The Classic - Cycle Oregon

Police plan bike box enforcement strategy

Posted by on March 17th, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Traffic Division Captain Larry O’Dea.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The City of Portland’s campaign to remake several intersections with colored bike boxes and bike lanes is made up of much more than just markings on the pavement. Along with the new markings comes a significant change to the law; at all intersections slated to receive a bike box, right turns on red are now illegal. Motor vehicles must also stop prior to the bike box when the light is red.

In addition to a bike box advertising campaign (who hasn’t seen one of the new billboards?), PDOT has coordinated with the Police Bureau on an enforcement strategy to complement their outreach and education efforts.

I asked Traffic Division Captain Larry O’Dea to share a bit about their strategy.

O’Dea says he’s distributed 500 bike box flyers throughout several precincts. “We followed up with an electronic version of the flyer via email,” he said on the phone today, “to try and make sure all officers are aware and educated about them.”

Bike Box educational material-3.jpg

This brochure has gone out to precincts.

The Police Bureau also plans to perform enforcement missions at bike box locations. O’Dea says for “about two weeks or so” after each one has been installed, he and his officers will be at the intersections, passing out flyers and talking with motorists (and I assume cyclists too). O’Dea says they’ll focus their efforts during peak commute hours; “Initially we’ll do these missions only with the intent of education …and unless it’s an egregious safety violation, we’ll just pass out flyers and talk with them.”

Also during this phase, the PPB will work with its public information office in hopes of garnering some local media attention, “to help spread the message even further,” says O’Dea.

But after the initial two-week grace period, it won’t be all warnings and friendly chats. O’Dea says once people have had ample opportunity to learn how to treat the bike boxes, Police will start doing enforcement missions and handing out citations to violators.

O’Dea — who along with his Lieutenant Bryan Parman have been showing up to bike-related meetings lately — plans to rely on feedback from PDOT about where to focus their enforcement efforts; “We’ll try to focus our missions at the intersections where we’re hearing the most complaints about.”

Both of the likely violations — turning right on red and encroaching into the bike box — will be eligible for dismissal upon attendance of the Share the Road Safety Class.

It will be interesting to see how people in cars respond to the new markings. The trickiest situation will be what happens when no bicycles are present.

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

  • Bikebillboards dot blogspot dot com March 17, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Good grief. This feature presentation will be a whole lotta fun to watch, When Bike Advocates Go WILD!

    Another case of PDOT Rube Goldberg pseudo-solution in search of a PROBLEM.

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  • Bikebillboards dot blogspot dot com March 17, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Instead of b-boxes, didn\’t anyone consider the simple roundabout? Confusion at intersection = EVERYONE slowing down and watching out for each other = NO one getting hurt.

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  • Duncan March 17, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I am a big fan of roundabouts (being from Boston), but it isnt the perfect solution to every problem. And dude you arent even from here- unless you ride these roads your speculation is just that- speculation.

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  • Bikebillboards dot blogspot dot com March 17, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Dude, if roundabouts aren\’t the silver bullet either, what\’s different about the way PDOT uses b-boxes? They seem to be treating b-boxes like manna from HEAVEN to cover up for the suicide slots.

    If PDOT can go out of their way to heavily \”educate\” the public about b-boxes, they could go out of their way to \”educate\” the bicycling public on how to mix it up with traffic, without really dying.

    Just tell bikers to get in FRONT of motor vehicles, in the MIDDLE of the lane, and make \’em see ya. Once motorists see ya, they have TWO choices: either slow down, make the lane change, and pass, OR run over the cyclist.

    In Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the Broken Arrow Expressway, MAJOR right-hook opps at the exit ramps, where there are NO bike lanes or boxes, I have to be 100% RIGHT, every trip. Or, I would have died a long time ago. STOP with the gutter trolling.

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  • Dag March 17, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    “We’ll try to focus our missions at the intersections where we’re hearing the most complaints about.”

    That\’s an important quote. It very well could be that the reason for the many stupid stings is that people are calling in lots of complaints for those locations. We should hit back with complaints of our own at spots where cars frequently endanger cyclists.

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  • BURR March 17, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Important question: Is it legal or not for cyclists to turn right on red at the bike boxes?

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  • Dabby March 17, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    How about, along with enforcement at these locations, we also actually have enforcement at ALL intersections?

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  • Paul Cone March 17, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    A new sign to complement the new bike box at the intersection of 7th and Hawthorne reads \”NO TURN ON RED EXCEPT BICYCLES\”.

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  • Axe March 17, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    BURR @5, it is legal for bikes to turn on a red. There is a sign at the intersection that reads \”No Turn on Red – Except Bicycles.\”

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  • Refunk March 17, 2008 at 4:06 pm


    According to another of Jonathan\’s articles on the box, \”Portland’s first green bike box is now complete,\” one of the signs PDOT put up during installation was:
    “No Turn on Red – Except Bicycles”

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  • Matthew March 17, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    #2: \”Instead of b-boxes, didn\’t anyone consider the simple roundabout?\”

    PORTLAND, Ore. – For the second time in two weeks, a cyclist was hit while trying to navigate a traffic circle. The latest happened Monday morning, when police said a 16-year-old driver tried to shortcut a traffic circle…

    #5: \”Important question: Is it legal or not for cyclists to turn right on red at the bike boxes?\”

    \”…Along with the new green lane and bike box, new signs were also installed. One warns cars to yield to bikes in the green lane and another says, “No Turn on Red – Except Bicycles.”…\”

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  • zilfondel March 17, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I don\’t like traffic circles. They block your ability to see oncoming and cross traffic with all the vegetation they plant in them.

    And a lot of stupid people ignore that fact and speed up when they go around them, as they assume there is no traffic.

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  • Paul March 17, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    @ zilfondel: \”I don\’t like traffic circles.\”

    Are you talking about the circles that are about 3 feet wide in our residential areas? I somewhat agree, as they\’re a too small to be effective, but traffic should ONLY be coming from your left theoretically. So, stupid design or stupid people? I don\’t know.

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  • Carl March 17, 2008 at 5:10 pm


    Aren\’t b-boxes the thing b-boys listen to while b-dancing?

    Thanks Paul Tay (bikebillboards) for bringing a whole new level of efficiency to our lexicon.

    In gratitude, I offer you some VC Bike Porn (NSFW):
    (Oooh, Dan and Brian sure get me hot the way they control that lane…)

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  • Tom March 17, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    The bicyclists and motor scooter drivers in Sienna, Florence and other Italian cities all move through traffic to the space in front of cars at traffic signals. SOP. In my opinion, when the new green boxes become common, and drivers educated, riding in town will be greatly enhanced.

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  • BURR March 17, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    no scooter lanes in Italy, they all filter forward between lanes, correct?

    I\’ve seen that in Paris and Barcelona too.

    the bike lane changes things a bit.

    just take that (traffic) lane is probably the best solution.

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  • Steve Brown March 18, 2008 at 6:08 am

    Traffic circles are design to slow motor vehicle speeds in neighborhoods but do little for bike safety. In my experience, far too many cars speed up beat the bike to into the circle just as you are entering, try to ride around you once you have taken the lane or turn right while you are still headed to the other side. Passing a bike in a traffic circle should be a felony.

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  • Spanky March 18, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Steve 17: So when I pass a bike going slowly around Ladd Circle I should be busted for a felony? I\’d agree with you in regard to the Laurelhurst circle, but not he Ladd Circle. They are two distinctly different breeds of cat. The first sees heavy bike traffic and a fair amount of car traffic. The second sees heavy car traffic and not so much bike traffic. The first involves the itnersection of several minor side streets and one busier residential street, and a single, very wide lane around the circle. The second involves the intersection of two major streets, and narrow lanes within the circle.

    I agree passing a bike within an intersection with a \”traffic calming\” planter in the middle is reckless behavior by the car driver.

    I can not see how traffic circles could eb a viable alternative to bike boxes at the locations slated to see bike boxes.

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  • Duncan March 18, 2008 at 7:38 am

    In my mind there is a difference between a traffic circle (ie the traffic calming device seen on Clinton and other residential streets) and a round about, a circle placed in exchange for a traffic light at major intersection (39th and Glisan). Traffic calming circles are a HUGE held in slowing traffic. studies have shown that the slow speed of traffic considerably (I will have to look up the reference later, but I have it somewhere). While some motorists may break the law around them (and in my mind someone who \”shortcuts\” a circle and drives into traffic is a reckless driver), the alternative of 35-45 MPH traffic on secondary streets is far worse- instead of one person driving in a way that endangers cyclists, you would have a flow of traffic where every driver was endngering cyclists.

    My expierence in traffic circles has been mostly positive, although there are the occasional expierences similar to Steve\’s… Over time I have been simply more procactive about taking the lane ahead of the circle.

    And as to the Tulsa guys comment about gutter trolling, I think it is far easier to advocate takingt the lane on Clinton (or any secondary street in Portland) with low traffic speeds, then it is on Hawthorne or any other street with a large traffic volume. I do it, but I am a pretty fair cyclists with some hammer and a high fear threshold- I cannot see advocating that to someone who putters along at 10MPH, but getting new cyclists on the road is what we need… I may use cycling as a way to blow off steam, get some excesize and get the groceries, but cycling infrastructure needs to adress the mobilty of cyclists at varying levels of fitness and ages.

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  • Brian E March 18, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Traffic circles block truck traffic unless the circle is huge. Last week we had a moving truck stuck in our neighborhood durring the morning rush. The road had to be shut down and evacuated so the truck could back out. It took at least 15 minutes. Stupid mistake made by the truck driver.

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  • Greg Raisman March 18, 2008 at 9:39 am

    This discussion feels pretty far off topic to me… but…

    It\’s pretty common for people to confuse traffic circles with roundabouts.

    There are traffic calming circle. These features have been used mostly in residential settings, but also are used on a few collectors (like NE 7th).

    Modern roundabouts are more about traffic circulation, reduction of conflict points, and lowering the severity of conflict angles. These features are used instead of a traffic signal. In a typical signalized intersection, there are 32 conflict points when you look at all the different ways vehicles can crash. With a roundabout, it is reduced to 8 conflict points — and they have much less severe impact angles lower with intersectional operating speeds.

    For Portland, there is desire to install modern roundabouts, but the limiting factor for roundabouts is that they take a lot of space. Due to our urban form — relatively narrow streets, short blocks — our intersections are not typically large enough to accomodate a roundabout. Once a location is identified that can benefit from and accomidate a roundabout, the reality that they cost a lot more to install has to be addressed. There are some examples of modern roundabouts in Portland where they could fit. Here\’s an example:…&t=h&z=19&om=1

    Note the differences with the roundabout in the photo above with an old fashioned traffic circle that\’s used for circulation *holds breath* — like Ladd\’s Circle or Coe Circle (39th & Glisan). The biggest differences have to do with the approach and entry angles. The modern roundabout has more of a skewed entry that provides better entry visibility and less severe potential impact angles. Basic point, there are significant engineering differences between an old-fashioned traffic circle and a modern roundabout.

    These features (modern roundabouts and traffic circles to help circulation) have major design and operational differences from a traffic circle that is used for traffic calming. And, get this, those traffic calming circles again have major design and operational differences from modern mini-roundabouts.

    If I weren\’t immersed in this stuff, I\’s still be confused by these engineering differences. A lot of people mix and match these reasonably similar features. However, there\’s a lot more difference in how they\’re designed and function than just having a different label.

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  • KT March 18, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Greg, your link didn\’t work for me… not sure why.

    Here\’s the nice roundabout at Stafford and Rosemont:…&t=h&z=19&om=1

    They\’re putting another on in at Stafford and Borland to take the place of the four-way stop.

    There\’s on in LO at Carmen and Meadows Rd/Quarry Rd, it works pretty good, too.

    Bend has lots of Roundabouts and they seem to work just great.

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  • Greg Raisman March 18, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Interesting, KT… you\’re link is not working for me. I just go to my default location on Google Maps with you link.

    The roundabout I was trying to link to is at the intersection of SW Terwilliger & Palater Rd.

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  • Grimm March 18, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Spanky #18: I think a felony is a bit much but PLEASE DO NOT PASS CYCLISTS ON ROUNDABOUTS; OR ANYONE ELSE FOR THAT MATTER. A roundabout should be treated like an intersection(it is after all), and it passing another vehicle in a 1 lane intersection would be dangerous not to mention illegal. I realize traffic is all flowing one way, but its during a turn and there are lots of other vehicles entering/exiting and passing people only complicates matters until someone gets cut off and then eventually someone gets run over. I ride Ladd\’s Circle nearly everyday and take the the middle of the lane. I\’m sorry if drivers have to wait an extra few precious seconds till I turn off or until we are on a straight stretch, but relax its not that bad. The ONLY time I have ever had any type of an accident on Ladds is when I was passing another cyclist, he wasn\’t expecting anyone and didnt signal. From that point forth I just chill out ride at a slower pace around the circle, easy as that.

    Oh and I think the suggestion of a roundabout solution to Hawthorne/7th is silly. I admit bike boxes are kind of a band aid over our car filled streets, but I still prefer them over trying to get through 39th/Glisan by bike or foot (though in a car all *seems* fine).

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