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Innovative bike/ped signal activated on Burnside

Posted by on October 9th, 2006 at 9:16 am

As a follow-up to my report last month, PDOT activated the new bicycle/pedestrian signal on 41st and East Burnside this morning. The official press release includes more details about the signal:

“The signal will stay dark unless activated by a cyclist or pedestrian. When the call button is pressed, the signal will stop all automotive movements along Burnside and allow cyclists and pedestrians to safely cross Burnside. No signal protection will be provided for drivers on 41st Avenue. A special bicycle traffic signal will control cyclist movement across Burnside, while pedestrians will have a traditional pedestrian signal.

In 1998 the Office of Transportation identified this intersection as the most difficult for cyclists to navigate over the entire 8-mile 40’s Bikeway corridor. Because of the roadway conditions and width, providing a signal was the only option to allow for a safe crossing.

A similar bicycle signal is used near the Steel Bridge in the Rose Quarter, but the automobile signal on Burnside will be the first of its kind in Portland, featuring one yellow light below two red lights in a “Mickey Mouse” configuration with no green light. After the bicycle/pedestrian cycle is complete, the system will be switched off, allowing traffic to flow normally again.

This installation, modeled after similar signals in Tucson, Arizona, is part of a national experimental study to determine the effectiveness of this type of special signal. The signal is designed to create a safe crossing for cyclists and pedestrians without making it a more attractive route for automobiles.”

I’ll snap some photos next time I’m in that neighborhood. In the meantime, if anyone goes through that intersection, feel free to chime in and let us know how it goes.

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  • Jessica Roberts October 9, 2006 at 9:36 am

    I heard Roger on OPB this morning, which was fun. I have also seen this in construction but not yet in action. I’m excited about it, both because that crossing is pretty scary (esp. during rush hour) and because we need a tool like this for so many places in Portland and beyond.

    The ones across 39th at Taylor and Lincoln are no longer permitted by the feds, which has been a source of great frustration to advocates and bike-friendly planners. Hopefully this will get approved for national use.

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  • ben October 9, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    oh man, this signal was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo nice this morning.

    i’m so very thankful. everyone should go try it out.

    hopefully we’ll see more of this in other sketchy bike route intersections.

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  • Downer October 9, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    I would’ve rather seen it placed on 39th/Couch/Ankeney as that is more dangerous. Despite there being a sign that marks the pedestrian & cyclist crossing, no one ever stops for either there. I’ve almost gotten hit more times crossing there as a pedestrian than a cyclist. While it’s nice to blow $140K on crossing Burnside, that crossing does little to promote East/West transit. Bitchmoanbitchmoan

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  • Meghan October 9, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    I haven’t seen this particular crossing signal, but I’d like to see something done to make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross SE Holgate at SE 41st Ave. As it was the last time I used this route, one must creep out into SE Holgate, and then jog up and over to continue on 41st.

    The northbound crossing is particularly scary, because you cannot see who is coming over the hill toward you. If you can’t build speed quickly from a dead stop(which is tough, as it’s uphill), it’s a frightening place to be.

    As SE 41st is a bike route, it would be nice to see something done to make this safer. (And you’d think that with our mayor living ON this street, it would be easier to get some movement on this trouble spot.)

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  • C3PNo October 9, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    Geez, I hope there’s multiple “Traffic Control Change Ahead” signs as most drivers like to get their swerve on in this section. Could be a good candidate for a “Prepare to Stop when Lights Flash” a couple blocks earlier (like NBound 39th approaching Clinton).

    Jessica, what do the Feds have against those signals?

    Downer, I hear dat. That’s quite a bike-friendly gap between SE Taylor and NE, uh, just before I84.

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  • natallica October 9, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    meghan, you’re completely right. in fact, i would have been excited about this new crossing on burnside, except for the fact that i no longer take 41st because of the dangerous holgate crossing. i now use 45th, which makes (in my opinion) for a safer crossing at holgate and powell.

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  • Jessica Roberts October 9, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    C3PNo, most jurisdictions won’t install “traffic control devices” (signs, signals, markings) unless they’re on this list of those that have been approved by the FHWA (Federal Highways Administration) and thus contained in the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices: http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/).

    The bike/ped half signals like at Taylor/39th used to be in the MUTCD but then were removed. The specific federal rationale for that was explained to me a long time ago, but I don’t remember the details.

    I believe you’re not allowed to install non-MUTCD traffic control devices if you’re receiving federal money, and in other cases the city/jurisdiction may choose to install them but by doing so they’re opening themselves up to possible tort legal suits if someone sues them for a crash or injury while using it. (If you comply with the MUTCD you have a lot more legal coverage.)

    FWIW, that’s why the bike boulevard signs are green; they were meant to be blue, but since federal money was used they had to be MUTCD compliant and blue was not permitted for that type of sign. I think maybe there was also supposed to be a bike route name on the sign too, but had to be removed due to the same issue?

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  • anonymous October 9, 2006 at 11:24 pm

    To all you fools who gripe because the street you cross every day wasn’t the first to get a signal: GROW UP AND WORK FOR ONE WHERE YOU NEED IT MOST!

    (you know: the little things like talk with your neighbors and friends and show up when the chance is there to ask for new stuff)

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  • Tasha October 10, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    Yay! I’m going to try it out tomorrow morning on my way south. Looking forward to it.

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  • […] The roads are often poorly maintained (it’s been proposed that bicycle boulevards be given maintenance priority over other neighborhood streets), the connections are not always seamless, and special bicycle crosswalk buttons, such as the new one at E 41st and Burnside, are sometimes accessible only after braving a pedal-deep puddle of moldy leaves. […]

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  • sb February 1, 2007 at 11:47 am

    I’ve been using this crossing for a couple months now on my am/pm commute and while it’s awesome the city stepped up, it’s been very confusing for drivers.

    I’ve had numerous drivers stop at the flashing yellow, then drive off when it changes to red. Or more commonly (daily…) drivers completely ignore the red light even when multiple cyclist are lined up waiting to cross and/or drive through while I’m crossing.

    For the type of infrastructure that was used for these lights, why didn’t they use “regular” traffic lights that are less confusing to drivers?

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  • G.A.R. August 22, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    I\’ve used this signal quite a few times now and I still don\’t get it. What does it mean to have a stop sign AND a green light? Do I have to stop? If so, why not have the little bike light flash red? Do cars traveling through on 41st have to stop when the bike light is green?

    At 39th and Taylor I have always figured that the stop sign still governs e-w movement when n-s traffic has a solid red. But with the addition of a green light, and a cute little bike-shaped one at that, things are more ambiguous.

    I continue to see lots of motorists just blow right through the red light. I bet the cops could get lots of money (earmarked for Shift and the BTA, of course) by just sitting here and watching for scofflaws.

    Why was this control chosen over the more normal flashing yellow (e-w) and flashing red (n-s) which converts on demand to solid red (e-w) and flashing yellow (n-s). I think this more normal configuration would give motorists a constant awareness that something COULD happen here. This is what is commonly done fore fire stations and other situations where the arterial is usually not stopping.

    is anyone from PDOT or ODOT watching this thread who can answer the legal question (what does Stop AND Green mean, and to whom does it mean what?) ?

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