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Updated: SW Broadway bike lane closes due to sewer line burst

Posted by on October 22nd, 2008 at 10:53 pm

Red circle shows location of busted sewage line (map).

The bike lane on SW Broadway between Montgomery and Harrison will be closed for up to a week due to a busted sewer line.

Here’s the story from KGW:

The city is just beginning its investigation into the burst pipe but says auto traffic will narrow to two lanes and a popular bike route along the SW Broadway corridor will be closed for up to a week, according to city spokeswoman Sheryl Cook [correct spelling is Cheryl Kuck — Ed.].

And the Oregonian reports that,

Traffic will be able to use two lanes, including the parking strip, but the bike lane is closed.

O.K., so the bike lane is closed, but cars (and bikes I presume) can still use two lanes? Maybe not.

The KGW story has this from PSU’s communications director Scott Gallagher:

Gallagher said the university would coordinate with the city to make sure bicyclists were aware of the lane closures on SW Broadway and found alternative routes downtown.

Alternative routes? If two lanes are open to “traffic”, why would bikes (which are also traffic) need an alternative route?

So far, no details have come from PDOT. Stay tuned for an update.

UPDATE – 10/23, 8:15am:
And here’s more information from PDOT’s Cheryl Kuck about the bike lane situation:

“We have not recommended that bikes take alternative routes. We have simply closed the bike lane and parking lane to allow room for the sewer repair work that is necessary. We have moved traffic to the west side of Broadway, keeping two travel lanes open.

There is no separate bike lane right now on Broadway between Montgomery and Harrison…we recommend bicyclists be especially careful through this stretch of Broadway and motorists be on the look out for bicyclists as this is a popular bike route downtown. We made no recommendation that bicyclists seek another route.”

(I’d also like to note (as a commenter did below) that it’s great to see PDOT and PSU officials immediately consider and acknowledge the impacts of this on bike traffic.)

[Thanks to readers Tait and Rachel for the heads up.]

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  • matt picio October 23, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Well, unless the city posts “no bicycles” signs, the alternate “route” is to take the lane – perfectly legal, since in this case the bike lane will be blocked and full of hazards.

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  • John Lascurettes October 23, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Matt, agreed. The legal and safe thing for bikes to do is to take the lane next to the repair (closed) area.

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  • John Lascurettes October 23, 2008 at 12:28 am

    ORS 814.420 and ORS 814.430(2c)

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  • zilfondel October 23, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Better yet, bike up the Park Blocks. No cars and no signals!

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  • Nick October 23, 2008 at 12:46 am

    I’m guessing the alternate route would be an option, not mandatory, and the purpose would be to accomodate people uncomfortable driving in the lane with traffic — not to tell all cyclists they’re banned from the car lane.

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  • Matthew Denton October 23, 2008 at 1:57 am

    I have to wonder if the repairs might include large metal plates and gravel filled trenches, in which case, an alternate route would be nice…

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  • Tait October 23, 2008 at 2:17 am

    Sheryl Cook’s comment that drivers should be on the lookout for bikes suggests (to me, anyway) that the alternate route would be an accommodation for those cyclists who don’t feel comfortable taking the lane, and that those who are comfortable playing in traffic are free to do so.

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  • tonyt
    tonyt October 23, 2008 at 6:52 am


    Do you mean Waterfront Park?

    Park blocks are near the art museum.

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  • joel October 23, 2008 at 7:02 am

    i dunno about the rest of you, but it takes a lot more than lane closures and officials suggesting i take alternate routes for me to not use a section of road 🙂 if i need a lane going through that section of broadway, ill take it, and give it back when im good and ready. this wont affect me unless they close the whole street off.

    i think nick has it right when he postulates that psu is merely offering an option rather than mandating cyclists stay off that section of broadway. theres definitely going to be a section of the riding populace that would rather go around than deal with construction and its related obstacles, and kudos to psu for aiming to provide them an option thatll keep them riding rather than hopping in a car to avoid the hassle.

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  • 3-speeder October 23, 2008 at 7:54 am

    I see it as a positive thing that the media mentioned the bike lane closure.

    The positive is not the closure of course, but the mention of the impact on bicycles in something broadcast to Jane and Joe Portlander. Of course, the big picture struggle is not over until a similar local news source reports something like this to Jane and Joe Nebraskan.

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  • Moo October 23, 2008 at 8:17 am

    The park blocks seem to be the way to go for those not wanting to ride the street. The traffic signals are usually timed on Broadway, so if you get a good speed up, and are able to maintain it, there should be no problems.

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  • Richard October 23, 2008 at 10:24 am

    What’s the need for an alternate route? It would be silly to go out of your way when we have a great law, as John pointed out in #3, that stipulates “Bicycles allowed full lane” — assert your rights.

    And what’s with the repeat/respelling? “…according to city spokeswoman Sheryl Cook (Cheryl Kuck).”

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  • Icarus Falling October 23, 2008 at 10:29 am

    The Broadway bike lane is really fairly unsafe for most riders when there is no sewer spill, IMO.

    Due to the obvious and regular infractions of Valet’s, Beefeater’s, taxi’s, town cars, and delivery vehicles, there is no need to worry about staying within the lines along this stretch of bike lane through downtown.

    The whole thing is to be considered a hazard. Therefore legally abandonable.

    If it was not for the influence and power of old, new, and big money along Broadway, there would be more and effective regulating of these violations.

    As it is, the city allows them to continue doing business in the bike lane, with no fear of admonishment or citations.

    This in the very heart of what is supposed to be the most “Bicycle Friendly City in America”.


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  • cyclist October 23, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Icarus: I ride the bike lane on Broadway from Alder to PSU three days a week, and I’m quite grateful that it’s there, often during rush hour it allows me to beat traffic. Yes, there’s frequently congestion around the Benson, but that’s easy to get around. I really hate it when people complain about this particular lane because if they took it away many of us would suffer for it.

    I’d also like to add that I’ve personally never felt unsafe in that lane and haven’t had any sort of near miss (knock on wood).

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  • Le-oh! October 23, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    I haaaaaate biking up Broadway anyways. I agree with the others; just bike up the Park Blocks, but please do it SAFELY.

    As a sort of wussy cyclist, I prefer the Park Blocks for lack of car traffic and narrower streets. Even if you feel uncomfortable biking around pedestrians in a slow, safe manner, you can fly up and/or down Park Ave. on either side and cars are fairly cautious here because of the narrower streets. Getting home (which for me extends just past the Park Blocks over I-405 and up ANOTHER big, steep hill) is usually quite a pain for me, especially from the eastside. Unfortunately, that’s probably also why my apartment is so bike-unfriendly and most people seem to drive cars here; most of the folks who do bike have to walk their bike up the last hill to my house.

    Oh, and for tonyt, the Park Blocks, specifically the South ones, extend all the way up through the PSU “campus” from SW Salmon all the way uphill/south to SW Jackson St.

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  • eric October 23, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Re: broadway bike lane: I do everything I can make people who are blocking the bike lane in the morning aware there’s a commuter horde using that space. Also, I just take the lane most of the time to get around the slower bikes in the bike lane, and to avoid right hooks. It’s a sketchy place to have a bike lane, and I wish that the PDOT would man up and get over the whole side trail thing and just paint sharrows and solid lines right up the middle lanes of the street, on both broadway and 4th. More space + less turns = more safe.

    Re: Taking the park blocks: It’s probably safer to ride in the street there, since then you don’t have eleventy billion 18 year old kids wandering around talking on cell phones to dodge: They mostly stay out of the street on broadway.

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  • Icarus Falling October 23, 2008 at 4:32 pm


    Well, I am glad you feel that way, but…

    It is very true that non bike usage of this bike lane makes it much less safer. Especially when the inexperienced cyclist is made to abandon the bike lane due to it being blocked. Not everyone is ready for such a maneuver.

    Plus the close proximity of mass traffic makes even an accidental weave over the line very dangerous.

    Case in point, the accidental death of the fabulous Kristine a few years ago. She slipped on wet bricks while riding in the bike lane right near Alder, early on Monday morning.

    This slight slip was just enough to send her over the line, and under the wheels of a Semi Truck full of rebar.

    All it would really take to solve the problems with the Broadway bike lane is effective enforcement by the Portland Police Dept.
    Also, a change in ordinance as to how valets, towncars, taxis, etc. are allowed to conduct business wouldn’t hurt at all.

    But, as I have discovered in the past, (through random questioning) many officers still think it is ok to double park in a bike lane. And most valets,etc. appear to be uniformed as well.

    So I guess, for many police officers, just doing the job we pay them to do is much too difficult.

    Maybe many of them shouldn’t be allowed to hold the positions at all?

    It just makes me so happy that tourism and money is so much more important than the safety of citizens.

    So happy I could just poop smiley faces.

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  • Seth Alford October 23, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    In a real platinum level bicycle friendly community, sewers might burst. But when they did, and the construction to fix them blocked the bike lane, one of the two remaining car lanes would get barricaded from motorized traffic. The barricaded lane would become the bike lane. The cars would get inconvenienced and squeezed down into one lane.

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  • Matthew Denton October 23, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    The Broadway bicycle lane scares me too, I’ve seen bicycle accidents happen on it, and I’ve seen the results of bicycle accidents happen on it. Luckily, I’ve never been in an accident on it, yet.

    However, I agree with Cyclist #14. At rush hour on a lot of streets downtown, if you ride legally (i.e. no lane splitting when there isn’t a couple feet to spare, no riding on the sidewalk,) you can often spend several light cycles to go a block. On Broadway, at rush hour, you can make it from the Burnside to PSU in one light cycle, (or could, except for the places where the lane ends because of construction.)

    The lane needs to be wider and double parking violations needs to be better enforced, (regardless of if you block half a car lane and the bike lane, or the entire car lane, and then open the door into the bicycle lane,) but it shouldn’t be converted to sharrows or removed. In my dreams they’d eliminate the parking lane completely and make it the bicycle lane, and then give the bicycles and right turners separate phases on the signals… (And the hotels could unload/load their cars on the sides of their buildings.)

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  • zilfondel October 24, 2008 at 1:22 am

    I’ve actually been taking 5th ave… the train tracks kind of suck, but I can hit all the lights green going uphill.

    Not for the wussy cyclists, but a lot safer than Broadway…

    …once the Bus Mall reopens, traffic will be constricted to the left lanes, so bikes should just take it over. No train tracks, and we should just kick cars off the street – they cant go around us. 🙂

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  • brettoo October 27, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I ride this way all the time, usually take the Park Blocks to PSU anyway — it’s just one block over and much more pleasant. The problems with Broadway are another reason to go for Randy Leonard’s proposal to make the Park Blocks bike-only.

    Also, did anyone notice the Oregonian report on this closure? (see below). It says “traffic will be able to use two lanes… but the bike lane is closed.” Either that means bikes aren’t “traffic” (and we all know how that isn’t true), or it means that, since we ARE traffic, we can use the open lanes.

    “Lane closures cause delays on Southwest Broadway
    by The Oregonian
    Wednesday October 22, 2008, 5:53 PM

    Drivers can expect delays for the next week in downtown Portland where sewer repair work has closed two Southwest Broadway lanes between Southwest Montgomery Street and Southwest Harrison Street.

    Traffic will be able to use two lanes, including the parking strip, but the bike lane is closed.

    The lanes will be closed all hours through next Wednesday, Oct 29.

    The city is asking drivers use extra caution.

    — Desiree Aflleje; desireeaflleje@news.oregonian.com

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