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Collisions prompt Water Bureau to seek bike safety solutions

Posted by on August 28th, 2007 at 11:09 am

(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

Hoping to prevent a serious collision between their service trucks and bicyclists, the Portland Water Bureau is discussing ways to improve safety around their facility on N. Interstate Avenue.

Concerns about bike safety bubbled up seven months ago when a bicyclist riding south on N. Flint Ave. collided with a Water Bureau truck that was turning right from Broadway into N. Wheeler Ave. (see map below).

When a similar collision happened again on July 31st (luckily neither resulted in serious injuries), it raised a red flag at the Water Bureau and now they’re hoping to come up with a safety fix for this problematic intersection.

As an interim measure, Water Bureau Director Maintenance and Construction Group Manager Kelly Mulholland issued an internal mandate on August 7th, prohibiting all Water Bureau vehicles from turning right on Wheeler from Broadway.

Yellow areas mark intersections where the Water Bureau is concerned about truck/bike conflicts.

Last week, the Water Bureau’s Risk Specialist George Guard called in PDOT traffic engineer Peter Mason to discuss the problem with his Safety Committee. In that meeting, another problematic intersection came to light: N. Interstate at Tillamook.

Guard says his drivers are worried about colliding with bicyclists as the trucks turn right from Interstate onto Tillamook. This intersection will become even more problematic if/when truck traffic on Interstate goes up as a result of being diverted away from Wheeler (as the current mandate dictates).

A cyclist blows through the
stop sign at N. Flint onto Broadway.
The street in front of him is N. Wheeler.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus)

Yesterday, Emily Gardner of the BTA and I represented the bike community at a meeting with Guard, and other members of the Water Bureau’s Safety Committee. Guard wanted to share ideas they’ve come up with and also hear what Emily and I had to say.

Here are some of the ideas the Water Bureau has come up with:

  • Maintain mandate that prohibits trucks from turning right from Broadway onto Wheeler (Guard reported some mild grumbling about this “inconvenience” from his drivers).
  • Add new signage at Flint/Broadway intersection.
  • Make Wheeler one-way out to Broadway.
  • PR campaign/Public Service Announcements (PSAs).
  • Pavement markings in Flint Ave. bike lane (a la “Hotel Zone” on SW Broadway).
  • Improve side-view mirrors on trucks.
  • Increase police enforcement of Flint Ave. stop sign (this intersection is already a priority for the Police Bureau).

Emily Gardner and I added these ideas:

  • A fisheye mirror at the apex of the Flint/Broadway/Wheeler intersection.
  • Solicit ideas and feedback on BikePortland.org.
  • Move the Broadway bike lane out into the lane at Flint (instead of at Interstate/Larrabee like it is now) to avoid the right-hook conflicts at Wheeler.
  • Have a Breakfast on the Bridges-style outreach event at Flint and Broadway to spread awareness of the problem.
  • Install a special “Watch for bikes” sticker on side-view truck mirrors.

Guard plans to take all these ideas — and any that you come up with in the comments — to his Safety Committee for final review on September 6th. From there, he will present the ideas to Water Bureau management for their review and implementation.

If you ride through this area (Flint is a major morning commute thoroughfare), please share your feedback, experiences, and ideas in the comments. Let’s show the Water Bureau that by working cooperatively we can find a solution that works for everyone.

Please support BikePortland.

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

27 Comments
  • Brian E August 28, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Have trucks slow to walking speed when making a blind right turn across side walks, cross walks or bike lanes.

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  • Richard S August 28, 2007 at 11:42 am

    I ride through this intersection every afternoon. This one, in particular, is a stop sign to take notice of. I\’ve seen cyclists blow through there, just to have a close call from vehicles coming down Broadway, or more often, turning right off the freeway exit. Drivers coming off the exit are too busy looking for traffic on their left from Broadway.

    So, whatever the water board does, the rest of us will have to learn to stop at Flint Ave.

    I got a big friendly wave from a truck driver there once – just for stopping.

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  • Spencer August 28, 2007 at 11:49 am

    This is great.

    People sitting down and working together to increase everyone\’s safety. We in the bike community need to make sure we live up to our side of any agreements.

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  • Jon B. August 28, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    I ride through this intersection everyday and the problem is with the cyclists pure and simple. I can\’t tell you how many people I see absolutely blow through that stop sign with no regard for anything around them. If you approach this intersection carefully you will not have any problems. Unfortunately, I don\’t think these irresponsible riders will ever change. So, the only to prevent an accident is to prohibit right turns from Broadway onto Wheeler.

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  • andy August 28, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    That whole Broadway/Flint/Wheeler intersection is a mess, and it\’s a problem which is much larger than water bureau traffic or cyclists running stop signs. I say close Wheeler between Broadway and Weidler and turn that whole ugly concrete triangle into greenspace. Close access to Wheeler (north side) from Broadway; route all traffic on that street to Ross, Benton, or Larabee/Interstate. And move the bike lane out and widen it.

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  • toddistic August 28, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I blow this stop sign when there arn\’t any cars, although I do check for cars before doing so. Why lie about it? If there\’s traffic, depending on conditions, I coast through or completely stop and watch for right turns from cars. Generally I feel its safer to go through the stop sign quickly if there arn\’t cars because I\’d rather just get away from that area. Stopping then moving slowly, picking up my pace when I\’m moving through that intersection just puts me there longer around cars.

    It doesn\’t really help much because it\’s a bad mesh of intersections, look at it from Williams to Interstate, there are eight or so streets with cars coming or going away from.

    Changing Vancouver to allow bikes to turn right wont work because the freeway offramp is to the right.

    Turning N. Wheeler into a one-way as suggested might be the only half decent solution to help allivate this problem.

    The other idea I have is to give us a dedicated bike signal at Vancouver and Broadway similar to the signal on the west side of the Broadway bridge and specify it as the dedicated route.

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  • Donald August 28, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    I ride this intersection most mornings (trying to tie into the esplanade is too vexing most mornings.)

    I, too, am amazed at the number of cyclists I see blowing the stop sign at Flint/Broadway.

    Yesterday, I had a cyclist crawl well up my six-o\’clock when I decided to do a full stop there instead of a rolling merge on account of a double-trailer semi that was wandering into the bike lane.

    It is an intersection in need of some nifty SimCity solution. Hurry, urban planners. You\’re our only hope.

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  • vanessa August 28, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    I hate this intersection as well.

    I often ride east on the North side of the broadway bridge, and then ride the sidewalks from the broadway bridge up to flint, where I turn to head north, and then move over to williams a few blocks down. It seems like a large amount of bike traffic does this.Whatever is done should take into account that cyclists are also heading east on the sidewalks at this intersection (flint and broadway)_
    There definitly has to be a large \”watch for bikes\” sign for cars that are turning right at Flint and Broadway. So many of them go into the bike lane…maybe more blue paint there…..

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  • Me 2 August 28, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    It\’s great to hear the Water Bureau willing to have a dialogue on this issue. I guess the sting they had at N Wheeler and Broadway didn\’t have much of a lasting effect?

    I\’d vote for closing N Wheeler altogether. Sure it is straight up self interest on my part as I take N Flint to Broadway on my daily commute. I don\’t use Tillamook so I\’m not sure what the best options are for it.

    However, having N Wheeler as an option to exit or enter Broadway is a bad design. It\’s confusing for bikes and drivers to see cars approaching on Broadway with right turn signals on only to bypass Flint and turn at Wheeler. It also doesn\’t look too easy for cars leaving Wheeler to turn onto Broadway.

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  • Paul Cone August 28, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Toddistic, are you masochistic? It is such a crazy busy intersection I feel unsafe not stopping and looking all directions, especially during rush hour.

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  • toddistic August 28, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Paul Cone: I have a clear line of sight of oncoming traffic and as I said before, if it\’s busy then I stop or roll through. I always stay in the bike lane regardless.

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  • gus August 28, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    I ride this route nearly every morning as N. Wheeler forms a handy shortcut to get to N. Interstate.

    In my view the solution to the problem lies largely with cyclists (see Jon B. #4 above). Essentially, don\’t pass ANY vehicle on the right, don\’t ride in blind spots of trucks or cars, learn to ride with awareness and be defensive or aggressive (e.g., take the lane) as needed. Basically have a riding strategy that allows room to not only avoid such situations but that gives room for adaptation to unexpected events. For example the incident a few weeks ago when an inconsiderate ass (also a cyclist) blew the N. Flint stop sign and almost took me out.

    The same perspective applies for the Tillamook intersection.

    Also of concern is the intersection of Interstate with Albina. Several times a week I hear brakes and skidding from near misses at this location. These are usually related to either 1) cyclists attempting to pass on the right as vehicles turn right from the north bound lanes of Interstate or 2) cyclists failing to stop for the southbound red light and encountering vehicles passing straight through the intersection (from Albina) into the parking lot opposite.

    The short version is: have a riding strategy, don\’t trust ANY vehicle, don\’t ride in blind spots or pinch points, understand your risks in the environment and don\’t blame others for your bad decisions. If both vehicles and cyclists are operating using the same rules of the road the the opportunities for conflict (i.e cyclists crashing and/or dieing) are much reduced…simple cause and effect really. finally its a lot harder for traffic to cut in front of you if you are in the center of the lane; it gets me across the Broadway Williams I-5 intersection on a regular basis…

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  • BURR August 28, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    gus, that\’s all fine and good but part of the problem is that the existing bike lanes tend to put you in exactly the position you shouldn\’t be riding in. and if you leave the bike lanes for your own safety, you risk a ticket for that as well.

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  • P Finn August 29, 2007 at 2:47 am

    Ticketing for not using bike lanes is ridiculous. Have there been any successful prosecutions for this offense? Ridiculous…

    Fisheye mirrors mounted at various points at problem intersections go a long way towards raising awareness. Only a temporary band-aid, though…

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  • phil August 29, 2007 at 5:36 am

    Gus
    You are so right on! However the city will spend thousands of taxpayer dollars and decide something like ban all car and trucks from Broadway or no right turns onto Flint/Broadway/Wheeler just continue and make several left turns around the Rose Garden adding to the congestion, but thats the way the city government works. All because two cyclist in a years time have ridden with their head up their spandex

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  • DK August 29, 2007 at 7:47 am

    Wait until a cyclist gets nailed after blowing said stop sign, then listen to them cry and complain about the intersection being unsafe. I say shut up \’cause you had it comin\’! Why all of a sudden is this such a problem?

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  • gus August 29, 2007 at 8:29 am

    re: burr #13. I admit the bike lanes are poorly placed, however the ultimate responsibility for safety within the lanes is not that of the painted lines but rather that of the rider.

    Also, the choice between risking a ticket and improving my chances of living or staying within the lane markings and increasing my chances of dying is, for me, an easy choice to make.

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  • caryebye August 29, 2007 at 9:20 am

    Flint to Broadway is also my commute downtown, and I also take the sidewalk back on my commute.

    What I\’ve always wished is that there was another road that would go through before broadway off of Flint, perhaps a bike only route. But because of the apartment building and fencing, there is no other option off of Flint except Broadway. If there was a way through, on my way home I would not have to ride the sidewalks to get home. Also there would be less traffic converging on the upper hill, where there are more blind spots – a majority of the traffic does not turn right and ends up merging into the two broadway bridge lanes, and left lane that connects to Interstate/Steel Br.

    While i have had no close calls at this intersection so far, it is always a bit dodgy. Even if I do a stop-pause on Flint at Broadway, and look at the traffic on my left coming down broadway, and see it\’s clear, I will suddenly see more a vehicle at N Wheeler, ready to turn, but now I\’m coming down so they have to wait. The cars go so fast coming down the broadway hill that it is hard to watch both areas, to decide to go.

    I don\’t think police stings in the answer. I think this conversation is a start. And if all possible another path through off of Flint would really help!!!

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  • caryebye August 29, 2007 at 9:28 am

    Just a little more clarification regarding the end of the first paragraph above

    …a majority of the traffic does not turn right and ends up merging into the two broadway bridge lanes, and left lane that connects to Interstate/Steel Br.

    So what I\’m saying is, if bike traffic merged onto Broadway at a lower street, I\’m not sure the name, but the one with the light west of the motel, the left lane tends to be a lot less busy with cars because they have already merged over by then.

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  • max adders August 29, 2007 at 9:51 am

    moving the bike lanes over to match where they end up near the bridge (between the rightmost and center auto lanes would be a good start. many cyclists ignore the current lane setup just after flint and ride in the auto lane anyway– it\’s one less merge to worry about. I do this every day.

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  • Jessy August 29, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    There are way too many bikes blowing through the stop sign, given how dangerous this intersection is for various reasons, including that during the morning commute the sun is rising in the east, which is the direction to look for cyclists & cars traveling west on Broadway, who have the right-of-way.

    But another issue is that even if you\’re a good cyclist and you stop at the sign, then make your right turn, you could still get hit by a vehicle turning right onto Wheeler.

    The whole thing is problematic for everyone; cars & bikes alike. If the cyclists respected the stop sign more, that would help, but so would making changes to make the intersection more safe. I think it\’s great that other people are just as concerned as we are.

    I ride through there every morning. I always stop & signal my right-hand turn onto Broadway. I heard a good thing yesterday… That cyclists should follow the rules if only to let drivers know that they expect the same of them. That\’s great.

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  • jeff August 29, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    I approach that intersection headed West on Broadway. I\’ve never had a problem with bikes not stopping at Flint, only with traffic coming off the highway not stopping before they head right (or worse, accross all lanes towards the Rose Garden). Many close calls here as it\’s easy to be moving fast down the hill. I always take the lane around the curve here for more visibility and to prevent folks from turning across me onto Wheeler.

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  • Matthew August 29, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    1) Get the bikes off Flint: The reason people (I included) use Flint is because you can\’t (legally) make a right off of Vancouver onto Broadway, but it we could, that would be a much better solution, because there is a traffic light there. It could, (and probably should given the bike+bus lane there,) be a bike only turn…

    2) Tie Wheeler and Flint together before they get to Broadway so that you don\’t have two intersections so close together, on a busy street. Neither of them get that much traffic so if Flint turned west just south of the trapezoid shaped building, and the park that is currently there was moved to divide it from Broadway, then Flint would run into Wheeler. Yes, the water bureau trucks would still have to cross paths with the cyclists, but they\’d be going a lot slower because they just completed a turn…

    The Interstate&Tillamook problem is the same problem everyone has at every intersection without a dedicated right turn lane. It is no worse with the water bureau trucks than it is with anything else, which is to say that it isn\’t great, but it isn\’t the water bureau\’s fault.

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  • 007 August 29, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    The Flint intersection is not a problem if one almost stops at it and looks both ways for cyclists coming down the hill and for cars turning right onto Wheeler who are ahead of you.

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  • 007 August 29, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    Oh, and I agree with what Donald says about access, or the lack thereof, to the esplanade at the steel bridge. It is poor. Whichever way you approach it, car traffic is nuts and intersections are convoluted and messed up. Very poorly designed. I never go that way in the morning though I do ride it home from the Hawthorne bridge.

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  • phil August 30, 2007 at 5:43 am

    car and truck drivers must be on the look out for cyclists, joggers, skateboarders, pedestrians, stop lights and signs, plus other motor vehicles would it be too difficult for a cyclist to be alert for motor vehicles, or is that too much to ask!

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  • Jeff Guard September 7, 2007 at 10:27 am

    Subscribing to comments.

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