I wrote that post out of frustration that ODOT was celebrating the 75 year anniversary of the bridge by touting the recent renovation as providing “better pedestrian and bicycle access.”
After that post I got a tip from someone at PDOT saying Sciscione came into the situation late in the game but that he had shown interest in bike safety issues and was warm to the idea of putting sharrows (shared lane markings) on the bridge. I encouraged cyclists to contact him and even emailed him myself asking for an update.
We had a good conversation. We talked about the possibilities for improving the safety of the bridge for cyclists and how ODOT might start to improve their reputation in the cycling community.
Sciscione seemed open to the idea of sharrows, but has no plans to move forward with them because at this point they’re still an experimental marking without official approval from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) (it’s true, I confirmed this with PDOT’s head bike guy Roger Geller…I’ll have more info on this later).
As for bike lanes on the bridge? Sciscione says,
“Unfortunately that’ll never happen. I think it’d be great to have bike lanes, but we’re in a bad place because there’s simply not a lot of room to work with*.”
*(the bridge has 4 motor vehicle lanes and no shoulder)
Sciscione says they’re going to add several new “Shared Roadway” signs to each end of the bridge. He also mentioned they are considering a permanent electronic message board sign that could display safety messages.
I suggested a flashing sign that could be activated by cyclists that says, “Caution, bikes on roadway.” This type of treatment is sometimes used in tunnels and on narrow sections of Highway 1. Sciscione liked that idea and said he’ll run it by his co-workers at an upcoming meeting.
I think it’s important to let ODOT know that the bike community has not forgotten about this issue and that we are very interested in working with them to add as many bike safety improvements as possible.
On that note, I was impressed to hear Sciscione’s candid acknowledgement of ODOT’s rocky relationship with cyclists. He said that they simply had a “difference of opinion” on the St. Johns Bridge and that he hopes we can move on and “start cementing relationships.”
He was thrilled with my offer and said he looks forward to “making amends with cyclists” and working more closely with us on future projects and decisions.
As proof that he wasn’t just telling me what I wanted to hear, soon after our conversation I received an email from him (CC’d to several other ODOT staffers) that re-iterated his desire to work directly with the community through this site.
So just how can a big state agency like ODOT work with a little community blog?
Sciscione seems to get it already:
“I think we’re on the same page in regards to increased efforts to engage the bicycling community early in design stages of construction projects, and to include discussions of construction staging, traffic control, and detours as well as the final product.”
I see this as a real opportunity and I look forward to a more candid and constructive dialogue with ODOT from here on out.
Now, what to do about that bridge…