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From pilot to permanent? Group will decide future of NE Multnomah protected bikeways

Posted by on March 21st, 2014 at 10:44 am

The new NE Multnomah -7
A high-powered group will meet
next month to decide the future
of NE Multnomah’s bikeways.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

About 16 months since it debuted with its planters and beeswax color, business and real estate development reps and City of Portland staff will sit down and discuss the future of the protected bikeways on NE Multnomah Street.

Billed as a pilot project when they were first installed, the bikeways have undergone extensive research and analysis and there are early signs that they’ve increased ridership and influenced adjacent development. But have they been as “transformative” as promised? How can they be improved? What do the powerful property owners along the street think?

Unlike most transportation projects in Portland, the bikeways on Multnomah were conceived by a private group of business interests that worked closely with the City. There was a more traditional stakeholder committee made up of advocates and citizen activists working to create a carfree street on NE Holladay one block over; but two powerful members of that group voted against those plans, and then successfully switched the focus to NE Multnomah. The City of Portland, working with the Lloyd District Transportation Management Association (TMA), then gathered a private group of business stakeholders and city staff to hammer out the design and details.

The group initially got the design very wrong. It was only after considerable public feedback that the design was improved to what we have now.

While better than what existed before; the bikeways on Multnomah clearly aren’t the world-class facilities they could be. Part of the issue is the place itself: With a shopping mall and high-rise hotels dominating the streetscape, it’s not the type of vibrant, destination-filled street where a quality bikeway can really reach its potential. The Lloyd District in general, also lacks high-quality, non-auto connections to other parts of the street network, thereby limiting the impact of any single bikeway.

New planters on NE Multnomah
Encroachments into the buffer zone
are too common.

Early next month, Go Lloyd (the new name of the Lloyd District TMA) will assemble that same, private working group to chart this project’s future. Lindsay Walker, head of Go Lloyd’s bicycle program, says the group will discuss the usage data collected thus far and hear feedback from adjacent property owners.

Members of this group include City of Portland transportation, parks and environmental services staff, as well as:

  • Justin Zeulner – Senior Director of Sustainability and Public Affairs, Portland Trail Blazers/Rose Quarter
  • Craig Harlow – IT Analyst at Pacificorp
  • Kali Bader – VP at Rembold Companies (a real estate development firm)
  • Alan Huston – HR Director at Doubletree Hilton Hotel
  • John Fainter – VP of Development at Cypress Equities (owners of Lloyd Center Mall)
  • Wade Lange – CEO, Langley Investment Properties

“We’re also going to ask property owners to discuss any upcoming plans for their properties that we might want to keep in mind moving forward,” Walker added.

Overall, Walker says, most stakeholders are “happy with it and would like to see the treatment become permanent.” She’s also aware that the “design needs some adjustments to address some issues.”

If the bikeways are to become permanent, the working group will hammer out short-term maintenance needs (the paint in the buffer zone and the plastic wands already need some help) and brainstorm about what they’d like to see in the long-term.

Browse the archives for more background on this project.

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Comments
  • Huey Lewis March 21, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Needs more planters/barriers to keep idiots from parking in the buffer zone.

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    • 007 March 22, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      I don’t like the planters, they take up valuable riding space. If we are going to be stuck with Multnomah, there could be a white striped buffer lane with small traffic bumps laid inside it and along the outside of the auto lane. At a minimum, it would wake up texters and give us a lot more riding area. There is all that space and we get a tiny bike lane with a rough strip through out.
      Only the best for Portland.

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      • Craig Harlow March 24, 2014 at 10:52 am

        I disagree. The heavy solid barriers are what give me confidence allowing my children to pedal with me along Multnomah, which is right in our path from Irvington to downtown and souteast. We used to keep to the sidewalks through the Lloyd District, without exception. Now we ride the protected lanes.

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        • Craig Harlow April 15, 2014 at 2:18 pm

          But I do agree, 007, that the generous width that’s present on some sections of this bikeway should be maintained along its entire length. There are pinch points in places that really hamper cycling with children, or while pulling a trailer. And substantial physical separation (in the form of planters or other massive treatments) should also be maintained along the entire corridor, if possible.

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  • Todd Hudson March 21, 2014 at 10:56 am

    So is this why they’re not bothering to re-paint the beeswax color? It’s nearly gone.

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  • Jessica Roberts March 21, 2014 at 11:06 am

    There are huge problems with taxis using the “protected bike lane” as taxi queuing space during large events at Moda Center. That stretch seriously needs some planters or other physical barriers.

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    • kittens March 22, 2014 at 1:05 am

      Agreed. but where are they supposed to go? There is no place for them!

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  • MaxD March 21, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Can the City ticket/tow cars that are improperly parked? How about sawcutting and removing the asphalt and planting some plants in the ground (healthier plants/lower maintenance). The could install flush concrete curbs at 8-inch high and 10″ wide (less expansive and better at self-supporting than the City’s standard 16-24-inch tall/deep curbs). You could drop the soil a few inches and allow stormwater to infiltrate here, too. A small grade separation and break in pavement would go a long way to preventing parking encroachment. Some reflectors /domes along the edge might help guide motorists, too.

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    • paikikala March 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Sounds great.

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  • GlowBoy March 21, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Replace the beige paint (which is wearing off and NO ONE knows what it means) with hashed stripes. MUTCD compliant and everyone knows it means don’t drive here.

    Also, some of planter placement needs to be tweaked to make it easier for cyclists to move over in preparation for left turns.

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  • aviscowboy March 21, 2014 at 11:50 am

    This really sucks, what a nightmare for traffic to get to the mall. Heavy congestion most days. Also aggressive cyclists everywhere. Multiple times I have seen hit and runs cyclists vs pedestrian. Also red light Running in front of trains is way too common. Nice safe design Portland

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    • PorterStout March 21, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      Twice in the last week I’ve almost collided with pedestrians who stepped out against the light into the lane without checking for traffic. I’m sorry, where do you live? I’m interested to see how they’ve handled this in your model city.

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    • PorterStout March 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      This was downtown, I might add, nothing to do with Multnomah St.

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    • FetaD March 21, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      It’s amazing to hear that bicycling modal share has skyrocketed in this area! Cyclists everywhere! So many that you’ve witnessed multiple hit-n-runs. They probably couldn’t stop because they were getting pushed down the road by all the other cyclists.

      So many cyclists that it’s a downright nightmare to cross the cycletrack to get to the mall! How has no-one else reported on this bike-induced congestion?! Wowee wow!

      Do people take you seriously in real life?

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    • 007 March 22, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      It’s a mess for everyone. It made commuting more difficult for bus and auto commuters. Don’t blame the cyclists, we didn’t design the traffic trap created by the design of the mall and we didn’t have a say about Multnomah. Ride a bike everyday to work, for a month, that should change your perspective, Avis carboy.

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  • spare_wheel March 21, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    i can’t wait to see the results of the survey. like the psu cycletrack this is a facility that initially elicited the classic portland knee jerk positive response: “wow – a facility for little old me!”.

    but…now…a year or so later i hear more griping than praise. in fact, when i bike to lloyd center to shop, dine, or watch a movie i often see cyclists in the lane avoiding the facility entirely. isn’t a facility that is so poorly designed that cyclists are willing to take the lane to avoid it, the epitome of fail?

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  • doug klotz March 21, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    I don’t have or want a “gravatar”. Why is this moose appearing next to my name, only on this site?

    That said, I think only curbs at least 6″ high will keep cars off the buffer.

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    • Adam Gnarls March 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      I like the moose. Alas, you’re not me, and if you really hate it deleting your cookies and using a different email before commenting would be a surefire way to do it.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • GlowBoy March 21, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Got any constructive suggestions for improvement, cowboy?

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    • aviscowboy March 21, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      A buffered lane is OK, however a crosswalk in the middle of a block is dumb. People don’t look when crossing period. Bikes are more consistent with running red lights all over the downtown core. Maybe if the bike alliance can do can do a public safety campaign this may slow it down but it won’t stop without proper enforcement. also an idea for a buffered bike lane would be during the holiday season that bakery open up the link for more traffic to ease congestion because of traffic going into the mall. I meant bike lane.

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      • Craig Harlow March 22, 2014 at 12:08 pm

        If you’re talking about that mid-block crossing between 7th and 9th, wih the clock tower…that was installed several years ago, and only after mulitple car-vs-pedestrian crashes in that spot (fatalities? I don’t have the details).

        That enhanced crossing is needed because of constant, all-day crossings between the Lloyd 700 building on the south side, and the Lloyd Center Tower on the north. I’ve never done a count, but it seems to average about a dozen people crossing per minute (I work right there and my window looks out on the crosswalk).

        That crossing was, on one hand, improved in this pilot because of the reduction from four auto lanes to two, which (1) shortens the distance in which people crossing are vulnerable to cars, and (2) has reduced auto speeds, thanks to the psychological effect of the lane reduction.

        On the other hand, however, it is hampered by delivery trucks and service vans that parking (constantly, throughout the entire day) in the yellow painted buffer (not a parking spot), treating it as a loading zone. Those trucks and vans block approaching auto drivers’ view of crosswalk users.

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        • Dan March 23, 2014 at 5:04 pm

          I’ve been working in the 700 building for 12 years, and that crosswalk has been there at least that long. The additional lights were added after a pedestrian was killed there.

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  • nuovorecord March 21, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I think it’s critical to keep in mind that (relatively) shortly, there will be 1,000 + people living in this area. http://www.gbdarchitects.com/portfolio-item/lloyd-blocks-2/
    This will change the usage patterns and needs significantly. Might it not be better to hold off on any major changes for a bit?

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  • Ted Buehler March 21, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    The design is okay, the functionality is okay. Both really need a little improvement to be made “good”.

    The city needs to recognize that if they install innovative facilities — road paint configurations nobody has seen before — they will need to conduct a hands-on monitoring program during the first year to ensure that the trial infrastructure is tweaked as needed to make sure it functions properly.

    For instance, as others have pointed out:
    * Better parking enforcement needed. Send out the crews to tow or shoosh obstructing vehicles.
    * More planters where cars are intruding.

    and
    * Leaf sweeping every couple days during the leaf drop season in fall.

    Unless they combine new design with increased education and monitoring, it is unlikely to live up to its full potential.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Ted Buehler March 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      & I called in the leaf blockage to safe@portlandoregon.gov *twice* and it got no action. Lanes were completely covered with a sea of leaves for at least a week.

      & the cops knew the bike lane was impassible — one told me to ride in it, and I pointed out that I couldn’t see it well enough to ride in it, and he replied with some veiled threat that I may well get hit by a car if I continued to ride in the vehicle lane.

      So, my suggestion is to get law enforcement on-side, and ask that city employees at various levels let PBOT know if experimental facilities are failing to perform…

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      • Adam March 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm

        The leaves were really, really bad this past year. The cycletrack was completely unridable.

        I’m hopeful this year, now PBOT purchased those new mini leaf sweepers, the situation will be remedied quicker.

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  • Adam March 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    I live a block from this. My thoughts –

    1) Agree with above posters – it needs FAR more planters or plastic bollards to stop drivers from parking in the cycletrack. Coming back from grocery shopping at nights, particularly weekends, there will be 25 to 30 cars all parked IN the cycletrack. Paint markings alone are not enough.

    2) I don’t know why, but the big round planters seem to keep getting pushed into the cycletrack.

    3) The car valet outside the 600 Lloyd Building is a total nightmare. Cars pull up into the cycyletrack. They put orange traffic cones and a giant billboard sign half into the cycletrack most days. It really, really, really feels like you are being squeezed into a three-foot space there most days. And cycletracks are not three-feet wide. Bikelanes are.

    4) There is a total lack of consistency in the design. Some blocks, the cycletrack carries on and motorists turn right across it. Other blocks, the cycletrack and motor lanes merge. Drivers are supposed to yield but NEVER do. I have had some really, really bad encounters with drivers at these merge points.

    5) Office workers nearby seem to like it. The cycletrack effectively narrows the street, and they seem much more assertive and happy crossing the street now than when it was originally a hideous four lane, high-speed highway.

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    • was carless March 22, 2014 at 2:44 am

      I actually go out there every morning and push the planters into the “cycle track” just to mess with people

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  • Dan March 21, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Agree, crossing as a pedestrian is much better. We need more 4 lane roads reduced to 2 lanes. Drivers that don’t like stopping for the heavy crosswalk traffic at 700 Multnomah can take a different road.

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  • Dan March 21, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    The improvements here have prompted me to divert my commute off of Weidler over to Multnomah. The I-5 offramp on Wiedler with the ‘Yield To Bikes’ sign is a joke, and is going to get somebody killed.

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    • Reza March 21, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      Weidler is a mess, always a ton of crud in the lane (especially the block between MLK and Grand), and the merge points with drivers at Victoria (I-5 offramp) and just before MLK are dicey to navigate sometimes.

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    • Reza March 21, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Also the merge point at Vancouver to get to the I-5 south on-ramp can be harrowing too if drivers aren’t paying attention.

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  • Patrick Barber March 21, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    This cycle track is such a mess. I used to take it to work on a regular basis, mostly out of curiosity and a desire to support the idea of it. But it’s so cluttered with trucks, cars, signs edging into it, and people stumbling across it without realizing what it’s for, that it’s more of a deterrent to riding than an enhancement.

    Currently, part of the problem is the construction — the big complex going in has closed down several sidewalks, so some people walk down the bike lane rather than cross the street to the other sidewalk. And the whole thing feels a bit claustrophobic when you’re riding along between a chainlink fence and a bunch of parked trucks (many of which poke into the cycling lane, more often than not).

    But even without the construction hassle, the cycletrack suffers from too many design compromises. It zigs and zags all over the place, widens and narrows, and in some places has an uncomfortably rough strip down the middle (where you would probably want to ride) where they tore up the old bike lane stripe and didn’t lay down new asphalt or otherwise smooth it out. Westbound in the morning, large produce trucks regularly edge into it, or provide less-than-ideal tunnels with compromised visibility, and workers using it to cart produce into the mall. And then there’s the mall maintenance crew that parks the water truck next to it and runs their big hose across the cycle track. In the morning. At rush hour. It’s like an obstacle course some mornings.

    It’s a perfect place for a protected cycle track, especially with the new housing coming in, so I hope they actually build one at some point.

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    • Oliver March 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      “It zigs and zags all over the place” I’ve found that much of the bicycle infrastructure in this town is like this.

      Sidewalks are straight, roads are straight. Yet bike facilities such as Multnomah and Cully (and many neighborhood greenways both current and planned) zig and zag….all over the place.

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    • 007 March 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      Yeah, that rough strip through it is a pain. What a joke the city never fixed it. Never cleaned up the leave either. Also, diesel fumes from the construction site are disgusting to smell and carcinogenic.

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  • Georgia March 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    The cycle track is on my way home, but the few times I’ve ridden on it I’ve hated it. There’s the debris problem, but even if it’s clean, one fallen branch is a problem because you can’t easily get around it with the planters in the way. Same problem if you want to pass another cyclist. The lane just isn’t big enough. Another problem is the timing of the lights. You either have to ride really really fast, or catch every single light. They are just short enough to be terrible for cycling. Maybe that’s why you have cyclists running lights? All of that aside, there’s a lot going on and it just feels dangerous. I’ll take another route even if I have to go out of my way.

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    • spare_wheel March 21, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      “Same problem if you want to pass another cyclist. The lane just isn’t big enough.”

      There would be plenty of room to pass if they had not placed bollards and flower pots in the *MIDDLE* of the laughably-wide beige buffer zone.

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  • dwainedibbly March 21, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Why is it that there is nobody on this group representing people who use the facility?!?

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    • Dan March 23, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Personally, I think it was part of a subterfuge to introduce more on-street parking on Multnomah. The ‘protected bike lane’ has little to do with it.

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  • gutterbunny March 21, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    I think I’d like it alot more if it was on nearly any other street in the Metro area.

    The times I’ve ridden it, (just tooling around) I’ve gone there specifically to gawk and awe at the sheer emptiness of it all. Don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 3 bikes (including me) on it at once ever.

    Each time I ride I keep waiting to hear a howling wolf as I dodge a tumbleweed crossing my path.

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  • jim March 21, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    They should wait until some of those construction projects are finished before making anything permanent.

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  • 007 March 22, 2014 at 11:52 am

    The whole Multnomah St. project is befitting of its non PORTLAND residing stakeholder “designers.”

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  • Terry D March 23, 2014 at 9:38 am

    In my outreach surrounding East Burnside, this bikeway configuration was brought up multiple times between E 47th-55th, as we hope to save a row of on street parking on this stretch. I have found NE Multnomah to work fairly well…IF the leaves are removed frequently and MORE attention is placed on preventing/ ticketing/ towing any vehicles that park in the bike lane. I take it over Broadway/Wiedler whenever I can…at least until 7th.

    What is up with keeping those few parking spaces between the couplet on NE 7th? This is only one tiny block that is the best connection from NE Multnomah and the Broadway Bridge…..extend the buffered bike lanes on 7th ONE MORE BLOCK NORTH…pretty please.

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  • El Biciclero March 24, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Disclaimer: I have never and will likely never ride this facility.

    BUT, In reading these comments, looking at the pictures, reviewing the design and past articles on this particular facility, imagining and synthesizing vicarious data about this facility with facilities I have actual experience with, my two cents would render as follows:

    – Judging by actual practice, the priority punch-list when developing bike facilities like this one appears to be 1) bikes “out of the way”, 2) ‘perception’ of safety, 3) motor vehicle throughput (LOS), 4) cheap as possible, 5) actual safety, 6) maintainability.

    – Facilities created in this way appeal most to those who are content with a slow doodle, and/or have small children to think about; those who are comfortable and used to riding fast are less enthralled by this kind of facility.

    – Facilities built with the best of intentions–even if they were “well-designed”–are not respected by drivers, pedestrians, delivery personnel, taxi drivers, business owners (who may place encroaching sandwich boards, e.g.), etc. Furthermore, blockages created by non-sanctioned users of the facility are very difficult to navigate due to the “protected” nature of the facility.

    Conclusion: The most frequent rebuttal I hear to concerns about “protected” bikeways, e.g., they are dangerous, will make me slow, can’t maneuver within them, etc. is, “But a well-designed bikeway won’t be or cause any of those things!” The problem is that we are not experimenting with “well-designed” bikeways. If well-designed bikeways were on the table, there wouldn’t be much experimentation needed; we know how to make them, blueprints exist. The experiment here is to try to find the cheapest, lowest-impact (on drivers) quasi-facility that cyclists will tolerate so that local government can feel good about herding us into them (via ORS 814.420) and saying they’ve done us a favor. This sounds terrible, but until either A) ORS 814.420 is repealed, or B) an actual, “well-designed” bikeway is built, I cannot support half-measures carried out in the name of ‘perceived’ safety. Not that my support is worth half a pile.

    Take this two cents at whatever exchange rate you like.

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    • spare_wheel March 24, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      and surveys of cyclist attitudes in portland indicate that any advantage in “perceived safety” is fairly negligible.

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    • Craig Harlow March 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm


      “- Facilities created in this way appeal most to those who are content with a slow doodle, and/or have small children to think about; those who are comfortable and used to riding fast are less enthralled by this kind of facility.”

      I do believe that the city’s strategy in remaking the roadscape more and more includes consideration of the the 8-80 age range for potential riders.

      This approach is particularly germane to this project, since:

      (1) the length of the pilot project is book-ended by two major retirement communities, Calaroga Terrace and Holladay Park Plaza;

      (2) new apartments to accommodate roughly 1,500 new residents are being constructed right now at the midpoint of this stretch of NE Multnomah; and

      (3) a major goal of this project is to better align a redesigned NE Multnomah with its evolving role as a destination (as block faces along the route convert to more people-friendly uses over the next few years), and not as the pass-through traffic boulevard that it has been historically.

      Looking for a quicker commute? Try NE Lloyd Boulevard or NE Broadway.

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      • El Biciclero March 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm

        I don’t mean to come across as expressing disdain for slower riders–I have small kids myself, and pretty much respect anyone willing to get anywhere under their own power. Merely making facilities like this legally optional would make me happy, so if I’m riding a big bike with kids on it, or accompanying my kids on their own bikes, or otherwise desirous of “protection” (realizing that the protection ends at “mixing zones”), I have the option of doodling along in a protected pathway, but otherwise have legal access to the regular old road.

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        • Craig Harlow March 24, 2014 at 4:00 pm

          El Biciclero, I totally get you. There are slower riders, and there are faster riders, and I think it’s right to consider the impact on all of them, and weigh the pros and cons. In that light, it’s right to call out that building to suit the 8-80 set will balance the overall utility of a given bike route, tilting the scale in favor of the slower, more cautious rider.

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          • spare_wheel March 24, 2014 at 5:02 pm

            imo, the problems with this facility have nothing to do with designing for 8/80 and everything to do with poor design choices that favor motorists. moreover, your implicit assumption that this type of protected facility is safer than a non-protected cycle track or buffered bike lane is not based on evidence — it’s just a personal bias. for exampl, it’s conceivable that a less-confusing cycle track with a lip/curb might be both safer and *more* attractive to the 8/80 crowd.

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          • El Biciclero March 25, 2014 at 1:07 pm

            …And I don’t even mind having the scales “tilted”, it just seems that in most current manifestations, the scales are pegged. There is no room for safe, comfortable passing within the confines of the barricaded space. Designers have to understand that if you are literally walling off the space, it has to be wider than a typical bike lane–at least 8 feet, IMO.

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  • MaxD March 25, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    I have read a lot of valid criticisms of this bike route, but I fell like an acknowledgement of what was done here is in order. Multnomah before these changes was MISERABLE! It was terrible for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. The Lloyd superblocks only provide sidewalks every 440′ feet or so, the bike lanes were 5-feet wide, and two-lanes of traffic with no parking meant cars and trucks flying along at pretty high, sketchy speeds, not looking out for humans, and not able to stop even if a situation required it. These lanes and parking have transformed the on-street experience for every user. The mixing zones are pretty terrible, the lack of parking enforcement is a total mystery (!), the cycle lane weaving is far less than ideal, and the buffer width is too big.

    I would love to see the cycle route prioritized in a re-design so it doesn’t weave so much. Make the cycle lane much larger (by reducing the buffer width and figuring out some pinch point at the start of each block to keep cars out), improve the buffer by installing some plantings in the ground, but leave some biggish breaks for mid-block crossings/bike escape routes (for cyclists who want to take the lane. Parking enforcement should be thorough, and vehicles blocking the lane should be immediately towed (and fines levied against taxis using it as a drop-off lane. The bus stops could be moved to islands in the buffer zone, forcing buses to stop in-lane but reduce mixing. Unfortunately, the most dangerous aspect of this design: right hooks, remains unsolved (at least I have not seen a good proposal for fixing it).

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    • El Biciclero March 25, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      This is how I would “fix the mix”:

      Half a block (or about 100 ft.) before an intersection, open up the buffer area as a second, through bike lane, making the curbside bike lane right-turn-only. Keep cars out of the buffer/thru-bike-lane with a low curb or turtles until the point at which the current mixing zones begin. In this way, a straight-ahead cyclist (and his/her intention to go straight) becomes visible to drivers before drivers are able to enter the cyclist’s path.

      Although this “solution” still wouldn’t be ideal, and would potentially add to the zig-zaggy nature of just trying to go straight, it would seem to greatly increase the visibility of cyclists to drivers that are expected to yield to them, and it would lend some predictability to cyclist actions with respect to intention to turn or go straight. It would at least lower the right-hook risk to the same as that for a regular bike lane.

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