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Buffered bike lanes on Stark and Oak set to go green

Posted by on October 5th, 2012 at 11:18 am

Before (left) and after images of SW Stark.
(Photos: PBOT)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) plans to cover the entire length and width of the buffered bike lanes on SW Stark and Oak with green paint*. According to a PBOT fact sheet being circulated to businesses in the area (PDF), the goal of the project is, “to maintain vehicle separation, reduce confusion, and increase the attractiveness of SW Stark and Oak.”

Below are the before/after images of SW Oak being PBOT is circulating:

The lanes went in about three years ago; but — as we pointed out back in April — they are not working. People in cars routinely drive in the lanes, even though that behavior is illegal.

Once made aware that the lanes weren’t working, PBOT began analyzing the streets with traffic cameras. Back in July they shared some of the changes they were considering.

The fact sheet being sent out to businesses shares some findings of that analysis and gives a primer on how to use the lanes:

Recent Findings

  • Drivers and bicycle riders prefer vehicle separation created by the lanes
  • More people ride bikes on Stark and Oak because of the bike lanes

How to Use

  • Automobiles may cross the bike lane to turn or park
  • The bike lane is a through-lane for bicycles only
  • People bicycling should expect turning vehicles crossing the lane

Also notable in the PBOT fact sheet is a page titled “Transportation and Your Business”. As part of the project, PBOT is giving businesses a coupon that will be emailed to 30,000 Portland residents.

It will be interesting to see how well the new green paint works (I’m still not clear whether they will use paint or thermoplastic). PBOT has had issues with maintaining green lanes once they begin to wear off, and without any other method of creating separation (such as plastic bollards like San Franscisco is doing), it remains to be seen what impact this will have in keeping cars off the lane. It’s also worth noting that, due to the on-street parking and high turning volumes along the street, PBOT expects that people will frequently (and legally) be driving upon the lanes.

The re-design is expected to happen some time this month.

Stay tuned.

*NOTE: This story originally said PBOT will use green thermoplastic; but their own fact sheet specifically uses the term “paint”. I auto-corrected it initially, because people commonly mistakenly call the thermoplastic paint, but in this case, it turns out that indeed PBOT will debut a new type of paint for this project. Stay tuned next week for more info.

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Comments
  • David October 5, 2012 at 11:27 am

    About time! Wonder if they’ll ever end up painting the Hawthorne Bridge to help with similar confusion. (Sorry if it’s already been updated but I don’t ride that route much anymore.)

    Back in 2010 I made this to show what the Hawthorne Bridge _should_ look like:

    http://i.imgur.com/9plPt.jpg

    And here’s what it actually looks like:

    http://i.imgur.com/QgC1y.jpg

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    • Spiffy October 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      I got right-hooked there on the 4th of July last year… people watching the scenery instead of vehicle trajectory… luckily I was able to stop quickly and avoid the collision…

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    • Steve B. October 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      send that in to safe@portlandoregon.gov and ask them to restripe it.

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    • are October 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      the county is planning to reconfigure that area to give the cyclist a straight shot, rather than curving right and then jumping left, as in the current arrangement

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  • Dave October 5, 2012 at 11:37 am

    So, essentially they’re not changing anything, and just hoping that, by making it green, suddenly everyone will immediately know they can’t drive on it (except when they can, which is anytime they’re parking or turning).

    So, I assume we’ll be having this same set of posts in about another year: shots from your office of people misusing it, showing the paint wearing off the street, clarifying that the lane does not work as intended, and then PBOT initiating a review process, after which point they repaint it and call it good.

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  • dan October 5, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I’d really like to see PBOT step up and put some speed bumps in as well, with cut-throughs for bike traffic. Those will continue to work long after the paint is worn away.

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  • Reza October 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

    What a waste. These bike lanes are totally unnecessary within the downtown grid. Especially on Stark headed east (downhill), but even on Oak going west. You don’t even need sharrows. Just take the lane.

    PBOT should be putting their scarce resources into taming streets that really need the help, like Naito Parkway (especially at the god-forsaken railroad tracks), West Burnside, or 11/12th, 20th, 28th and 39th/Cesar Chavez on the Eastside.

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    • Indy October 5, 2012 at 11:53 am

      By encouraging bikes to use a single street for each direction you change traffic flow to benefit both car traffic and bike traffic. Cars know to avoid the street for throughways because bikes have clear markings. Bikes have a safe known transport that buffers them somewhat. Everyone wins?

      Can you imagine if bus mall still allowed cars within the dedicated bus/train areas?

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      • Spiffy October 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm

        they do still allow cars in the bus lane, I saw two driving in them yesterday… nothing preventing them except some signs and paint… never seen anybody get pulled over for it yet… some of the bus drivers don’t even honk at them anymore…

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        • David October 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm

          I work on 5th and can say that the buses and trains absolutely honk at cars in the wrong lanes. All. day. long.

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      • are October 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        can you imagine if the bus mall were closed to private automobile traffic entirely?

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        • Joseph E October 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm

          Yes. It used to be. ;-)

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    • Joe October 5, 2012 at 11:55 am

      I am a pretty confident rider but given the option I will always take Stark or Oak, more breathing room and calmer. There are not as many cars to slow you down.

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    • spare_wheel October 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Traffic calming and space sharing are not what cool transportation planners advocate now. Instead we have separated lanes, green paint, and right hook risk! I love progress.

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  • Mindful Cyclist October 5, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I simply vote for some sharrows on Stark and Oak. The green paint is not capable of keeping a car out of the bike lane and cars can use it to park and turn.

    Here are a couple problems I see:
    1. Are drivers going to see the green and stay out of the lane only to make a wide, sweeping right and turn?

    2. How “non-slip is this paint/thermoplastic? When it rains and I have to do a panic stop, how much is it going to increase my stopping distance?

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  • Indy October 5, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Good news!

    Now on SW Moody, please change the coloring of the bike/Ped markings. It’s just-off-white paint on very light-colored sidewalk, so it’s difficult to tell what lane is what at high speeds/without looking closely! I also recommend a few more markings, they are rather far apart and people entering the sidewalk from another location won’t know what lane to use.

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  • Oliver October 5, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I work near the intersection Broadway and Oak, and come through here regularly. Motor vehicle compliance seems to be much higher during regular commute hours than at other times.

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  • SilkySlim October 5, 2012 at 11:55 am

    I am surprised by all the green paint hate. I think this is a great solution! Simple. Fast. Cheap. Effective.

    A full green lane is so, so very different than the current bike lane. It would take a particularly naive driver to think they should be cruising along in a green lane.

    For every ride comfortable taking the lane, there almost surely another who wants to be off to side. And another 98 that don’t bike at all but will see this obviously separate set up and consider buying a bike next spring.

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    • Dave October 5, 2012 at 11:59 am

      The green paint dislike comes from the fact that I see green paint all over the city already, and people driving who clearly don’t understand what it means. Many people assume they are allowed to drive anywhere, unless it is physically blocked, and many people get flustered, not knowing what they’re supposed to be doing.

      Let’s just say I have low expectations of this kind of solution.

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      • PorterStout October 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm

        Boy, it has sure worked on the east exit to the Broadway Bridge in my experience. I used to see cars cutting across where the bike lane exited on to the roadway all the time without looking (to turn down towards Interstate). In the, what, year and a half(?) since they painted it green, I haven’t seen a close call even once. I have seen lots of cars waiting for the bikes to clear the lane, though. I think the green is a conspicuous visual that drivers are crossing someone else’s lane, and it makes them look over their shoulder. I like it!

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  • don arambula October 5, 2012 at 11:57 am

    This adjustment is better but is timid. While this ‘improvement’ better defines travel lanes, the green lane does nothing to resolve the fundamental problem of cars crossing the bike lane to access curbside parking spaces or turn left at intersections. Swapping the bike lane with the parking is the ultimate solution. In the meantime, I fear that the green lane may merely reinforce the sense of isolation of the parking lane and increase the sense of frustration for motorists, cyclists and businesses alike.

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    • resopmok October 5, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      swapping the parking and buffered bike lane in this instance would create a severe right/left hook problem where oak and stark intersect with their respective numbered streets, e.g., stark + 3rd or oak + 5th. bikes will be invisible to turning vehicles behind a row of parked cars.

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      • don arambula October 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm

        Hold back the curbside parking a space or two, provide an extruded curb diverter; advanced bike phase signalization, limit right turns, etc…. there are lots of solutions.

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  • don arambula October 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    My comment should have said right at intersections, rather than left.

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  • Robert L October 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    I would love to think this will make a difference… That being said, I work just off of First & Oak and peope driving just don’t pay that much attention to the bike lane (or are just confused by them). They drive in the bike lane or early on weekends drive in the parking strip on the right side of the street (before cars have parked). The only way to solve this is concrete barriers at the beginning of each block forcing cars to the left. But you know, lets give more paint a try…. and try it again, and again…

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  • Joseph E October 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Move the parking left, move the bike lane right. This is the global standard solution. Call it a cycletrack, or a parking buffered bike lane, or whatever. It works great bikes, it works fine for cars (parked and moving), and eliminates confusion, and it would actually be cheaper, since it requires much less paint.

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    • Reza October 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm

      Except that the City has seemingly yet to work out a solution for motorists turning right across such a cycle track or buffered lane. Why else has there been no others implemented besides SW Broadway at PSU (where there are no right turns)?

      So what’s needed? Separate bike signals at every intersection (w/ “No Turn on Red” signs for motorists)? Protected right turn signals at each intersection where a legal right turn can be made? Ban right turns all together (because that works so well on the transit mall)? Those can quickly add up to a lot more $$$ than green paint.

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      • spare_wheel October 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm

        after coming very close to being flattened by a garbage truck at the end of that cycle track i have vowed to never to ride that #$@%ing $%#@$ of $#!^ facility ever again.

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        • Paul October 7, 2012 at 11:53 pm

          If you were in a bike lane you probably would have been flattened, since you would most likely have been closer to the truck. I’ve taken thousands of trips on cycle tracks living in Amsterdam, and never once have seen any confusion or problems. Never.

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      • Gregg October 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

        It works great on NE Cully, where people driving can make right turns at intersections. Check it out.

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  • Chris I October 5, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    This is a good step, but these changes really need to be happening all over the city when roads are being repaved. Once again, the Dutch know how to do it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaE4KOZzQOg

    No wear, no slippery surfaces.

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    • Indy October 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA
      Better link IMHO

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    • Spiffy October 5, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      I wish I could double recommend this! colored asphalt seems like an awesome solution…

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    • Pete October 5, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      Wow, that is a thing of beauty. With US budgets, though, chip-seal is the new asphalt. The red coloring is a great solution, much better than paints that either wear quickly or are slippery enough dry let alone wet, but we’ll be lucky enough to get black asphalt let alone red in years to come.

      I’m also surprised by some of the comments here – colored lanes do indeed work as a “conspicuous visual” (thanks PorterStout) to remind drivers to check. And cars crossing the lanes to turn and park… of course! We can write about separated facilities all we want, but lanes have been shown to increase ridership, and there’s no law against signaling and taking the lane – no matter how slow you’re riding – to get around turning and parking cars.

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  • John Lascurettes October 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    So previously there were green boxes at the beginning of each block and a green transition box on blocks where cars should do the merge to get to the right turn lane. How will they handle this transition box now? Watching cars from my office window I see them take the length of the entire block to “merge” across the lane (essentially blocking it the whole length of the block for bike use).

    I’m curious about seeing how this will work out. I assume it will improve things at least for a while.

    Jonathan, if you need a great vantage point to take photos when it goes in, contact me. I’ve got an unobscured, multi-block view up and down Stark from a balcony 5 stories up from which you can see almost the entire length of Stark. I’ve got a multi-block view of Oak too, but only the last couple blocks at the west end.

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    • John Lascurettes October 5, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      I also wonder if, despite the green, drivers thatare complying will continue to straddle the center of the street (not the center of their own lane) – this is what has been prematurely wearing down the buffer marks as their tires are smack on top of it as they straddle the center the whole way down Oak.

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    • Mindful Cyclist October 5, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      I think it depends on when you are on it and at 4-6 pm, it is peak rush hour for bikes. I am pretty much on this every day and I don’t see many cars using it. However, if I am on it in non-peak hours, I tend to see a lot more cars using it.

      If you don’t see a cyclist, I think it makes it more confusing.

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      • Mindful Cyclist October 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm

        Sorry, this was meant to be a reply to art fuldodger.

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  • Dolan Halbrook October 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    I ride this daily wanted to note that a significant portion of the plates I see on cars driving in the bike lane are out of towners trying to navigate downtown. The green paint is visible enough for many of them to realize that *something* is different about those lanes, and when cyclists are in them it reinforces that, so I’m all for it. Will it be perfect? No. A cycle track would be better. But will it be better than the current state of things? I have little doubt it will.

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  • Champs October 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    So basically, the change on Stark is more paint. Good luck with that.

    User preference for separation doesn’t bless a plan with user safety. As often as I’ve seen a car take the bike lane there, I know that the oblivious driver ahead won’t right hook me, and the driver behind has no reason to get aggressive, because these streets are short and low speed.

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  • Andrew K October 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    I think this will help.

    I will fully admit I have driven in the bike lane on those streets more than once. Not because I was trying to be a jerk, but simply because I didn’t realize I was in the wrong lane until I was 3/4 of the way up the street anyway.

    I think the entire lane being green is an instant signal to your brain that you are in the wrong place.

    Is it perfect? No, but it helps!

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  • art fuldodger October 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Data point: I did a bike count for PBoT a few weeks ago at SW stark & 9th, from 4 to 6pm. The lane stripes had been repainted recently (but not the buffer diagonals, or the green) During those 2 hours there was a total of 4 motor vehicles driving in the bike lane.

    Does this constitute “not working”?

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    • John Lascurettes October 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Your counts and mine are quite different. I have a weekly meeting where I can view Stark from the corner office and I can count at least one car about every two minutes driving down the bike lane. That’s about 30 or more per hour.

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    • Pete October 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      While I’m not a fan of cars driving in the bike lane… were they turning, and how far in advance of the turn were they? It’s my understanding that Oregon law does not explicitly prohibit a motor vehicle from driving in the bike lane, only that all cars must yield to bicyclists in the bike lane. This was a grey area Ray Thomas pointed out in a class I took there oh so long ago… not sure if I’ve got this right or things have changed though. Personally I don’t know why someone would ride with the expectation that drivers will stay out of the bike lane. I ride with the expectation that they’ll try to beat me to the corner without signaling, and it’s kept me safe so far.

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      • are October 6, 2012 at 5:40 pm

        811.440 says “when making a turn,” not “when preparing to make a turn”
        http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.440
        compare the exception at 814.420(3)(b) for a cyclist leaving the mandatory sidepath to “prepare” to make a left

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        • Pete October 7, 2012 at 9:54 pm

          Thanks for the reference! The O blog with Todd Wyatt’s response was informative as well. I notice it doesn’t specify the length of entry into the turn (maybe somewhere else?). In California the law says cars need to be as far right as practicable no further than 100′ away, so riding here I’ve just become comfortable moving leftward when approaching intersections, or taking the lane when necessary. Sometimes there’s a rhythm and things just flow with the merges, but it’s definitely more challenging when I’m not riding alone or with slower riders (people drive pretty fast around here).

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    • benschon October 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      I’m with John. I work in an office building between Oak and Stark, and I would say that I see someone driving in the bike lane every two minutes or so. It’s nearly 10% of all traffic. “Not working” is an entirely accurate description.

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  • Adam October 5, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Very happy about this. I think consistency is key here. We need some kind of standardization for our buffered bike lanes, and green paint will be key for this.

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  • Spiffy October 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    why is nobody else seeing the glaring issue here? PBOT can’t use Photoshop! I mean, come on, a gradient fill when they should have been using a hue adjustment… world-class indeed! bah!

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    • osmill October 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      But that’s a *good* sign — it shows they didn’t hire expensive outside consultants for this project!

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  • Richard October 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Why don’t they just move the bike lane to the curb and add posts to prevent people from parking and driving it. If there is room for a buffer, there is room for passing. Should use parking to protect cyclists from traffic. Instead, they are using cyclists to protect parked cars from traffic.

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  • Craig K October 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I’m curious how the traction is in wet weather on the paint.

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  • JL October 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    If the green paint helps drivers realize that they are in the wrong place then it seems things need to be redesigned.

    The green paint should signal drivers not to enter that space in the first place.

    The signage needs to be changed also. As an example the sign on Oak directing traffic right onto 6th doesn’t show the bike lane to the right of the left traffic lane. Things like that tend to show people not familiar with the area the wrong way to handle the odd ways this city tries to manage multiple modes of travel.

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  • Terry D October 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Nice step forward, but in downtown we need a compltete grid network of bikeways, ot just a few here and there.

    This exact lane treatment however is what PBOT needs to look into for the OUTER LANE OF FOSTER in the 2014 Foster Streetscape project.

    The Green lane would allow for parking cars, right turns and the Number 14 bus…from 52nd all the way to 90th in both directions.

    If it works on Foster, then we turn to Hawthorne and Sandy….

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    • resopmok October 5, 2012 at 5:06 pm

      frankly i’d rather they leave foster alone if that’s the idea to put in there. at least right now when people pass by half changing lanes and gunning their engine in anger, i at least know what to expect. the confusing scenario you present means i will also have to deal with busses, blind right hooks and doors. no thanks.

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      • Terry D October 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm

        They ARE putting $3.7 million into that stretch of road and the question is what to do with the money. In 2003 the study looked into bike lanes and concluded that it would cost another $3.5 million to put them in because of curb relocation and other factors, but they did not even LOOK into the concept of devoting a whole lane to alternative transport; they just assumed that it would remain 4-5 travel lanes. The neighborhood has again called fro the city to look into bike lanes as a traffic calming option, and Stark/Oak is the only cost effective model we have in the city at the present time that would work within budget.

        Taking the outside travel lane and making it a multi-use but primarily a bike lane would be the only option left since the neighborhood is calling for the city to look in to bike lanes as part of the overall traffic calming project. It may be possible to move the parking lane in and the bike lane to the outside, which certainly would slow traffic down, but would be more expensive to implement because of the engineering but also would not have the extra benefit of adding a two mile “express lane” for the number 14 bus. It would also show the city, if this works, that retail corridors can be successful with only one travel lane. A pure bike lane would be nice, but is not an option with the money we have available.

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        • resopmok October 6, 2012 at 3:36 am

          That we have $3.7 million burning a hole in our pockets is not a good reason to create a “solution” which is more dangerous than what exists at present. What’s worse is that your proposition would create an illusion of safety by separating traffic modes. There is no panacea for making cyclists feel safer by engineering our streets differently. Better education and safer and more courteous operation of vehicles by _everyone_ on the road is the biggest solution we need. Unfortunately we can’t buy that.

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        • Alex Reed October 9, 2012 at 7:02 am

          I think that would be a good solution for Foster! Future Foster-Powell resident here; home purchase will hopefully close in November. Looking forward to getting involved in the Foster revival efforts!

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  • resopmok October 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Ultimately I don’t understand what point the buffered lane has in a one way grid, except to allow traffic be bypassed during rush hour. Otherwise, I almost feel as if I’m encroaching on other traffic if I wanted to make a left turn from the left lane. Also in my experience (which is admittedly not a daily ride through the area), auto traffic doesn’t average a faster speed than bikes due to the timing of the lights.

    Anyone who drives around in downtown should already – or needs to – realize that nobody is getting anywhere quickly. I understand that people are timid about vehicular cycling on streets like Powell or Sandy, but in the downtown core it’s the most sensible, safest, and generally quickest way to ride. Take the lane, stay in the center of your lane, signal lane changes and turns and you will avoid all manner of right hooks and doors.

    If someone tries to give you a hard time for it, just remind them, at least you’re not an out-of-towner who stops for no reason in the middle of the lane, or a double parked truck/cab/police car/chaffeur/whatever.

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    • El Biciclero October 9, 2012 at 9:30 am

      This, and dwaine’s comment below highlight the double-edged sword of “infrastructure” in Oregon. To add to your point, to paint bike lanes on low-speed, one-way streets like this–ostensibly to make timid riders feel more comfortable–has the social (if not legal) effect of putting bikes in their place, to the right of traffic. Now, instead of riding according to ORS 814.430, which allows riders to ride as far to the left as practicable in the leftmost lane of a one-way street (which is often a great way to avoid buses and parked/parking cars), cyclists must ride under 814.420, which mandates bike lane use, except for a list of ambiguous exceptions that have proven to be legally controversial. Even if there is an obvious application of some exception to 814.420, drivers will still ask themselves, “why isn’t that cyclist using the bike lane?” And answer themselves, “he’s either insane or arrogant.”

      And to dwaine’s point, it does seem like painting some bike lanes green makes them seem like “the ones where you have to yield”, even though that rule applies to all bike lanes, green or not. It reminds me of the unmarked crosswalk conundrum wherein most drivers think if there are no lines, there is no crosswalk, and therefore no need to yield to crossing peds.

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  • dwainedibbly October 5, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    I am slightly concerned that if we start painting some bike infrastructure with green paint, we will condition drivers to expect it and that only green lanes are bike lanes.

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  • Joe October 5, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    do this to all of downtown.

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  • i ride my bike October 7, 2012 at 7:16 am

    They need some improvements to north-south bike routes feeding these lanes. Ever tried connecting to the Waterfront Park path? Also a North-South route on NW 9th is essential to serve the Pearl and to access the bike blvds into NW.

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