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Are bike lanes a haven or a hazard?

Posted by on August 3rd, 2006 at 11:14 am

Benson Hotel bike lane, Portland OR

[The infamous Broadway Blvd.
bike lane in front of the
Benson Hotel.]

The use and installation of bike lanes has long been a debate within bike advocacy circles.

On one side, you’ve got some cyclists who feel we should ride defensively on the roadway and that bike lanes offer only a dangerous and false sense of security. They believe bike lanes actually cause more accidents than they prevent.

On the other side are most bike advocacy groups and transportation planners. Their more widely accepted view is that bike lanes afford real safety benefits that encourage more people to ride. They would point to surveys and research that shows more bike lanes cause an increase in ridership, which in turns causes a decrease in crashes, thus making the roads safer (see chart below for an example of this).

[Click chart to enlarge.]

Without bike lanes, I wonder what would be come of the riders do not possess the skills and comfort level to ride among motor vehicles. What about kids, families, my Mom? They will simply not ride on a busy road if it doesn’t have a bike lane.

This issue surfaced recently after several local cyclists were cited for various bike lane infractions during Wednesday morning’s Police enforcement mission (In particular there has been a discussion about the bike lanes on SW Broadway Blvd.).

The comments on my report on that event included the following from a reader named Randy:

“I have repeatedly advocated that the City NOT install bike lanes in the downtown core. The City has chosen to ignore this advice and instead install a variety of mostly unsafe bike lanes within the downtown area, the worst case probably being SW Broadway.

Randy thinks all downtown bike lanes are unsafe for the following reasons:

  • Conflicts with parked vehicles; I am personally aware of numerous dooring incidents and at least one fatality involving the SW Broadway bike lane.
  • Conflicts with turning vehicles.
  • Conflicts with delivery vehicles and valet parking operations.

The downtown bike lanes are unnecessary for the following reason: In most cases you can ride at the speed of traffic, since the downtown signals are timed for 12-15 mph.”

[Riding south on SW Broadway Blvd.]

In defense of the bike lanes on SW Broadway (site of the infamous Martini saga) is long-time PDOT bike guy Jeff Smith. Jeff (who ironically was cited for a bike lane infraction yesterday morning) was instrumental in the striping of the Broadway bike lane. He contends that the decision to stripe that street was based on observing how cyclists used the road:

“The design was vetted by the City’s Bike Advisory Committee to make sure this was something they were supportive of (incidentally, the BAC rejected an opportunity to provide a bike lane on SW 3rd between Burnside and Madison, mostly because the grade is so much less steep than Broadway). We also took a quick look at where in the street people where riding pre-bike-lane.

I don’t have the numbers in front of me right now, but my recollection is that more than half of the cyclists on Broadway at that time were riding in the right-hand third of the right lane; which is to say, essentially where a bike lane would be. Now, this was a fairly small (about 100 cyclists) sample, and the coding of rider postion was done by eye, so it doesn’t prove anything conclusively – but we have similar results on other streets (Sw 3rd, Sw Madison) when looking at cyclist lane position pre-bike-lane.

If you were going to ride in the right-hand third of the right lane, wouldn’t you prefer to have a bike lane?”

With an update of Portland’s Bicycle Master Plan in the works, I think this is a great time to have this discussion.

How do you feel about bike lanes?
Do you seek them out or avoid them?
Do you think advocates and planners should look at other solutions to encourage ridership and keep us safe?

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Greg Raisman
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Greg Raisman

One more important chart to look at on this subject is here http://bikeportland.org/wp-content/images/bridges_bikewaymiles_big.jpg.

There does definitely seem to be a correlation that as bikeway miles increase (which in Portland have largely been bike lanes), the numbers of riders increase.

Roger J
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Roger J

My commute consists of laned and unlaned roads these days. I definately like having a bike lane on roads where the posted speed is in excess of 40mph. However, I see the bike lanes on SW Boradway and NE Broadway as death traps more than anything.

When I worked in NW Portland, I started to commute on NE Broadway until one too many inattentive drivers tried to get a parking spot by running me over. I much preferred the unlaned Knott street routes and felt infinitely safer.

A bike lane on SW Broadway downtown to me is really more of a liability to the city than an asset in terms of usefullness and safety. With the recent enforcement of the bike lane law, I’ll probably just stop riding on SW Broadway altogether.

Having said all this, I enjoy having a bike lane on roads like SW Multnomah and Hall Blvds.

-r

Cecil
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Cecil

I am a fan of bike lanes, and want more of them, but I also understand that they sometimes give riders a false sense of security – much like crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security. Just because you are in a bike lane or crosswalk does not mean that you can relax your vigilance for the occasional (and not so occasional) stupid driver. As for the dangers of the bike lane on Broadway, that street is dangerous with or without a bike lane, especially the commerical cancer section between Washington and Main streets. I don’t ride my bike on it at all – in or out of the bike lane.

Austin
Guest

Did you know that perceived safety in a car or SUV is directly proportional to the number of cup holders it has? And that if you were in the fuzziest, marshmallow car out there, it would not feel safe without them? Consequently, some of the safest cars are those that are small, nimble, and where the driver is constantly reminded that they are in traffic. (http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html)

I think that the same argument applies here, and it is really a question is one of actual safety versus perceived safety. In other words, if you are downtown taking a lane on Broadway, you are constantly reminded who your three to six ton neighbors are and you ride accordingly. But if you are in a bike lane, that six inch white stripe gives you the perception of a safe space (at least until you hit the end of the block, and someone turns in front of you). I would contest that in town you are probably a little safer in the middle of the lane.

The twist to the argument is one of participation. The more riders there are on the road, the safer it becomes for all of us. So if ridership defines what is actually safe (more riders=more safe), the focus should focus on what people perceive as safe, so that more people feel comfortable getting on the road.

Dom
Guest
Dom

I think bike lanes are a small step in a large scale. I ride in bike lanes but def. don’t feel safe in them. Cars easly can swerve into them, parked cars often open doors blindly into the bike lane, and delivery trucks refuse to honor the lanes.

I would love it if they had some sort of traffic barrier that prevented cars from being able to so easly enter the lanes.

Jeff Smith
Guest
Jeff Smith

Thanks, Jonathan, this is a good discussion to have, because there are indeed some good arguements against bike lanes. However, I’m not convinced that the negatives outweigh the benefits that bike lanes offer, particularly to the less-experienced cyclist.

Randy says “the downtown bike lanes are unnecessary for the following reason: In most cases you can ride at the speed of traffic, since the downtown signals are timed for 12-15 mph.” Well, perhaps most cyclists can do this speed on the flat…but Broadway’s not flat. It climbs pretty steadily from just south of Burnside up to PSU. I would doubt that most cyclists on Broadway are able to — or want to — maintain the 12 mph speed to keep up with traffic. Potential research project?

I’m unable to consult bike count data, as I’m writing this from home, but I’d speculate there are at least 3 times as many cyclists on Broadway now as there were prior to the bike lane went in approx. 5 years ago. That, in itself, says to me that people like it — of course, you can still make the “attractive nuisance” arguement, but nonetheless: people tend to cycle on streets where they feel most comfortable.

Russell
Guest
Russell

I’m not a general fan of bike lanes, but I can understand the reason for them outside of downtown. When placed appropriately (not pan-caking a bicycle between moving traffic and parked cars, etc), I think they can be a good part of bicycle planning. I think they are over-relied on now. There is no reason for bike lanes downtown besides creating a death trap. I understand the bureaucratic holdup with sharrows, but what is the reason for not using Broadway for testing?

I think some bicycle infrastructure like mini traffic circles, curb extensions, and bike lanes can create more danger than they ostensibly alleviate and I want to see more ideas like Sharrows, diverters, driver/bicycle education, and better signage instead. The more tools a planner has to use when looking at a particular problem, the more likely the solution won’t be worse than leaving it alone.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

I truly believe that bike lanes could be a effective and safe haven for the everyday, for any cyclist.
Sadly, lack of enforcement of traffic violations in bike lanes by cars, by managers and employees of hotels, and abuse of bike lane priveliges by many others, including but not being limited to:
Taxicabs, UPS, Fed X,postal workers, City of Portland trucks and autos, Tri Met buses and Supervisor vehicles, OHSU and Lewis and Clark Shuttle buses, limosine and town car operators,
Renders the bike lanes unsafe, and halfor more of the time unusable. These groups have been given a golden ticket by the city of Portland.
Were it not for these factors, and you will notice that none of these factors I mentioned even has to do with riding a bike, the bike lanes would indeed be a safe haven.
So, in conclusion, this really boils down to the city and the police focusing the efforts in the proper direction, instead of letting money, big business, and progress mandate the choices for them.

Neil
Guest
Neil

Some bike lines are great like the ones on Murray Blvd just south of Highway 26. Others like the SW Broadway ones are awful. One obvious difference between the two is the presence of parked cars and the desire of drivers to park in the bike lines. So the answer is: it depends.

I don’t ever like being forced to use the bike lines, though. It should be at my option whether I use them or not. This is just because so many bike lanes prevent me from going the direction I want to go (always following the traffic).

BTW, on SW Broadway, I prefer to ride *on* the left painted of the bike line. This keeps me as far away from those parked cars. There is a bit of hill here, so I can’t ride the same speed as the cars.

Russell
Guest
Russell

I would also say in response to Jeff Smith that while “more than half” of riders on Broadway may have been that far to the right – it means plenty (if not close to a majority depending on the %) were taking the lane(s).

By putting a bike lane on Broadway, now EVERYONE is required to be there, it’s ghettoized those of us who want to be in traffic into one long door zone. I feel penalized and put at risk on the rare occasion I ride that street now because “more than half” of the riders prior to the bike lane didn’t take the lane as they were entitled to.

I’d also love to hear the story of the police ticketing Mr. Smith. Is he gonna fight the ticket?

Ken
Guest
Ken

I ride on SW Broadway everyday to work (from Main south past 405, and am referring to this section only). I always ride in the bike lane. As a bike rider, you just have to be conscious of cars and buses in this lane. It really isn’t that big of a deal. I do wish that there would be more bike lane enforcement for cars using them improperly (parking, turning, opening doors etc.). I am more than comfortably and competent to ride in traffic, but I feel like the bike lane is far safer here. The absence of a bike lane would create far more dangerouse conflicts between traffic and bikers.

Although it is true that some lights are timed to 12-15 MPH, it is not true for all of them, especially near PSU. And the cars are definitely not usually going 12-15 MPH in this area either. I have never seen a biker keeping up with normal traffic here.

I do agree that some bike lanes make biking more dangerous. I don’t feel that this section on Broadway fits this category. I’m sure some commuters are inconvenienced by it, but I feel they are the vast minority and overall this is a safer option for most bikers.

Donna
Guest
Donna

I’m not intrinsically opposed to bike lanes. When I travel from the SW 158th/Merlo MAX station to SW Cornell and Science Park Dr. twice a month, I really appreciate them.

I don’t see where they do more good than harm, downtown. If the City wishes to give delivery trucks, taxi cabs, hotel valet parking, etc. a “golden ticket”, as Dabby put it, don’t jail me in a dangerous bike lane with those maniacs. Someone on another thread pointed out that the Broadway bike lane closer to PSU was very helpful. I don’t ride it enough to form an opinion, but I generally have found downtown bike lanes to be pretty hair-raising.

Brett
Guest
Brett

I commute 16 miles round at least four days a week. I ride another 30-50 a week on top of that. I ride a road, a track (with mech-brake), a bent, and my lead-sled commuter. My routes are about half bike lane and half not. I think Portland does a fantastic job of working with bike riders. I’ve lived in four countries, eight states, and countless cities and the only city that was better was West Berlin before the wall came down… and I even wonder about that now that I write about it. Anyway, the answer to the “… a haven or a hazard?” question is YES. The answer is to get more involved with the powers that be, and helping those decision makers make sound choices moving forward.

brett
Guest
brett

I’ve just moved here and live near PSU, so I’ve had to use the Broadway bike lane fairly often, and I agree that what makes it a little nerve wracking is the cars (often in front of hotels) and delivery trucks that force you to swerve back into traffic. If the cops can crack down on bike commuters, why not deter such behavior with a few well timed crackdowns on these safety violators?

I wish we could have the European version (was it in Copenhagen or Amsterdam?) that doesn’t sandwich bikers between parked cars and the moving traffic. Would that be possible on Broadway?

Also, at the risk of detouring the topic, can anyone recommend some relatively safe alternative downtown routes to Broadway? I’m trying to figure out the best ways to get around downtown, both N/S and E/W and would appreciate any advice.

brett
Guest
brett

Oops, and I should say I’m not the Brett above, though I’m glad he spells his name right. Maybe I’ll start calling myself “otherBrett” here.

natallica
Guest
natallica

i seek out bikes lanes and then decide if i feel safer using them or taking another street with less traffic.

i agree with neil, when bikers need to be traveling on a busy street with what they consider to be a dangerous bike lane, they shouldn’t be forced to use it. i have avoided the sw broadway bike lane for that exact reason.

C3PNo
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C3PNo

“If you were going to ride in the right-hand third of the right lane, wouldn’t you prefer to have a bike lane?”

or

If you were going to jump off a cliff, wouldn’t you prefer to have pillow wrapped around you?

Peoples’ traffic behavior is not a mandate for traffic policy. Behavior is a reaction to policy. Proper signage, inluding “Bicycles in Lane” and “Bicycles allowed Full Lane” (which, coincidentally, is an ORS) would help bikeys with their confidence in taking the lane. Education at this juncture is imperative.

Jason
Guest
Jason

I love bike lanes, but mandating their use is a serious mistake. I’ve been hit twice by tri-met in the bike lane on SW Main between 1st and 2nd and I wouldn’t use that lane for the world.

Nick
Guest
Nick

I am fine with a bike lane on Broadway. But make it twice as wide, paint it blue, and enforce it.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Just because there is a correlation between the number of miles of bike lanes and increases in bicycle ridership, it doesn’t mean there is a cause-and-effect relationship. I challenge anybody to prove that a cause-and-effect relationship actually exists.

no one in particular
Guest
no one in particular

Ken: The real pain on SW Broadway is between about Burnside and Main. I have to say that past Main, where you ride, the street is much better. Down around all the shops and hotels is where you see the erratic drivers often stopped in the lane unloading at hotels or cutting in and out of parking spots without looking.

Preston
Guest
Preston

It’s funny. As a suburbanite (Beaverton) I really appreciate bike lanes as most roads out there are high speed roads (even if the speed limit isn’t high). I don’t feel safer, but at least I know that there’s a reminder for those motorists that pay attention. That said, 30% of the time or more cars are swerving in and out of the lane, turning right around me when I’m in the bike lane and other illegal activity.

As far as downtown goes, I echo those who are wary of bike lanes. In the end what it comes down to is that it shouldn’t be law that bikes have to stay in the bike lane while meanwhile cars are allowed to run rampant, breaking the law left and right. Of course I’m going to ride with traffic, take the lane, do whatever I have to do to protect my safety. If motorists are too ignorant or impatient to obey the rules, the bike lane becomes patently useless.

So in summary, I think bike lanes are good. But they’re only as good as the motorists who share them with us and the police officers who enforce them. Which is to say that currently bike lanes are close to worthless.

You can guess where I think change needs to take place.

Tankagnolo Bob
Guest

I love bike lanes but do NOT assume I am totally safe in them. I always assume that I am invisible, that I am NOT seen by cars and ride defensivly. When traffic is thick, ie Broadway, I either go slow if the traffic is fast, or if the traffic is jammed in rush hour, have a great time hauling through it and beating the cars accross downtown.

Bike lanes give me more space, but I do NOT see them as a “wall” of protection from cars, that would be a big error.

I have cycled since 1954 and the roads get safer all the time. In the late fifties and early sixties, the big hazzard was dodging empty beer bottles being thrown at you from cars. Its better now.

Tankagnolo Bob

Brett
Guest
Brett

“A person is not required to comply with this section unless the state or local authority with jurisdiction over the roadway finds, after public hearing, that the bicycle lane or bicycle path is suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed.”

The above passage is from the ORS. Has this happened for Broadway, or does it need to.

Help

joe
Guest
joe

i was a manager for the quiznos in the pearl for a while and would end up riding down 14th and use the bike lane there. worst idea ever! every morning it would be a fight not to get hit by some one on their cell in the biggest suv they could find. i was talking to some bike cops that would come in and they said and i quote…straight from the horses mouth “i would never use the bike lanes anywhere. it’s so much safer just to ride in the lanes, no one ever pays attention to the bike lanes”. i’m not making this up, 2 bike cops told me this while ordering food

Tiah
Guest
Tiah

As any of us who actually ride around in the city, dodging cars, trucks, buses,pedestrians,and other cyclists knows the bike lane does not ensure one’s right to safe riding. It can offer up a bit of security in that whilst riding in it the cyclist should think “Look, here is a recognized space for me!”. This thought though is really only for the cyclist since we all know that the aforementioned vehicles often are not paying attention. I like to ride in the bike lane when it is logical to do so, but what about when I need to turn right and I am on the far left off a heavily congested street(i.e Broadway downtown)? or what about when I want to go straight and the truck in front of me decides it doesn’t really need to use a turn signal, nor does it’s driver need to check for a cyclist in the bike lane?
As many of you have already stated we can not take our safety for granted, and really any time we take to the road we know what challenges we face. That is half the battle, right?
Bike lanes are not needed all the time,as we have the right to ride in traffic, some people actaully do feel safer riding in the bike lane. It cna be helpful at times to have the lane to zip through but more often than not if you are riding in traffic you will really have to immerse yourself in it.
Sharing the road is not easy when half the people out there aren’t paying attention. It is like the world though. So, keep riding(as safely as you can), keep your eyes peeled and be ready to make turns you didn’t intend to at any given moment. If you get stuck in heavy traffic and actaully have the oppurtunity to talk to any drivers who may have just tried to turn you into road kill that could go a long way.Then again it may not, the best thing we can all do is just keep riding, our presence can’t be ignored if we don’t go away.

Greg
Guest
Greg

I think we might want to consider a new direction instead of debating the safety of bike lanes and the ticketing of those of us that choose not to ride in them. Perhaps we should focus our attention towards getting the police to issue citations for drivers that interfere with bike lanes. I have more than once watched a driver block the bike lane in plan sight of an officer and seen nothing done about it. If the police want to write tickets, I say they should focus on making our bike lanes safer by trying to “educate” by way of a citation drivers who illegally use these lanes.
Just my 2 cents
Greg

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Hey Brett, in response to comment #24 I asked pretty much the same question for all bike lanes as I heard a while ago that it had not been done for any bike lanes. That is just what I heard I hope that someone could look it up? I’m not sure where to do that.

-Jonathan

dayaram
Guest
dayaram

Do I use them? Yes
Seek them out? NO
Feel safe in them? No more than elsewhere on the road.

Doug
Guest
Doug

I ride the bike lane on Broadway from SW Washington to SW Madison every day and have to say that in my opinion it’s much better for there to be one than not. I ride over the Hawthorne Bridge on my way home and I have basically three options for getting home:

1) Take Alder to 3rd, 3rd to Madison and Madison to the bridge, following all of the rules of the road (which means staying in the middle of my lane, as a car would) and taking 15 minutes to get to the bridge

2) Take the same path (or similar) to get to the bridge, but riding between lanes, on sidewalks and between traffic and parked cars in order to whittle my commute time down by 5 minutes or so

3) Take the bike lane on Broadway, whizzing past traffic (legally), dodging the occassional car and getting to the bridge fairly quickly.

One thing about the Broadway bike lane is it lets me quickly and legally beat traffic during rush hour downtown. Yes, it is dangerous, but I would argue no more dangerous than weaving in and out of traffic between lanes on the road. If you’d prefer option #1 then more power to you, but I think most of you who dislike bike lanes would take option #2 instead, which in my opinion is both dangerous and gives bikers a bad rep in the eyes of drivers.

I do agree that bike lanes can add a false sense of security, but if you keep your eyes and mind focused on the road I think it’s a safe and better alternative to having no bike lanes at all.

Jeff Smith
Guest
Jeff Smith

C3PNo:
“Education at this juncture is imperative”
Couldn’t agree with you more, with or without bike lanes. The BTA is doing a great job with middle school kids, who are a captive audience & are sponges for information, but the difficulty is adults — we know it all. As for the jumping off a cliff, I believe that you believe it, but that doesn’t make it so for everyone, anymore than my insisting that bike lanes are safe does.

Russell: you bet I’m going to fight it, I’m not surrendering $242 to the whims of the police. I left the bike lane some 200′ before it ends (coming off the sidewalk at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge I moved to the lef lane because there was an opportunity to do so, thereby avoiding all the right turners at 2nd Ave.) and was cited for failure to use a bike lane. What i did was in no way unsafe, nor did i impede traffic, & for all the cop knows I could have been preparing to make a left turn on 3rd.

And, yes, I still like bike lanes – just not an unreasonable interpretation of what constitutes “failure to use a bike lane”.

Martha
Guest
Martha

Speaking of bike lanes, has anyone noticed the yet-to-be-opened street near OMSI that will divert traffic around the big pipe project? It’s striped for two lanes of traffic plus one bike lane that has two-way arrows. That is, it’s a two-way bike lane over on one side of the street. Cyclists headed away from downtown will be located between the oncoming cars and the oncoming bikes. How many head-on collisions (bike-to-bike and bike-to-car) do you think they’ll have, given the high volume of cyclists, both experienced and clueless, in the area?

That’s one bike lane design that is downright dangerous. It would have been better to leave out the bike lane altogether, and spend that money on signage to alert drivers of the shared roadway. Designing for bicycles is site-specific. Designs that work well under certain conditions can be dangerous in other conditions. It takes a skilled engineer to know when to employ any given design. Unfortunately, too many traffic engineers lack an intuitive knowledge (and personal experience) of designing for bicyclists.

Jonathan Maus
Guest

In resposeto Greg in comment #27. He said:

    “Perhaps we should focus our attention towards getting the police to issue citations for drivers that interfere with bike lanes.”

Funny you mention that. While at traffic court recently I noticed several drivers there for tickets for driving in the bike lane. I met the officer who issued them. He’s a cool guy and a cyclist too!

I got his card and plan to interview him soon. Stay tuned.

Joe Planner
Guest
Joe Planner

Downtown will always attract drivers from outside the Portland region. I suspect that such drivers are less likely to be paying attention to cyclists who probably aren’t common where they are from. With this being the case, more effective measures are necessary to improve safety and perception of safety for cyclists.

Unfortunately, removing a lane of parking on any street downtown will be almost impossible, Another option is providing a bike route on select streets as an extension of the sidewalk, by removing one lane of traffic, pushing the street parking one more lane toward the center of the street and extending the sidewalk for two-way or one-way bike traffic only. Enhancements could include low metal barriers to keep pedestrians out of it. It’s not the best idea in the center of downtown, but it could be a solution in some segments of the downtown street network. Cyclists who prefer to ride in the road should still be able to, provided they can obey traffic laws. Meanwhile, less fierce riders can take the far safer protected bike paths.

On a side note, any improvements done to the bike network will require $$$. How can we start to contribute to the infrastructure we use so frequently?

mikey
Guest
mikey

Couple of questions:
1-In the photo pictured, do I have the right to ride by this car and slam the door shut, as long as there is no body parts sticking out?

2-Why do I see the meter maid parking in the bike lane on the Burnside bridge heading east.

1 more-Is it legal for police to park their motorcycles on the sidewalk when they are doing a sting, such as 25th and Harrison, SE?

Jon
Guest
Jon

I am indifferent to bike lanes. If there is one I’ll use it, but only if it goes where I’m going. Broadway for example my route puts me on Broadway for 4 blocks, I put myself in the middle lane immediately when I turn right from Yamhill so that I don’t have to wade through irascible drivers who cannot tolerate the idea of a cyclist getting in front of them. Once I pass all the cars and SUV’s backed up at Salmon waiting for ped’s to cross, I immediately get myself in the left lane until Madison, where I turn left.
Also bike lanes don’t seem reliable, they often just end, motor vehicle drivers don’t notice them, some bus drivers believe that half of the bike lane is actually a bus lane.

As I write this a co-transport lane came to mind. It looks like this: paint an entire traffic lane blue, or dye some concrete blue and write every ten feet on the surface of the lane, using text cars can read (not some 12 inch diameter silhouette of a bike), “BIKE AND CAR LANE WATCH FOR BIKES” Probably a bad idea and the paint would likely be very slick when it rains and chunks of the paint would come up and go into the water cycle, and cars would drive in the “blue” lane just for the novelty of it. nevermind.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

I am sorry to once again say this, but many people are missing the point.
We need 100 percent of vehicular bike lane violations cited, no matter what.
Also, there is no requirement to ride in the bike lane. I don’t care what the police think. They are once again manipulating the law.
More signage will not work.
More bike lanes downtown will not work.
Police enforcement of ACTUAL violations will work.

Andre
Guest
Andre

I personally have been trying out alternates for broadway to make it through downtown going south to barbur. So far my favorite is to use 11th which has no bike lane, far less traffic (at least at the times I’ve tried it, I’m not going this route very often) and no freaking hotels.

I’ve been also kicking around the idea (not that this is going to happen) but to have a police sting on right turners doing the old cut off manuver into the bike lane. This would be accomplished by having an officer ride in the bike lane up broadway several times and calling the radio for people to get tickets.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Unfortunately, given the current police attitude and leadership (Mayor included), I don’t think we can count on the police for ANY assistance in this regard. It’s been suggested numberous times in the past, and they’re simply not interested.

Tbird
Guest
Tbird

The real issue regarding bike lane safety extends beyond the bike and to the other folks on the road, namely drivers of cars, trucks, buses etc. Bike lanes themselves are the best solution to cyclist’s safety.(but, here’s the catch…) Only if the other vehicles on the road can defer right of way to those in the bike lane. A big “IF”
I have lived on PDX for only a couple years, and now I’m living in the Netherlands for a year. The scene here is incredible, BIKEs HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY, over all other traffic, pedestrians included. That doesn’t mean there never collisions or some issues here, but considering some of the news read on this site in the last few weeks, it really addresses some glaring safety concerns. Namely the cyclists place on the road is defined and protected by law. I know PDX is not going to just jump up and accept universal right of way for cyclists, but the technique really works.
Food for thought…
tbr

John
Guest
John

Mr. Smith.

You clearly were breaking the law. You deserve the fine, and the irony of it is frankly delicious. It was your choice to lobby for the bike lanes instead of against the restrictive law, and now you’re literally paying the price.

Don’t expect to win in court. I have some experience in these matters.
“Were you in the bike lane?”
“No your honor”
“Guilty. Please pay the fine plus court costs on the way out”

As for the “Public Hearing” requirement, pay attention Dabby and Brett. This appellate ruling says that the mere act of a public entity painting a bike lane creates the legal presumption that a hearing occurred.

Read ’em and weep:

http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A115242.htm

As ye sow so shall ye reap. Keep your asses in the lane where they belong. Want to make a left turn? Not allowed. Try three rights.

Brett
Guest
Brett

John,
ref 41
Dude, who the heck are you? What’s up with the ‘tude? I asked a valid question and you hose me… you don’t know me well enough for that.

Thanks for the info though, much appreciated.

nuovorecord
Guest

I think a better solution to the “bike lanes in the downtown area” question is the use of sharrows instead of the bike lanes. In my view, they make more of a statement to drivers that they are sharing the road space with bicycles than the presence of a bike lane does. This is due to the fact that there’s a reminder painted in the traffic lane every few yards or so. The bike lane is obviously ignored by many and enforcement is obviously not a top priority. So why not replace them with sharrows and give cyclists the freedom to manuever around traffic as they need to?

Michael
Guest
Michael

“If you were going to ride in the right-hand third of the right lane, wouldn’t you prefer to have a bike lane?”

This is misleading. If you are in the bike lane then motorists pass you in their lane. If you are riding toward the left of the bike lane due to door avoidance then the motorist are about 2 feet away from your center line. That leaves you about 18 inches of wobble room. Not much!

If the bike lane were not there and you were in exactly the same position relative to the parking lane then you would be essentially “taking the lane.” In my experience when you take the lane the passing motorists will most often move to the full next lane to the left of you. This means there will be 6 to 8 feet between you and the passing motorist.

I would would rather have 6 feet of wobble room than 18 inches.

Michael
Guest
Michael

“A person is not required to comply with this section unless the state or local authority with jurisdiction over the roadway finds, after public hearing, that the bicycle lane or bicycle path is suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed.”

How is this process initiated?

Let’s do it! Let’s use the law to serve us and our interests.

SW Broadway would be a perfect place to begin.

Brent Zenobia
Guest
Brent Zenobia

I’m studying the psychology of bike adoption (see http://www.bikeportland.org/2006/08/02/psu-engineer-wants-to-understand-why-you-ride/) and would like to offer a comment.

Novice riders do not perceive safety issues or bike lanes in the same way as experienced riders. During the earliest stages of deciding whether to ride, novice riders are more focused on other considerations: “Gosh, I sure see a lot of people riding bikes around these days. And suddenly I’m seeing more of these special striped bike lanes than I ever noticed before. That must mean a lot of people are riding, and that ODOT is looking out for their welfare. I’ll admit that I’m kind of intimidated by cars, but I guess if ODOT says so these striped lanes should protect me. Maybe I should give biking a try.” At this stage there may be a certain amount of naive, magical thinking going on in terms of the amount of protection that bike lanes afford.

Observability is a big factor in encouraging novice riders to try riding, and bike lanes are pretty observable once people’s curiosity about biking has been piqued. Bike lanes do play an important role in that regard. And this is the reason why novice riders look at bike lanes to provide magical protection: since the bike lanes are suddenly visible to them, they must be pretty visible to the cars, right? Thus, they conclude that bike lanes provide more protection than is actually the case.

Bike lanes just aren’t that visible to drivers because they are still wedded to their cars and aren’t that curious about bikes. Drivers don’t pay much attention to signage that isn’t directed to them; they reason that bike lanes are meant for people driving bikes, not people driving cars. This well-researched phenomena is called selective perception: people who aren’t interested in X’s will tend not to see X’s; once people start thinking of owning an X themselves, they will begin to see X’s everywhere they look.

Experienced bike riders learn very quickly that bike lanes don’t provide magical protection. Just last Tuesday I was riding along the eastbound bike lane on NW Vaughan for the first time. Just as I passed NW 23rd headed toward downtown I was horrified to discover that I was suddenly riding right next to the freeway entrance ramp, and cars trying to merge onto I-405 were whizzing by me at 55+ MPH. The drivers were focused on merging traffic and were looking in the other direction. The only thing protecting me was a thin stripe of paint.

There’s the dilemma. Bike lanes almost certainly do increase ridership because they’re a visible sign that bikes are legitimate form of traffic. However, experienced riders know that they provide little to no protection because car drivers don’t see them.

The solution, in part, is to raise the visibility of bike lanes to cars, and that takes more than just a dab of paint. Vision isn’t enough, drivers face too many competing distractions. Drivers need to hear an audible signal that they’ve ventured into the bike lane.

I suggest using those raised reflective domes they use on the interstate to warn drivers when they’ve ventured onto the shoulder. Also, I think Nick’s idea of painting the lanes blue is a good one, although paint alone isn’t going to solve this problem. We need to break through the selective perception problem of drivers just not seeing bikes or bike-related traffic signals, and that requires some audible cue like the sound and feel of tires running over the reflective domes.

Brent Zenobia
Portland State University

Donna
Guest
Donna

John,

I’m confused. If leaving the bike lane to make a left turn (or for any other reason) is not allowed, then what does this passage from ORS 814.420 mean?

(3) A person is not in violation of the offense under this section if the person is able to safely move out of the bicycle lane or path for the purpose of:

(a) Overtaking and passing another bicycle, a vehicle or a pedestrian that is in the bicycle lane or path and passage cannot safely be made in the lane or path.
(b) Preparing to execute a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(c) Avoiding debris or other hazardous conditions.
(d) Preparing to execute a right turn where a right turn is authorized.
(e) Continuing straight at an intersection where the bicycle lane or path is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right.

Michael
Guest
Michael

Getting from downtown to the Hawthorne Bridge.

I would like to comment from over 25 years of bike commuting from downtown to my home near Mt Tabor. (Do you know that the nice Hawthorne Bridge sidewalks used to be 4 feet wide wooden planks? That was fun.)

If you are heading to the H Bridge from most of downtown you can find a less busy street heading east. Take whatever street works for you all the way to either the riverfront sidewalk or the sidewalk on the west side of Front/Naito. Either of these sidewalks is a good, safe ride.

On the river sidewalk there are many pedestrians. You have to ride slow and courteously (what’s wrong with that?), but you get a nice view and a quiet ride. It is rather like sharing the H Bridge with pedestrians.

On the Front sidewalk there are very few pedestrians, but it is technically illegal. I have been using it for several years and never had a ticket, even when sharing it with police on bikes or in plain sight of police in cars. It is wide and there are good cutout ramps at every intersection. Motorists are actually very good at letting you cross safely along here, for some reason.

Neither of these are perfect bike highways, but they are far better than the city streets.

I had this fantasy that the Front upgrades would include a real, separated bike lane in each direction. Maybe next time in 20-30 years…

Michael
Guest
Michael

Bike lanes – some are good, some are bad. It is not sufficient to simply paint them and walk away. They need to be monitored and evaluated in actual use. Usage should be observed and cyclists should be stopped and asked for feedback. If we approach the bike lane question sensibly then we might enable the learning process more effectively. We might then be able to better make needed changes and corrections.

Austin
Guest

Brent,

Thanks for adding your valuable insight. I think that it is difficult for a lot of us riders to remember what it was like to jump into traffic for the first time.

You make a great point about observability, and I am wondering what your take is on removing signage in an attempt to make roads safer (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html).