Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Bike boxes not the only green on Portland’s bikeways

Posted by on May 7th, 2008 at 3:10 pm

Green thermoplastic material has just been re-applied (it used to be blue) on this bike lane at SE 7th just before Morrison.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Portland’s bike boxes have gotten a lot of attention, but selected bike lanes around town have also been getting the green makeover.

The green material — made
from the mineral corundum —
is not slippery at all.

PDOT crews have been installing the same, green thermoplastic material used in the bike boxes in existing bike lanes. The idea is to highlight a zone in the bike lane (usually near or in an intersection) where conflicts are most likely to occur.

I’ve noticed sections of green bike lanes at SE 7th Avenue north of Morrison, on SW Madison Street at 2nd and at SE Hawthorne just before MLK Jr. Blvd.

The green bike lane on SE 7th is very busy on the morning commute. Unlike the bike lanes that have come under fire recently for being placed to the right all the way to the intersection, this one encourages people on bikes to merge left prior to the intersections. The result is a careful dance between bikes going straight and cars merging through the bike lane that is amazing to watch (I need to buy a video recorder)…

Green bike lanes-4.jpg

Looking north from Morrison on SE 7th.
Green bike lanes-5.jpg

The new green bike lane on SW Madison is actually in the middle of the intersection…

Green bike lanes-6.jpg

Looking east on SW Madison before 2nd.

And continuing on Madison as it becomes SE Hawthorne you come to this…

Green bike lanes-8.jpg

The sign hasn’t caught up yet.

By the way, if you’re keeping score, Madison/Hawthorne is by far the greenest street in Portland. It’s got a green bike lane and bike box at SW Madison and 3rd, a green bike lane a block later at SW 2nd, then another piece of green bike lane once you cross the Hawthorne bridge, followed by a green bike lane/bike box combo at SE Hawthorne and 7th and then again a few blocks later at SE Hawthorne 12th. Whew!

And that stretch deserves it as I’m sure it is one of (if not) the highest volume bike routes in the city.

PDOT has done extensive evaluations of their blue bike lanes and has found them to offer improved safety for cyclists. With this new, and much brighter green color, I would expect safety to only increase.

But remember, no amount of color or thermoplastic on the roadway will protect you from a motor vehicle. PDOT’s study also found that cyclists did less “head checks” when in colored lanes, so always be aware of your surroundings and double-check your periphery before proceeding through an intersection.

Have you noticed more green bike lanes when you ride around the city? What do you think of them?

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

  • a.O May 7, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I\’m really glad they greened the one at SW Madison & 2nd. People always want to cross-over the bike lane into the right-turn lane there. I wish they\’d green the rest of the lane in the block between 2nd & 1st – maybe that would help keep the busses out of it. As it is now, they just sit in it as though it\’s legal. In fact, you can see a bus doing just that in the picture above.

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  • Spencer May 7, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    They build driver awareness. The one on Madison is sorely needed. It felt like a moving maze riding through there.

    Cheers PDOT

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  • toddistic May 7, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    but it\’s not offically sanctioned by our federal transportation administration! WHATEVER SHALL WE DO! WE ARENT ADHERING to the federal guidelines! Sound the fire alarm!

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  • heather andrews May 7, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Are the old bike boxes at SE 39th and Clinton going to get colored in at some point, to match the new ones? Just wondering.

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  • bahueh May 7, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    I think green paint won\’t save anyone from any more collisions on portland streets…that\’s what I think.

    Jonathan, has there been any discussion about physical barriers such as reflective 3-4\’ posts placed every 6-10 feet at these \”critical\” intersections…a physical barrier that a driver would actually be watching for and careful of?

    I would think 6 or 8 of them per interesection would work wonders for traffic/bike separation at these places..

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  • bahueh May 7, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    I\’m aware the idea wouldn\’t work where a lane of traffic crosses a bike path..

    I was thinking more along the lines of the bike box area..behind the crosswalk

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) May 7, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    \”has there been any discussion about physical barriers such as reflective 3-4\’ posts placed every 6-10 feet at these \”critical\” intersections\”


    no, I have not heard anyone discussing this.

    I think it\’d be a good idea and it\’s something I\’ve asked about myself in the past — that is, some sort of reflectors/bumps along the outside of bike lanes in certain situations.

    I think these should also be considered in super high speed situations, like the bike lane on Hwy 30 out to Sauvie Island.

    I think PDOT doesn\’t like them because of upkeep/maintenance/expense… perhaps someone at PDOT can chime in..?

    \”Are the old bike boxes at SE 39th and Clinton going to get colored in at some point, to match the new ones? Just wondering.\”


    yes. from what I remember hearing, that bike box will be filled in with green.

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  • Zaphod May 7, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I rolled on the new SE 7th green lane just a few hours ago. Maybe as a cyclist I am in tune with lanes and blindingly bright green paint but somehow I think this will bring awareness to most drivers.

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  • Jeff P May 7, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    The 2nd/Madison location is a great \’illegal lane change in an intersection\’ location – even the PPD squad cars going to the parking garage on 1st [or to park on the sidewalk at the bento/subway for lunch] do it on an almost as regular basis as the Tri-Met buses [it is a short block for multiple buses to be loading/off-loading though – I can get past them okay].

    I have actually seen some lessening of this crossover since it was painted though – kudos for this location so far.

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  • scdurs May 7, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    In case anyone was wondering – They originally got the blue bike lane idea idea from some European cities that were doing it. I was told by a traffic engineer they switched from blue to green because green was the color being used by other cities in the US who have done this. Maybe the thinking is that if every US city is on the same page with this, adoption by FHWA will soon follow?

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  • Opus the Poet May 7, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    From what I read the green choice was made because the blue had been preempted by handicapped zones.

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  • Stacy Westbrook May 7, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    I love the green! It\’s definitely a more visible color than the blue used to be, and I frequently bike on the Hawthorne/Madison strip where a lot of potential cyclist/driver conflict could happen.

    At the very least, it\’s nice to see the city changing the colors and drawing attention to those spots from time to time.

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  • Andy B from Jersey May 7, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    I think Copenhagen was the first to paint conflict zones of bike lanes and they painted them blue (and still do). Philly here out east still uses blue but could be changing over to green when doing maintenance and upgrades. New York has also started using green to designate some bike lanes but only in limited locations.

    I like the green thermoplastic because it really stands out and is still well visible in poor lighting conditions and foggy weather.

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  • Pete May 7, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    So far, so good.

    The green lanes don\’t create a bullet-proof bubble around me, but they increase driver (and cyclist) awareness at risky intersections.

    The more, the better.

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  • Scott Mizée May 7, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    happy to see more green.

    again… (not to beat a dead horse) I would love to see it at this location. I think it is really needed there:
    Greeley & Interstate merge…

    Can we PLEASE have some green thermoplastic laid down here? All of us in North Portland that have to commute this route would really appreciate the added visibility here.

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  • Martin May 7, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    I\’d rather not see anymore paint on the road. Paint has polymers, is petroleum based. It\’s not sustainable to be repainting our roads green4x/year after the paint turns black. Maybe by next year we\’ll have Hawthorne Bike Boulevard – the first bike only street in Portland. Until we get bike boulevards we\’re really Pseudo-Platinum Puddletown.

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  • rixtir May 7, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    I think \”paint\” is just a term of art here. It looks to me like they laid down sheets of some kind of material and applied them with heat to the road surface.

    Does anybody know exactly what it is they\’re applying to the road in these green zones?

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  • Todd B May 7, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    To bahueh…

    There are some US examples of what you suggest…in NYC\’s Herald Square and other locations.




    It is a very common treatment (Paris, etc.). Another tool in the tool box for sites with right turn hook conflicts or other \’sloppy lane sharing\’ by car drivers.

    And NYC green bike lane/ bike track

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  • Snowflake Seven May 8, 2008 at 6:05 am

    \”The result is a careful dance between bikes going straight and cars merging through the bike lane that is amazing to watch (I need to buy a video recorder)…\”

    You should check out The Flip (theflip.com). Its super simple and super portable.

    As for the green-ing of bike lanes: I wish out here on the westside (Beaverton / Hillsboro) the city and county leadership was as interested improving bicycle ridership and safety.

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  • Paul Cone May 8, 2008 at 7:43 am

    The material is thermoplastic, embedded with corundum to give it non-skid characteristics. It is laid down in sheets and melted to the roadway with heat torches. Jonathan\’s article on 3/15/2008 has a slideshow that shows them putting down the first box.

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  • E May 8, 2008 at 7:53 am

    I cross the Hawthorne Bridge eastbound once a week, so I just encountered the newly green lane the other day. The color popped out at me much more than the blue ever did, so I hope it does the same for motorists. (plus I think it\’s pretty ;)That particular intersection scares the crap out of me so there was no reduction in head checks on my part. But anything that increases visibility/attention at that location works for me.

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  • Pete (a different one) May 8, 2008 at 8:18 am

    When I first encountered a blue lane (the only one?) in Beaverton, I was extra cautious because my thinking was drivers would interpret this as permission to start a right turn early. Later I read the stats from ODOT showing the opposite is true. I\’m more in favor of this than dashing the lines like California does. Either driving or cycling it does remind me to be extra-cautious in these zones.

    Second what Snowflake Seven said! Wish we were blogging about which WA County politician was more \”bikey\”… 😉

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  • Qwendolyn May 8, 2008 at 8:28 am

    hey, what gives?

    …I thought this would be a story about the Green Lantern.

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  • OnTheRoad May 8, 2008 at 8:33 am

    The Hawthorne Bridge eastbound ramp to SB McLoughlin intersection scares me too (#21), and the green really helps. It is far more visible than the blue was.

    I wish something could be done about the cross-hatched lane leading up to this point – just past the bus stop on the viaduct.

    About once a week, some car will be using this \”lane.\” I think it is because the overhead directional signs seem to indicate that this is the lane to McLoughlin Blvd. Scares the bejeebers out of me when a car passes me in the \”don\’t drive here\” lane.

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  • Paul May 8, 2008 at 8:40 am

    \”Paint has polymers, is petroleum based…\”

    Well, all our roads are petroleum-based as well. Maybe they\’ll come up with a non-polymer replacement for the thermoplastic at some point.

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  • Kathleen May 10, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    I have a question. This evening while driving in a car (I know, unconscionable) going east on SW Madison my husband and I stopped at a red light on 3rd and Madison. A PSU security car pulled completely into the green bike box at the red light. I rolled down my window and told him he was covering the bike box. He said, \”Ma\’am, there are no bicycles there.\” He said that cars can stop on the bike boxes as long as no bikes are there. Is this correct? From reading the City of Portland\’s bike box brochure it seems that a car has to stop before the box at a red light; it doesn\’t mention whether a bike is in it or not. Does anyone know the answer?

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  • Roger Geller May 10, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Motorists must stop outside the bike box (at the white stop bar) and may not proceed into the bike box until the signal turns green. The PSU security person was misinformed.

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  • Bug Eater May 11, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    I\’ve seen a dramatic improvement in driver awareness at the bike box intersection that I travel through the most on NW Everett and 16th. That intersection was awful, but it seems much safer now. If nothing else, it sends a message to drivers to keep an eye out for us.

    Of course it wouldn\’t be necessary if there was somehow an alternative to riding on NW Everett or Glison… Hmmmm….

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  • deeze May 16, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Get rid of it all.

    Bikes are bikes, not cars, get out of the streets, stop running stop signs and lights. It is amazing to me that more \’bikers\’ are not hit because of how often they illegally cross streets, blow thru stops and lights. They are a dangerous nuisance when they think they are motorized vehicles, blocking the normal traffic.

    Get off your high horse and get a car.

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  • Duncan May 16, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Your mom is calling, supper is getting cold.

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  • 2GOAT May 16, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    I have a car.
    Everyday, while driving that car, I encounter automobiles that illegally cross streets, blow thru stops and light, speed and tailgate, change lanes without signaling, drive the wrong direction, drive as though they are the only one’s on the road and everyone can read their minds and predict what the F**K they are going to do next. They are a dangerous nuisance and it is unbelievable they haven’t hit or been hit by other cars.

    Since you seem to have such brilliant solution for cyclists riding dangerously, I am curious.

    More people in cars are killed or injured while driving their cars by other drivers. What’s your insightful solution for that problem?

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  • timothy muchira May 27, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    so, my wife and I just moved to the seattle area. we have both vowed to get involved in trying to concerve energy. I started bicking to work, and She takes the train. It adds an hr to her day but hey, she\’s loving it. It\’s been three weeks and my but I think is getting used to the idea. However. I have a really crapy bike and I\’m looking to see is anyone is willing to give me a nice bike that can handle some hills. I have some major hills to go over getting to and from work.
    If you are intrestead I would love to send you pics of my daily journey.
    anyhoo thats basically it. Looking for a bike I can use.
    thanks for your time.
    Happy bicking.

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  • Digasi June 6, 2008 at 10:42 am

    I just have to wonder if this is just makes things more complex? Guess we will wait and see.

    As far as cyclist being dangerous, well there are plenty of them out there. Just like there are bad drivers, there are bad cyclist.

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