Advertise on BikePortland

Detour done right: 21st and Belmont shows how construction zones should work

Posted by on February 3rd, 2016 at 3:02 pm

lead diversion
A contractor’s trailer blocked sidewalk and bike lane, so the city temporarily removed some parking to keep the routes open.
(Photos: Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

Three months ago, there were so many construction zones encroaching on walking and biking routes that a few Portlanders organized a walking tour of downtown’s worst offenders. So today we’re happy to take a moment to recognize a detour that the city has handled beautifully.

The city prioritized walking, biking, bus and freight access over free on-street parking spaces.

It’s at SE 21st and Belmont, where a big new apartment building is going up. Like on many of these projects, contractors have set up a fenced-in trailer along the sidewalk and curbside — in this case right in the path of the bike lane that runs up Belmont at this point.

But unlike on many projects, the city has worked with contractors to create a great detour for people walking and biking through this commercial district. A detour sign prompts people to the left, into one of the two parallel auto travel lanes:

two lanes

The resulting design pushes cars fairly close to the left (north) side of Belmont, so the city temporarily removed a handful of parking spaces to ensure that wide auto traffic can keep flowing.

Essentially, the city prioritized walking, biking, bus and freight access over free on-street parking spaces.

The design cleverly uses what would usually be the dashed line between two auto lanes to become the line between people walking and biking. At the east side of the detour, the city has added a new temporary stripe to guide people back into their usual lanes:

stripe back to place

Here’s the view from the other direction, looking west:

looking backward

You can see that (despite the man in the first photo on this post) the bike lane is eastbound as usual while the temporary walking lane is bidirectional, just like the sidewalk.

It’s great that the city is working to address these issues. City spokesman John Brady said Wednesday that this is a Bureau of Transportation joint.

One big reason different detours are so different in how they treat people using nearby streets is that different detours are designed by different city bureaus, and there’s no overarching citywide policy that has ever gotten every bureau to design its detours with care. With our neighbors in Seattle celebrating a new policy that specifies the rules for closing sidewalks in construction zones, we can hope and expect that this is a sign that Portland’s internal efforts are improving, too.

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

BikePortland can’t survive without paid subscribers. Please sign up today.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • dan February 3, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Is the cyclist in the top picture going the wrong way in the pedestrian lane?

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • Spiffy February 3, 2016 at 3:42 pm


      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Eric Leifsdad February 4, 2016 at 2:24 pm

        There is no such thing as wrong-way sidewalk biking. True, there are problems with sidewalk biking and even written rules against it on some sidewalks, but it’s also a good indicator of what’s wrong with your design and/or systems. This layout is pretty good, but wow that’s a big car lane. And did anybody think to ask: why are these people in cars driving on this street anyway when there’s an expressway less than a mile away? Why do we spend all this money on special roads just for cars if drivers aren’t even going to use them?

        Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Champs February 3, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      Salmon are drawn by the inexorable pull of protected bike lanes. Respect those desire lines, yo.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

      • lop February 3, 2016 at 4:07 pm

        >Respect those desire lines, yo.

        And sign any future protected bikeways downtown for bidirectional travel? Sure, sounds good. Tolerate cyclists riding fast on crowded sidewalks/pedestrian spaces when they salmon downtown? Nope.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Paul February 3, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      It’s legit if he was bicycling on the sidewalk. That’s allowed, and in many cases (people who like to ride slowly) it’s the best choice. This pedestrian lane is replacing the sidewalk.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

      • lop February 3, 2016 at 4:09 pm

        That’s the sort of solution that doesn’t scale well. If you have a lot of pedestrians, a lot of cyclists, or a lot of both it produces too much conflict.

        Recommended Thumb up 4

        • Paul February 3, 2016 at 5:01 pm

          So what’s the best place to ride 2-5 mph? A bike lane maybe, a car lane no way.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • lop February 3, 2016 at 5:14 pm

            Sometimes in a crowded place (downtown) you can’t accommodate every activity. If you are only moving at 2 mph why not just walk your bike? And if accommodating 2-5 mph cycling is so important, then make a space for it that isn’t on the sidewalk, even if that interferes with faster cyclists and drivers getting to go as fast as they want.

            Recommended Thumb up 3

            • soren February 3, 2016 at 6:16 pm

              Is that you Amanda Fritz?

              1. There are no pedestrians anywhere to be seen.
              2. This is not down town.

              Recommended Thumb up 8

              • 9watts February 3, 2016 at 6:44 pm

                Decided to stick around after all, soren? 🙂
                I don’t blame you. It’s fun around here.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

            • paikiala February 4, 2016 at 3:40 pm

              In downtown Portland, CBD, it is against the law to ride on the sidewalk per city ordinance.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

    • shirtsoff February 3, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      Ah dan, you’ve touched upon one of the many wonders that are contained within the Oregon Revised Statuates: Bicycles can be either pedestrians or vehicles.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Steve B February 3, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    YES! This is how it should be done. Bravo to PBOT and the contractors involved in making this happen. Thank you.

    Recommended Thumb up 26

    • Steve B February 3, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      And props to Oregon Walks & The BTA for working with the city to help make this type of ped/bike detour treatment the standard.

      Recommended Thumb up 11

  • Adam H. February 3, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Great job, PBOT! This needs to be standard practice for all construction detours.

    Recommended Thumb up 11

  • Anne Hawley
    Anne Hawley February 3, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Shouldn’t be as much of a delightful surprise as it was when I encountered it last week. I was so impressed that I tweeted about it myself!

    I regularly patronize one of the businesses whose on-street parking has been temporarily eliminated (the Ad Astra hair salon), and it didn’t seem to be causing them any angst.

    The car traffic zooming by, RIGHT THERE, practically on the north sidewalk was a bit thrilling as I unlocked my bike and made for the temp bike lane.

    Not directly related to this welcome construction detour, but to user-friendly cities in general: there’s a lot to be said for some kind of buffer – be it parked cars or a protected bike lane – between the sidewalk and fast-moving motor vehicles.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Social Engineer February 3, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    “City spokesman John Brady said Wednesday that this is a Bureau of Transportation joint.”

    Thanks, Spike Lee.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Chris I February 3, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    It seems you’ve captured a wild salmon in its natural habitat.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Adam February 3, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Wow! The City planners who shut down the sidewalk on NW Glisan outside the new construction project at the Nob Hill YHA (Youth Hostel) could stand to borrow a few pages from this book!

    Walking with zero pedestrian buffer with 35mph is terrifying (or rather, running, so you can get to the other side of the construction zone before the next onslaught of cars bear down on you when the traffic light turns green).

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • dan February 3, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      Can’t you cross to the other side of Glisan and use the sidewalk?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Adam H. February 4, 2016 at 10:43 am

        Can’t people driving just go a block over to Division instead of driving down Clinton?

        Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Todd Boulanger February 3, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Looks pretty good.

    (Though it would be nice to have a reflective barrel or other type of larger barricade at the start and end of these transition zones…just in case a car strike were to take down the first wand and to make it more visible to approaching motorists…plus drivers tend to only respect larger objects…they will purposely not be concerned at running over cones and wands).

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) February 3, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      There’s actually a big digital sign at the very start, not pictured here.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Todd Boulanger February 4, 2016 at 12:56 pm

        Thanks for the update…a digital sign should keep most drivers from driving over it. 😉

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Todd Boulanger February 3, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    A frequently forgotten point with city staff, contractors and etc. would be that a well designed work zone – one that adds a ped and bike lane – often adds a wider safety zone/ buffer between the construction workers (or open trench) and the passing motorists.

    This opportunity often seems lost on those designing TCPs or reviewing them especially in light of the 2009 MUTCD guidance on work zones (Section 6A.01):

    “The primary function of TTC is to provide for the reasonably safe and effective movement of road users through or around TTC zones while reasonably protecting road users, workers, responders to traffic incidents, and equipment.”


    “Of equal importance to the public traveling through the TTC zone is the safety of workers performing the many varied tasks within the work space. TTC zones present constantly changing conditions that are unexpected by the road user. This creates an even higher degree of vulnerability for the workers and incident management responders on or near the roadway (see Section 6D.03).”

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • TheCat February 3, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I just rode through it. Unfortunately, the pylons have been pushed over eliminating the bike lane and only leaving the pedestrian lane.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • B. Carfree February 3, 2016 at 6:04 pm

      That’s pretty much what I expected. Time to move to version 2.0.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • s February 3, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    An elevated site office (and portables) would have reduced the road space taken up by the construction site.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • devograd February 3, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Beautiful! Thanks to PBOT and everybody else involved.


    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • F February 3, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    What is wrong with jersey barriers?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mark smith February 4, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Voice from the future : if only someone would have invented jersey barriers prior to 2016.

    Other voice from the future : yes, if only humans understood that a flimsy plastic code will do little to protect humans from a wandering human empowered with a 3000 lb missile.

    Will we ever learn?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Eric Leifsdad February 4, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      I can think of at least a dozen places where I would prefer a flimsy plastic wand to the paint and air which currently protects me from drivers who are not choking on soda. The psychological effect is significant. Given the cost difference and ease of deployment vs jersey barriers, the only thing stopping us from throwing a net of green plastic bollards and/or water-filled barriers over the city next week is that “we just don’t want to”.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Mark smith February 5, 2016 at 7:41 am

        Soda…the real killer.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joe February 4, 2016 at 9:07 am

    thank you 🙂 lets make this Oregon standard pls

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Hannah Crum February 4, 2016 at 10:22 am

    As someone who rides this route home most days I really appreciate this effort! My only note is that I wish the pylons would stay up or that they were larger. I’ve been through it a few times now where five or more pylons are littering both lanes. Still…thank you!

    Recommended Thumb up 1