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BTA responds to TriMet operators’ Rose Quarter petition

Posted by on August 27th, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Bike Master Plan Ride #4

BTA’s Michelle Poyourow.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Michelle Poyourow of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) will issue a statement later today about a recent petition and document that has surfaced from a group of TriMet operators who oppose a plan to allow bike access through the Rose Quarter Transit Center (RQTC).

Poyourow is the BTA’s main liaison to TriMet and she has worked even more closely with them since the death of Austin Miller back in February.

Her statement says that that the operators’ concerns are “absolutely legitimate,” and that, “I don’t have any doubt that they are acting out of concern for everyone’s safety.”

Poyourow also acknowledges that because it is currently illegal and because there’s no bike lane through the RQTC,

“bicyclists who do ride through the Transit Center add an element of unpredictability that compromises any operator’s power to be careful and prevent a crash on that street.”

She also plans to explain that the reason a good connection through the RQTC is important and has been a “very high priority for the BTA for years” is that the existing route from the Esplanade to N. Williams is “awful” and that,

“In neither direction is [the existing] route acceptable for any but the hardiest bicyclists. A major crossroads in the Portland bike network should not be challenging and unsafe. It should be intuitive, easy, and low-traffic.”

According to Poyourow, the BTA has worked with TriMet engineers and operators, city planners, and representatives from the Lloyd District Transportation Management Association to “develop a solution that would allow safer bicycle passage” through the RQTC.

She explains that these changes will include:

  • Engineering (such as striping, painting, curbwork, additional train crossing signs at bike-height, and lengthened signal times)
  • Bus re-routing (removing most of the current bus routes from Wheeler and putting them on Multnomah)
  • Planned enforcement and educational efforts to accompany implementation

In conclusion, Poyourow feels that the BTA is,

“confident that this solution will normalize bicyclist behavior and create a more predictable operating environment than operators are currently faced with… and will also bridge an unacceptable gap in Portland’s otherwise good network of bicycle routes, by connecting N Portland, the Lloyd District and the river more safely and comfortably than ever before.”

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  • glenzedrine August 27, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    What is the existing route from the esplanade to Williams, anyway? I always go through that plaza with the fountain at the Rose Garden and then take a right at Winning Way (Which I think ought to intersect Failing St), and then left on Williams. I\’ve always been confused about this, but this route works well enough for me.

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  • Scott Mizée August 27, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Nice job Ms. Poyourow. I couldn\’t agree more with your statement quoted in the last paragraph above.

    I don\’t understand why a bus driver would treat this transit area any different than other streets with wheeled traffic and pedestrians. A bus driver always has to be on the alert. They will certainly have a lot less to deal with here than they will on the new bus mall. If bicyclists are directed into a specific lane through the transit center, it will make things a lot more predictable for them and safer for all road users.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 27, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    \”What is the existing route from the esplanade to Williams, anyway?\”

    from Ms. Poyourow:

    \”For northbound bike traffic, besides being indirect and uphill, which are minor concerns, the current route involves multiple acute-angle track crossings, and requires people to merge across two lanes of car traffic and then wait with their left arm stuck out (but not too far, or someone\’s side view mirror will hit it) in the middle of the intersection to make a left turn off of Multnomah and on to Wheeler.

    For southbound bike traffic, the same route requires people to bike hurriedly in the crosswalk (where they are legally required to proceed at \”walking speed\”) across Interstate and then back themselves and their bicycles up into the Interstate bike lane just as the traffic light turns green and car traffic surges around – and hopefully not into – them.\”

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  • Redhippie August 27, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Does that mean that we should soon see other bus dominated areas such as the new transit malls on 5th and 6th also ban bikes?

    I can appreciate that the Rose Garden is a poorly designed location, since I was almost killed by impatient driver turning left on Interstate. There needs to be some sort of segregation, but just \”go around\” is not a solution here.

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  • Toby August 27, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Or when going north, stay on Interstate until Larrabee (under the Broadway Bridge) to Broadway to Weidler to Williams. It\’s very hassle free and not only do you not have to make the left from Multnomah onto Wheeler, but crossing the freeway on ramp at Winning can be a pain. Time wise, it\’s rare that I don\’t get to Williams via Larrabee sooner than those going up Wheeler so there\’s really no reason not to go that way.

    Going south since the area was reopened I no longer make the left onto Interstate from Multnomah. I cross at the cross walk and make the awkward turn to face the light, and the past few days there has been a bus half pulled out waiting at the light which means I can\’t wait in the bike lane, I have to hang out in the cross walk or just ahead. Oddly, I\’ve only encountered this since it\’s been reopened.

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  • brettoo August 27, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I don\’t travel this way often, but (or maybe because) I always find it confusing and frustrating when I do. I\’m glad to hear from someone who\’s more experienced that it\’s not just me, for exactly the reasons she enumerates. Maybe it\’s easier if you\’re a regular rider and know the area well already , but it seems there\’s a real need for a direct, clearly marked, safe, bike-friendly path from the Esplanade to N/ NE. Shouldn\’t it make it easier on the bus drivers, too, if all bike riders are using a single safe, clear route? Thanks to TriMet and BTA for trying to improve this connection.

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  • PoPo August 27, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Don\’t the transit malls downtown already ban bikes? I know that that can be done in official \”transit lanes,\” but can\’t find the official word for downtown anywhere. Back when I was a messenger, I seem to remember that we weren\’t supposed to ride in the transit lanes.


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  • Heather August 27, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    I travel everyday by the Rose Quarter (RQ). I live in N.Portland and work downtown. I take the Steel Bridge to get to work and the easiest route would be through the transit center heading south/north – to/from the Steel Bridge and using the Vancouver/Williams couplet), but as noted previously, this is precarious for the riders and bus drivers.

    So I ride along NE Wheeler Ave. along the east side of the RQ, take a right on to Multnomah (heading west) get in the left lane and make an illegal left turn onto Interstate, while cars access the Steele Bridge.

    After many, many attempts at other route configurations, Broadway-to-Larabee-to-Interstate, or down Center Ct through the RQ Plaza, this route with one illegal turn has been the easiest and safest. It\’s direct, you can time the green wave of lights, and the intersection at Interstate and Multnomah is a slow moving and relatively safe (illegal)left turn – no cars turn left and none of the cars dare mess with the MAX routes, the only pitfall are the bumps from the tracks and you have to be aware of the next light on Interstate (the one at the weird bike lane paint jog onto the sidewalk).

    I look forward to having a direct and legal N/S route to work through the RQ.

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  • matt picio August 27, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    The new Transit Mall will allow bikes – at least at first. Personally, I think that the proposed arrangement is going to work horribly in practice, and Tri-Met and the city will need to make adjustments or close the Transit Mall to cars and bikes again.

    Hopefully I\’m wrong – it\’d be great to have a successful sharing of bike/ped/car/truck/bus/MAX.

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  • Michelle August 27, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    I believe any \”banning\” of bikes or other vehicles from transit lanes or streets would essentially come out of a negotiation between the city and TriMet, since the streets are public right of way (controlled by the city, for public use) but the city has an interest in helping TriMet function well.

    The new downtown transit mall will be open not only to bikes but to private cars – a change from the old mall policies.

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  • Matthew Denton August 27, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    In an effort to avoid the \”stationary\” turn from the crosswalk to the bicycle lane when coming south, I\’ve taken to making a right turn on Interstate, moving over to the left lane, and then turning left into the crosswalk at the far end of the MAX station, (at a walk speed,) then making another left off that crosswalk and onto Interstate heading south and merging into the bike lane. You can normally find big enough gaps in the traffic to handle those merges safely, and since you can make the right turn onto Interstate on a red, (after coming to a complete stop. :-), it doesn\’t take any more time than waiting for the green that would take you across the near crosswalk.

    PoPo: The old transit mall banned bikes in the transit lanes, (but they were allowed in the car lane, where the car lane existed.) The temporary transit mall right now doesn\’t ban anyone, although the pavement is bad and the road is wide and the lights are timed fast so that probably scares a lot of people off it. The new transit mall will have a car lane all the way through, and bikes will be allowed there. (And I suspect that the MAX tracks will keep all but the most ambitious bicyclists out of the transit lanes.)

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  • Zagreus August 28, 2008 at 6:18 am

    Bikes are not alone in being banned from the Rose Quarter–private autos are as well. Buses, pedestrians, and trains are enough in such a tight space. The whole purpose of keeping buses apart from other traffic in the transit center is safety.

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  • janis August 28, 2008 at 8:03 am

    I ride home this way almost everyday. I don\’t understand why it is so difficult to go the \”extra\” 2 short lights to the next right and head up that way (Wheeler). I seem to catch the riders that cut through the mall at the light by the entrance ramp anyways.

    We, people on bikes, don\’t seem to mind making drivers go an extra block or two with traffic control devices such as islands in a roadway that only bikes can enter or make a left.


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  • Tasha August 28, 2008 at 8:49 am

    I don\’t go this way everyone is talking about (I can\’t even picture that route in my head!). I take the Steele bridge up Interstate up to Larabee (like Toby above) and turn right onto Weidler up to Williams. This is mainly because the Transit center scares me, not because it is banned. There is one dodgy MAX line crossing, but it doesn\’t seem to be so bad. Just out of curiosity, why don\’t more people take this way instead of the (what looks like a very confusing) route you all decsribe?

    As for them opening up the Rose Quarter TC, I\’m all for it if it is marked in a way that makes sense to both buses and bikes. I can understand the bus drivers\’ fears, but fear is never a good excuse for not allowing something to happen!

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  • PoPo August 28, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Gotcha…thanks for the info!

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  • BURR August 28, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Don\’t the transit malls downtown already ban bikes? I know that that can be done in official \”transit lanes,\” but can\’t find the official word for downtown anywhere. Back when I was a messenger, I seem to remember that we weren\’t supposed to ride in the transit lanes.

    That was before the downtown mall was redesigned to include trains and private vehicles for its entire length. When the downtown transit mall reopens, cyclists will be allowed in the private vehicle lanes.

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  • BURR August 28, 2008 at 11:48 am

    FWIW, in Paris, France, the restricted lanes are marked for busses AND bikes, so they expect these two classes of vehicles to share the lane on a regular basis…

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  • Donna August 28, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    I don\’t care about the extra distance – it\’s the acute angle rail crossings.

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  • 007 August 28, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Access to the esplanade from NE Portland sucks in numerous ways. I don\’t think it is that bad leaving the esplanade heading to NE or N Portland.

    Where we need a LONGER LIGHT is at the end of the Broadway bridge & the Lovejoy connection, heading towards downtown. Shorter time is okay in the winter, but not in the summer.

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  • Dan Christensen August 29, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    My name is Dan Christensen

    I\’m the driver who started the petition at Tri-Met.

    I love to bike. I should be doing more of it but right now according to my doctor but I can only fit in a once a week bike commute. One of the best times of my life was going on a bike trip through Europe in 1990 with my wife. Nothing can be as fun as getting trapped on the Swindon five way roundabout hub in rush hour with a bike full of camping gear. Weeeeee! Some how I made it out alive thanks to a cabbie that let me grab onto his side of his car. He pulled me out of harms way and I learned a good lesson about head up driving.

    Now it\’s been a while since I biked full time but back in the day I only used a bike to get around for years and Portland was not half so bike friendly as it is right now. I’m sure most of you reading this will remember those days when you were surprised to find a bike lane.

    I just wanted you to know that I don\’t hate bikes. I love bikes and what they are bringing to my beloved city. Portland has a bright future and it’s only going to get better. Bicycle and the Biking community is going to be a large part of that bright future.

    This petition was not a knee jerk reaction against bikes. I am not going to sugar coat things here, we have a few drivers at Tri-met that would ban bikes from Portland if they could. We also have some who say \”let them go through and as soon as one of them is killed they will know\” These are the exception. On the opposite side of the spectrum we have drivers who are bicyclist as well. Most drivers fall right in the middle.

    Ask your self, when was the last time you heard of 250 bus drivers who use an area signing a petition? This has never been done before in Portland. I don’t think this forum is a good one to go through the why’s but I think it’s far to easy to just discount this unique event and the perspective of those driving the ninety ton train and twenty ton bus next to you. It may be valuable to hear what it is they are saying and ask questions in person.

    I would jump at the chance of talking to anyone or any group on this issue. All I’m saying is before we put bike lanes through Rose Quarter all voices should be heard. Not just spokesmen pr spokesperson for one side or another. Clearly the unprecedented petition of drivers willing to risk their jobs to speak out should be cause to say, lets put this on hold or maybe we have not thought of everything.

    If anyone would like to speak to me on this issue or have me come and speak before my fellow bicyclist of Portland I would gladly do so.

    My name is
    Dan Christensen
    My home phone is 503 933-2758
    My email is dan@sonnetoptics.net

    No matter how you come down on this issue clearly not all voices have been heard. Can we not delay a week or two until all the voices are heard? How can this harm anyone?

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  • Icarus Falling August 29, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    By the way,

    Bicycles have been pretty much entirely banned from the downtown bus mall for a quite a long time. There are only a few short blocks where bicycle traffic is allowed on the bus mall. Even many of the blocks with auto traffic are have been illegal for bikes.

    I cannot tell you the number of times I have been reminded of that as a bike messenger. by a police officer.

    I can also tell you that after many concise explanations as to why it was a necessary act due to the nature of my job, I was never once ticketed for it.
    Of course I never let myself get as far as pulling out my wallet. I let the explanation speak for itself. Handing over you ID first is asking for a ticket.

    I believe that it will come to pass, soon after the new downtown transit mall opens, that bicycle traffic will once again be banned from these blocks. I know it is in the books now that it will be allowed, but I for one am not holding my breathe.

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