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The case for a better bikeway on Broadway in three pictures

Posted by on February 27th, 2013 at 10:10 am

Bike traffic yesterday morning on SW Broadway at Oak. (Now imagine what it would be like this summer.)
(Photo: Peter Koonce)

You could make a pretty good case that Broadway is the most important piece of Portland’s vaunted bikeway network. And as the three recent images in this post show, Broadway often reaches full bike capacity at peak hours. Isn’t it time to expand the bikeway to accomodate this demand and encourage this positive travel behavior even more?

NW Broadway at Hoyt on February 13th, 2013.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
Broadway and Hoyt on September 26th, 2012.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Broadway is the main artery that captures bike traffic headed downtown from all of north and northeast Portland. (And it’s worth noting that inner northeast has the highest bike mode share in the city according to a 2008 City Auditor report that found 29% of inner northeast Portlanders use a bicycle as either their primary or secondary commute vehicle.) That traffic rolls onto the separated path on the Broadway Bridge and then splits into either northwest or downtown.

When Peter Koonce (who happens to be PBOT’s division manager of signals and street lighting) uploaded the lead photo in this post to Twitter yesterday he noted that 16 people on bikes that went through the intersection on one signal. That’s more than the amount of people who went through in cars in the adjacent lane.

Regarding Broadway’s bikeway future, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that Broadway is also one of the most dangerous and unpleasant streets to ride on. It’s notorious for right hooks at Williams, Hoyt, and other intersections, and the narrow bike lane through downtown is often full of obstacles from dooring hazards to idling tour buses and taxis. The good news is that the City of Portland is working on a plan that could make it much better.

As we shared back in January, a current plan in development would pour millions into a much-needed downtown bikeway facelift. PBOT hasn’t revealed details of that plan, but I’ve heard from sources that it is still very much in play.

Whether or not a protected bikeway on Broadway is a part of that plan remains to be seen. But there’s no denying Broadway needs the help and it’s consistently identified as a high priority by advocates and citizens. If we want to keep calling ourselves “America’s most bike friendly city” then it’s time to start putting some money where our mouth is. The demand is clearly there. And hopefully soon, the money will be too. Stay tuned.

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Comments
  • are February 27, 2013 at 10:17 am

    the date on the third photo seems anachronistic, but i do like seeing bikes taking the necessary lanes and not worrying about the striped bike lane way over on the right.

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  • Reza February 27, 2013 at 10:24 am

    If Broadway actually had lights on every block north of Burnside to slow traffic, it would be even easier to eschew the bike lane and just take the traffic lane. I already do this sometimes anyway and and once I get south of Burnside I don’t even touch that door zone bike lane.

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  • Steve Hoyt-McBeth February 27, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Jonathan, I think the caption for your September photo is intended to be 2012?

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  • Scott February 27, 2013 at 10:37 am

    The bike lane on Broadway is a bust on the west side. Take the lane. Save the money.

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  • spare_wheel February 27, 2013 at 10:39 am

    the hotel zone bike lane is definitely one of the worst bike “facilities” in pdx. if pbot thought more about the needs of cyclists *TODAY* and less about future brochures, broadway would have been carpeted with sharrows a long time ago. and while sharrows would not help most 7 year olds negotiate downtown, they would help many of those who ride broadway *TODAY*. its time for so-called “advocates” to consider the needs of those who cycle *NOW* as well as the needs of those who might some day cycle when we have amsterdam-style traffic calming, strict liability, and separated infrastructure.

    SHARROWS NOW!

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    • Erinne February 27, 2013 at 10:53 am

      Rather, sharrows where and how they were designed to be used. Marking greenways is nice, but a big, fat sharrow in the middle of Broadway, Hawthorne or even Alberta would be BEAUTIFUL.

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  • RJ February 27, 2013 at 10:50 am

    It’s time to make this happen. Yes, we all know that traffic operations-wise, it isn’t the low-hanging fruit that NE Multnomah, NE Cully, or outer Holgate are. Repurposing an existing travel lane will hurt the vehicle LOS. We simply have to agree that the trade-off is worth it.

    That bike lane is absolutely deficient. The door zone issue is terrible, of course, but more than that, we need a sufficiently wide facility not just for bicycle throughput, but so that fast riders can pass slow riders comfortably. I LOVE my no-sweat, 13mph commute, and faster riders shouldn’t have to veer into a vehicular lane to pass me.

    The Portland Plan says that 25% of commute trips should be by bike by 2035. What’s going to move the needle? Making the central city bike system more comfortable and more attractive to ALL existing and potential riders — not just those who are willing to “take the lane.”

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    • spare_wheel February 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      “Making the central city bike system more comfortable and more attractive to ALL existing and potential riders — not just those who are willing to ‘take the lane.’”

      The problem is that many who think like you actively oppose spending funds on projects that benefit a majority of cyclists *TODAY*. Sharrows may delay the next 500 meters of experimental cycle track by a year or so but they can result in a dramatic improvement in the way cyclists are treated in a dense signalized urban area. For example, market street in SF is a terrific example of how sharrows can inexpensively really help downtown cyclists *TODAY*.

      http://sf.streetsblog.org/2011/05/25/eyes-on-the-street-green-backed-sharrows-installed-on-market-street/

      IMO, the pathological obsession with separated infrastructure at PBOT is an example of the perfect being the enemy of the good.

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  • Joe February 27, 2013 at 10:51 am

    love seeing huge bike trains rolling :))))

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  • ScoBu February 27, 2013 at 10:55 am

    The absolute worst section of my 16 mile daily round trip commute due to all the hazards listed in the article. And I’m there before 7am..I can only imagine what it is like around 8am.

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  • shirtsoff February 27, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Bike traaaaaaaaaaaaain!

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  • John Landolfe February 27, 2013 at 11:16 am

    We also need to amend the laws regarding the expectation that bikes occupy a bike lane or the lanes on the outer edges. Quite often, the middle lane on a one way street is the safest. I’ll use bike lanes when available, and their presence is great, but no other vehicle is expected to be making illogical compulsory maneuvers when changing lanes. For example, I was in the middle lane on 2nd ave a few weeks ago and a cop actually yelled to me from a motorcycle to get on the right most or left most lane. I was headed from right to left, and in heavy traffic, didn’t think it prudent to make the maneuver in a single city block. The cop was just doing his job. The law needs to change.

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    • oliver February 27, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      Agree. The center lane is the correct lane for through traffic. I regularly head north on 4th avenue in the AM, I always take the center lane from Market down to Oak. Or course that’s not uphill.

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    • encephalopath February 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      In this case the motorcycle cop was just wrong about the law. The far right rule only applies when traveling “at less than the normal speed of traffic using the roadway at that time and place under the existing conditions.”

      If you can ride at the speed limit or as fast as the timing of the lights permit (12-15 mph downtown), then you can ride in any lane in any position that you want.

      He could try to cite you if he wants, but he won’t win.

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    • wsbob February 27, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      “…For example, I was in the middle lane on 2nd ave a few weeks ago and a cop actually yelled to me from a motorcycle to get on the right most or left most lane. I was headed from right to left, and in heavy traffic, didn’t think it prudent to make the maneuver in a single city block. …” landolfe

      ORS 814.420 says that people riding may use lanes other than the bike lane, for a range of reasons, including preparing to make left turn:

      “…(b) Preparing to execute a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway. …” http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.420

      Hard to know exactly, from your brief description, why the motorcycle cop told you to change lanes. You didn’t say how or if you responded. Just an acknowledgment that you heard him, maybe a thumbs up and some indication that you were preparing to change lanes when the opportunity arose…look over shoulder, arm out to signal, etc. …probably would be fine.

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  • Brandon Van Buskirk February 27, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I would also be interested to see it go in both directions.

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  • Indy February 27, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Why millions? Why here? How does this encourage biking? It’s a low speed traffic street.

    There are hundreds of priorities other than downtown. Downtown is slow, predictable, yes, even right hooks you can see pretty easily.

    Put the money to get people on bikes, commuting inward. Put it into, say, Barbur, which is too scary for most fairweather bikers to ride, let alone hardcore bikers. Get those people out of the burbs and into our city by bike!

    I bikie in N, SE, downtown, and SW, and by far downtown I feel the safest, because cars are predictable and slow and actually pretty sparse.

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    • Alexis February 27, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      You cannot easily see right hooks on Broadway. I am hypervigilant about them, and Broadway is still the only place that I have nearly been right-hooked (twice). It’s also one of the fastest, widest, and heaviest traffic streets downtown. I’m perfectly happy to take the lane on almost any other downtown street (note: doesn’t mean I think everyone should, but I am), but this street needs and deserves a proper lane reserved for bikes. If not for any other reason, than to keep a free lane so we don’t get stuck in traffic!

      (I wouldn’t mind a cycletrack on 4th for that either. That traffic is awful at 5pm.)

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  • John Lascurettes February 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    That first shot at Oak and Broadway also often has taxis in the taxi stand spots parked wide into the bike lane and a driver standing in the bike lane smoking.

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    • PorterStout February 27, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      One also gets the occasional clueless hotel guest or valet (who should definitely know better) standing in the bike lane having a conversation with the car door open. I mean come on, if this was a “regular traffic” lane rather than a bike lane would they be doing this? I usually say “you’re standing in the bike lane” when I pass by (out in traffic) but it’s probably viewed as simply something coming from an uppity cyclist. Hm, I wonder if two people were standing in the middle of the street having a conversation would these same drivers hit their horns? Would the police stop and ask them to move?

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  • Sho February 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Grabbing only three photos from a pretty extensive time span is definately swaying matters to how you want along with the 2008 report. However I do agree something needs to be done (just a even buffer zone would be great) as riding this route daily up until recently. The hotels further up cause major issues with vehicles as well in which the city seems pretty ignorant towards, even in regards to future planning on new developments’ drop off (valet) zones.

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  • daisy February 27, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I think most folks who drive on Broadway regularly are pretty good about looking out for bikes, but the whole set-up is a big mess. Taxis and airport vans can be terrible. I commute daily by bike from inner NE to PSU, and, a few blocks past Burnside, I head over to the Park Blocks.

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  • Brian February 27, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Surely creates a nervous moment when faster people are trying to pass slower people and the lane is not very wide.

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  • Chris I February 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Two-way cycle track on the east side?

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  • Andrew Seger February 27, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    I’m curious if the bta or anyone else is floating the idea of a blanket “No Right on Red” for cars downtown? Given the many problems we have along Broadway with individually signed no right on red rules it might work better if there was a simple and easily grokable no right on reds rule.

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  • GlowBoy February 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Pedestrian traffic is can be heavy enough downtown that right-turning cars often have to wait quite a while to make their turn. For some right-turning movements you often end up waiting until the red before being able to make the turn. If you want to create gridlock downtown, a blanket North Dakota-style ban on right turns on red sounds like a pretty good first step.

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  • Joe February 27, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Be friendly and look out for eachother when it reaches large rider amounts. try to help eachother if possible see alot of ppl fighting over small stuff think peloton :)

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  • Danny February 27, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I was just in Florida, which is a good reminder of how relatively good we have it here, despite the need for improvements to have a truly safe and workable bike transportation system.

    I ride Broadway frequently, and while I agree that one has to be vigilant, it is nevertheless great to have at least some dedicated bike space on the main street downtown. Ironically, the Broadway cyclotrack is my least favorite section. The PSU students often walk into the bikeway without looking, as do people getting into and out of cars. The school needs to do some better outreach to educate students that the cyclotrack is not just a place to get a head start while waiting to cross the street.

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    • spare_wheel February 28, 2013 at 8:12 am

      the psu cycle track is a failed facility.

      the dutch did not start with cycle tracks. increased cycling mode share in the 70s and 80s in holland was correlated with the creation of car-restricted residential and commercial areas. the park blocks would be a perfect candidate for this treatment.

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      • BURR February 28, 2013 at 2:44 pm

        +1 on making the Park Blocks bike/ped ONLY.

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  • Bc February 27, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    What Danny said. Ride it to PSU every week, thumb on bell ringer and sometimes they STILL don’t get out of the way. Maybe my forthcoming Orp will help.
    Still not convinced Broadway is the answer. So many conflicts. Carless Park Blocks, anyone?

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    • Adam Gniles February 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

      That is not the purpose of the Orp Horn. Slow down and verbalize your dissatisfaction with their error. We (I?) already have to deal with the blinding high powered blinking lights along dark MUPs, now will we (I?) have to cope with a deafening horn used for it’s non-intended purpose? I apologize for the tangent.

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      • bc February 28, 2013 at 2:45 pm

        Sorry Adam, but you’re wrong. Here’s the relevant line from the Orp website.

        Orp’s Horn has 2 modes: soft and WAY loud

        The Wail Tail is the ergonomic and intuitive switch controlling the horn.

        When you need to alert other cyclists or pedestrians, a small displacement {up or down} of Orp’s Wail Tail produces a friendly chirp at 76 decibels.

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      • bc February 28, 2013 at 2:46 pm
        • Adam Gniles February 28, 2013 at 4:17 pm

          The tangent continues….why would you (theoretically of course since there are no Orps yet) use the “chirp” mode when your bell doesn’t do the trick of moving pedestrians? It seems to me using the louder “horn” should be reserved for warning cars they’re about to hit you. Using the “horn” in other circumstances may just scare people on the street, including those riding bikes. Scaring, thence angering, people on foot serves as a terrible service to people who ride bikes who would rather educate the people on foot. Am I wrong there? since that was my point.

          I think the Orp is a great product for what it is designed to do, serving both as a passing bell alternative and warning system against motorized vehicles (but not as a system for letting the offender know that you’re frustrated with their behavior.) Also, high-powered strobe headlights are fantastic when you’re on a road with motorized vehicles, but god-awful for opposing riders on a path at night.

          Sue me for picking apart your obviously tongue-in-cheek comment; it was probably unwarranted, but sometimes it gets so boring at work.

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          • Bc February 28, 2013 at 5:01 pm

            Yes it was a bit tongue in cheek, but I’m still gonna try chirp mode AND bell — but not horn, unless disaster looms, like if the only alternative is crashing into a person at speed, and thats highly unlikely as I go pretty slow wherever pedestrians flock, bike lane or no. Yelling is also an emergency option. I’m actually curious to see how this chirp thing works. But yes the main use is to deter right hooks. It probably will just take a few more years of exposure to bike/ped situations to train Americans (and especially students, who may not be from Portland and therefore not hip to bike infrastructure) to reflexively and instantly leap to the sidewalk in terror in best Pavlovian fashion, the way pedestrians (except some clueless tourists) do in Amsterdam at the sound of an approaching dingaling.

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    • Laura February 28, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      heading to PSU off the Broadway bridge, I always take the first right (Oak) after Burnside so as to take 9th and avoid Broadway. I don’t know why more people don’t do this… I KNOW that I inhale a lot less car exhaust this way. Perhaps making 9th, which turns into Park Ave, car-free would be the way to go.

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      • wsbob February 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm

        Imagine 9th with the amount of bike traffic, or more, shown in the pictures accompanying this story: 9th is narrower than Broadway, and has stop signs rather than lights; getting a large number of cyclists efficiently and safely through stop sign regulated intersections with heavily traveled streets like Yamhill, Alder, and Washington would be tough. There’s parking on both sides of the street, which neither city or businesses are likely willing to give up.

        Downtown streets like 9th or Park can be good for a few cyclists together on a leisurely ride, but for a big group on the commute, it could be a challenge. Maybe city authorized people, flagging traffic at the intersections during commute hours?

        If a car-free, bike-pedestrian designation of 9th were possible to vitalize the street to a greater degree than current car use of the does, that could be a selling point.

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  • wsbob February 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    This story doesn’t report for how long a period during commute hours, bike traffic is as heavy as shown in the pictures, or how it varies over the 7:30-9:30, 4-6 commute hours. Top two pictures show quite a bit of bike traffic, and if that’s heavy for say, an hour of both am and pm commute hours of the day, that would be impressive.

    If the bike traffic is cruising 13-15 mph or more, it taking the lane should work out. It it’s traveling 10 mph or less, I suppose that could slow up traffic, including motor vehicle traffic, maybe posing problems that people would want to work out.

    Along its entire length, character of traffic and the road itself varies a lot. NE, NW, and SW are all quite a bit different from each other. I suppose a ‘bikeway’ for the entire length of the road would need to take those differences into account.

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    • are March 1, 2013 at 12:07 am

      most decisions about lane striping, signal timing, etc. are made with reference to peak [auto] traffic loads. so the fact these photos do not represent bike traffic at, say, one in the afternoon or nine at night does not mean facilities should not be designed with these loads in mind.

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  • Ryan Slim Jim February 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Broadway is a mess, agreed. I have never enjoyed riding this way into downtown but I do so because it is faster than going down NE Multnomah, over the steel bridge, and through the waterfront…The hotel door zone is brutal. I’ve had two calls over the years. Nowadays I just refuse to ride the bike lane. I’ve seen countless close calls w/ other cyclists and two doorings. I’ve always thought that it will take a few deaths before Broadway will be changed for the better. Morbid, I know, but it will take a few deaths. That is unfortunately how it works here in Portland.

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  • Mike bodd February 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Ah , it is an adventure . I have been cycling in this city for 30 yrs. Back when more roads were like todays se 82 nd av or ne Columbia blvd. broadway is not that hazardous.

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  • GlowBoy February 27, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    On topic, yeah Broadway sucks downtown. I remember when they were starting to put in that bike lane in (ot sure, but maybe 10-12 years ago?), and my first reaction was “GREAT!”.

    Then I saw how they did it, especially the door zones in front of the hotels, and my reaction was “WHAT??!”

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  • Zaphod February 28, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Sharrows +1

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  • ScottB February 28, 2013 at 11:44 am

    What do the bike counts say about Broadway?

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  • Dabby March 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    The Broadway bike lane issues will never be fixed as long as the city puts tourism dollars ahead of citizen safety.
    This is the problem with broadway, and will continue to be.
    I could see this bike lane being rerouted off BroadwY in the future Asa lame compromise. Safety will never be as important here as

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