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State officials endorse Portland’s bike boxes

Posted by on May 16th, 2008 at 10:48 am

On Tuesday, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) pledged their full support for PDOT’s efforts to improve bike safety by installing bike boxes at intersections.

Their support came in the form of a letter written to Scott Wainwright, a top highway engineer for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), who also sits on an important committee that is in the process of formerly approving PDOT’s “Request to Experiment” with the bike boxes.

The letter was signed by the ODOT’s head traffic engineer Ed Fischer, and the Chair of the Oregon Traffic Control Devices Committee, Cynthia Schmitt.

more bike boxes springing up-8.jpg

(Photo © J. Maus)

A recent article in the Portland Tribune characterized Fischer as being opposed to the bike boxes. In that article, Tribune reporter Nick Budnick wrote:

“The critics’ concerns echo those of the state’s head traffic engineer, Ed Fischer of the Oregon Department of Transportation, who in an e-mail late last year laid out eight reasons he thinks Portland’s bike boxes are a poor idea.”

In response, I reported that Mr. Fischer felt his comments were taken out of context.

In the letter to the FHWA (dated May 13th), ODOT writes that their traffic control device advisory committee voted unanimously to support the City of Portland’s “request to use Bicycle Boxes and Colored Bike Lanes as FHWA approved experimental traffic markings.”

They went on to write that (emphasis mine):

“Traffic control for bicyclists has received very little attention from the traffic engineering profession in the United States. Research, analysis, and guidance on the best treatments for improving bicycling conditions and safety is sorely needed.

Portland is the right community to experiment with bike boxes. City leadership has made a strong commitment to bicycling and the significantly increased cycling mode splits. And although the same City leadership forced PDOT to move forward with the bike boxes prior to receiving FHWA experimental designation, PDOT transportation professionals have a solid commitment to understanding the operational and safety parameters of bicycling.”

To have ODOT’s head traffic engineers writing things like that bodes very well for the future of bicycling in Oregon.

Download the letter (490k, PDF)

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  • a.O May 16, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Poor, agenda-driven reporting from the Tribune – no way?!

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  • BURR May 16, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Flawed engineering from PDOT and ODOT? No way!

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  • Whiney McWhinerson May 16, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Unsubstantiated criticism and sarcasm on the interwebs? No way!

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  • Matthew May 16, 2008 at 12:23 pm


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  • Todd Boulanger May 16, 2008 at 12:36 pm


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  • Axe May 16, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Take that, Tribune! Ha!!

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  • BURR May 16, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Cyclists shouldn\’t be forced to ride in experimental facilities.

    Repeal ORS 814.420, the mandatory bike lane law.

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  • zilfondel May 16, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    ^ Fully protected Dutch-style cycle lanes, ha!

    oh, wait…

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  • SUBURBAN May 16, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    The bike boxes require meetings, vendors and paperwork, thus are fovored. Actual riders do not use or like or want them. They are a crutch for cars and beaurocrats; junk.
    Where are actual engineers/visionarys on this topic? Any Alta voices here?
    Problems do not always require adding somethig- as is a classic DOT solution. Dear friends,
    Am I just too far out there? Should I loose the suit and get with the anarchy- rah-rah-rah kids?
    I\’m with BURR (7) and will teach the young riders accordingly. Pumas! this green paint noise.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com May 17, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Ditto to ALL of the above. More manifestations of cycling inferiority complex by traffic engineering GENIUSES classically trained in the auto-centric curriculum.

    FWHA, PDOT, and ODOT has NO credibility in engineering for bikes. There is NO accredited bicycle traffic engineering curriculum ANYWHERE in America. Lawsuit BAIT.

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  • ralph May 19, 2008 at 7:42 am

    The key word in the approval is \”experimental\”. That would imply a level of study of the effectiveness of the bike boxes.

    What is the \”experiment\” studying?

    What is the time period of the \”experiment\”?

    What metrics are used to determine the success or failure of the \”experiment\” and thus determine if the bike boxes are kept or removed?

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  • Paul Cone May 20, 2008 at 9:19 am

    When will the naysayers give it up and see that they\’re in the minority on this?

    Love that he signed it in green.

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