State officials endorse Portland’s bike boxes

Download the letter (490k, PDF)

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.

(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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