You know how we head into downtown from Ladd Circle to the Hawthorne Bridge. There's this little bike turn lane onto the side street that runs parallel to Hawthorne. It's the designated bike route. But folks do one of four things:
- Use the turn lane, follow the designated route and then turn RT at the Multnomah County Building to reach Hawthorne
- Use the turn lane and then immediately turn RT and enter traffic on SE 12th Ave.
- Cut through the gas station - Comon do we even need to talk about why that is wrong?
- Avoid the turn land and go straight.
I found that actually going straight to the light, past the gas station (Like the #10 TriMet) is the safest way to go. It's also quicker than following the designated route. Consider:
By using the bike turn thingy and following the designated route you actually increase your danger points. The parallel road is controlled by stop signs, sure, but you still have to cross 12th & 11th - visibility is poor - traffic moving fast. Then you have to make a right, then a left off the side street and cross Hawthorne to reach the bike lane - some folks do this at the worst possible location- one block prior to the light at MLK. Ugh. Traffic 3 lanes deep - vehicles and buses jockeying for the far turn lane... No thanks!
Using the turn and then getting into the traffic on 12th is OK for the rider who can sprint - and when traffic is stopped - but... still doesn't seem ideal. You're exposed in two lanes of heavy, fast-moving traffic.
By going straight you get a light and you have options. Stay in the lane and become a vehicle - you can usually go fast enough to not impede traffic and take the curve onto Hawthorne, grab the bikelane and you're home free. Only you and maybe a TriMet and 2-3 cars are entering the intersection from this side street - in single file. The timing of the lights is such that if you go about 12-15 mph you can make the 7th Ave light pretty easily and then coast to a stop as you approach Grand/MLK.
Couple of drawbacks: This light won't change unless a vehicle triggers the magnets. Bikes won't do it. So don't take the lane if there are no vehicles - you'll be sitting there a looooong time and if a vehicle does roll up behind you they might get rather irritated if they can't reach the magnets. If this happens you have an alternative:
Take the sidewalk/crosswalk. Now when 12th Ave traffic get's the green the mass of cars will move past you. Stay on the sidewalk in front of the Pirate bar and wait. When it's clear hit Hawthorne.
I recommend against pulling alongside the stopped vehicles at this lesser-used, auto-triggered light and then attempting to sort it out in the intersection. Just get in line.
This intersection and surrounding portions of the route can get crazy no matter what so whatever you choose keep scanning and looking for potential trouble!