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County confirms Sellwood Bridge will get wider, buffered bike lane

Posted by on March 11th, 2016 at 3:36 pm

sellwood-eastend
New lane sizes after county decided on buffered bike lanes.

The bike lanes on the new Sellwood Bridge will be more robust than previously expected.

The striping plan of the main deck (as opposed to the 12-foot wide sidepath which is separated via a high curb) originally called for 6.5-foot bike lanes next to 12-foot wide standard lanes. But now the County plans to stripe a 7.5-foot wide bike lane that will include a two-foot buffer zone next adjacent to 11-foot standard lanes.

After we reported on this potential change Wednesday a local news station confirmed that the plans for buffered bike lanes have been finalized.

The reason has to do with green color. The bike lanes were supposed to be stained a green hue to make them safer; but the county has not been satisfied with initial tests of the color. So for now they’ve decided to move forward without it.


sellwoodstripingchangesdrawing
The “proposed” cross section is now final.

County spokesman Mike Pullen said the lack of color combined with speeding concerns from local residents is what spurred engineers to consider a wider bike lane. “To not have the green and keep the old [striping] plan would make us concerned that it wouldn’t be as obvious to drivers that bicyclists wouldn’t have the right to be down there at their level.”

In addition to the 7.5-foot bike lanes, people will also be able to ride on the sidepath in a zone that’s shared with other non-motorized bridge users. Asked why the design has two separate options for cycling instead of just one large, raised sidepath, Pullen said the extra width of the main deck gives them flexibility for emergencies and vehicle breakdowns. “We’ve always called them bike lanes-slash-shoulders,” he said.

As for the green color, the county still might use it someday if they achieve the right color, durability, and application method that’s cost-effective and meets their standards. Riders are however likely to see green color in specific “conflict zones” at the intersections on either side of the bridge. The county will monitor traffic when the bridge fully opens later this fall to determine where there green color is needed.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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48 Comments
  • alankessler March 11, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    How many different ways are we going to half-ass this? Add physical protection already.

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  • Adam H. March 11, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Pullen said the extra width of the main deck gives them flexibility for emergencies and vehicle breakdowns.

    This is why we need separated facilities, not breakdown lanes disguised as bike lanes.

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    • Keviniano March 11, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      Isn’t that what the 12 ft wide sidepath is?

      I thought that here people on bicycles have two options.

      (I haven’t actually been on the bridge yet, so I don’t know how good the sidepath actually is to bicycle on)

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      • Adam H. March 11, 2016 at 4:43 pm

        Yes it is. However, it’s still a shared path. Would be better to have a dedicated protected cycling facility and ditch painted lanes altogether. The cycleway could be wide enough to accommodate fast and slow riders while offering protection for both.

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        • Paul March 11, 2016 at 5:54 pm

          It’s crazy. It’s 2016 and they build a shared path and a striped bike lane? Wtf?

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  • Eric Leifsdad March 11, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Actual enforcement of the posted speed please. PPB should just go spend a few hours and hand a ticket to every driver because nobody can seem to keep it under 26mph. This is a horrible place to be outside of a car with 30-35mph traffic whether you’re on the sidewalk or in a buffered bike lane. The speed isn’t gaining anything in throughput and 11ft is too wide for 25mph.

    “bike lanes-slash-shoulders” doesn’t cut it with our lofty mode-share goals. You need a breakdown lane so your SOVs don’t get clogged-up? Fine, have some occassional gaps in the protection with serious rumble strips, mountable curb or something. Add some water-filled barriers every 30ft, steel rails, or something intimidating to keep the traffic out of the bike lane and below the posted speed.

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    • AJ_Bikes March 14, 2016 at 8:14 am

      This makes me think the Sellwood and Burnside Bridges (maybe the others, too, actually) would be a great place for speed cameras, in addition to the physical protection you mention. Drivers behave so recklessly flying across these bridges, with people trying to walk and bike just feet away, that maybe a few speeding tickets would make them actually drive more safely. And particularly with Sellwood, this would be a great way to help get those Clackamas County freeloaders to help pay for the costs of constructing the bridge, if only after the fact.

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      • Adam H. March 14, 2016 at 10:41 am

        This is a terrific idea. Speeding will definitely be an issue on the new Sellwood Bridge.

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      • paikiala March 15, 2016 at 12:56 pm

        Apart, of course, from the fact that fixed speed cameras are limited to use on high crash corridors and mobile speed cameras are in a van that needs a place to park.

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  • B. Carfree March 11, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Five and one-half is not greater than six an one-half.

    Those buffers are simply interpreted as additional travel lane and they tend to have some noticeable traction issues for bikes, so the bike lane has truly been shrunk by this addition.

    Add in the county calling things “bike lanes/shoulders” and we’ve got a real problem. This is like the progression of our bike paths from bike path (clear right of way for bikes; still on the books as far as I know, from the days when they were called bike trails) to shared use path (ambiguous right of way) to the way we currently interpret them, which is as off-street sidewalks (pedestrian right of way). Now we’re seeing bike lanes interpreted as break-down lanes (shoulders). We are trending backwards in all ways other than roadway deaths.

    Nuts and bolts of this narrowing: Centering on the wheel, one must stay approximately one and one-half feet from the curb to avoid pedal strike issues. To stay out of the buffer zone, which starts just over five feet from the curb (lines have widths), one only has about two feet of room to move laterally for things like road hazards and such. Had the county simply made the bike lane seven and one-half feet without the buffer, cyclists would have had double that space to roam. We could have even passed each other safely. No winners here, just narrowing of the car-free space.

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    • El Biciclero March 11, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      But once you get over about 7 feet of width, drivers take that for a motor lane. We have to remember that everybody is stupid, and if the right thing isn’t dead-obvious and dead-simple, it will not be done.

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      • JeffS(egundo) March 15, 2016 at 6:43 am

        Yes. And at 7.5 feet it can also look like a great place to pull over and enjoy the view.

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  • Jim Lee March 11, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Several years ago I asked Mike Pullen, et. al., why there should be two marginal bicycle traverses on the new Sellwood rather than a single excellent one.

    On the Tillikum, I suggested to the design committee that here was a golden opportunity for separated bike and pedestrian paths: a two-way bike path on the north side; a two-way pedestrian path on the south side.

    In both cases I got nothing but flim-flam arguments that such could not possibly be done.

    What does it take to get SEPARATED BICYCLE PATH inside the brain cases of transportation planners?

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  • Dwaine Dibbly March 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Fill that buffer with nails every Sunday evening. Any drivers that encroach into that space won’t do it a 2nd time.

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    • still riding after all that March 11, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      We don’t like it when people (presumably bicycle-haters) throw nails or tacks in a bike lane, so advocating nails in vehicle tires seems like starting a war we can’t win. Besides, nails in car tires don’t cause the kind of right-now problem that they do with bicycle tires.

      The right answer IMHO is to put up a physical barrier, keeping motor vehicles *separate* from bicycles. I find it disturbing that with all the time and money spent on this bridge, the result we have now is such a mess.

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  • Tom Hardy March 11, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    The 6″ domes like are next to the MAX tracks sound perfect for the buffer. Fire trucks and busses can still go over them if they really have to. Space them about every 2 foot. It will get the attention of a stoned SUV driver and make them think that something is wrong. They will take out the underside of a ricerocket.

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  • q`Tzal March 11, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    Additions to conflict zones:
    () better lighting – make it both lower so it is focused precisely where it needs to be and brighter than USDOT requires. Make it 5%-15% than the most safety paranoid pedestrian safety engineering assessment.
    () red light cameras
    … ) that record video of conflict zone whenever a bicycle triggers an in-pavement detector.
    … ) even if the red light ticketing part is discontinued keep recording video as part of “a long term traffic safety study”.

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    • paikiala March 15, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      q
      red light cameras are for ticketing drivers that run red lights. care to elaborate?

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  • Ian March 11, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    It’s awesome that the county is unilaterally deciding to reduce road widths explicitly to reduce speeding! This is much better than a lime-green lane. The need for separated facilities only arises because American engineers have designed our roads to operate as highways. Narrower lanes for lower speeds are a huge win!

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    • John Lascurettes March 12, 2016 at 10:32 am

      Good luck with that. Lines don’t slow people down.

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    • soren March 13, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      The need for separated facilities only arises because American engineers have designed our roads to operate as highways

      Drunk and distracted driving are the fault of engineers?

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      • paikiala March 15, 2016 at 1:03 pm

        no, but knowing there is a problem and not doing the best to prevent a fatal or serious outcome is one of the responsibilities of the road designer.

        This is another hard truth with Vision Zero/Safe Systems. The responsibility of all involved, from designer to enforcer, adjudicator, legislator and road user to do their best each to prevent future fatal and serious injury crashes. ‘not my job’ by any of those players is unethical under the new paradigm.

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        • Eric Leifsdad March 17, 2016 at 11:58 pm

          Wouldn’t the safest design “fail safe” — i.e. cause drunk or incompetent drivers to wreck in a way that kept them from hurting anyone else? Getting everything out of their way until they kill someone is the problem. Let’s say we have random bollards start popping-up in the road at 11pm (with some reasonable bit of warning for those travelling at or below the posted speed) — would this not reduce drunk-driving injuries and deaths?

          Slow drivers don’t get hurt as much. Seems pretty simple. Maybe we should get the police involved with this idea?

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  • Pkrollin March 11, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Agreed. This is super unfortunate. The county got the bridge done and it’s going to be an amazing facility. I tried in vain to persuade them to design in cycle tracks that were 3″ above the auto deck. Separate and equal facilities for safe drivers, bikers and pedestrians. It was “too expensive” and was going to cause a maintenance issue. A golden opportunity missed…stoked for what they accomplished, super disappointed that their problem solving doesn’t remedy the issue and creates even smaller bike facilities! ITYSo…

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    • Adam H. March 12, 2016 at 9:19 am

      This is what’s frustrating. A representative for the county stated at last week’s Bicycle Advisory Committee that no one complained about the bridge before it opened, and that all the complaints after the fact are too late. No, we DID complan, but they weren’t listening.

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  • Tom Hardy March 12, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Paint is pretty cheap and wears away. We are lucky that the highway engineers put concrete in for the sidewalks. They probably should have made the curbs low enough so that it could have extended the MUP to the edge of the lane with a 2″ rounded curb to alert the motorist that they were no longer in the motorway.

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  • rachel b March 13, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    I’ll ride the sidewalk (‘sidepath’) and face the ire of pedestrians, thanks. Better than being hit by a car from behind.

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  • Mark smith March 13, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    rachel b
    I’ll ride the sidewalk (‘sidepath’) and face the ire of pedestrians, thanks. Better than being hit by a car from behind.
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    Side paths are for every non motorized user. Go for it.

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    • rachel b March 14, 2016 at 1:10 am

      Thanks, Mark. :) I know that’s true, but there’ll still be ped ire…esp. when “there’s a bike lane RIGHT THERE!.”

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  • Tim B March 14, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Sounds perfect to me. As a faster rider, I would rather not have a physical barrier keeping me from taking the vehicle lane to get around slower riders. If you are not comfortable riding the roadside, are out for a ride with the kids, or out after the bars close, you can use the multi-use path.

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  • Eric March 14, 2016 at 11:09 am

    I just want to point out that the new bridge is sooooo much better than the old one. If you feel unsafe, ride on the sidewalk. They are wide enough that pedestrian interference is not an issue. Just use your bell. Enjoy the ride!

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  • mw March 14, 2016 at 11:17 am

    prediction: no one will ride in the bike lane proper. The sidewalk is very wide and will have virtually no pedestrians.

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    • Adam H. March 14, 2016 at 11:18 am

      This is exactly my point. Why confuse people with unsafe painted bike lanes when the shared sidewalk works just fine?

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    • q March 14, 2016 at 11:14 pm

      True most of the time, but definitely not on nice weekends. I base that on 10 years of working next to the Willamette Greenway trail, seeing hundreds of people going by in an hour or so on weekends–with the old, terrifying-for-pedestrians bridge. Plus, it’s not just the volume of people, it’s that they’re in groups–from 3 people walking abreast to marathon training packs of twenty or forty people. Plus kids, dogs on leashes, kids on bikes, all weaving in and out. A couple with a dog on a leash can easily fill a 12′ sidewalk.

      Nobody has seen the pedestrian and bike traffic that will use the bridge, because this is the first time it’s ever been an attractive route, and the first time a loop route involving the bridge has ever been safe or attractive. It has the potential to have thousands of pedestrians and slow bikes on the sidewalk on a nice weekend day, especially on the north side, since pedestrians will almost all be coming from the north, and have no reason to go to the south side except to get a different view.

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      • rachel b March 14, 2016 at 11:25 pm

        Agreed, q! Also–nowadays a couple with a dog on a(n evil retractable) leash can easily fill a 30′ sidewalk…and do.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu March 14, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Adam H.
    This is exactly my point. Why confuse people with unsafe painted bike lanes when the shared sidewalk works just fine?
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    Isn’t that sort of an unwanted nanny attitude?

    Surely you don’t think that cyclists riding in the bike lane are ignorant of the existence of the shared sidewalk path three feet away. I think they are aware of the sidewalk, but choose to ride in the bike lane. Should they should be deprived of that choice, just because some other person is personally unwilling to ride anywhere but on the sidewalk?

    I ride in the bike lane in preference to a side path because:
    – I can ride 15-25 mph safely, without endangering pedestrians or upsetting other cyclists.
    – I watch my helmet mirror, and know when cars are approaching from behind and where they are.
    – I feel it is important to communicate to drivers, by deed as well as word, that bikes belong on the road.

    The more cyclists on the roads, the safer the roads are for all cyclists. Drivers get trained to expect bikes and they learn how to drive around bikes.

    I’ve ridden bikes on city streets for 45 years with zero accidents involving cars, pedestrians, or other bikes. A city does not need all its bike paths to be separated behind curbs and barriers, to be a good city for cycling. That may be an appropriate design in a few places, but it is not required or even desirable on most roads.

    The city needs:
    – Reasonable car speeds. This is achieved with lower posted speed limits, manned (cops) and unmanned (cameras) speed enforcement, advisory signage, traffic calming road design, and congestion. We are, little by little, getting more of that (especially the congestion part).
    – Bike lanes that are at least 4 feet wide, ideally buffered, and very clearly and consistently marked. They can be next to parked cars, it isn’t ideal but part of being a competent city cyclist is watching for heads in cars and riding on the side of the bike lanes that is farthest from parked cars. In certain places (intersections, inside of curves) curbs, wands, rumble strips are a good idea.
    – A network of bike streets (greenways) that have especially low speed limits, signage, and diverters to discourage through car traffic, and signals to permit safe crossing of major streets. These greenways should connect, at a minimum, to every school, every park, and to every shopping street.
    – Bike parking (racks) on each end of every commercial block.
    – Driver education. Lots of it, and continuous. It doesn’t need to be high-tech. Simply placing educational signs (safe passing distance, right hooking, etc) on TriMet buses would reach the eyeballs of most drivers multiple times a week.
    – Cyclist education. Pick a driver and a cyclist at random, and in most cases the driver will be the only one who has received any formal training in the handing of his vehicle. If I see 1 out of 10 drivers doing something unsafe in a given period, I usually see 2 or 3 out of 10 cyclists doing something unsafe.

    Would it be even safer if the city was covered with elaborate Copenhagen-style bike infrastructure? I’m not sure that actual cyclist death rates per capita would be any lower, because annual rate of deaths/1000 cyclists in Portland is already very low.

    Possibly more people would bike if the city was a Disneyland of separated bike infrastructure. But we do not pay high enough taxes to permit that. Look up tax rates in Copenhagen: 24% municipal tax rate on individuals. We (Portlanders in general, and the majority of BP commenters) won’t even pass a minimal tax on ourselves to support road safety investment. We want a lot, while paying very little.

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    • Adam H. March 14, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      No, my argument was that more choices – while well-intentioned – causes more confusion. The mess around the SE 12th Orange Line bike path is a prime example. Instead of two mediocre choices, why not give people one really good option? Why do people who want to ride faster not get the benefit of protection?

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      • John Liu
        John Liu March 14, 2016 at 3:59 pm

        Because the roadway width and thus expense required to provide completely separated zones for pedestrians, slow cyclists, fast cyclists, broken-down and emergency vehicles, and normal vehicle traffic is impractical.

        Add 16 feet width to the new Sellwood bridge and see how much more it increases the cost. I’d guess it is more than we spend on bike infrastructure in multiple years.

        And who says people who want to ride faster feel the same need for “protection” as you seem to consider necessary? You seem to (always) take the view that riding in a standard bike lane or even a buffered bike lane on a typical street is unacceptably dangerous and frightening. Maybe that is a debatable point if we are talking about a very new, very inexperienced, very young, very old, very timid, etc, rider. But since we are here talking about someone who wants to ride faster, thus an experienced, confident rider, I think that view is unfounded.

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        • rachel b March 14, 2016 at 11:30 pm

          All solid points, John, but my confidence doesn’t protect me from distracted drivers. I’m not riding as much lately only because of too many recent close calls involving drivers paying more attention to their phones (or hair, or food, or the dog in their lap) than driving. The situation’s reached a real nadir in Portland, and I don’t want those reckless, irresponsible drivers coming up behind me.

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        • paikiala March 15, 2016 at 1:07 pm

          John,
          They could have designed a bridge with an upper flange that cars ride on and a lower flange for bikes and pedestrians. full separation between the two primary modes. It might have even been cheaper.

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    • soren March 16, 2016 at 5:30 pm

      “They can be next to parked cars, it isn’t ideal but part of being a competent city cyclist is watching for heads in cars and riding on the side of the bike lanes that is farthest from parked cars.”

      You seem awfully proud of yourself for being “competent”, John. However, “competence” is relative. For example, I have zero need for a bike lane, a bike boulevard, or even a measly sharrow to negotiate city streets. In fact, if I were to use the logic you used above, I could argue that a “competent” cyclist does not need any bike infrastructure. But most people who are interested in cycling for transport have no desire to achieve your level of “competence” (and even fewer enjoy riding in urban traffic without bike infrastructure). Bikeways that cater to the “competent” are a recipe for single digit mode share forever.

      “Possibly more people would bike if the city was a Disneyland of separated bike infrastructure.”

      Your enthusiasm for more people cycling is palpable.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu March 18, 2016 at 1:17 am

        I don’t think we need to, or have the resources to, build a transportation infrastructure that is everywhere safe enough for “incompetent” users. Whether that is incompetent drivers, or incompetent cyclists.

        Sure, when people just start cycling, they lack skill and experience, and there should be some roads they can safely ride on even as unsteady new riders. The greenways should be that way, hence the need for diverters and lower auto counts and speed on those streets. And little kids riding to their neighborhood school should be able to get there using greenways and signalized crossings.

        But if and when a cyclist starts crossing the city, riding on major roads, riding through heavily traffic’d areas like downtown, it is incumbent on them to have, or acquire, the skills of a competent city rider. Just as drivers should develop basic competence before heading into more demanding situations, so should cyclists.

        Which includes riding to the left in a doorzone bike lane (because if the lane is adequately wide, that puts you beyond the doorzone), watching for heads or movement inside parked cars (because empty cars are no threat), moving into the traffic lane when necessary to go around obstacles (and having the awareness of traffic to know when it is safe).

        If we think that doorzone bike lanes are always too dangerous to use, then we need to build many miles of walled-off separated cyclepaths all over the city. Which, despite the hopes of some, is not, ever, going to happen. And if it did, that would increase the danger at intersections, absent elaborate Copenhagen style designs which cannot fit in most of our instructions. And finally we’d find that cyclists will have lost the right to ride freely on our streets. We’ll have segregated and confined ourselves into walled paths where we have to poke along at the speed of the slowest rider in the crowd. Like riding on the narrowest sidepath of the Broadway Bridge, except that your whole ride would be like that.

        All in a misguided quest to accomodate incompetence. How about we simply try to make Portland a safe place for cyclists who know how to ride, or are willing to learn?

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      • John Liu
        John Liu March 18, 2016 at 1:24 am

        Anyway, aren’t you the one consistently defending painted line door zone bike lanes as adequate infrastructure? E.g. http://bikeportland.org/2015/08/28/sw-3rd-avenue-get-downtowns-first-buffered-bike-lane-156310#comment-6539080

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        • Adam H. March 18, 2016 at 9:17 am

          huge improvement over nothing

          Keyword here is “nothing”.

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  • Mike Sanders March 14, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    I was one of the several hundred folks who walked across the old bridge at the close down celebration a few days back. I took a look at that very narrow walkway it had. You couldn’t have paid me to use it. Way too narrow. The one on the Ross Island bridge is just as bad, if not worse. Renenber, the old Sellwood opened in 1925, the RI in 1926. Plus, the roadway itself was worn down to the deck itself in several places. Replaced in the nick of time. Walked across the Tillicum the other day for the 1st time. Fantastic. Hopefully, when everything’s done, the New Sellwood bridge will have sidewalks and bike lanes that will make everybody happy and comfortable on it!

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  • John Liu
    John Liu March 15, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    paikiala
    John,
    They could have designed a bridge with an upper flange that cars ride on and a lower flange for bikes and pedestrians. full separation between the two primary modes. It might have even been cheaper.
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    But if the car part needs breakdown lanes, then trying to completely separate cars from bike/ped via an upper and lower flange still means less room for bikes than the current design, or no place to ride bikes without dodging pedestrians, or an overall wider and hence more expensive bridge. Doesn’t it?

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