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TriMet will host Breakfast on the Bridges to share transit mall changes

Posted by on February 17th, 2009 at 10:49 am

Velo-tines on the Bridges

TriMet and Shift will bring
you free breakfast next week.
(Photo © J. Maus)

TriMet, in partnership with bike fun promoting non-profit Shift, will host three Breakfast on the Bridges events at the end of this month.

The purpose of the events is to spread the word about how bikes are expected to navigate safely along with buses, MAX trains, and cars on SW 5th and 6th Avenues along the new Portland Mall. TriMet says they’ll be handing out free breakfast snacks, hot coffee, and “information about the new Portland Mall cycling environment.”

Colin Maher, TriMet’s bike specialist, also passed along a new graphic (below) that shows how bikes are expected to turn right from their left-side travel lane (the right lane is reserved for trains and buses).

See below for an explanation of how to navigate your bike on the new mall.
Graphic: TriMet

And here’s how TriMet explains it (remember, right turns are prohibited unless otherwise posted):

  • Stay on the curb side of the left lane as you approach the intersection
  • Stop at the intersection and move over to the curb
  • When the “Walk” signal is activated, use the crosswalk to cross
  • Ride at walking speed and yield to pedestrians
  • Merge carefully with traffic

Basically, become a pedestrian and you’ll be O.K. (both legally and for safety).

As for the “cycling environment” on the new transit mall, here’s more from TriMet:

“Cyclists and motorists on 5th and 6th avenues downtown now share the left-hand traffic lane, while buses and MAX trains will travel in the right-hand transit lanes. When necessary, buses can move into the traffic lane.”

TriMet has also passed along these general safety rules:

  • Ride only in the left-hand traffic lane only—don’t cross the bumpy, white lane divider.
  • Be alert of buses on the Portland Mall—stay out of the transit lanes and off the light rail tracks.
  • Do not stop on 5th and 6th avenues except as required by traffic signals.
  • Do not make right-hand turns off 5th and 6th avenues unless otherwise posted.

Story continues below


Buses have been training on the mall for several weeks now and regular bus service is expected to being on May 24th. Light rail operators will begin their training on May 3rd.

TriMet bus operators will continue training in the new transit lanes and with the new traffic signals on several Mall blocks until bus service begins on the Mall May 24. Light rail vehicles will be making intermittent test runs on the Mall. Light rail operator training begins May 3 and MAX will begin running on August 30th.

TriMet adds that enforcement of these new operating procedures begins March 2, 2009.

Here are the dates and locations of the three Breakfast on the Bridges events (all are 7-9:00 AM):

    Hawthorne Bridge
    Monday, February 23

    Broadway Bridge
    Wednesday, February 25

    Steel Bridge
    Friday, February 27

For more Portland Mall bike safety tips, see

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    cyclist February 17, 2009 at 11:11 am

    I’m pretty sure right turns are illegal for motorists on the transit mall (as they were before the mall got redone) so I’m not surprised that this is their recommendation. It’s nice that they’re blessing this, I was a little unsure of the legality of this particular maneuver.

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    Todd Boulanger February 17, 2009 at 11:20 am

    How about stenciling a mini bike box (‘ reverse jug handle’) for this two stage turn? It could be located in the lee/ shadow of the corner and be outside of the crosswalk (and avoiding most crossing pedestrians).

    This is similar to what is seen in Germany and the Netherlands and would help to ‘legalize’ / ‘communicate’ this unconventional move for bicyclists and motorists alike.

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    Spencer Boomhower February 17, 2009 at 11:36 am

    This seems like a common-sense solution to making a right turn on a bike in this particular type of intersection. As is generally treating a bike like a vehicle that can make use of both streets and pedestrian facilities (though not sidewalks in this case, of course, it being downtown). It’s good to see an official acknowledgment of the fact that bikes need not be acting just like cars in every situation.

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    Rithy February 17, 2009 at 11:42 am

    That is how they do it in Copenhagen. The idea of any turn across traffic, it makes sense for bikes to merge with the traffic they are entering first. Instead of

    It makes left turns a lot safer than moving into the left turn lane then turning with traffic. Instead stay in the bike lane until you cross the street and then move into the new bike lane and wait for the light to turn and proceed on your way. (While it isn’t timely, it is safer and less scary than moving across multiple lanes)

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    Spencer Boomhower February 17, 2009 at 11:45 am

    #2 Todd: That’s a great idea, and it seems like that or some other kind of proactive action will be needed to head off the inevitable conflicts this unusual maneuver is likely to create.

    Along those lines, my first thought – having not previously paid much attention to the transit mall project – was to wonder if the car/bike travel lanes were going to get sharrows. Then I found this story:

    Which says the city can’t scrape up the relatively tiny sum of $20k to put in sharrows. The budget is just too tight.

    That answered my question, and it might answer yours as well :).

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    Snowflake Seven February 17, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Wow. That looks incredibly broken and dangerous.

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    Dave February 17, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    I’ve been just riding a block past where I want to turn right, turn left, and loop the block, and end up going down the street I wanted to go right on. Fits the flow of traffic better and seems a little less awkward that switching roles from vehicle to pedestrian. It’s a little out of the way, but really only takes an extra couple of minutes, which isn’t a big deal.

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    Dabby McCrashalot February 17, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I am wondering when we are going to have a event to let Tri Met drivers know how to properly conduct themselves around cyclists?

    I mean, they feel they can tell us how to ride, right?

    But it is common knowledge that Tri Met drivers cannot operate safely around bicycles, due to their own admission.

    Personally, I will be turning right whenever I want, as a cyclist, not as a pedestrian.

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    redhippie February 17, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Seems like a very confusing arrangement.

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    Steven J February 17, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Tri-met can ask and receive for millions for the Albatross OHSU tram, yet scounge up 20k for sharrows…

    If you wonder where their bread is buttered now you know.

    Next.. Portland will be asking for a buck a bike/Ped across the Hawthorn during business hours (unless of course you have an OHSU…Or City ID card.

    Now that the mall…and WES…and 205 projects are coming to fruition, it should be no surprise when the employees threaten strike.. Followed by higher rates….Ad nauseam.

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    GLV February 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    “Tri-met can ask and receive for millions for the Albatross OHSU tram, yet scounge up 20k for sharrows…”

    TriMet had nothing whatsoever to do with the tram. Nothing at all.

    This is how cars make right turns in much of central Melbourne, Australia, where there are MAX-like vehicles everywhere. Once you get used to it, it’s no big deal. There will be an adjustment period, but in the end this seems logical to me.

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    Dave February 17, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    It does seem like a bit of a confusing arrangement, but I think after the adjustment period, it will come to seem normal.

    Also, I don’t think willful breaking of the law and stubborn endangerment of yourself and others is really a great way to protest TriMet drivers’ difficulty in dealing with cyclist interactions.

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    no one in particular February 17, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Doesn’t everyone know this? I do this all the time to make left turns where left turns are prohibited (e.g. coming west over the Burnside bridge and turning left into downtown). Except I normally just position my bike in front of the cars waiting at the light instead of the crosswalk. Why bother merging into the traffic from the crosswalk when you can just already be in the traffic?

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    cyclist February 17, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Dabby #8:

    You have two choices as I see it:

    1) act as if you’re a car. Cars can’t turn right on the transit mall, they have to make three lefts and loop around the block in order to get where they want to go.

    2) Do as Trimet suggests you do.

    This suggestion by Trimet is of benefit to cyclists only, cars obviously won’t be able to use this trick. If Trimet didn’t bother with the informational sessions, you’d be no worse off than drivers on the mall. That Trimet’s out there making an effort to help cyclists get a leg up speaks well of them, in my opinion.

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    Peter W February 17, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Two issues:

    1) merging with autos when the crosswalk and auto light turn green simultaneously. This could be fixed by having crosswalk (and possibly special bike light) turn green 5 seconds before the auto light.

    2) moving to the left curb to wait. Simple on a normal bike, but what about cargo bikes, recumbents, etc? Trimet should clarify where people wait, how they make that maneuver, and consider bike boxes to show riders where to wait.

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    RyNO Dan February 17, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Totally wrong.
    Stop in the intersection when the light is green ?
    And somehow dismount, and get out of the street ?
    And not get run over by the motor vehicles ?
    What about the pedestrians on the sidewalk that you have to run over to get out of the street (while the light is green) ?
    I’m sure they’ll be busy splainin all that at breakfast.

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    cyclist February 17, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Steven J #10:

    Trimet has a huge budget deficit that has them proposing 13.5 million worth of service cuts:

    In light of the fact that they’re cutting whole bus routes and cutting back service on buses and trains, I’d say that $20,000 for sharrows is at the bottom of their list of priorities right now.

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    John February 17, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    If I hadn’t read it here, I wouldn’t know how to do that.

    So how will this be posted for the cyclists who won’t see it here, but find it firsthand instead? How do you make a sign that says that at a glance, far enough ahead of an intersection to make the right moves? I’m guessing most people will get it wrong at first, then a significant number will discover a way to negotiate the intersection in a safer and more efficient way that Trimet couldn’t figure out. Couldn’t be hard.

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    chuck February 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    my only concern is what happens when someone wants to make a right turn where there is a green light. the cyclist will need to stand on the left hand side of the road until the signal changes, leaving the cars/buses behind them to either squeeze by them, or shift across the bumpy dividers into the bus lane. that seems kinda dangerous.

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    cyclist February 17, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Chuck #19:

    I’m not sure quite sure what you mean, so if I’ve misunderstood you, please let me know.

    1) No car will be turning right at any of these intersections because right turns will be illegal for autos (due to the buses/MAX in the other two lanes).

    2) If you want to turn right, Trimet recommends you pull over on the left and go up onto the sidewalk, turn your bike 90 degrees, then go when the light changes. That way you won’t be in the road, and you won’t cross the bumpy dividers (which is a bad, *bad* idea, and almost certainly illegal).

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    Andrew February 17, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Maybe we’ll have to make some stencils and put down the sharrows ourselves? This seems to me like a very important final touch to the whole project that symbolically would let drivers know that they do indeed have to share this one lane with bicycles.

    How much did the staples cost again?

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    chuck February 17, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    #20: I guess I’m not seeing the part of the Tri-Met guide that says that you need to leave the roadway and actually get up on the sidewalk. From the way it’s written, the directions say to stay next to the curb on the left side of the lane, and to wait for the crosswalk to change. There is no mention of getting up onto the sidewalk there.

    I understand that cars cannot make a right unless it is specifically marked, but you will still have traffic coming up behind you while you wait next to the curb on the left side of the lane. that’s where my concern is.

    personally, it makes more sense to me to make 3 lefts, and circle around the block.

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    Spencer Boomhower February 17, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    #20 cyclist, #22 chuck:

    I had the same thought at first, that they were prompting you to get up on the curb. At second glance, it appears not to be so. They’re saying pull up next to the curb on the left, but stay on the road. A little hair-raising, but maybe the best they could do since I couldn’t see how they’d get away with suggesting you get on the curb since you can’t ride on sidewalks downtown.

    #21 Andrew:

    “How much did the staples cost again?”

    I was unfamiliar with this story, went looking back into the archives, saw the story about the staples, and had the exact same thought. The price difference between regular staples, and the fancy stainless-steel (frame-scratchy) staples seemed like it could cover the cost of the sharrows, and that seemed like an outrage. However, in that case apparently the fancy staples were paid for by a special merchant tax. Basically the store owners want the transit mall to look nice, so they coughed up the extra money for the fancy staples. I would guess they have no similar motivation to cough up extra money for sharrows.

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    John Lascurettes February 17, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    #19, #20, #22.

    Actually, you cannot go up on the sidewalk downtown. It’s illegal. The caption on the guides specifically say to pull over to the left curb at the crosswalk, when “walk” is lit, use the crosswalk.

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    Spencer Boomhower February 17, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Basically it seems like, if you want to ride like car traffic in this situation, by all means do, but no right turn for you! However, if you want to turn right on your bike, there’s this handy workaround that involves a legal means of making use of pedestrian space. The fact that they’re making an effort to raise awareness about this workaround is pretty OK with me.

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    Matt Picio February 17, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    cyclist (#14) – no, Dabby has another choice:

    3) turn right in violation of the law, and risk getting caught and possibly getting fined.

    and I believe that many people will indeed choose option 3, especially messengers, who are generally in a hurry, and generally experienced enough to not wipe out on the tracks.

    You may not like option 3, cyclist, but the option exists.

    cyclist (#20) – I used to work downtown on the bus mall, and I’d have to say that 10-20 cars a day will be making right-hand turns, regardless of the law. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen cars drive illegally on the bus mall in the past, sometimes the wrong way.

    If Tri-Met wants cyclists to pull over on the left, they should have provided a curb-cut box for them to safely stay separated from motorist traffic while waiting. I think compliance with Tri-Met’s desires is going to be low – many cyclists will disobey the law in favor of perceived safety, and many will avoid 5th and 6th altogether.

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    Diane February 17, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    I believe the city is considering sharrows for 5th and 6th avenues per a BTA request. We think it’s a great idea too

    Come join on the bridges next week and we’ll be glad to answer all your questions in person.

    Thanks, Diane

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    Donna February 17, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    That’s one heck of a narrow travel lane to be waiting at the left curb for the light to change. At least with option #3 as outlined by Matt, you’re a moving target instead of a sitting duck.

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    joel February 17, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    i will be setting a horrible example, and riding with concern for my safety, and the safety of those around me, and breaking the law through the bus mall on an hourly basis, like the awful miscreant i am.

    while i totally understand that these maneuvers are safe and feasible for the general population, following them, and the new traffic rules along the bus mall, would be a headache of epic proportions for me and my fellow messengers, considering that a HUGE portion of our work is along 5th and 6th aves downtown. asking us to abide by laws that would have us doing loop-the-loops every block, or riding up full block to crosswalks and then walking back down the sidewalk to get to places on the right side of the street, well, its just not going to happen.

    i cant possibly expect the feelings of maybe 50 messengers riding downtown to be taken into consideration, and ill understand completely when you all explain to me that i should just follow the law plain and simple, but thats not how its going to happen.

    the unfortunate thing is that every cyclist downtown riding contrary to the rules of the transit mall will be assumed to be one of us, and well be singled out by the cops cause were an easy target. im sure some will lecture me about my martyr complex, but im just saying whats going to happen. i can only hope that the cops will cut us some slack (not bloody likely, given past experience – there seem to be a few who take special glee in handing out tickets to messengers), because despite the lawbreaking, WE KNOW WHAT WERE DOING – and that somehow i and others can sit down with trimet and talk, messenger to bus driver, and suss out some way we can get a feel for each other and how this can work smoothly, cause its not going to work the way the rules are written, at least as far as messengers are concerned.

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    revphil February 17, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    well said Joel; this does not work for everyone. Since our transportation planners are influenced by the Copenhagen style you would think they would expect more bakfiets out there.

    Frustrating how quickly the intent of the law can be lost. I hope metro can subtly convey the reality of this situation to cops like “Balzer and Blitzer” (the motorbike cops who have been targeting “brakeless” riders for years).

    Rather than try to snake my way though the pedestrians then merge with the cross traffic as they suggest, I would probably do it like #13 says. Stop in the crosswalk on the left, then turn 90-degrees clockwise and be in the lane you want to travel in when the light changes.

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    Todd B February 18, 2009 at 12:01 am
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    scoot February 18, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Heh. Well, I’m glad they found an intersection for their demo where the lanes actually continue through in a lanely way, instead of one where it just looks willy nilly or where the bike lane is directed up onto the sidewalk and disappears.

    I’ve been riding on these streets regularly through the whole redesign process and it still amazes me every time. This is the best we get when they had the opportunity to start from zero. And by “we” I mean people.

    Are they going to have people permanently posted along 5th and 6th to hand out explanations to new riders/drivers/visitors to Portland?

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    cyclist February 18, 2009 at 11:23 am

    scoot: Maybe they’ll just do what cars do and make three lefts?

    It seems like Trimet’s attempt at outreach and coming up with a common-sense alternative specifically for cyclists is being met with a fair amount of scorn. I wonder what that’ll mean for their outreach attempts in the future?

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    Elliot February 18, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Todd B, thanks for sharing those photos.

    It’s unfortunate that the jug-turn system being proposed isn’t backed up by a physical implementation of the concept. This problem shouldn’t have been ignored during the design process for the mall, and will take a lot more money and trouble to fix now that the construction is completed.

    I understand TriMet’s wish to standardize the behavior of bicyclists on the mall while promoting safety, but I’m not sure the crosswalk box turn will work out smoothly. There are three major obstacles: there is probably more pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks and crosswalks of the mall than any other place in the city; bikes are not allowed on sidewalks downtown, creating a fuzzy legal area that leaves cyclists vulnerable to selective enforcement; and other road users will not be familiar with this type of movement, making it dangerous by virtue of being unexpected.

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    Elliot February 18, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    I want to add that I appreciate all of TriMet’s recent efforts to reach out to the bicyclist community and encourage safety. I just think in this case that there is no good solution, and that the problem that we all see coming could only have been dealt with effectively during the process of designing the physical layout of the mall. Since that opportunity is gone, now the only options left are only partial solutions. I’m sure TriMet is aware that the arrangement they are proposing isn’t ideal, but is simply the best of several flawed options.

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    carless in pdx February 20, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Geez, I thought this type of maneuver was common knowledge.

    Judging by the comments, most of the bikers here would become tram feed in European and Asian cities. Ie, Amsterdam. You can’t just cut in front of 2 lanes of bus/tram traffic and not end up dead!

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