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) activated a bike-only signal yesterday at the northwest intersection of NE Lloyd Blvd and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The new signal is for people riding bicycles westbound on NE Lloyd Blvd. At this location, MLK Jr. Blvd is one-way only in the southbound direction, so this signal (unlike others PBOT has installed) isn’t to prevent right-hooks. Instead, PBOT is using it to help people on bikes get a head start across the intersection. The reason PBOT invested in what they call a “leading bicycle interval” at this location is because many people merge left over two lanes of traffic in order to ride up onto the path that leads to the Eastbank Esplanade.

New bike only signal at MLK and Lloyd-1

PBOT’s Division Manager of Signals, Street Lighting, and ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems), Peter Koonce wrote about the signal on his blog last night. Here’s how he describes the rationale:

“There is an access to the Eastbank Esplanade to the west of this intersection, so the leading bicycle interval for the eastbound movement allows people on bicycles to get the jump on the vehicle movements and weave across the lanes to turn onto the sidewalk that leads to the path.”

And if you’re curious about how much of a jump bike traffic gets, here’s more from Koonce:

“The length of the green time advance for the bicycle signal is dependent on the eastbound traffic. The bicycle signal westbound is active when the eastbound movement starts and continues when the eastbound vehicles start. Another way to think of this movement is that it mimics the WALK interval for pedestrians on the north crossing of the intersection.”

Koonce says because the signal pole and the required wiring was already there, this cost the City just $2,000 to install.

I watched several cycles of this signal this morning and it gave people on bicycles about an 8-10 second jump on adjacent traffic. When bike traffic was present for start of the green phase, it worked like a charm and they were able to make the merge without having to worry about people in cars slowing down for them. (Note that if you arrive at the end or after the bike green phase, the signal does nothing for you.)

Here are a few more photos…

New bike only signal at MLK and Lloyd-2

New bike only signal at MLK and Lloyd-4

This isn’t the first time PBOT has installed a “pre-green” for bikes (and it’s their 12th bike-only signal currently in operation). There’s also a leading bicycle interval on NE Broadway at Victoria. PBOT has had bike-only signals installed for many years, but a major bureaucratic hurdle was cleared when the Oregon State Legislature gave them the stamp of approval in 2011.

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Comments
  • Dave October 3, 2012 at 11:13 am

    This is really great. I rode this way for years every day in the morning down to the Steel Bridge, and would always take the lane partway up Lloyd from here, so that I could easily get into the left turn lane to get on the South sidewalk. This looks like it should make that maneuver much easier and more predictable for everyone.

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  • Case October 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

    I take this route every day to get to work, and I’m pretty stoked on this signal. Thanks PBOT, for being proactive on this project. Our tax dollars, hard at work for the safety of our citizens.

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  • Ian October 3, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I saw this on my morning commute too. I’ve been wishing they’d do something about the transition from Lloyd to Esplanade for a while, so it’s nice to see PBOT do something for cyclist safety without a horrible accident to trigger it.

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  • dan October 3, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Is that a Schwinn Stingray? Sweet!

    (can’t believe everyone else missed the most important part of this post, sheesh.)

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  • ScottG October 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Very nice! I’m thrilled to see this and will use it frequently.

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  • Joseph E October 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Great! We have avoided this route, using Multnomah or Tillamook to go west instead, due to this intersection. This will be very helpful.

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  • JNE October 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Another commuter here who will benefit from this . . . right on PBOT.

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  • stasia October 3, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Perhaps someone can answer a related question for me about leading crossing intervals.

    When there’s a leading pedestrian signal, are bikes legally allowed to use it if they’re not acting as peds? The signal on SW Park Place heading up to Washington Park recently developed a ped lead, and it feels safer to me to take it when I’m riding because that way I get ahead of any cars turning left across my path. (I can think of other similar ped leads that I often want to use as well, like SE Lincoln crossing Cesar Chavez, or some of the SE Burnside crossings.) But it feels kind of like a jerk move to be going through the intersection when the light’s still red for cars, like I think I get special treatment or something. Any thoughts?

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    • Dave October 3, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      I’m not sure if that’s legal to do, but I feel like I’ve seen people say it’s legal to ride through a crosswalk if you ride at walking speed, so perhaps under those conditions.

      That’s essentially what this type of signal (the one in the story) is meant to do – give you that lead to clear the intersection before you have to mingle with turning autos, or in this case, give you a lead so you can turn across lanes without having to merge with auto traffic.

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    • Peter O. October 3, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      I’m curious about this as well. The one on the downhill section also has the leading ped signal and I’ve been tempted to use it but it just doesn’t feel right with the traffic signal still being red. I come down that hill just about every day on my way home.

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    • mh October 3, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      I justify acting like a pedestrian here because it makes everyone’s life easier. Bikes are allowed to make the same straight-across movement that the ped signal allows, so it’s best that they get out of the bike box ASAP and let the cars make their turns. I just keep wishing they’d change the signage (like adding that nice bike logo to the “walk” light).

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      • mh October 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm

        Whoops – by “here” I meant Lincoln/Chavez.

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    • Spiffy October 4, 2012 at 11:13 am

      safe is more important than legal…

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  • Spiffy October 3, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    the path that leads to the Eastbank Esplanade.

    what path? the old path down to the tracks was closed… are you talking about the sidewalk via the Park & Ride driveway? then riding the sidewalk the wrong direction all the way up to the Steel Bridge switchback to get to the lower deck?

    it’s nearly impossible to legally access that turn from the bike lane… you need to change lanes three times, which means 300′ of signalling… by my measurements you’d have to start signalling as soon as you left the east side of the intersection, and even then you’d cross over the solid white line to get into the turn lane and just barely make the turn…

    PBOT should not be encouraging such wrong-way sidewalk riding…

    best to already be in the middle lane with automobiles on Lloyd Blvd if that’s the intended destination…

    or ride the extra 200′ to Oregon St and go across the crosswalk…

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    • Steve B. October 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      That sidewalk is actually a designated Multi-use path, and was installed by ODOT. It’s 2-way and for bikes and peds. Sadly, it stops just before you get to MLK — wish the same designation was provided for the MLK/I-84 crossing, which many cyclists use as a MUP already.

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      • Champs October 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm

        I suppose that’s true, since it’s the same “sidewalk” you’d use for access north of the Esplanade ramp, and I do use it to go south/east.

        But I still say it’s a nutty fudge cluster. Crossing over FOUR lanes of traffic (two oncoming!) to access the MUP from the south is non-obvious, and the wall of northbound riders massed at the ramp’s north end doesn’t make access from the north too convenient. It’s not even marked as two-way.

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        • Dave October 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm

          Well, nobody said it was a great solution, just that this signal greatly improves access to it, if you know it’s there :)

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      • Spiffy October 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm

        it’s a MUP? really? I mean, not that I don’t believe you, but it looks like it’s just a wide sidewalk… I don’t remember any center line or anything that would differentiate it from a sidewalk…

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        • El Biciclero October 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm

          I think anything is a MUP as long as some authority says it is. I don’t think there are any defining physical features that one can use distinguish between a sidewalk and a MUP. Then there are those who call things like this a “Bike Path”; that always makes me chuckle.

          What might be nice is some kind of signage that says “Entering Multi-Use Path Zone. Peds: Expect Two-way Bike Traffic. Bikes: Yield to Peds. Stay Right Except to Pass”.

          Of course wishing for signs might be just as likely to get you “Please Walk Your Bike” signs as anything else…

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    • Terry D October 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      The Sullivan’s Gulch MUP study is calling for the continuation of this “Upper path” all the way to SE 16th…..so if it is ever built this lane changing problem will become less problematic.

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  • Nat October 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    I’ve noticed an interesting setup going north on Barbur at Capitol Highway where it appears a camera is used to determine when a bus is in the transit lane and gives that traffic an early green when it detects something there. If you stay back from the line a bit and linger under the camera during a red bikes can trigger it for a head start too.

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  • Steve B. October 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Way to go Peter + PBOT! I love finding new bike signals around town.

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  • spare_wheel October 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I think using a “bike” as the signal is problematic because its too diffuse from a distance. We clearly need an unambiguous bike signal that is distinguishable at distance. Perhaps something like a vertical band.

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    • Spiffy October 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      MAX trains already use a vertical band traffic light…

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  • JJJ October 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    In the picture, the pedestrian signal is red when the bikes get green. Why is that? Why not have the pedestrians also get a lead?

    As for the earlier posted question about using the pedestrian leading signal as a bike…why not? In fact, why didnt they just do this ehre and save $2,000? What DC does is put up a sign that says ” bikes use ped signal”.

    Thats it. $50 vs $2,500 its a no brainer.

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    • Peter Koonce October 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      JJJ- the time for the WALK and Flashing Don’t Walk indications (federal requirement) that people in the crosswalk use require a lot more time than a vehicle (bike and autos). The picture shown is a case where a person was walking when Jonathan was taking pictures. That doesn’t happen all the time.

      The second part of your question is more complex, from an efficiency standpoint, it isn’t the City’s policy to needlessly delay people and freight on NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, so if there aren’t people trying to cross the street, traffic engineers design traffic signals so that we aren’t using 20 seconds for one vehicle on NE Lloyd Blvd when 5 seconds will probably do. From an accessibility of getting people on bikes across the street, if we just put in a sign, the only way a person on a bike could activate the WALK and Flashing Don’t Walk is to push the button, which would mean leaving the street and getting to the button. The other option would be to install a button that people on bikes could activate from the bike lane, but that would have been a lot more expensive because the steps include 1) dig up the sidewalk, 2) dig a hole for the pole and put in a pole, 3) run wires to the pole, & 4) put a button on the pole, etc. That’s a bit more than $2,000.

      Washington DC doesn’t have a lot of detection, so they just let the pedestrians come up every cycle (we do that too in some locations, but this was a particular location where the existing infrastructure could be used just a bit more effectively).

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      • JJJ October 3, 2012 at 9:53 pm

        Got it, didnt realize the pedestrians ONLY got to walk when pushing the beg button, that does explain the bike signal.

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      • Spiffy October 4, 2012 at 11:12 am

        I wish they would just do timed lights everywhere with short timers… it’s annoying having to wait forever for the flow of single occupancy vehicles, or the absence anticipation of them, before the light thinks about changing…

        most of the time I walk up to the intersection and gauge whether or not I need to use the ped signal or if I am smart enough to cross the road by myself like a big boy…

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  • Reza October 3, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    This is a great improvement to this intersection, but as others have alluded to here, the awkward transition from the bike lane to the south side sidewalk in order to access the Esplanade and Steel Bridge is still an issue. It’d be nice if Lloyd/Interstate was widened underneath the I-5 overpass to allow a bike lane in each direction. And how about a curb cut right at the Esplanade entrance to allow westbound cyclists to take a left (safely, of course)?

    As it stands, even though I take Lloyd going eastbound, I prefer taking the lane on Multnomah going westbound.

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    • mh October 3, 2012 at 9:40 pm

      It took a conversation with the city for me to realize that that little island across from the existing too-far-east curb cut was for bikes. I still don’t like it, and usually reluctantly take the S sidewalk from wherever the signals make it easiest for me to get over there to the Esplanade entrance. (And someone I know caught me riding the wrong way on Lloyd the other day, because the sidewalk between MLK and Grand was closed…)

      This leading signal may help me get to that little island, but I don’t think I can just make a sweeping left turn onto the sidewalk/MUP there. I think it’s tight and designed to require you to stop, which traffic might not otherwise necessitate.

      I’ll try it next time I have to head downtown from work. Doesn’t happen often.

      mh

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  • Nate October 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    I have a reverse commute from most here it seems: I’m heading home in the afternoon to NoPo from SE, and this is the fastest way (as far as I’m concerned) to get from S. of 84 through Rose Quarter and onto to N. Interstate. So, I come W. on NE Everett to get onto MLK, cross 84 (and three lanes of traffic) going North, and turn W onto Lloyd.

    I appreciate the bike signal, and I’ve long wondered at the weird light timing at this intersection – why does eastbound traffic get the light first? There is, as Jonathan noted, no northbound traffic on Grand, so why not have both directions go at once? Now, with this bike signal, there is at least an excuse.

    Another question that comes from the first: why is the green so short for westbound traffic? When I turn off of MLK, I inevitably watch the light at Grand (westbound on Lloyd) turn yellow/red as I’m making the turn. SO FRUSTRATING – and encourages me to cheat the red onto Lloyd (from northbound on MLK) in order to catch the tail end of the green at Grand.

    Confused? I need a diagram…

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    • Peter Koonce October 4, 2012 at 7:41 pm

      Nate-
      The intersection has more vehicular demand than can be accommodated with one turn lane for the westbound movement (during some periods of the day and when the Convention Center is busy). Thus, the shared left-through lane in the middle of the three lanes provides a little more capacity for the westbound traffic.

      This isn’t “weird” it is actually quite common and the industry calls it split phasing (all traffic in one direction goes followed by all traffic on the other movement). It isn’t quite as often seen as it used to be though.

      The green for the westbound movement is a function of demand at the intersection, if there isn’t a need to keep a movement green, the available time is provided to NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, where most of the traffic is.

      Your comment makes me think that if one is cycling through the intersection, the likelihood that you’re going through both intersections is likely pretty high. It’s possible to have the detection send a message from one intersection to the other to try to get you through both intersections, might be an opportunity for further innovation. I am curious if others could provide insight to whether most people on bikes are going through both intersections and continuing east-west on Lloyd? Thanks for the comment.

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      • Dave October 5, 2012 at 8:51 am

        Peter: by ‘both intersections’ – do you mean both MLK and Grand? I would venture to say that, if traveling east-west on Lloyd, almost everyone on a bicycle is going to go through both MLK and Grand (because how many people are going to turn onto and ride on MLK or Grand? Not many). That’s my suspicion, anyway.

        I’ve sometimes been frustrated, especially going East on Lloyd, that it’s difficult to make it through the lights at both MLK and Grand due to the uphill. It’s certainly not a major issue, but it would be nice to not have to stop on an uphill :)

        The other thing I was wondering, is if it would be possible to work it so that east-bound bicycles could go through the signal at NE Lloyd and 9th on a red, since there is no (legal) chance of conflicting traffic there.

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      • Reza October 5, 2012 at 11:55 am

        Peter, I have noticed that before when I was stopped at the light at MLK (cycling eastbound) on Lloyd , I’d have maybe 8-10 seconds to make the green phase on Grand once the light at MLK turned green. Usually I would make it, but it would require serious pedalling and I would invariably enter the Grand intersection during the yellow signal phase.

        Several months ago, I started noticing a change where I now have plenty of time to make it through both intersections after the light at MLK turns green. I almost never even see the light at Grand turn yellow as I pass going eastbound. A huge improvement!

        So was something done here to improve the signal timing for cyclists? I remember voicing my concerns about these signals to Lindsay at the Lloyd TMA and it looks like it may have worked. Thanks!!

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  • Todd Edelman, Slow Factory October 5, 2012 at 11:16 am

    This does not meet “8-80″ — not even close. How much would it cost to have bike-only left signal at the next intersection that would allow everyone to cross, rather than just some adults? It might slow some people down, but it will probably make more people safer.

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  • 007 October 7, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Wonderful improvement. I haven’t used it yet but will take this route more often now.

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  • Caomhinski October 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    The east bound traffic has always gotten a head start before the west bound traffic. I used to take advantage of this lag to run the west bound red light in order to get a jump on the traffic and cross over the two lanes. But then I got ticketed for that maneuver. I explained to the cop why I did that, and he never showed up at my hearing so the case was dismissed (whew!). Hooray for PBOT’s decision to install this. My only question is: does the southbound traffic have a No Turn On Red sign? Otherwise, someone might pull out in front of the bicyclist.

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  • mh October 11, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I don’t believe rights on red are restricted in this intersection, unless that was added with this new signal.

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