PDOT begins process to fix “confusing” and “challenging” 7 Corners intersection

Posted by on September 17th, 2008 at 1:55 pm

The City of Portland will unveil new design ideas for the 7 Corners intersection at a workshop next month. The yellow lines show a popular bike route.

Calling it a “confusing and challenging place to navigate for everyone,” the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and the Office of Transportation are coming together to re-design the infamous 7 Corners intersection in Southeast Portland (Google Map).

The intersection — where Ladd Ave., 20th Ave. and 21st Ave. all converge on SE Division St. — lies on a major bikeway corridor and is a barrier for people traveling from the popular Clinton Street bike boulevard (which is undergoing a cosmetic redesign itself) onto the Hawthorne Bridge into downtown.

According to a statement on PDOT’s website, the goal is to, “craft a plan” for the intersection that “will make it safer for pedestrians and bicycles and transform the intersection into a neighborhood center.”

Construction and repaving is scheduled to begin in Spring 2011 and a community workshop where design alternatives can be viewed is planned for October 6th.

Learn more about the project and get workshop details here.

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3-speeder
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3-speeder

As one who participated actively in the redesign of another confusing and challenging intersection bordering on Ladd\’s Addition (SE Hawthorne and 21st/Elliot – that process was many years ago and the redesign completed about a year or two back), I strongly suggest that those interested in seeing a bicycle-friendly redesign of this intersection show up for the October 6 meeting and voice your concerns.

From my experience on the previous committee, traffic engineers may want to prioritize efficient motor vehicle movement along Division over all other factors.

Furthermore, Ladd\’s Addition folks may want to preserve \”the historic nature\” of the area – i.e., redesigns that might work well for bicycles and pedestrians but that significantly alter the appearence/function of the intersection may meet resistance from those living in Ladd\’s Addition or serving on the HAND neighborhood association board.

I\’m not commenting on the work that may already have been done regarding this intersection nor on the motives of those involved. I\’m just saying that if you care about bicycle flow through this intersection, a strong bicycle-centric voice may be necessary to offset other constituencies.

Mike M
Guest
Mike M

I travel through this intersection whenever I commute by bike. I\’ve never really had a problem, except that wait times can be a bit long. What do you expect with five streets coming together in such close proximity?

What is proposed?

Icarus Falling
Guest
Icarus Falling

2011?

Do they realize what year it is now?

peejay
Guest
peejay

I agree that it\’s not really a problem now. The small scale of Division St – in spite of the traffic on it – helps to make this a rather sane intersection. There\’s no sea of asphalt to get across.

Laura
Guest
Laura

I agree w/Peejay et al…it\’s not much of a problem. It appears that it could be addressed inexpensively with some re-timing of the signals. (making night/early AM hours demand-based rather than timed, etc)

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

It is not a problem, except for northbound traffic rolling straight into the driveway at starbucks. Because the driveway is a straight shot from 21st they don\’t signal as they cut off bike riders who are continuing on the road. Oh and when cars want to turn right onto 21st while cyclists continue onto turn right at Ladd that has serious right hook potential.

DAMHIK

jrep
Guest
jrep

Laura – They are actuated signals (what you refer to as demand based). Look for the loops in the pavement. I\’ve instructed several cyclists on the importance of positioning their bikes where they will be detected. If you don\’t stop on the loop you could wait a long time. The city has been very good about adjusting the loop sensitivity when I\’ve alerted them to a problem at this and other locations.

The reality is that with five approaches and a need to clear traffic from each approach before letting other traffic enter, it does tend to be a long wait.

3-speeder
Guest
3-speeder

To Icarus Falling – Welcome to reality. Yes, 2011 is likely, if not later. The Hawthorne project happened about 2-3 years later than its already long timeline.

To the others who replied: The 7 Corners intersection is a nightmare for pedestrians. Furthermore, it is highly congested for motor vehicle traffic due to the popularity of businesses that have recently arrived in the immediate vicinity in the past few years.

Generally, it is an unsafe place.

CHANGE IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

So the issue is not whether you think the intersection is no big deal now. The issue is whether the intersection will be convenient for you AFTER the change. Without strong bicycle-centric input, there is no guarantee this will be true. Even if you like how it is now, I encourage you to go to the October 6 meeting and express your opinions.

peejay
Guest
peejay

It is not a problem, except for northbound traffic rolling straight into the driveway at starbucks.

Good thing that\’s one of the 600 Starbucks that\’s been scheduled to be shut down!

The 7 Corners intersection is a nightmare for pedestrians.

I hadn\’t thought about pedestrians, so that\’s a good point. There\’s a big intersection (called Five Corners) in Essex Junction in Vermont near where I used to live, that had five very busy roads coming together right where there was a level train crossing. I remember they solved the pedestrian problem by redlighting all car traffic for a while each cycle and letting peds walk wherever they had to, right through the middle of the intersection. Something like that might work.

Nate
Guest
Nate

It\’s about time. While I\’ve never really had too much trouble here because I usually try to take the lane and integrate myself into the flow of cars, bike heading Northwest from Clinton to Ladds are frequently in danger of getting a right hook from cars proceeding North on 20th. Also, if there are cars parked on the North side of Division it can be a tight squeeze for bikes staying to the right of traffic. Bikes headed South out of Ladds and staying East on Division (a questionable route choice anyway, but that\’s a discussion for another thread) also face a good chance of getting the right hook from cars turning South on 21st.

In the big push to put bike boxes at intersections where they\’re of questionable utility (SE 7th and Hawthorne?), I never understood how this one could be left out, when it would so clearly be beneficial to get bikes through the intersection ahead of right-turning cars (both North and South-bound).

Josh
Guest

I\’ve ridden this route for eight years, and have nearly been flattened several times by drivers traveling west on Division who start rolling as soon as they see the *second* traffic light ahead of them turn green, failing to notice that the *first* light is still red in order to allow traffic to proceed from 21st.

A redesign is well overdue. This is the second-scariest intersection on my commute, the top one being at 41st and Holgate. That\’s the only place I\’ve ever actually been hit.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

How about a pair or low speed mini roundabouts back to back?

It is a common treatment in Europe for complex compact intersections.

Photo:
http://flickr.com/photos/jacqib/2535369225/

BURR
Guest
BURR

How about a pair or low speed mini roundabouts back to back?

This was considered previously and rejected because it would require purchase of new ROW from one or more of the adjacent properties, specifically the convenience store on the SW corner.

Not sure if it will be back on the table or not.

John Russell
Guest

One good thing about confusing intersections is that they tend to make people think, often making them slow down. I don\’t go through this intersection often, but I would suggest improving bicycle and pedestrian facilities by implementing a bike/ped scramble signal. Turning on red is disallowed on most of the streets, so I don\’t think it would be too hard to install bikes boxes so that bikes could get to the front of a line of cars in order to get to the scramble signal. This way, bikes could largely avoid contact with cars, yet still go through on a regular green.

Icarus Falling
Guest
Icarus Falling

I feel that this is actually one of the easiest to navigate, and tamest intersections around.

Indeed the real problems lie in traffic entering and exiting the store/Buckystars/etc.

I think better timing of the lights, and closing some of the entry/exits to commerce would solve this.

A redesign of the intersection is just not needed.

And there is certainly no room there for roundabouts. Nor should there be.

Roundabouts are a pain in the arse.

matt picio
Guest

Nate (#10) said \”bike heading Northwest from Clinton to Ladds are frequently in danger of getting a right hook from cars proceeding North on 20th\”

How? Are they riding in the blind spot of cars as they approach the intersection?

I\’m kind of confused, mainly because I\’ve always taken the lane through this intersection and integrated myself into the line of cars rather than trying to pass them on the right – and I\’ve never had a problem riding from any leg of the intersection to any other, because of the order and timing of the lights. This is especially true when I ride from Ladd to 20th or vice-versa.

I see a lot of cyclists going from Ladd to 20th who go straight across Division, turn almost 90 left and hug the curb to make the right onto 20th rather than following the natural line of traffic, and I\’ve never been able to figure out why – to me that way seems as dangerous as weaving in and out between parked cars to stay as close to the curb as possible.

I\’m not trying to advocate VC, here, but I think that in some instances, behaving like any other vehicle type would is the safest option – seven corners to me is one of those instances.

Graham
Guest
Graham

#9 peejay:

\”There\’s a big intersection (called Five Corners) in Essex Junction in Vermont near where I used to live\”

That\’s right where I grew up! The Lincoln Inn was the family dining-out destination of choice for as long as I can remember.

Also, I spent a couple high school -era summers in a pizza delivery job in Essex, learning the intricacies of the Five Corners, and developing elaborate strategies for avoiding it like the plague it is. Come to think of it, that whole experience might have been the beginning of my disenchantment with cars, which up until that point had seemed like pretty wonderful things. In a place like that, situated as it is between the rural and suburban – and deadly cold in the winter – a driver\’s license seemed like a ticket to freedom (and, as was sometimes the case with me, a ticket to tickets – traffic tickets. The speed trap into Winooski was my bane). As a teenager, suddenly being granted the ability to go blasting down endless country roads was a real thrill, and a privilege I abused to the fullest.

As devoted as I am to cycling these days (and was even back then), I am, through those experiences, extreeeeeemely familiar with the intoxicant that is driving.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Good luck to them. That\’s a tough one.

If the upper Hawthorne (39th to 50th) improvements are any indication, it may be even less pedestrian friendly. It is now downright dangerous to cross Hawthorne between 42nd and 48th, esp. at 44th, 45th or 46th. And the street is no safer for bikes, either traveling on Hawthorne or crossing it. The rework of the signals, etc. at 50th were questionable as well. There wasn\’t really a traffic problem there before…

Hmmmmmm……

Elisabeth
Guest
Elisabeth

Problems I\’ve noticed –

1) It\’s petrifying being a pedestrian at this intersection. The crossing distances are wide. But more pertinently, cars turning off of Division, particularly onto either Ladd Ave (which is annoying, because it\’s a bicycle boulevard, so technically, unless they LIVE in that neighborhood, they shouldn\’t even be on it using it as a cut-through, but that\’s another story!) or onto 20th Ave, do not so much \”turn\” as \”fly around the corner at top speed without looking\” for people on foot.

2) Bikes on 21st Ave going left, cars going straight into the Starbucks complex thing.

3) Bikes not knowing they need to line their bicycle up on the loop detector to trigger the light. If they don\’t do this, the light will not turn green for them. Then they get super-impatient having to wait through several cycles, and blow the red light.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Matt (#16): Having ridden from 21st into Ladd many hundreds of times I too head straight across Division, hook a sharp left, point to Ladd with my left arm, swoop into Ladd with a gentle right, accelerating the yellow fixie all the way. The reason is simple–I am more perspicuous that way. For the Nth time here, everyone who rides in PDX ought to consult Robert Hurst\’s, \”The Art of Urban Cycling\” and learn to take responsibility for their own actions, and those of motorists and pedestrians as well!

John Mulvey
Guest
John Mulvey

Generall this intersection isn\’t a big problem, except as was mentioned. A much bigger safety problem is the other end of Ladd, on 12th between Hawthorne and Madison.

Bdan
Guest
Bdan

The intersection that constantly irks me is the crossing of SE Sandy, SE 12th, and SE Ankeny. This is right next to one of the worst intersections in the city: Sandy/Burnside. There is a cross walk but cars never really stop for bikes.

r
Guest
r

this intersection has never been a problem for me, because I take the lane and make my intentions clear. if \”improvements\” take the form of making it \”easier\” for motorists to figure out when it is \”safe\” to gun through, then you have only made matters worse. there are many situations in which a little confusion actually contributes to safety, and this is one. my other concern would be if the \”improvements\” made it difficult or (god forbid) illegal for northbound bike traffic to cut through Ladd\’s, instead forcing people to head north on 20th.

velo
Guest
velo

I\’m glad to see that a redesign in the works. Too often I see cars and bikes do dangerous and crazy things in this intersection. At this point I see at least two cars per week run the light on Division headed west. Bikes do it too which is plenty dangerous. One thing that we need to remember in all of this is that a few bikes defecting from traffic rules are really a danger to all of us cyclists. Too many drives take this as an invitation to think they shouldn\’t bother to treat bikes as something to watch out for \”since the can\’t predicit them anyway\”. It\’s not right, but the logic does seem to be out there. I was this as a 365 day a year car free rider.

I\’m glad that the Starbucks is slated to be closed since too many cars try to cross from 21st cutting off bikers turning left. Then they can remove their security cameras pointed straight out unto public property. I\’d prefer not to be under Starbucks video watch on my commute. If I have to knock on the window of one more Lexus SUV I might puck.

This is the sort of intersection that works if everyone follows the signals and signals their turns. Unfortunately this isn\’t the case so a redesign is in order. Bike boxes on all of the incoming roads would be good for safetly by allowing bikes to pass through the intersection first. Going from Ladds to 21st south bound I often have drivers try to pass me to make the same turn and cut me off. At this point I just take the lane and block, but a bike box would sanctify this move.

Another bike friendly move could be a bike only signal like the one of the esplande near the Rose Quarter.

matt picio
Guest

Jim (#20) – I was actually speaking of the reverse, but in any case, I pulled out my copy of The Art of Cycling (the revised version of The Art of Urban Cycling) and looked at what guidance Hurst has, and heading straight across and hooking the sharp left seems to work completely against a number of Hurst\’s recommendations.

And I\’ve always had a problem with \”taking responsibility for the actions of others\”. You don\’t – you take responsibility for your own safety, and anticipate the actions of others. You can\’t take responsibility because you don\’t own those actions – the motorists and peds do It\’s an important distinction IMO.

r
Guest
r

am with Matt P. on this one. why go out straight and hook left? you just invite the motorist behind you to try to creep into that space, and all the pointing to Ladd in the world won\’t actually prevent him right hooking you to get onto 20th north. but if you are in the lane, and he can\’t get around you, you cannot get hooked. simple as that.

r
Guest
r

you wanna redesign an intersection, how about 21st at NE Tillamook?

Deborah
Guest
Deborah

Laura & jrep

The loops on the north side aren\’t very sensitive. My bike is carbon fiber and I have to drop the bike to the pavement if I\’m the only one there.
Can the number 10 Harold bus line be re-routed off this section of the bike route? It\’s crazy that the bus (southbound) makes a left, right, then @ Clinton a left the right at 26th. Wouldn\’t it make more sense to route the bus from Ladd to 26th and only two turns. The intersection @ Clinton & 21st is too tight for those buses.

snapper
Guest
snapper

i think it would be great to have a ped/bike only timed light cycle, like they have in dense downtown urban areas (san francisco comes to mind) where all the ped lights turn green at the same time and people can cross the intersection diagonally.
this is a tricky intersection that i agree needs to get better for pedestrians as well as bikes.
i also think a green bike box would be great at both division crossings (from ladds, and from clinton) because traffic by both bike and car can get backed up and its not clear who should be leaving the intersection first.