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Eyes on the Street: New striping, medians at N. Vancouver and Morris – UPDATED

Posted by on June 17th, 2013 at 2:48 pm

New striping and more on
N. Vancouver Ave.
(Photos: Joan Petit)

The Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has made changes to the street around the intersection of N. Vancouver Avenue and Morris. This stretch of Vancouver is a busy bikeway and it sees a fair amount of people walking due to the adjacent park (Dawson Park) and several Legacy Emanuel Hospital buildings.

Reader Joan Petit recently spotted some changes to Vancouver that she feels have made a big safety improvement. I’ve shared her thoughts and photos below:

I live near this intersection, which is also part of my daily bike commute to work. Previously, it was hard to walk across N Vancouver because traffic moves quickly (even with only one vehicle lane), yet there’s a fair amount of foot traffic in this area because of Dawson Park and Emmanuel Hospital, which flank this intersection.

Previously, it was sometimes awkward for cyclists on N Morris to turn left onto Vancouver. Even when there was no car traffic, the narrow bike lane was often busy with fast-moving bikes, making the merge tricky.

Pedestrians can now cross in clearly marked crosswalks. The intersection works better for cyclists too. Now, cyclists traveling south on N Vancouver split to the right of a traffic island before N Morris; cars go to the left. The island gives extra space for a newly added turn and merge lane for bikes coming onto Vancouver from Morris. Turning bikes have space to get up to speed before merging into bike through-traffic.The best part? The new traffic flow is clearly marked, making it quite clear where bikes should go.

In just a few days, I have already found this new traffic pattern to be a big improvement. I appreciated PBOT’s efforts to find a sensible, custom solution for this particular intersection.

These changes are part of the NE Klickitat Street Neighborhood Greenway. Vancouver is the easternmost point of that greenway, which runs all the way to NE 67th.

Here are a few more photos:

Looking east from northeast corner of intersection. Notice the new median with bike lane behind it.
Just a bit further north from the above photo.

Have you ridden through this yet? What do you think?

UPDATE, Tuesday 6/17 at 8:55 am: – I checked this out for myself this morning. See the photos below for a better sense of what the approach to the median feels like. I think PBOT should remove that last parking space (where the van is) in order to vastly improve sight lines on the approach:

Changes at N Vancouver and Morris-1
Changes at N Vancouver and Morris-2
Changes at N Vancouver and Morris-5
Changes at N Vancouver and Morris-3
Changes at N Vancouver and Morris-4

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  • maxadders June 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I ride through here several times a week and I feel that the implementation is poor. The new cement island is placed at the bottom of a slight hill / turn and coming up on it, at speed, is a little surprising. It’s also directly in what I would consider the “natural flow” of the bike lane– you have to veer right to not hit it head-on. I fear someone who’s passing another cyclist won’t see it in time, or a rider with poor / no lighting is won’t see it at all.

    And while this is a lesser gripe, the road crew dug up the old bike lane stripes before painting the new ones; the result is shoddy looking and one more thing to pay attention to if you, like me, commute on skinny road slicks– the ruts from the old striping cross the new lane at near-parallel angles and are sketchy.

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    • Craig Harlow June 18, 2013 at 10:30 am

      Yeah. I don’t understand why they grind off the old striping, instead of simply painting it over with black, which seems a cheaper method and a safer result.
      Same issue on eastbound NE Multnomah Street along the Lloyd Cinemas parking.

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  • shirtsoff June 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I feel that the concrete divider is a risk. It is positioned in front of a the space of southbound cyclists that requires a curve of one’s trajectory to avoid hitting. I’m sure someone at night will eventually not notice it in time before crashing into it.

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    • David June 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Seriously? There are huge white lines indicating the concrete divider, along with a reflective sign. Are you hoping for bike lanes that never require a “curve of one’s trajectory?”

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      • shirtsoff June 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm

        David, it is downhill. People can be distracted who have ridden the route but have not seen the new development before. Just wait and see. Whether alcohol, social distractions, or other factors are present, I feel confident that something will hit this divider at night time within the next year. If white lines are enough that people can negotiate the situation and move into the appropriate paths correctly, then why even have the concrete barrier in the first place? By that logic the auto traffic should be able to find their place with lines alone and this island of concrete could be down away with.

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        • are June 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm

          the island allows the pedestrian to make a two-stage crossing

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  • Steve B June 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I believe this is a great idea, but also found this implementation a little sketchy for cyclists coming down Vancouver. It feels like the bike lane here is a bit more pinched and you need to stay vigilant in order to not hit the median. Was this mini-project brought before the BAC and PAC?

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    • are June 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      this was part of the klickitat greenway project
      they also took out the diverter at 7th, which i think was a mistake

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      • Craig Harlow June 18, 2013 at 10:28 am

        “Diverter”…do you mean “traffic circle”? I think I recall hearing a PBOT rep (Greg Raisman?) say that they’ve concluded that traffic circles like the one removed at NE 7th & Morris proved after all more of a hindrance to sightlines and a pinch to cars insisting on passing bikes, than an effective traffic calming device. Lordy, have you seen how autos seem to actually speed up when rounding the other remaining traffic circles on 7th, at Tillamook, Sacremento, etc.?

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        • are June 18, 2013 at 8:12 pm

          we will have to agree to disagree. my experience is contra, people tend to slow down. not a pinch point for me, because i assert the center of the lane. what i have heard raisman and others say is that they will not be putting any more of these in, but taking one out is a different page. my guess is that one consideration is that cyclists often cut these short, rather than going around. in any event, i expect motor traffic to run through this intersection a bit faster without the island.

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  • Matheas Michaels June 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I don’t like it either and agree with the above comments. I feel as though too often bicycle infrastructure is about managing bike traffic and not making their use of the road more efficient and intuitive. Also, as previously mentioned I believe it could be hazardous at night.

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  • V$ June 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I almost ate it the other day on the ruts. It really needs better paving.

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  • PdxMark June 17, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I like the improvement. I come to this intersection from Morris everyday for my commute. It greatly simplifies the merging of two flows of bike traffic, particularly with car traffic coming down Vancouver.

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  • Jenny June 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I agree with the above that the concrete divider is risky if someone is trying to pass and doesn’t see the curve soon enough. I was thinking this on my way to work this morning as I rode through there. The uneven concrete makes it slightly confusing as well.

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  • joan June 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Oh no! I’m bummed to hear these changes aren’t working out for folks who are coming down Vancouver. It is so much better for folks merging in from Morris.

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    • Alexis June 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      It was great to hear the positive perspective, because I had the same reaction — I’m usually coming down Vancouver, and the placement is awkward. I was worried about it while they were putting it in, but decide to wait and see what happened because it looked fixable depending on the details. Unfortunately it wasn’t really fixed.

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    • David June 18, 2013 at 10:00 am

      I ride Vancouver every day and think it’s awesome. Keeps cars from cutting into the bike lane along the curve. There’s plenty of room to safely ride within the median as well. I think the complainers would have something bad to say no matter what changes are made. Complaining about change just to complain.

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  • Suburban June 17, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    That island is hazardous, causing riders to move into the wider lanes to the left….just like the conditions created at Cook St. Do the designers even ride bikes? I’m really asking that question.

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  • Nick Fox June 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    I commute with my kid in a burley down Vancouver and need to go left on Morris here. While I can see how this change benefits downtown-bound traffic coming off Morris, for people making a left from Vancouver onto Morris it’s just as bad as it was.

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    • Chris I June 18, 2013 at 6:54 am

      Wouldn’t you be taking the far left travel line prior to turning? How does this project affect that move?

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      • are June 18, 2013 at 11:34 am

        same with the left onto tillamook. more than once i have had someone suddenly turn left from the bike lane, no signal. i have learned not to overtake in this stretch.

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  • encephalopath June 17, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    This has to be one of the dumbest things PBOT has ever done. That island is going to end up killing someone.

    And it won’t make the pedestrian crossing any safer because the island is the first thing car and bike traffic has to negotiate there. The island says, “Hey, pay attention to me.” Especially for bikes, due to the narrowness of the lane with concrete on either side, the primary focus of bicyclists is “don’t hit the island.” The pedestrian crossing is secondary among thing for cyclist’s to pay attention to because DON”T HIT THE ISLAND.

    This isn’t helping. I don’t see how this makes things better for anyone. Did anyone from PBOT bother to spray this design out on the road then actually ride through it before they started pouring concrete? I would be shocked to hear that any of them gave this a dry run on a bicycle.

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    • David June 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

      Have you ridden this yet? Somebody would have to be absolutely sh*thoused drunk or riding with a blindfold on to not see the thick white paint, reflective sign and bright yellow curbs that clearly mark this median. I really don’t see what the big deal is.

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  • encephalopath June 17, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    PBOT has created an inattentional blindness problem there. They made an obstacle that demands high priority attention. Things that are of lower priority will simply not be seen.

    Traffic calming is lovely and all but placing a hazard directly in the path of bicyclists probably isn’t the way to do the job.

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    • Chris I June 18, 2013 at 6:53 am

      Replace “bicyclists” with “motorists” in your statement and I wonder how people would react here?

      I personally do not see the problem with calming devices like this. If someone crashes into it, they were bound to crash into a rock, or pothole, or branch, because they are either riding too fast for conditions, or do not have lighting that is bright enough. Cyclists and motorists alike in this area have a terrible record of crosswalk compliance, so we shouldn’t be surprised when projects like this pop up.

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  • Schrauf June 18, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I went out of my way to check this out today. I was ready to hate on PBOT for their past sins, but the new curb and lane placement is not as bad as I expected. One would have to be riding over the speed limit (30 mph here?) or riding negligently at a slower speed to not see the bright yellow sign and paint marking the median – even with the gradual curve, and even if you are passing in the fast lane. Maybe they could add a yellow bollard at the head of the median to make it even more visible, especially for when it snows once every two years.

    The pavement gouge from grinding away the old stripe is ridiculous, however. My PBOT hate is back on. A slash like that parallel to and in the middle of a bike lane can easily catch bike tires, especially when wet. I realize we can’t use the asphalt-colored paint to “remove” white paint in this area because it rains too often for the cover-up to last. But maybe a more precise grinding machine, or a better operator??? Why destroy thousands of dollars of pavement to move a line and create risk? Oh, but we are also okay with tearing up miles of good pavement to replace water pipes, and then repaving with asphalt “patches” that are worse than most potholes and will probably disintegrate into gravel in two years. So I suppose it is par for the course.

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    • maxadders June 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

      Disagree on the speed here– my commuter’s gearing maxes out at 36×12 so I’m lucky to hit 20mph.

      If this island were placed on a flat strip of street with no bike lane, it would likely be fine, but (like I said in my initial reply) it’s at the bottom of a hill and smack-dab in the middle of a turn. Considering the morning commute hazards around that area (the I-5 traffic a couple blocks north, other cyclists, peds and drivers crossing to get to the hospital), there’s a a lot of things a cyclist needs to pay attention to here, and the island just pops up out of nowhere.

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    • Schrauf June 18, 2013 at 11:43 am

      Based on Jonathan’s new picture of cramped parking on the right, I definitely agree that last parking spot should be removed. My comments above were based on my experience approaching quickly at 6:30 am when no parked cars were present. In fact I did not even notice parking was available so close to the pinch point. The pinch point plus the slight curve plus people trying to park cars across a bike lane seems like an idea almost as bad as grinding 1/2 deep gouges into good pavement on purpose.

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  • John Lascurettes June 18, 2013 at 8:40 am

    It’s curiously complicated. Lots and lots of lines on the ground at that point. I see people’s concerns about the placement of the island as well.

    What I don’t get:
    Why do people turning left from Morris need a “merge lane”? Isn’t that what the auto lane is/was? This is precisely how merge onto Vancouver at Knott in the morning and how I merge onto Williams in the afternoon. If the auto lane is clear I make my left into that, then I check my right shoulder and merge into the bike lane when I can.

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    • PdxMark June 18, 2013 at 10:56 am

      I can only speak to AM commute times… During that time of day, the best way to turn from Morris to Vancouver had been to go straight across the car lane into the bike lane to minimize potential conflict time with the quite fast cars coming down Vancouver. The problem was fitting between cars in those lanes and bikes in the bike lane. Your proposal would work if cars were not going so fast there, but they are…

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      • John Lascurettes June 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm

        Fair enough I suppose. I have the opposite problem with cars when I merge onto Vancouver from Knott. Drivers are usually either slowing down because of the red light at Russell, or they’re slowing down to merge behind a cyclist to get to the right turn lane at Russell. As I try to merge over from the left lane to the second lane and then into the bike lane, they end out slowing down so much that I have a hard time dropping in behind them.

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        • PdxMark June 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm

          Interesting… so maybe part of the perceived hazard based on the speed of southbound cyclists on Vancouver is the exact problem that the merge lane is trying to address… getting crossing bikes past the fast-ish car lane quickly without creating conflict with the fast-ish cyclists in the bike lane

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 18, 2013 at 9:03 am

    I just added a few more photos of the intersection from the perspective of riding south on Vancouver just before Morris.

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  • encephalopath June 18, 2013 at 9:42 am

    In this instance they created a hazard for one vulnerable road user in order to serve the interests of another vulnerable road user.

    Switching “cyclist” with “motorist” does not replicate that same dynamic.

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  • stace June 18, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I rode this again this morning and just think that they should remove the last parking spot where the Oregon Electric van is parked in the photos above. This would allow for better sight-lines to where pedestrians would be crossing. There was a similar van parked there this morning. The island seems okay now with the yellow paint and sign installed.

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  • Jim Labbe June 18, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I ride this route daily. I love the more pedestrian and bike friendly features. This morning they may have helped attract a fiddler and guitarist who were playing for late commuters on the corner of Morris and Vancouver. Sweet!

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  • Hazel June 18, 2013 at 11:30 am

    They really do need to remove that last parking space. The first time I rode through after the traffic changes, a van was parked there where it’s door wide open. I had to jump out into traffic because I couldn’t actually get into the bike lane with the divider there.

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  • Amy June 18, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Slightly off-topic question re the yellow sign, with the pedestrian, bike, and arrow: Obviously pedestrians have the right of way in an intersection. Does the picture of the bike on the sign mean that bikes ALSO have right of way? That’s generally not the law, but the other day someone who was riding with me across NE 39th at Couch said that this sign (which also exists at 39th and Couch) meant that we bikers had the same right of way as pedestrians crossing 39th. Cars frequently stop for me there, and I never know what to do.

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    • John Lascurettes June 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      Those signs are a cautionary sign (yellow) not regulatory (white). It is simply a warning that pedestrian and bike crossings should be expected there. Y’know, vulnerable users. Same as it is when there’s a deer or bear crossing sign.

      Pedestrians in the crosswalk, naturally, do have right of way – as does a bike when it’s operating as a pedestrian (in the crosswalk itself having entered the crosswalk at walking speed).

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      • Amy June 18, 2013 at 1:27 pm

        Thanks, John.

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  • Hey Hey Roseway June 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I recommend Ray Thomas’s “Pedal Power” for this kind of question:
    “Oregon law allows bicyclists to have the right-of-way in crosswalks like a pedestrian. On the other hand, the law also sets a speed limit that
    conditions the right-of-way for bicyclists entering or approaching a
    crosswalk on proceeding no faster than a “walking speed”. ORS 814.410.”

    I believe the sign you’re referring to is meant to make roadway users (motorists and cyclists) aware of frequent bike and pedestrian cross-traffic at that intersection, and to yield appropriately. I don’t think it confers special privileges at that intersection (but I’m not a lawyer like Ray – so maybe ask him at the next BTA Legal Clinic – Wed, June 19th, at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance office: 618 NW Glisan St., Suite 401, Portland, OR).

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  • Brandon Van Buskirk June 18, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Vancouver is actually the westernmost point of the NE Klickitat Neighborhood Greenway. I think that greenway needs to jog over to Monroe and go along the Kirby off ramp, onto some side streets until it reaches N Mississippi. Its a really fast connection that just needs minor improvements and some signage.

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  • gumby June 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I almost wiped out on this section this morning. The thick white paint seems to have a lot of loose sand on the surface. I will be taking the lane here until everything gets stable. I ride a long wheelbase recumbent and the front wheel is particularly susceptable to slippery conditions.

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