Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Bikes, buses share the lane on Vancouver Ave.

Posted by on June 29th, 2007 at 9:48 am

I’ve been trying different options for my new commute from North Portland to SE 8th and Main. One of them takes me all the way down N Vancouver until it intersects with Broadway.

That intersection (here it is on Google Maps) can be a daunting place on a bike (see photo below). It gets a high volume of car and bus traffic and there’s a strange, split lane situation that has always befuddled me.

But the other day, I noticed (for the first time) some new lane markings that make it feel a little safer. Here’s a photo:

shared bike/bus lane on N. Vancouver

Looking south from N. Vancouver Ave. at N. Broadway (Google Map)
(File photo)

According to PDOT, these markings were completed a few months ago during the resurfacing of Vancouver (a street that, incidentally has the widest bike lanes in the city). They also said it’s one of only two bike/bus lane markings in the city (the other is on NW Glisan and 15th near I-405).

Unfortunately, there’s still a dicey gap for one block where you have to merge with traffic on Vancouver before making a left turn into the bike lane on Weidler. Beyond defensive cycling, I’m not sure what the solution should be for that situation. Anyone have ideas?

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • pabstslut June 29, 2007 at 10:36 am

    I have a similar commute (Albina/Skidmore to 6th/Oak) and the fastest, most direct route for me is Vancouver to Tillamook, then south on MLK. A lot of people would call this leg foolish but it\’s a fast downhill and I can go close to the speed of auto traffic. I much prefer it to the alternative, continue east on Tillamook to 6th and run the Lloyd center gauntlet to the bridge at 12th. Or there\’s always Interstate past the Rose Quarter but you are left with the same options.

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  • Ayleen June 29, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Sounds like a project for a student in the (free) Traffic and Transportation class! I was in that class and studied the Broadway heading west intersection at I-5.

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  • Jessy June 29, 2007 at 11:45 am

    There should be some kind of service where you can tell someone where you\’re leaving from and where you\’re trying to go and then they can come up with a variety of reasonable routes for you. They would be based on what combination of speed vs. safety you want (faster with more traffic or slower with less traffic, bike lanes or bike routes, etc). The online trip planner isn\’t quite that sophisticated…

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  • Tbird June 29, 2007 at 11:45 am

    I\’m amazed that we (PDX) continue to have overlapping bus/car/bike merge and un-merge situations. Can anyone explain the mentality behind this? An example (besides the situation described in the article) is the Bus/Bike overlap on the Eastside of the Hawthorne bridge (heading in both directions). It seems to me, this is not only dangerous, but unneeded. Logically there is no need for the overlap. Put the bike lane against the sidewalk all the way thru. Why all the overlap?

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  • Donna June 29, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Why the overlap? That bus lane is also the right turn lane onto Grand. If the bike lane were against the sidewalk all the way through, we\’d be facing right hooks from motorists on a regular basis. Say what you will about Tri-Met drivers, but I trust them as a whole far more than I do random motorists.

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  • Kronda June 29, 2007 at 11:57 am

    My suggestion:

    Continue down Vancouver to the Rose Quarter (no dicey left lane merging), take the Esplanade to the Hawthorne Bridge, head east off the bridge, left on 7th, right on Main.

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  • Carl June 29, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    \”They (PDOT) also said it’s one of only two bike/bus lane markings in the city (the other is on NW Glisan and 15th near I-405).\”

    Not true. On the blocks of East and West Burnside approaching the Burnside Bridge there are \”bike-guy\” symbols in the \”Bus Only\” lane.

    I was relieved to see them there. It struck me as a \”Critical Mass Trap.\” It\’s just the stupid kind of place where one would be stopped by the PPB for riding in a bus lane, even though it\’s an obvious and safe place for cyclists to ride.

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  • Matt Picio June 29, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Kronda – that seems like a long way to get to Weidler. 😉

    My recommendation for people wanting to turn left at Weidler is – don\’t. Keep pedaling one more block, make three rights and you\’ll be EB on Weidler. It adds about 600\’ to your trip mileage, and keeps you safe and sane. (assuming you were sane to start with)

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  • Kirsty June 29, 2007 at 12:34 pm


    PDOT\’s Transportation Options provides exactly this sort of information!

    They offer free trip route planning to bicyclists. You let them know where you want to get from, where you want to get to, and then let them know other determining factors.

    My coworker at PDOT Jeff Smith is the guy who runs this – 503-823-7083

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  • Lenny Anderson June 29, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    If PDOT would extend the 7th Avenue bike lanes to Tillamook and build the 7th Avenue Bike/Ped Bridge across Sullivan\’s Gulch (I-84/UPRR) we\’d be all set.
    Grand, MLK, & 12th are all challenges as they cross the Gulch. Let\’s make 7th Avenue a true Bike Boulevard from NE Tillamook to SE Division.

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  • Helen Wheels June 29, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Lenny, that would be a dream come true.

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  • Jerry June 29, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    That part of the Vancouver route is not nearly as sketchy as the new intersection by Legacy where the bike path swerves off to the left of the bus lane. Every other time there is a bus there and we are all stopped at the red light it seems that the bus TRIES to hit the bikes. I for one have taken to running that red light so I am not making myself a sitting duck for some Trimet driver.
    Say what you want about Trimet, I\’ve had too many close calls with buses in this town to trust them categorically.

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  • Tbird June 29, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Donna, thanks for the reply…
    While I understand the \’right hook\’.
    I\’m glad you mentioned this. I too trust bus drivers more than \”random motorists\”, but the time has come to begin to require more of the private motorist than simply get in, turn the key and punch it…

    I think a more sensible approach is to REQUIRE (like, legally require them) drivers of cars, buses etc. to YIELD to cyclists at any right turn (and pretty much anywhere else that the two interact) thereby creating a safer situation on the overall by eliminating the overlap and placing the cyclist against the sidewalk. Those other countries that most of us hold as a benchmark for cycling infrastructure and culture seem to do this with no problem at all. I fail to see why we can\’t do the same in this here.

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  • josh m June 29, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    I used to take this route when I\’d take my girlfriend her paycheck at her school. I had to come from vancouver to go east on Weidler.

    I just go and own my lane.
    I just go whether vancouver or the free way off ramp are going.
    I\’ve never had problems.

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  • BillD June 29, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Go south on Flint from Russell or Page, or thereabouts, to Broadway. Stop and wait for the gap. There will be a big one when the light at Vancouver is red. Turn right and skcooch over to the left turn only lane just west of Wheeler, then left on Weidler. This route has the added advantage of avoiding the short green at Vancouver and Broadway where you have to share southbound green time with the two lanes exiting the freeway. I used to have plenty of time to make this maneuver, safely and legally, with a 40 foot, 60,000 lb. truck… you should be able to do it on a bike

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  • Adam8 June 30, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Solution: Take a lane. You\’re legally allowed to. I don\’t understand why cyclists have been cowed into thinking the only safe/legal place for them is in the bike lane. You\’re legally allowed to ride outside of the bike lane at any time you feel it\’s unsafe to be in it, or more safe to not be.

    And I know there are inexperienced cyclists out there who aren\’t comfortable with riding that way, but maybe if those of us experienced enough to handle it stop taking second place to cars they\’ll stop treating us like we don\’t belong on the road.

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  • Adam8 June 30, 2007 at 8:21 am

    Oh, and that 7th avenue bike/ped bridge is an absolutely brilliant idea. The rose quarter/broadway/I-5 onramp area is a mess, and avoiding it completely is the ideal solution for cyclists.

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  • Scott Mizée June 30, 2007 at 11:17 am

    Before I saw this article show up, I posted this under Jonathan\’s photo on flickr seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bikeportland/652939906/

    […] on the other end of this confusing set of intersections they recently put up some new signs that show a bike in front of a bus about to get run over. …telling you that no bikes are allowed on the most direct run through the Rose Quarter Transit area. Until the Bike Master Plan ride to North Portland, I had no idea that it was considered \”illegal\” to ride through that area. I saw the Do Not Enter except Bus and mentally associated it with the pavement sign you captured on the other side. My mind made the jump that it is ok for bikes AND buses. I was a little disappointed to learn that others had received citations for bicycling through there and that I could no longer ride through in my blissful ignorance….

    Anyone have any commentary on that?

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  • Tonya June 30, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    The worst thing about the intersection you have pictured above is that the cyclist in the bike/bus lane sees the traffic signal for the traffic coming off I-5. Back when I was a driver, I would see at least one cyclist a week mistake that signal for his own and dangerously cross in front of traffic flying off I-5. That is a bad bad intersection.

    I second the suggestion for using Tillamook. I discovered that one in the first week and haven\’t gone back (although it would be even better if the 7th Ave bike lane extended up to Tillamook).

    And since you\’re riding right by, are you aware of the Summer Incentive Program that the Lloyd TMA is putting on? They are hosting a bikey person (recently was Mark Bosworth from METRO – the guy behind the Bike There! map) two mornings a month at J cafe. It\’s a great way to learn more about whats going on for cyclists in the area. Next one is July 11.

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  • BillD June 30, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    You know what? Adam8 #17 got me to thinking… why go through that intersection? Indeed, why go through that part of town? When my commute took me from North Portland near Emanuel to inner SE, I never went that way. Even if I was going to the Produce Row Cafe, I would take 7th south across Broadway, cut over to 9th through the Lloyd Center, cross the freeway on 12th and go south to Sandy, then to 7th and south to whatever east/west street took me where I was going.

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  • Alan July 2, 2007 at 12:18 am

    North Portland to inner SE. Forget Vancouver. It takes you directly (and unsafely) into high traffic going E, W, N & S simultaneously at the Bdway-Weidler-Vancouver intersection.

    Instead, get over to Interstate (if you start far enough north, you get to have a nice long glide downhill as you head south) and pass through the Rose Quarter on the *west* side. Then get on the Esplanade and you\’re set.

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  • Jessy July 2, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Re: Comment #18

    The appropriate way to get through the Rose Quarter Transit Center is to continue along Interstate/Lloyd until you hit Multnomah. Make a right turn there and ride past the Blazer hoop statute. You can then make a left turn onto Wheeler, as indicated by the new signs at that intersection that say \”No Left Turn, Except Bus / Bike.\” They used to say \”No Left Turn, Except Bus\” but the exception for bikes was added somewhat recently, I believe. Either that or I just didn\’t notice it before.

    I know how tempting it is to make a right turn onto Wheeler directly, but people really have gotten tickets, so it\’s just not worth it. It only adds a couple extra blocks to go around the legal way… And I can only assume that it\’s also safer to go that way. Maybe between the buses, MAX and pedestrians, the traffic going straight through Wheeler is just too unsafe? That\’s my guess.

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  • Scott Mizée July 2, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    Thanks for the return comment, Jessy. Yes, they just added the signs recently. I only took that route when I was feeling like a ride home to North Portland with the smallest incline possible. The funny thing is, whenever I went through that area, it was always deserted.

    I guess I was just shocked that it could be \”off limits\” to bicycles when the place regularly has pedestrians and buses coming through it. I don\’t think it is any more dangerous sharing the lane there than it is when I share the lanes with the buses in the \”other transit mall\” downtown.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment. We\’ll have to post a picture of the bike in front of the bus sign. It is one that I haven\’t seen before until now. …and your right, it is only a few blocks around with a little steeper hill. 🙂

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  • stumptown July 8, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Let\’s hope Sam can get the safe and sane streets pushed through!

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