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Tribune article forces PDOT to defend bike boxes

Posted by on May 2nd, 2008 at 12:09 pm

more bike boxes springing up-4.jpg

A bike box in downtown Portland.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Portland Tribune has published an article about concerns raised by citizens and the Oregon Department of Transportation over the usage, safety and efficacy of the newly installed bike boxes.

The story’s sub-headline reads, “Some cycling advocates are trying to stick a wrench in the spokes of Portland’s new bike box program, saying they’re confusing and inherently unsafe, and should not be approved by the federal government.”

The article focuses primarily on concerns raised by Ryan Conrad (a daily Portland bike commuter and mechanic at the Beaverton Bike Gallery store) and concerns about bike boxes (in certain situations) by ODOT’s head traffic engineer Ed Fischer.

Conrad — the same person quoted by John Schubert in a recent article critical of Portland’s bike lanes — has been a vocal critic of PDOT’s bike box plans (see comments he left on this site back in March here and here). He thinks the new intersection treatment is unsafe, has not been properly analyzed, and opens up PDOT to legal liability because they have not been officially approved as Traffic Control Devices (TCDs) by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

In a comment left on this site, Conrad wrote that he would not be critical of bike boxes “if they are approved TCDs, [are] properly tested and actually can be shown to effectively mitigate ‘right-hook’ accidents,” but added that none of those points “have been demonstrated to be true.”

I spoke with ODOT’s Ed Fischer today and he feels his comments were taken a bit out of context in the Tribune story. He wanted it to be clear that ODOT is not against Portland’s use of bike boxes.

Fischer also pointed out that ODOT only has jurisdiction over state highways that serve higher-speed and higher-volume traffic (and have less bike traffic) — conditions that pose much different considerations for bike boxes than city streets in Portland.

KGW-TV (Portland’s NBC affiliate) noticed the Tribune article and plans to broadcast a similar story tonight.

PDOT’s bicycle coordinator Roger Geller has wasted no time in responding to the Tribune article. He posted a comment below the article on the Tribune’s website where he defends PDOT’s bike box campaign and explains their “experimental” status:

“Our desire is to evaluate this treatment under federal guidance in order to make it available to cities across the country if it proves to be effective. …How else are we to demonstrate the effectiveness of a design that, as the [Tribune] reporter and others mentioned is already a standard traffic feature in most bicyle-friendly European cities, if we don’t use them?”

Geller maintains that PDOT has employed professional researchers at Portland State University to collect before and after data on the bike boxes. Also — in an attempt to counter the claim that the bike boxes are unsafe and lack sufficient research — Geller points out a recent publication by the Transportation Research Board (download PDF here) that concludes bike boxes do improve bike safety (Geller made that research available to Tribune reporter Nick Budnick but it was not included in the story received until after the article was written.)

[For more on PDOT’s vision on how to improve bike safety, read this article by Geller I published back in November.]

Now, let’s back up a bit.

Hottest Day of the Year Ride

Blue bike lanes did not have federal
approval when PDOT installed them
back in 1997.

PDOT filed a formal “Request to Experiment” with the FHWA back in January . The application is not a mandatory procedure but it was done to share information about Portland’s plans with the FHWA in hopes that they would consider adding bike boxes to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) — an important set of guidelines used by traffic engineers across the country.

Geller and his team at PDOT hope that innovative bike safety measures begun in Portland can be a model that is emulated in other cities — having bike boxes added to the MUTCD could motivate other city engineers to give them a try.

If the FHWA declines to endorse the experiment, the City of Portland is not obligated to remove the bike boxes, nor would PDOT be running afoul of the law if they left them in. According to local bicycle facilities planner Mia Birk, cities have the jurisdictional authority to install traffic control devices that do not have official federal approval.

A similar situation arose when PDOT first installed blue-colored bike lanes back in 1997. A “Request to Experiment” was filed with the FHWA and in that case, the feds did decline to endorse them. PDOT went ahead with their plans and continued to analyze their effectiveness. They partnered up with researchers from North Carolina and published a study showing that the lanes had a positive impact on bike safety. (The blue bike lanes are still in use today.)

As for the bike boxes, Geller says he and city traffic engineer Rob Burchfield are working with the FHWA to address their concerns. “We hope to get to the point where they approve them. We think we have a well-designed, experimental protocol and our desire is to continue to work with them [the FHWA] so we can have a successful experiment.”

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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Hillsons
Guest
Hillsons

Great article Jonathan. I\’d go with Geller on this one, if the city has jumped through all the right hoops and the experiment looks to be succeeding, then try it out.

Scott
Guest
Scott

Maybe \”Ryan Conrad (a daily Portland bike commuter and mechanic at the Beaverton Bike Gallery store\” should relax. These boxes raise awareness, and bikers can use the help being seen. He Sounds like a real jerk.

Dave
Guest
Dave

What\’s the big deal Conrad/Tribune/KGW? Is it a slow news day, \’cause this sure seems like a non-issue to me. This is a new idea that needs testing and so it\’s being tested. Let\’s wait for the results and see what the numbers tell us before we jump to any conclusions, eh?

steve
Guest

Did you read his comments? He certainly did not sound like a jerk, whatever you think of his ideas.

You however, definately sound like a jerk. And now, so do I.

Diogo
Guest
Diogo

Maybe bike boxes are not that effective, but to suggest that they somehow make things worst – that\’s just plain ridiculous.

Critique is good and all, but people should be careful to not give ammunition to those that oppose any investment for bike transportation.

Conrad, be careful, don\’t let your ego make you work for those that are against you.

PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

This is just more \”vehicular cyclist\” nonsense slinking in under the guise of \”safety.\” Here\’s a quote from the Tribune article:

\”Conrad said that’s just not the case – he’s motivated strictly by safety concerns. He, like other critics, feels that if bike lanes ended 200 feet from intersections, cyclists would be more aware of vehicles and vice versa.\”

200 feet? What a coincidence. Much of inner Portland\’s street grid is set up with 200 foot blocks. So eliminating a bike lane 200 feet before an intersection amounts to eliminating all bike lanes. What a coincidence.

Since Conrad seems to be all about scientific rigor, where\’s the evidence showing that ending a bike lane 200 feet before an intersection is safer? I\’ll bet a pint of beer there isn\’t any.

This \”vehicular cyclist\” drumbeat is the same as most Republican policy scams. Wrap your goal in the guise of a wonderful sounding goal while you dishonestly hide the real purpose and motivation of your position.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

these bike boxes do nothing to prevent moving right hooks…sorry.

they do however raise awareness of the situation I think and give cyclists a bit more room when waiting for red lights..I personally still sit in the bike lane…

Conrad works at the Bike Gallery? all I\’ve gotten from that place is bad mechanical advice and overpriced parts..

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

Conrad should spend more time riding and less time whining…

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

and if he\’s confused by a big green box he should reevaluate his educational experience…

Bradly Fletchall
Guest

I\’m glad new things are being tried in Portland and I hope they can get the Federal sign off on the bike boxes because the cycling regulations that get enacted in Portland trickle down to other parts of the country very slowly.

Here in Missouri where I am, streets in many areas are not \”bicycle friendly\” but its slowly, very slowly, changing. So what happens in Portland today has a chance of being enacted here in 5 to 10 years.

I would be glad to just have a sign the says share the road in many of the places I ride. Sadly we don\’t even have that in many areas.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

I\’ve ridden through several of the green monsters now both before and after the painting.

My admittedly anecdotal assessment is that I feel much less likely to get right hooked in the intersections with the boxes painted. I HAD been right hooked at these intersections a number of times before, though fortunately not hit, by non-signaling or inattentive drivers.

Now when painted, I haven\’t gotten the hint of someone right hooking me… not even a feint, no drift rightward, no signal and creep from a stop.

Drivers are watching now. It\’s nice.

Tbird
Guest
Tbird

\”…He, like other critics, feels that if bike lanes ended 200 feet from intersections, cyclists would be more aware of vehicles and vice versa.\”

This idea is so very flawed I\’m not sure where to begin. The idea of ending a bike lane before an intersection is already in practice at several intersections around the city and it only serves on function: to increase the chance of a dangerous interaction with motorists. Sure Bike Boxes are not perfect, but at least it\’s a defined \’bike only\’ space.

PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

Ryan Conrad seems to do quite well as a mechanic at the Bike Gallery. It looks like he engaged the services of a \”Consulting Traffic Engineer\” to argue his case against bike boxes with a 1700-word tome back in March, 2008.

Ryan\’s level of commitment to his view on civic issues is commendable, even if I disagree with them. Or, maybe, it\’s not Ryan who is actually behind this flurry of concern about bike boxes. Will the Real Ryan Conrad please stand up?

\”Ryan Conrad has requested my help in expressing his concerns over
the bike boxes and colored bike lanes in the City of Portland. \”

\”Sincerely,
Robert M Shanteau, PhD, PE (Calif.)
Consulting Traffic Engineer\”

(I can\’t seem to post the link to the site with the letter.)

Joe
Guest
Joe

Even though there might not be any sound studies about the bike boxes, I have to say that the new greenies on SW Broadway downtown are fantastic! I used to on a DAILY basis have cars right hook in front of me with nary a blink. Only because I am a wary cyclist have I not gotten hit (at least at these intersections).

Now it makes drivers so much more aware that there are indeed cyclists on the road, in the bike lane, and the drivers actually do WAIT HERE as the bike box is intended. Thanks PDOT!

PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

Ahhh.. here it is… Ryan\’s view on bike lanes, as posted in comments at bikeprovidence dot org, as in Providence, Rhode Island. It\’s good to see the Ryan gets around…

\”From *Ryan Conrad*

You can’t be serious, bike lanes improving the legal status of cyclists? Even in states w/o mandatory bike lane laws, bike lanes can at least strengthen the side-of-the-road law. Watch out for legislation that may get passed to make bike lanes mandatory after a network of them gets installed.

Consider Oregon’s legal baited trap with regards to bike lanes: bike lanes are only required if they are deemed safe after review by a means of a public hearing. In other words, if you’re riding on a road with a bike lane in DT Portland (almost always a DZBL) and choose not to use that bike lane because it’s dangerous, you can still get pulled over by a cop for
failure to use a bike lane. You can fight the ticket, but it’s up to the public hearing to determine if in fact the bike lane was safe to ride in. The jury is usually comprised of non-cyclists, so it’s unlikely they’ll empathize with you.

Consider another scenario: you’re riding in one of Portland’s deadly “blue bike lanes” that takes you through extremely dangerous conflicts with turning motor traffic. You get hit (and survive) and proceed to sue the city for installing a dangerous mandatory traffic control device. The state and city can just as easily say the use of the facility was voluntary (they would never admit to installing a dangerous mandatory facility, no jurisdiction will
willingly allow itself to be sued), so you recover no damages.

Oh, and Oregon’s law requiring motorist’s to yield to cyclists in a bike lane is rarely enforced (is a very strange requirement for motorists, basically elevates bike lanes to the status of crosswalks), so there’s no point in relying on that either. I think PPD is just as confused (or just prejudice against cyclists) by that law as are motorists. It’s a band-aid law with no basis in traffic engineering, so in many cases the yielding action is very
difficult or humanly impossible for a motorist to perform.

Although Oregon is somewhat unique with it’s complicated bike laws, it is easy to see that bike lanes are not and never were intended to protect cyclists’ safety or legal standing. They force a cyclist into a catch-22 dilemma with no legal protection whatsoever, all for the convenience of motorists. That’s “bicycle friendliness” I guess. I personally choose to avoid dangerous bike lanes and risk ticketing, since legal protection does not exist anyways. It’s sad how the safest, most efficient form of riding is illegal, but that’s life.

-Ryan
Portland, OR

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

I find it laughable how so many people think they\’re traffic experts since they ride a bike…or drive a car, for that matter.

PDOT has done an amazing job at creating new and innovative ways for cyclists to get around town more safely. Quick, name any other city of our size with \”Platinum\” credentials? How many other cities of our size in America have higher numbers of cyclists? They must be doing something right.

Bike boxes are a proven technique to increase safety for cyclists. They\’ve worked elsewhere, they\’ll work here.

Nick Budnick
Guest

To clarify: your blog is correct that Roger sent me a TRB excerpt summarizing the conclusions of two other research papers. However, it arrived after the article was done. As for Ed\’s comments being \”a bit out of context,\” the article described the concerns as his, not ODOT\’s. It noted his caveat where he said one of his statements was his personal opinion. Also, he authored his memo explicitly in response to questions about Portland\’s bike boxes and his comments did not merely address their use on state highways, but on all arterials.
-Nick B.

PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

I wonder if Ryan would be the Tribune\’s poster boy if they knew he wanted every cyclist to take a full lane on any street they chose to ride on?

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

Thanks for that clarification Nick. I\’ve edited my story accordingly.

Zaphod
Guest

Our ridership and accident rate stats say it all. The numbers don\’t lie.

Axe
Guest
Axe

Anecdotal evidence is still evidence, and the anecdotal evidence is saying that the green bike boxes are working.

Diogo
Guest
Diogo

Wow, nuovorecord, that\’s the wrong way of thinking:
\”Quick, name any other city of our size with \”Platinum\” credentials? How many other cities of our size in America have higher numbers of cyclists? They must be doing something right.\”
First, you shouldn\’t trust credentials, prizes and titles that much. But beyound that, you shouldn\’t credit the high ridership in town to any engineer or bureaucrat – I would say it\’s the anonymous people in the streets that are making the numbers go high and, in turn, forcing the city to take action.

I think bike boxes serve the purpose of creating awareness of bikers on the road – and that\’s good.

BUT, if this turns out to be what Ryan Conrad is saying – that soon authorities will enforce bike riding only on bike lanes – then this whole story will prove to be one big manipulation by city officials and a huge betrayal.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Nick #17: \”Roger sent me a TRB excerpt summarizing the conclusions of two other research papers. However, it arrived after the article was done.\”

So, then the article was just poorly researched? Not sure I\’d wanna lean on that crutch too heavily…

Spencer
Guest
Spencer

A couple of points.

Ryan seems to care about his community (bike riders).

Ryan is speaking his mind in a constructive and articulate manner.

For those who retort to his arguments with (to paraphrase) \”his bike store sell expensive and crappy parts\”, you are idiots. If you want to debate, debate, but don\’t debase him because he is not lock step with you ideas.

Actually be as \”progressive\” and open minded as you claim to be.

Bike Commuter
Guest
Bike Commuter

I have a question for Ryan or any cyclist that abides by the vehicular cycling rules…

Ryan stated in a previous post that he avoids \”passing slower motor vehicles on the right when they are able to turn right (very dangerous)\” to save his own life.

So if he is riding down Interstate Ave, or any busy street during rush hour, and there is a lot of traffic that bikes can pass easily on the right, would he pass these cars if he was following the \”rules\” of vehicular cycling? One of these cars could easily pull to the right to try to sneak up to make a right turn or anything like that.

I see a lot of good points made by Ryan, but no solution, because 90% of the riding population cannot take control of a lane because they can\’t ride fast enough as to not impede traffic.

If someone could enlighten me, in hopefully a non-negative way, it would be much appreciated. I currently stand in favor of bike lanes with defensive riding because I don\’t hear solutions from the VC guys, just anger.

Thanks.

Moo
Guest
Moo

I will bet that he uses the boxes too!.. And feels safer in it.

PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

Re: #24.

Let\’s all be consistent. Ryan pulled the name of his employer into the discussion. If he did it to add gravitas to his credentials, then people\’s opinions of that topic seem relevant. (For the record, I think the BG does a great job.) Calling someone an idiot is not really an illustration of the point you seemed to try to make.

Stripes
Guest
Stripes

ODOT are responsible primarily for rural State Highways, and Oregon\’s freeway system (with the exception of state highways that bisect urban areas) & are possibly not the most well-versed in the designs of urban bike facilities.

I may be wrong, but I believe their State traffic engineer is based way down in Salem, where it\’s perhaps hard to appreciate some of the unique urban transportation bike/auto/ped conflict locations and issues that a large city like Portland faces.

I would encourage him to come up to Portland and check out the facilities firsthand (on a bicycle, yeah!) – as I would ask of anybody critiquing a particular facility before having actually used it.

I have used two of the new bike boxes, and have found them to be extremely helpful. Car drivers are far more attentive to me as I travel on my bicycle through these locations.

I can actually **see** them looking in their rearview mirrors and craining over their shoulders more before turning right – and that\’s certainly a first!

Broken Halo
Guest
Broken Halo

BTW, Ryan Conrad is the Portland vehicular cyclist quoted in the wacko Adventure Cyclist article Jonathon wrote about on April 30.

This looks like the popular trick of quoting one source over and over to make it look like there\’s a consensus or some kind of groundswell of opinion.

Cøyøte
Guest
Cøyøte

You know there has been a bike box in Eugene at 7th and High streets for over twenty years. Perhaps Mr. Geller should look at crash statistics for that intersection to see if there has bike/car crash at that site. It might be a good argument.

Sadly the box has fallen in disrepair along with the rest of Eugene\’s Streets. The maintenance aspect of bike bike boxes is my only reservation for their use. A green bike lane will stay green for a long time. A bike box receives the full weight of traffic wear and needs constant maintenance.

As far a use goes, it is effective at avoiding conflicts at this intersection. However, most cyclists don\’t know how to use it, and you really have to watch the light. The last thing you want to do is get caught half way to your position in the box and have the light change.

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

Diogo – Thanks for the lecture. I don\’t think there\’s anything \”wrong\” with my way of thinking at all. We can have the \”chicken and egg\” argument all day long.

But if engineering plays little or no role in increasing the numbers of cyclists in a city, wouldn\’t it stand to reason that you\’d see a similar increase in cycling in other cities? There\’s nothing unique about Portland in that regard…other than the fact that we\’ve been planning and building for bikes for over 30 years.

I see nothing to make me think that bike boxes are part of a nefarious plot to enforce bike riding only on bike lanes. Why then, the investment in Bike Boulevards, to cite one example? I understand Ryan\’s point; I\’m just not convinced by his reasoning.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

HA! Oh Conrad, as a fellow mechanic I of course applaud and empathize with your own inflated sense of entitlement to speak with a sense of authority about all that is right and that is wrong in regards to everything that involves 2 wheels. However, I think your time might be better spent philosophizing about the relative tinsel strengths between different frame materials while drinking your cup of joe. You are a bicycle mechanic and not a city engineer or policy wonk for a reason, I assume.

IceArdor
Guest

It sounds like Conrad was mis-informed. I could understand him feeling like a guinea pig, being one of the first cities to try out this plan. Truly, though, the first European city to make bike boxes had the guinea pigs. Bike boxes have already been shown to work in other countries.

I can\’t help but notice the bright blue painted strips of bike lane. Those alert drivers that they need to be cautious of cyclists. The bright green bike lane leading up to the box is the same thing. People don\’t need to go into the middle of the bike box if they completely object to them. They can be along the curb. For those who are against bike lanes, considering them to be death traps for bicyclists, then they can stay in the lane like a car. There\’s a solution for everyone.

21 speed
Guest
21 speed

This talk about being ticketed for riding outside of a bike lane provokes these thoughts:

1) Isn\’t it Mayor election season?
2) Can we get the most pro-bicycle candidate to state that if elected mayor he will demand that the fuzz lay off bicylists? Or is he not really that pro-bicyclist?
3) Can we get him to say he will make it legal for cyclists to ride in a lane when they need to do so without being harrassed?
4) Can we get him to say he will direct the cops to NOT ticket cyclists for running signs and lights if they do it safely (as defined by those, such as myself, who know what that is)?

Just wondering.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

I refuse to use the bike box when I\’m riding. I don\’t trust drivers right behind me, and some bicyclists would only hold up traffic, causing some drivers to get upset.
I was at one of the intersections with a bike box this evening and watched a bicyclist almost get right hooked when he was behind the car that was turning, just going a lot faster than the car was.
He would have been the one to run into the car just like Brett hit that garbage truck, and he was yelling at the car driver.
Bike boxes aren\’t going to help in most situations and I hope the feds don\’t give Portland the OK on classifying it as experimental. Portland needs to accept responsibility for what they want to try out, not avoid it.

To Clarify
Guest
To Clarify

To clarify, Nick Budnick cherry-picked information to generate the most inflammatory story possible. That\’s why PDOT\’s Roger Geller called him out on his own website. Check it.

The Tribune is slipping from two days to one day in print. May it soon slip from one to none and take lazy biased \”journalists\” like Budnick with it into the drink.

Martin
Guest
Martin

I like the bike boxes…however they are turning black after a few weeks of use from being run over by car tires. So here\’s the deal. Is it a sustainable endeavor to be painting and repainting the black streets green?

21 speed
Guest
21 speed

Sustainability is the game? Well, I vote for more taxes to pay for more streets for cars. Why? Because oil is running out and when it does, what will those streets be called? BIKE PATHS.

Remember: 50 years of oil left; 5,500,000,000 years of sunshine left. Choose wisely.

r.
Guest
r.

in answer to 25, obviously I cannot speak for Ryan or anyone else, but what the \”effective\” cycling people teach is that when you are coming up behind a line of cars waiting to get through an intersection you either get in line behind everyone or pass on the left (assuming it is legal and safe to do so).

so yes, 18, the ideal would be that the cyclist can take the entire lane where appropriate. the only law in Oregon about impeding traffic with a bicycle is 814.430(2)(e), which has to do with riding two or more abreast. even the operator of a motor vehicle impeding traffic is excused under 811.130(2) if \”proceeding in a manner needed for safe operation.\” to be safe, you have to be in the lane, away from the parked cars and the broken glass and the broken pavement and the edged curbs, etc.

r.

(arriving Portland 06.03.08)

Ryan Conrad
Guest
Ryan Conrad

So I\’m happy to participate in this debate if we can keep on the subject and within reasonable and polite discussion. I find it kind of funny that PDXMark \”exposed\” me as a vehicular cyclist as if it\’s some kind of foul language. The post he quotes I think is actually a little inaccurate. I looked over a summary of the State vs. Potter case from 2002 and I think the \”public hearing\” clause was invalidated or however you say that in official legal terms. In any case, suing a jurisdiction over faulty bike lane design is hard to do (so I\’ve heard).

Jonathon, I don\’t know if you received my e-mail, but I offered to meet with you to tell you my side of this story but I have not received a phone call or even an e-mail response. I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you are not reporting all the facts and you seem to have a very strong bias in favor of PDOT. This article did not \”force\” PDOT to defend itself; they got themselves into this situation, I just helped dig up the truth. As I followed how PDOT was applying for approval, implementing these regardless, and just now resubmitting their RTE I became more and more astonished at what they were doing. It\’s not even about the bike boxes themselves anymore, but the breach in engineering ethics I have observed over the last couple of months and the conduct of our city officials. Honestly, it\’s depressing, the low level of engineering care and consideration I\’ve discovered our DOT is applying to the cycling community especially after the October fatalities. I just can\’t get myself over that, they\’ve certainly betrayed my trust.

To those of you that wish to vilify, ridicule or misrepresent my intentions, consider this: I\’ve spent a good chunk of my free time following up on this issue, researching (like I said, I\’m not an engineer, so I have read up on this stuff) and corresponding with other knowledgeable individuals. Here I have a stack of work orders sitting on my desk at home (that I had to pay an exorbitant $62 for) for striping these bike boxes, none of which is signed by a licensed traffic engineer in violation of OAR 820-040-0030; practicing traffic engineering without a license. Mia Birk I\’m afraid is mistaken, Portland still has to follow the state MUTCD according to ORS 810.200, and bike boxes are not in it (at least not at the time they were striped).

I really don\’t know what to say to some of you who think this is a big joke or some media shenanigan. I\’m certainly not enjoying all of this negative publicity, but I expected this to happen if things came to this point, so no real regrets there. I had to pay money out of my own pocket to get the last bit of evidence I needed, so there\’s no economic motive. But this isn\’t so much about my safety but everyone else\’s who has been told these things are safe (I\’ll just avoid them). When I described some of them as \”kind of scary\” the most blatant example I would say would probably be the 16th and Everett bike box. What is that, a downhill, door-zone, right-hook bike lane with a box attached? Just insanity. I don\’t need to explain myself, your DOT does and I think they have some very big questions to answer to the cycling community.

-Ryan

Michael
Guest

I\’m a bit confused by some of this discussion. Some comments seem to suggest fear that bicycles will be restricted to only riding in bike lanes – and one even suggests that bicycle drivers should be allowed to run red lights and go through stop signs when they deem it safe.

If you\’ve ever ridden in the top bicycle cities in Europe (I would argue based on my experience those are Copenhagen and Amsterdam) – then you know that bicycles are not allowed outside of bike lanes – you can\’t ride off across a public square, you can\’t decide to fly off into the middle of car traffic – and you must stop at the lights and follow all the traffic rules.

This kind of rule enforcement on bikes is what happens when bicycle culture is normalized. Motorists can\’t \’ignore red lights when they think it\’s safe\’ and we wouldn\’t want them to – and part of making bikes a normal part of traffic is giving them a lane specifically dedicated to them – ideally with a physical buffer separating them from the cars – giving them their own stoplights – their own signs, etc.

It\’s clear that Portland is moving slowly in this direction – and the conflict about these \’bike boxes\’ is a result of an incomplete adoption of \’bikes as real traffic\’. So, yes, the logical conclusion of the direction that Portland is moving is that bikes will only be allowed in their lanes, and cars will only be allowed in their lanes, and pedestrians will be allowed in their lanes.

This is the only safe way for us to move to a situation where bicycle drivers don\’t need to wear helmets, and where bicycle commuting can become a 100% viable option for everyone, not just \’sport cyclists\’ but grandmothers, children going to school, everyone.

That\’s the model that the city has been moving toward for decades. When you sigh and wish that Portland could be more \’European about bikes\’ that\’s what it means. And thank goodness, because that\’s the only way bicycle culture will ever overtake American car culture.

John Reinhold
Guest
John Reinhold

It is my personal opinion that the more \”devices\” we have out there making people think about the other types of road users – the more safe all of the other types of road users become.

It is a well established fact that pedestrians and bicyclists are safer in areas where there are more pedestrians and bicyclists, and the prevailing theory is that the more people there are around force auto drivers to pay more attention and think more about their surroundings.

Whether or not the actual bike box itself will reduce accidents or conflicts IN THE UNITED STATES (remember, our drivers here are different than those in Europe) has yet to be fully understood. But the *existence* of the bike boxes, I believe helps bicyclists as a whole.

In fact, I think that these debates are even happening is a sign that they are raising awareness about the different and vulnerable road users out there.

2ndaveflyer
Guest
2ndaveflyer

Must not try something new until tested out on rabbits and mice. Change is bad. Can\’t everything just stay the same? Current intersections a joy of tested safety. Must recharge my power source. Cheers All.

Vance
Guest

What\’s the difference between, \”Gaming the system.\”, to get bike-lanes, and bike-boxes installed, and, \”Gaming the system.\”, to get them removed? Of course this most recent criticism of the bike-box is politically motivated. Just as politically motivated as their supporters were when this stuff was installed. This is precisely what happens when you drag this Progressive, Star Trek: The Next Generation, political movement into cycling. Not everybody that rides a bicycle is doing it for the same reason as you\’all.

The sign on the door says, \”Cycling COMMUNITY\”, on it. And here some of you are giving Conrad the high-hat. I mean, he\’s one of YOU/US, folks! No conversion necessary. He didn\’t need a bike-lane, or a bike-box to get him on the road. He\’s a freebie. So am I for that matter, why must these personal attacks persist? Why, in the fervor to get dangerous, inexperienced cyclists on the road, are people so willing to alienate the pros already there?

Aside: I found myself the victim of a bike-rights preacher recently and noticed something odd. Once I noticed this, I started looking closer. Here\’s what I find – Many of you preaching bicycles, and save the planet, and whatnot, are automobile owners. In fact, most are pretty quick to point this out themselves when it suits them. (Especially when licensing comes up.) What gives? Ya, we all know that the bike is your so-called primary means of transpo. Why not prove it, put your money where your mouth is, and donate your car? Let the excuses commence.

That makes this a situation where an awful lot of, \”Occasional\”, cyclists are dictating to us full-time cyclists what\’s gonna be, and what isn\’t. If the idea is to get numbers up, even at the risk of exposing the public-right-of-way users to unlicensed, and inexperienced cyclists, then why always so quick to light those with a different view on fire? I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I have more saddle-time in PDX than Geller. Do you know how I know this? Because I\’ve been here the whole time, and I have never once, ever, seen Roger Geller on a bike in the city of Portland. As long as the Gellers, with their credentials and fair-speech, design and deploy traffic solutions, instead of people who actually ride a bike, we get what we deserve.

Bottom line. If it\’s so horrible here, then why did you move here? If it is so much better in Europe, why not move there? Most of all, if you even own a car, what the heck are you doing preaching bikes to me, and Conrad?

There WERE plenty of things present to help would-be, and pro-cyclists alike already on the books. The problem was that the PPB did not feel obliged to enforce anything. You know, a political message. Instead of addressing this as a one-stop-shop for curing many of the ills of vehicular cycling, more ink was used. Now it\’s a political three-ring-circus with only the lives of human beings at stake.

Furthermore, I\’ve really come around where Commissioner Adams is concerned. I hope his dedication to this so-called cycling community isn\’t going to end up being the thing that keeps him out of the Mayor\’s Office.

Robert T.
Guest
Robert T.

I visit and bike in Portland pretty frequently, so I\’ve been interested in the bike box controversy. (Oh, and I am an engineer.) And I\’m pretty amazed by the low level of thinking I see here.

Those in favor of bike boxes seem to think \”Hey, anything special you do for us bikers is good!\” They follow it up with jibes against \”vehicular cyclists\” and anyone who doesn\’t follow their blind faith.

But in my travels, I\’ve seen LOTS of \”special\” bike facilities that are foolish and dangerous. Bike boxes certainly look like another one.

This is supposed to be an experiment? If so, you don\’t do it in 14 places. You do it in one or two locations and you control it. You don\’t change multiple factors (like, bike box plus \”no right turn on red\”) and attribute any benefit to your favorite factor. And you treat it as an experiment, not as a sales campaign.

Geller is trying to stack the deck. He\’s advertising in all the bike shops, in the newspaper, and on billboards about how great his idea is. He\’s got all the \”Gee whiz, they love us!!!\” non-thinking cyclists arguing in favor, without any mention of the negatives, and without any data.

Meanwhile, the real engineers are doing their usual thing: thinking in detail! They\’re saying \”But people will pass on the right just as the light begins to change, and they\’ll get creamed by right hooks, or as they swerve into the box.\” Real engineers are saying \”Motorists can\’t see into their right rear blind spot, and they\’ll hit cyclists.\” They\’re saying \”These are not approved for good reasons!\” But Geller is pushing ahead.

When I ride in Portland, if a bike lane puts me close to a car door, I\’m out of it. And I do share the road, but if I\’m moving the same speed as traffic – including stopped! – I\’m behind the car.

In towns WITHOUT mandatory bike lanes, this works perfectly. And that\’s the fundamental point here: If cyclists weren\’t off to the right, they wouldn\’t get right hooked!

Also, if the road\’s too narrow for safe passing, I\’ll take the lane rather than trust some motorist with my life. I\’ll risk a ticket instead of my life.

If that makes me a nasty \”vehicular cyclist,\” then I\’m proud to be one – and stay alive.

And for \”Bike Commuter\” and anyone else who thinks they need multi-colored streets: Google \”Street Smarts\” by John Allen. Learn how to handle traffic.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Vance,

I do agree with your point…about \’riding the walk\’…as a transportation planner I go out to where a tool is in use, observe it, look at the data, and then ride it before I work to implement it. In my 9 years working in this area…it typically takes 3 to 5 years of internal discussion to get the approval and funding to do anything new bike related on a public street…and this assumes you have a site and a project where it works. The recent strength in public and political support may be shortening this \’implementation delay curve\’ in Portland. (Sam for mayor, etc.)

I also \’ride the walk\’ – if I cannot do what I am telling other citizens to do then what gives.

I sold my last car back in 1988. Carfree and carefree since.

Todd Boulanger
Senior Transportation Planner
City of Vancouver (WA)

PS. Try riding between PDOT HQ and SE Portland…you might see Roger riding across the Hawthorne. I have seen him on the street in a bike helmet several times. I can see why you might have missed him…he is pretty invisible unless you know him – no fancy bike or riding gear to standout in among the crowds. 😉

Michael Poplawski
Guest
Michael Poplawski

I am sad to see that Portland has essentially allowed political correctness to trump engineering when dealing with its streets. Portland looks like it\’s on its way to becoming like a European city, with so many segregationist gimmicks that everyone must deal constantly with conflict and congestion, even with many people using bicycles.

It\’s also sad to see that the monument to a couple of cyclists\’ deaths seems to be a road design which will further convince cyclists to make the mistake of passing vehicles on the right immediately before intersections.

MP
Victoria, BC, Canada

tbird
Guest
tbird

\”…if you\’ve ever ridden in the top bicycle cities in Europe (I would argue based on my experience those are Copenhagen and Amsterdam) – then you know that bicycles are not allowed outside of bike lanes – you can\’t ride off across a public square, you can\’t decide to fly off into the middle of car traffic – and you must stop at the lights and follow all the traffic rules.\”

-exactly! Now behave yourselves.

BURR
Guest
BURR

At this point, since PDOT seems so intent on defending the indefensible, I think PDOT should open their entire \’bike safety\’ and \’bike facilities\’ programs up to review by a team of independently selected international experts.

BURR
Guest
BURR

The bike boxes are a band-aid solution to Portland\’s inappropriate bike lane designs, and represent the adaptation of one of the worst flaws of the Dutch bike way system – the separated, non-destination positioned bike lane.