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Gap Week: 82nd Avenue and Burnside

Posted by on January 26th, 2016 at 4:02 pm

DSC_2569
East Burnside’s extremely important bike lane vanishes right where an “interested but concerned” biker might want it most.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Part of Gap Week.

Every morning and afternoon on East Burnside at 82nd Avenue, 10 cars at a time queue up in what ought to be a great advertisement for finding some other way to get around the city.

People on bikes, meanwhile, squeeze past to their right. They’re riding one of the city’s very few continuous bikeways connecting inner and outer East Portland.

east portland connectivity

Well, almost continuous.

Network context

As we wrote in 2014, East Burnside probably offers one of the most unique biking experiences in the United States. The one-hour ride from 182nd, where its bike lane begins, to North Tabor and central Portland, connects a 1 percent biking neighborhood to a 20 percent biking neighborhood. The difference between East Burnside’s eastern and western ends is about the same as the difference between central Portland and Amsterdam.

Burnside has huge practical value in bringing those worlds together, and not only because it offers solid bike lanes from Mount Tabor to 182nd. Because the MAX Blue Line has left just one auto lane in each direction for most of its length, Burnside is also a remarkably calm and low-stress street to bike on by East Portland standards.

But before you even leave the relatively bike-friendly parts of Portland, there’s a two-block stretch were Burnside’s crucial bike lanes just vanish: the blocks on either side of 82nd Avenue.

Existing conditions

82nd overhead annotated

To make room for center turn lanes, the 35-foot-wide street eliminates its bike lanes.

On the west approach, this happens just as the street crosses the driveway of a busy gas station.

gas station

On the east approach, it happens as the street crosses a couple of curb cuts to an auto sales lot, both of which are actually fenced off:

curb cuts

On both sides of the street, the City of Portland has striped the through lanes a bit wider on the approach to the intersection. This creates a shoulder that’s wide enough for people biking to sidle past while traffic is stopped.

squeeze room

And for the most part that’s what people do — people like David Kelly, a bike-commuting teacher at Madison High School who recently relocated east of 82nd.

dave kelly

The thing this squeeze point is missing, of course, is anyone who might be biking on Burnside if they weren’t freaked out about crossing 82nd Avenue without bike lanes, which would indicate to people driving that it might be a place to watch out for someone on a bike.


According to the city’s bike counts, about 800 people a day bike on Burnside at 86th, just east of here. That compares to something like 8,000 motor vehicles per day on the same part of Burnside, based on an afternoon peak-hour count of 761 through vehicles.

Bikes get 0 percent of the road width to themselves here.

What the future holds

In a project that’s scheduled for construction next month, the Oregon Department of Transportation will install a new traffic signal set at this corner, replacing the current overhead wires with overhead masts and adding a left-turn signal phase onto 82nd from Burnside. And they’ll slightly upgrade the diagonal pedestrian ramps that are there today into diagonal pedestrian ramps with truncated domes that make them friendlier to people with visual disabilities.

Adding traditional bike lanes here would require one of two options:

Removing the left-turn lanes. The city doesn’t seem to have recent counts of how many people turn left here onto 82nd, but it seems to be at least one per signal cycle during the peak hour. If the turn lanes were removed, the bike lanes could be continuous but auto traffic would back up further on Burnside while people waited to turn left. Another option would be to bar left turns.

Widening the roadway a bit. All four corners of this intersection are parking lots. Buying a few feet of road space on one side of Burnside or the other would be enough to shift the sidewalk inward and put a narrow bike lane on each side of the street right up to 82nd. All that would have a cost in the six figures — but then again, so will the new traffic signal being installed next month.

Asked about this bike lane gap, the Portland Bureau of Transportation said that in ODOT’s current project, “funding was not available to extend bike lanes through the intersection.” ODOT didn’t answer questions by late Tuesday afternoon.

There might be other ways to call attention to people biking here, such as a green thermoplastic crossbike in the intersection. Kelly, the Madison High School teacher, said he wished there were a bike box that would give him a place to stand in front of cars while he waits for the light, rather than hanging out to the right of a potentially right-turning vehicle.

“They have them all over Southeast,” Kelly said Monday. “Why not here?”

DSC_2572

If you want to share your thoughts about this gap with PBOT, contact them via safe@portlandoregon.gov. For ODOT, which manages 82nd Avenue, use the Ask ODOT service.

And stay tuned for our next gap. And we’re still taking submissions from readers. Tag your gaps with #GapWeekPDX or drop us a line with the location.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: At BikePortland, we love your comments. We love them so much that we devote many hours every week to read them and make sure they are productive, inclusive, and supportive. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone. It means you must do it with tact and respect. If you see an inconsiderate or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan and Michael

27 Comments
  • Terry D-M January 26, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    I brought this gap up when ODOT did outreach at SE Uplift about their 82nd improvement plan. Montavilla echoed my concern since it is the ONLY built connection between Mount Tabor and Rocky Butte from East Portland into Town. It is one of those squeeze between the curb and the car sort of situations which needs a green bike box NOW.

    On a brighter note, at the emergency safety meeting last spring I suggested that when significant paving is done that the new striping include modern bike lanes with parking removal. Just to the east, 87th to the I 205 overpass will be re-striped with 6 bike foot lanes and a two foot buffer with only one parking lane. This is now city policy……but not if the lanes are not there in the first place.

    Since this is a broken grid of residential streets with Glisan and the Stark-Washington couple paralleling, this would be a good candidate to eliminate the center turning lanes as part of this project.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • PaulaF January 26, 2016 at 10:05 pm

      Hey, Terry.

      Eliminating the left turn lane to add the bike lanes would, in our current “I hate bikes” culture, actually increase danger as people would attempt to go around the left turning person using the bike lane.

      If they eliminate the turn lane, might be safer to eliminate left turns, though that is another can of worms as people love to find alternate, cut-through solutions.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Adam H. January 26, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Why not install a protected intersection as part of the 82nd Avenue safety improvement project?

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • ethan January 26, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      Because ODOT :(

      Recommended Thumb up 9

  • Beeblebrox January 26, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Removing the left-turn lanes from Burnside without prohibiting left turns would be a bad idea, not so much because of the congestion it would cause but because of the safety issues. This is already a high-crash intersection, which is why ODOT is adding protected left-turn arrows to Burnside.

    Now, to extend the bike lanes it might be worth prohibiting left turns in the future and removing the turn lanes–but that would send traffic to other parallel routes, so there is an impact. The other way would be to purchase right-of-way and widen the road, which I suspect would be more like seven figures than 6 figures…

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    • David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC January 26, 2016 at 6:04 pm

      This intersection is also a major TriMet transfer point between the cross-town bus #20 (on Burnside) and the #72, the busiest in the whole network. The sidewalks on both streets are already grossly inadequate in width. Any changes to the intersection would involve PBOT, ODOT, & TriMet in the conversation and funding. Then on top of everything else, there is the recurring prostitution issue…

      I’m starting to agree with Terry D-M, maybe the city ought to “take over” 82nd (ODOT has repeatedly offered the street to PBOT), then downgrade (road diet) its (car) traffic lanes, forcing regional traffic to I-205 and other already congested freeways. By making car-driving a repulsive and inconvenient option, we may be able to improve transit and bike connectivity in the areas of our city that lack it most. Or is that too radical?

      Recommended Thumb up 10

      • ethan January 26, 2016 at 7:26 pm

        What would it hurt to make 82nd transit / people / bike priority with only limited access (can only drive on it for 5-6 blocks at a time) for autos?

        Recommended Thumb up 5

        • Terry D-M January 26, 2016 at 11:37 pm

          I’m happy with this as long as two lane collectors are improved as well in the 70s and 60s. This would disperse that traffic regionally, and remove much of it, assuming alternative bike and bus improvements are accommodated as well.

          Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) January 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      Thanks – I’ll add the left-signal-arrow information to the post.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Al Dimond January 26, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      There’s also the solution of removing the left-turn lanes, then changing the signal cycle so each direction on Burnside gets a green-plus-left-arrow phase. Right turns would still cross the bike lane and crosswalk, but left-cross danger goes away. This probably increases delay for everyone, though, including cyclists and pedestrians.

      A three-rights-to-make-a-left alternative doesn’t look too promising, as it would use side streets, and fairly long blocks at that.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • paikiala January 27, 2016 at 10:08 am

        It’s called split-phased signaling, and delay is added. Not really a reason to table the idea, though.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam January 26, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    In theory the center turn lane could be eliminated if an additional signal cycle was able to be added, with a green light and a continuous green left turn arrow for completely SEPERATE eastbound and westbound traffic light cycles. Ped crossings might have coordinated to be by activation only. All that probably depends on traffic counts, but congestion is good, right? ; ). Right now it looks like eastbound and westbound traffic don’t have their own left turn signal anyway. It’s odd, but I’ve seen is used elsewhere occasionally. North and south could still have combined left turn and then green lights cycles.

    Otherwise it looks like there might possibly be room to at least shoehorn in a sub-standard bike lane with bike boxes for the interim.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Keviniano January 26, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    This spot is part of my daily commute. Being the bottleneck that it is for bike traffic across 82nd, I do think it deserves some attention. The way I stay safe is to take the lane the entire length until the bike lane picks up again. “Bicycles make take full lane” signs at either end of the gap would be a great interim solution to encourage others to do the same.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

  • Ted Timmons (Contributor) January 26, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    “funding was not available” == “we had money to improve things for cars, but it would take more than paint to fix it for humans”

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • dbrunker January 26, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    This intersection was just about the first thing I thought of when I heard the words “bike” and “gap” in the same sentence but I thought it was too short to mention.

    I can understand if there’s a need for cars to turn from Burnside to 82nd but that’s only in the eastbound direction. Why isn’t there a bike lane in the westbound direction? I can honestly say I’ve always believed it was for bureaucratic reasons (i.e. 82nd is technically a state highway and the Oregon Department Of Transportation doesn’t want filthy bike peasant lanes 100 yards from the automotive master race).

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Jordan January 26, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    This is on my commute and would love to see the bike lane continue. Any word on when the paving project just to the east of 82nd will be finished from 84th to 100th? They really torn-up the road right before the rains hit.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Chris I January 27, 2016 at 7:53 am

      And will they eliminate the insanely under-utilized street parking spots and widen the substandard/dangerous westbound bike lane between 84th and 205?

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Beeblebrox January 27, 2016 at 10:14 am

        Yes, that is what you should see when the new striping is added when the paving is done.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chris I January 27, 2016 at 7:48 am

    This would be a great location to test out the idea of a protected east/west intersection:
    http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2015/09/0930_protected-intersection.jpg

    The street width would be maintained, and adjacent property on the SW and NE corners of the intersection would be acquired to provide space for the bike lanes to jog up onto the sidewalk. The space between the bike lane and roadway on the corners would be used as a bus stop.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • paikiala January 27, 2016 at 10:11 am

      acquiring property is not a cheap, or easy, thing to do.

      Removing the left turn pockets and going to split phasing of the Burnside approaches seems much easier to accomplish. it’s not like 82nd isn’t already failing during the PM peak. metering traffic at Burnside might help with the problems at Division and Powell.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Beeblebrox January 27, 2016 at 10:13 am

        I love this idea! Seems more feasible than banning left turns altogether.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Trikeguy January 27, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Keviniano
    This spot is part of my daily commute. Being the bottleneck that it is for bike traffic across 82nd, I do think it deserves some attention. The way I stay safe is to take the lane the entire length until the bike lane picks up again. “Bicycles make take full lane” signs at either end of the gap would be a great interim solution to encourage others to do the same.Recommended 2

    Maybe it’s because I’m wider and lower than a bike, but I hate squeezing to the right of traffic in situations like this – usually after the first time through and being surprised by the loss of my bike lane I take the lane a bit before the loss of the bike lane and just behave like a car until it picks up again (Jefferson from 16th through 20th is like that on my homeward trek).

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Joe January 27, 2016 at 9:47 am

    too many parked cars off burnside, fun ride up it but lotta sketchy sections.

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  • Todd Hudson January 27, 2016 at 10:39 am

    I go through this intersection often to get to WinCo and other points east. It is the ONLY connection with lanes (although not here) to get across 205.

    Something big that wasn’t mentioned here: the big hill on Burnside, east of 82nd. It is easy for a cyclist to have a false sense of security and cross 82nd, westbound, going fast. Burnside has no left signal, which means you’re going to have impatient (and inattentive) motorists making rushed left turns. That is a bad combination, and there is a high risk here of a cyclist getting left-hooked while they are traveling at a relatively higher veloccity than they would at a no-hill intersection.

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    • Chris I January 27, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      This is a valid concern, and actually one reason why it may just make sense to remove the turn lanes and add dedicated light cycles for east and west traffic. No chance for left hooks.

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  • SEPDXRider January 27, 2016 at 11:13 am

    I ride the same stretch but approach inbound PDX much differently. I take the sidewalk. It’s 6:30 a.m. and the bus stop is rarely busy. Even at 7:30 a.m.

    Then I cue up. Drivers see me waiting, hand on the telephone poll. Drivers are actually pretty cool about giving me space to come over from the crosswalk, get past THE METAL GRATE (Did we mention the GRATES right in the non striped paths!?!?!) and connect up with the bike lane just past Walgreen’s driveway.

    It’s working and the extra LEGAL cue on the sidewalk, it works. Yeah you can cue in the street. I don’t take the lane here. We are still East of 82nd. Taking the lane is annoying and misunderstood by this hood.

    The biggest threat coming in on this section isn’t this gap. IMHO.
    It’s the cars parked in the bike lane right where it begins past Walgreens. The bike lane takes a little curve and there’s usually a rear bumper forcing me to ride the outer line.

    And those METAL GRATES.

    Coming back, heading East:
    Again, the gap is no problem for me typically. I do cue in the street – ON A METAL GRATE but it’s the best spot to be recognized by the lead drivers. And this bus stop is crowded.

    Drivers need to (elect to) give me room on the other side because THERE IS ANOTHER METAL GRATE. Then we charge the hill and it is NARROW as all get out. A bus and a bike CANNOT safely ride alongside up that hill from 82nd t0 86th. Oncoming traffic will not allow it.

    There is just no way we fit comfortable or safely, so we have to jockey around, the 20 and I. Thank you #20 Drivers. Always polite.

    Big trucks the same problem with width. It’s really, really a narrow set up! But unfortunately most of your F-250 drivers out here like to test their awareness and estimation of their outfit’s parameters. To the inches. With mirrors. And your skull.

    So… IMHO. Gap is fine. It’s everything around it that makes this stretch a bit unsettling.

    ONE LAST THING: Heading East… Rush Hour. Long line of cars. Your biggest threat is the Good Samaritan waving a vehicle to turn left in front of them. They cannot see you in the bike lane. They do not expect you in the “parking lane”.

    Ride tall, keep an eye out and be ready to stop on a dime during rush hour on this stretch.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • JeffS January 29, 2016 at 11:47 am

    “rather than hanging out to the right of a potentially right-turning vehicle”

    Don’t do that then. People riding in the lane don’t get right-hooked.

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