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First look: New raised bikeway on Couch curve at Burnside bridgehead

by on November 29th, 2016 at 2:59 pm

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PBOT has given riders a raise on Couch as it winds onto the Burnside Bridge.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

For years now the Portland Bureau of Transportation has tried to keep people from driving into the bike lane on the Couch curve at the eastern end Burnside Bridge. They’ve used buffer stripes, reflectors with LEDs inside them, and even rumble bumps — all without much success.

The curve. Note that the vacant lot on the right will soon be a new office building.

The curve. Note that the vacant lot on the right will soon be a new office building.

Have they finally figured it out?

Their latest attempt is a new concrete surface that’s raised a few inches above the adjacent roadway and that looks more like a sidewalk than a vehicle lane. We reported on this back in June and took a closer look at the finished product yesterday.

This section of Couch is a high-volume bikeway (especially during morning rush-hour) that collects traffic from inner southeast and northeast neighborhoods and then feeds right into Old Town/Chinatown via the Burnside Bridge. The road cross-section includes two standard vehicle lanes along with this new bike lane (which is the standard width of about five or six feet). Due to the curves (a design that was agreed upon in order to make the lot on the northwest corner of MLK and Burnside as large as possible for development), long buses and trucks need plenty of room to maneuver (see photo below).

The raised bike lane begins right at the start of the “s” curve after Couch crosses Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Bicycle users take a gradual ramp onto the lane and there’s a mountable curb with a very slight angle between the bike lane and the standard lane. Between the bike lane and the sidewalk there’s a three-inch curb that isn’t rounded at all. The width of the bike lane isn’t wide enough for side-by-side riding and, as local urban planner Nick Falbo pointed out on Twitter last week, it’s barely wide enough for a freight delivery bike.

Before we share more feedback and images, it’s important to know the urban context at this location. The area around the Couch curve has, quite literally, grown up a lot in the past few years. In every direction there are new developments that have brought hundreds of new residential units and well over 100,000 square feet of office and retail space. That means the future demand for space on adjacent public spaces (which includes streets) will grow considerably in the years to come.


It seems crazy to me that we have two lanes of motor vehicle traffic bisecting a thriving new neighborhood in our central city; but I digress.

The good news is that the raised bike lane and all the development have already slowed road users down. That’s a natural reaction to the built environment that we hope continues.

As for the new bike lane design, it’s a nice step forward. We’d love to see physical separation, but making the bike lane a different color and texture than the other lanes and raising it up a few inches is an improvement. One puzzling thing about the design is how the mountable curb is between the standard vehicle lanes and bike lanes, instead of between the bike lane and the sidewalk. This means people on bikes who want to pass will leave the (relative) safety of the bike-only lane and enter a lane shared with motor vehicles — instead of using the sidewalk.

The issue we’ve heard a lot about since this new bike lane was installed is the big puddle that has formed where it transitions back onto the Burnside Bridge (see photo below). The puddle was still there on Monday and the people I observed left the bike lane to go around it. This puddle needs to be fixed.

Here are more photos…

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Another thing to keep in mind is that there will soon be a new, carfree road that connects to the Couch curve from NE 3rd Avenue. This will create a potential conflict point where people on bicycles merge from the new road onto the existing bike lane. As with all the changes around the east side of the Burnside Bridge, we’ll be watching that closely.

Have you ridden this new raised lane? What do you think? Would you like to see more of them in the central city?

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

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City testing ‘rumble bars’ to prevent encroachment into NE Couch bike lane

by on January 8th, 2016 at 2:09 pm

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New rumble bars added to Couch bike lane approaching Burnside Bridge.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Oh, if we could just get people to not drive in bike lanes. We’ve tried nearly everything (except for concrete barriers): First there was white paint, then blue paint, then green paint, then parked cars, then more white paint, then flexible plastic bollards, then solar-powered LED lights. And now Portland’s Bureau of Transportation is testing ‘rumble bars’.

The new bars have just been installed on the infamous s-curve on NE Couch as it approaches the east end of the Burnside Bridge. They’re about a foot wide, spaced a foot apart, and stand about one-inch high. PBOT has installed them only on the curved portion of the Couch bike lane — a segment of roadway that has raised bike safety concerns since the day it opened.
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What the heck is going on with the 26th Avenue bike lanes?

by on January 7th, 2016 at 2:46 pm

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SE 26th Avenue looking south toward Powell.

Is the City of Portland, newly anointed “Biketown”, really going to remove a bike lane because our state department of transportation said it would improve safety?

That story we reported yesterday has sparked outrage, confusion, and frustration — all completely reasonable reactions to the idea of removing a bike lane in order to make biking safer. While we work to clarify the details and get to the bottom of what’s really going on (weaving the different communications from city officials and state officials together into one coherent whole is proving more complicated than expected), I thought I’d share what two notable Portland bike advocates think about the idea.
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City gives in to state demand to remove bike lanes from SE 26th Avenue

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on January 6th, 2016 at 11:32 am

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10 a.m. southbound bike traffic at 26th and Powell.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Two of southeast Portland’s most-ridden bike lanes are slated to be removed at the insistence of the state of Oregon.

The bike lanes on each side of Southeast 26th Avenue near Powell draw something like 600 to 800 people per day (even in winter) and run in front of Cleveland High School. They will be paved over sometime in the coming months and not replaced, the Oregon Department of Transportation said last week.

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A first for Washington: Green paint for bike lanes on a state highway

by on November 10th, 2015 at 2:10 pm

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Drawing courtesy Washington DOT.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is going green to try and make a large highway intersection a bit safer to ride a bike on.
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First Look: New bike lane, sharrows on NE 7th

by on February 4th, 2015 at 2:23 pm

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Newness on NE 7th.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has finished some striping and marking work on NE 7th in the Lloyd District.

As we shared in our first report on this project back in September, this street is a key connector for bicycling between the Lloyd District (and NE Multnomah protected bike lane) and the NE Tillamook bicycle boulevard. This project was aimed at improving the bicycling environment by giving riders dedicated space and reinforcing a shared street environment.

In the southbound direction, the new markings begin just south of NE Schulyer. It begins as a standard bike lane and then half-way through the block (right at Les Schwab Tire Center driveway) the bike lane ends and a shared right-turn lane begins (marked by alternating sharrows and turn arrows).
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On NE Glisan, new bike lane character (and lower speed limit) earn clucks of approval

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on February 3rd, 2015 at 9:16 am

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Male? Female? The comb seems hiply unisex. Either way, it’ll now have a safer time crossing the road.
(Photo: Terry Dublinski-Milton)

Portland’s famous bike lane characters keep getting more colorful. As we wrote in December, this unique and wonderful tradition has been making a comeback, thanks to creative city staffers.

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Lack of sweeping makes for challenging conditions on “Dirty 30”

by on January 24th, 2014 at 11:52 am

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The bike lane on Highway 30 just north of downtown Portland is often in abysmal shape.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

On the official City of Portland bike map, NW St. Helens Road/Highway 30 looks like a nice solid bike lane (see below). It’s the only north-south bike lane on the west side of the Willamette River between northwest Portland and Sauvie Island (and beyond). As such, this bike lane is an important route for many people — whether they’re commuting to St. Johns or using it as a gateway to many popular riding destinations.

Unfortunately it’s usually full of dirt, gravel, and other debris. It’s so bad that I recently learned in some circles it’s known as “Dirty 30”.
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Citizen activists work to fix narrow bike lanes on Interstate Ave

by on January 10th, 2014 at 1:27 pm

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This substandard, narrow bike lane on Interstate Avenue at Larrabee is on a major bike route. In Portland. Thankfully there’s an effort afoot to make it better.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Nearly everyone has a scary story about the narrow bike lane on North Interstate Avenue where it goes under the Larrabee Street overpass (map). Riding a bike on Interstate Avenue is stressful enough in the “good” spots, but at Larrabee, the bike lane suddenly shrinks to a harrowing width of about two-and-a-half feet. That’s not much room to operate when a huge semi-truck barrels by a few inches from your shoulders as a storm drain grate gives you and your bike a jolt. (more…)

Bike lane news roundup: SE Stark, Lloyd District, Williams and more

by on November 5th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

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A man rides on the brand new bike lane on SE Stark in Montavilla.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has been busy making bike-related tweaks and additions to several streets across the city. We’ve noticed a few of them lately and figured it was time for an update… (more…)