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Oregonian: Is “Copenhagen Left” a better way to turn on Portland Mall?

Posted by on March 3rd, 2009 at 2:01 pm

TriMet’s recommendation: become a
pedestrian and use the crosswalk.
Is there a better way?
See Oregonian video below.

When TriMet announced how they expect people riding bikes to turn off of the new Portland Mall downtown, many of you said, “Huh?”.

In an attempt to create safe conditions, TriMet said people on bikes who want to turn right (and across the bus/MAX lane) off of the mall should; move over to the curb, enter the crosswalk, become a pedestrian, and walk and ride at walking speed (that’s the law in crosswalks) across the street.

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The Oregonian’s commuter blogger Joseph Rose put together a little video describing how TriMet’s recommended bike turn would work. He also — with help from fellow reporter and author Jeff Mapes — describes a different turning method they call the “Copenhagen Left” (which is, actually, a right). Check it out:

With all the Copenhagen influence at the Bureau of Transportation these days (everyone from our Mayor to planners and our head traffic engineer have been there lately), I have heard more support for this type of turn. It is also sometimes called a “jug-handle turn” or a “two-stage turn” depending on your level of wonk.

Beyond the Portland Mall, this type of turn is preferable to some folks when trying to go left on a multi-lane, one way street (think of SE Hawthorne between 7th and 12th). I saw many people doing this at SE 7th when I was out observing the bike box last year. I usually do a two-stage turn when heading east on Broadway just over the bridge in order to get onto N. Interstate (there are no left turns allowed, so I will cross the N. Larrabee intersection and then get into the Larrabee bike lane to head north).

How about you? Will you channel your inner pedestrian and turn right the TriMet way on the new mall? Or will you go Copenhagen-style?

UPDATE: TriMet has clarified in a comment below that their policy is for bikes to ride in the crosswalk at walking speed — not to get off and walk as is suggested in the Oregonian video.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

55 Comments
  • Tom March 3, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    I would go Copenhagen. Or the city could add an additional crosswalk lane for bicyclists so they wouldn’t have to dismount and become pedestrians. Phoenix did just this when they needed to jog the bike lane over to the “business access” road around the new light rail tracks: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_g8OThLDhHJI/SWG6kwwd4qI/AAAAAAAAAAo/gZQrM3GKQAo/s1600-h/7-J-Diagram15.jpg

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  • Marc R March 3, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Right, that’s what I do sometimes when it’s hard to cut across lanes of traffic to make a turn – just establish a position on the perpendicular street and wait for light to change.
    Has TriMet also considered the possibility that some of us who ride with bike cleats are not going to want ot walk across the street? So if anything we’ll do what the guy does in the photo… or do whatever we want to make the turn without getting off our bike.

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  • Andrew Holtz March 3, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    This is also how motor vehicle drivers make certain turns in Melbourne, Australia. It’s definitely the way to go on the mall. There’s no reason at all to walk. Once you stop on the left and rotate to the right, you are once again a bicycle going with the flow of vehicle traffic.

    Kinda sad that there are apparently still some people at TriMet who seem rather uninformed about how bicyclists travel.

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  • GLV March 3, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    These are pretty similar maneuvers. The only difference is in the Copenhagen left you end up in the left lane after you make the turn. Why not just do the same thing, but stay to the right? (i.e., exactly what TriMet suggests, except you don’t walk across the intersection)

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  • tonyt
    tonyt March 3, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Feels to me as if the TriMet turn is something created in the head of someone, or some committee, who doesn’t ride, while the Copenhagen Left is something that has evolved, and would evolve, on its own, out of practical experience.

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  • Colin Maher March 3, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Hi,

    Thanks for posting this, Jonathan (and Jeff and Joseph). The “two-stage right” is exactly what the graphic is suggesting. It was not intended to suggest that anyone should dismount or walk. The last part of the video shows the move much more clearly.

    We’ve called it “cross like a pedestrian” since that description fits within our existing traffic laws and engineering.

    Thanks,

    Colin Maher
    TriMet
    maherc@trimet.org

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  • Kevin March 3, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Walking your bike in the crosswalk preserves your right as a pedestrian.
    It is illegal in Oregon to ride a bike in a crosswalk at faster than a normal walk.

    Personally, I don’t ride sidewalks or crosswalks. I don’t ride much in the mall, so it’s rarely an issue for me but I’d probably utilize a modified Copenhagen left (I like the suggestion to stay in the right lane of the street you are entering).
    Probably a big no-no, but I’d likely consider a right turn from the right lane, swinging wide (semi-truck style) to allow me to cross the tracks squarely (after a good signal and eye contact with the autos behind me)

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  • gm March 3, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    I do this all the time to cross West Burnside at 5th, however, it doesn’t really feel legal. Since a car can’t do that, why can a bike?

    I work right on the transit mall, and I’ve taken to just riding on the sidewalks, as the streets are just too f’ed up. I know riding on the sidewalks downtown is also illegal, I just don’t care anymore.

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  • Kt March 3, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Question (I’m not familiar with that intersection):

    Is it illegal to make a right-hand turn at that intersection, because of the bus-only lane to the right of the car lane?

    I’d go Copenhagen-style there.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 3, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Colin from TriMet wrote:

    “he “two-stage right” is exactly what the graphic is suggesting. It was not intended to suggest that anyone should dismount or walk.”

    Thanks for that Colin. I really regret mis-characterizing TriMet’s recommendation and making it seem like you guys were behind the “walk your bike” idea. It was simply an oversight and a mistake on my part (I watched Rose’s video before posting this story but I should have re-read my previous coverage and the initial statement from TriMet).

    I have edited the story above to reflect this.

    thanks,

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  • Zoomzit March 3, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks for the clarification Colin.

    As far as the Copenhagen Left goes, I don’t think it makes much sense when one is traveling 6th onto Madison (which will be pretty common for cyclist as it leads on to the Hawthorne bridge) as the Copenhagen left will put you on the left hand side of Madison, while the bike lane is on the right hand side of Madison. The “Trimet right” at least puts you on the right side of Madison for the bike lane.

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  • Kevin March 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    mea culpa

    I’m not familiar with the mall, and didn’t pay close enough attention to the graphic. I was thinking (and responded to) crossing a MAX track to the right. I didn’t notice the bus lane in the graphic.

    My fix? I just won’t ride the mall! 😉

    Best alternative would be a Copenhagen left as suggested, just stay out of the crosswalk!

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  • Jonathan L March 3, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    I am not going to stop my bicycle next to the curb (while still being in the lane) then turn so that my front wheel is now sticking out into a lane of traffic that want’s to flow through the green light!

    How about when there are multiple cyclists? Are we all supposed to cram together next to the curb?

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  • Dave March 3, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Yeah, it’s illegal for cars or bikes to make a right turn there, because of both the MAX lane and the bus-only lane to the right. I can’t seem to get that video to work, but I’ve been just looping the block to the left in order to “turn right”. I think the biggest disadvantage of the method shown in the diagram is just that it will be all kinds of unexpected for both auto drivers and pedestrians. Since you can’t actually ride on the sidewalks, it seems like it would be really difficult to convey to others what you are trying to do.

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  • beth h March 3, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    I wonder how many of us will skip riding on the mall now? I’m looking at just going all the way south up Broadway. It’s hillier, but not much; and unless they remove the bike lanes and/or otherwise divert bicyclists from that street, it makes more sense to go there instead of on the mall.

    The truth is that I’m not wild about having to negotiate much of Copenhagen anything over MAX tracks. I wonder how many other bicyclists feel similarly?

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  • Chris March 3, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    I’m going to ride like a car when I’m downtown. I wonder if instead of sitting in the crosswalk, we had bike boxes to enter into. Then we’d be in a traffic lane and not merging in from the cross walk. I’m unsure personally until I see this play out more.

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  • Jonathan L March 3, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I thought you are supposed to get off and walk when I saw this on the portlandmall.org website.

    http://www.portlandmall.org/news/bikesafety.htm

    Traveling safely
    When traveling on the Mall, please follow these rules:
    Do not ride over or on the light rail tracks. Only cross the tracks at a 90-degree angle when entering the Mall from a cross street.

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  • Chris March 3, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Let’s put cycle tracks on the mall!!!!!!! Amsterdam style!

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  • Dave March 3, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Finally got the video to work – seems like you could potentially negotiate the “copenhagen left” and end up in the right lane on the street you’re turning into, you’d just have to slow down more.

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  • El Biciclero March 3, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    The “Copenhagen Left” terminology is kind of confusing. Why is it called a “left” if there are no left turns involved? I thought a “Copenhagen left” meant making three lefts around the block to end up going the way you want to go. Or does it mean “Pedestrian Left”, and what we are talking about here is a “Mirror Image of a Copenhagen Left”? I also don’t see how “jug handle” (an offramp or diversion that allows you to bend 270 degrees in one direction so you end up going in the other) is the same as “two stage” turn, where you just cross and stop, then go right (no lefts involved). What is described here is a “pedestrian right”. It is the same whether you cross in the south crosswalk or the north crosswalk, it involves stopping, picking up your bike to turn it (or making back-and-forth movements to re-orient) then crossing in the crosswalk.

    If I had to choose, it would be based on which side of the E-W street I wanted to end up on. Neither of the types of turns described here seems any more or less safe than the other. I don’t like a) being on the sidewalk/in the crosswalk, OR b) fiddle-farting around trying to pivot my bike around in front of cars whose light might turn green at any moment. I prefer maneuvers that allow me to keep moving forward, which is why I would probably end up doing a “jug handle”. Two wrongs don’t make a right…but three lefts do.

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  • Bill March 3, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Where did the video go???

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  • ValkRaider March 3, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Downtown has at least 12 or 13 streets that run north and south. Just use the > 90% of north south streets that don’t have light-rail or a bus mall.

    Just in case you missed that:

    More than 90% of the north/south streets downtown do not have bus mall or light-rail on them. Ride on those instead, and forget all this nonsense.

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  • colin March 3, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    I currently use that intersection. I would probably just turn off earlier and use 4th when the Mall becomes active again on 6th to avoid the bus mall/streetcar craziness!

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  • Zaphod March 3, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I think my approach would be to make a left one block prior to my desired turn and then make two rights so I could go straight across without confusion. Yes it’s longer but every step is very “clean” and I’m all about minimizing risk. Alternatively, I’d avoid the mall.

    I have no big complaints about this design. If cars were allowed to make a right while bicycles could not, I would take issue but that’s not the case.

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  • carless in pdx March 3, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    This would be a great place for a bike box. Bike boxes on all east-bound streets crossing the mall!

    I already use Copenhagen Lefts all the time, this will be business as usual for me.

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  • jacob March 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I don’t get it, if motor vehicles cannot take a right, why should bikes get to?

    I’ll stick to taking three left turns if I need to take a right.

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  • Tbird March 3, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    @ 8 & 26
    Bikes aren’t cars

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  • Joe Rose March 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Hello, all,
    After hearing from Colin with a clarification on the TriMet method of crossing, I’ve edited the post to reflect — what I hope — is reality. Sorry to you all and Jonathan for the confusion. The bad information stemmed from my conversation with TriMet reps, who have told me and everyone else that bike riders would need to “cross like pedestrians” in the crosswalks. When I asked for clarification, I was told by an obviously confused or uninformed rep that would mean we would have to walk our bikes across the mall.

    Obviously, there’s still a lot of confusion about this out there, since several cyclists have told me that TriMet reps told them during last week’s Breakfast on the Bridges they would need to walk across the mall. They likely heard “cross like a pedestrian,” which was the TriMet mantra.

    Hopefully, we didn’t confuse matters even more.

    I’ve also edited so that only the Copenhagen Left demonstration is included. I will reshoot the other footage to fit the latest from Colin.

    Long may you ride,
    Joe

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  • Joe Rose March 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    “edit” the video, that is, so that only the Copenhagen Left demonstration is included.

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  • Jim Lee March 3, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Savvy commuters have been doing just that for years. It’s called a “J” turn, left or right.

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  • Jonathan L March 3, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Are we allowed to get off and walk?

    UPDATE: TriMet has clarified in a comment below that their policy is for bikes to ride in the crosswalk at walking speed — not to get off and walk as is suggested in the Oregonian video.

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  • Christopher Cotrell March 3, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    What did people do before the construction started? A mix of three lefts, Copenhagen leftright/jug-handle turn/Tri-Met right, and illegal right turns from the bus lane.

    The only change is that people are more worried about the illegal right turns since there are tracks to flip over on, but really this isn’t any different from what came before.

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  • Jonathan L March 3, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    The Video in the article has a rider that pulls to the curb in front of a parking space. There wont be parking spaces in the bus mall that allow room for cyclists to safely remove themselves from traffic during a green light.

    A video with a cyclist stopping in the rain in front of a bus in the car lane with a green light would be interesting to see.

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  • Kevin Wagoner March 3, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Interesting. I hope the Copenhagen Left is legal. Often this is how I take a left from Barber onto Terwilliger (heading out of the city) on my way home. It seems to be the safest way at that intersection and seems to be safe here as well.

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  • Joseph Miller March 3, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    I recently purchased directional turn signals for my bike and the 1st day I used them they saved my life at an intersection where a truck was making a right turn.
    It’s a no brainer. I purchased mine at http://www.safetybikesignals.com.
    I just can’t understand why more riders do not have these on their bike. Do You?

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  • KWW March 3, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I suggest that when a trimet bus makes a right hand turn near my house, that the driver stop, pick up the bus and carry it through the intersection, before getting back in and driving away.

    Seriously, I can see a bunch of noobs on bikes ignoring the rule and getting their wheel caught in the rails and falling, BAD…

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  • Michelle March 3, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Clarification (for anyone who reads so far down in the comments): you’re required to slow to a walking speed when “approaching or entering” a crosswalk. It’s not clear whether this applies when you’re entering it from the road (and not the sidewalk).

    814.410: (d) Operates the bicycle at a speed greater than an ordinary walk when approaching or entering a crosswalk, approaching or crossing a driveway or crossing a curb cut or pedestrian ramp and a motor vehicle is approaching the crosswalk, driveway, curb cut or pedestrian ramp.

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  • BURR March 3, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    S.N.A.F.U.

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  • PdxMark March 3, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Is this any different from the “box style” of left turn in the 2006 version of the Oregon Bicyclist Manual published by ODOT?

    http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/BIKEPED/docs/bike_manual_06.pdf

    It’s a fine option when merging across lanes is impractical because of car traffic. Of course, it’s better to ride across than to walk across as a pedestrian.

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  • JR March 3, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    I never assumed the TriMet suggestion was to get off the bike and walk. Where did that come from? I think we all had the same information going into this…

    Anyway, I don’t see any significant difference between the “coopenhagen left” and the “trimet right”.. just depends on what lane you want to be in the perpendicular street.

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  • John Russell March 3, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Exactly the same as Melbourne’s hook turn that I mentioned quite a long time ago. I use it almost daily while commuting in east Vancouver. It’s much easier than waiting for a gap in two lanes of traffic. At this particular location, (NE 136th Ave & 9th St) the cross traffic also always gets a green before the left turn lanes, so it’s faster too.

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  • old&slow March 4, 2009 at 1:41 am

    A while back when their was a discussion about tracks, I thought they were a bad idea for cyclists and got a bunch of grief on here for that opinion. A whole lot of cyclists commute using Terwilliger so this means when we come off the hill onto 6th we have to screw around turning left,left,left or doing some crosswalk walk thing or whatever instead of just making a right turn to go to 4th or head east across Hawthorne? I hope you all are happy, when Adams & Co. have their way and tracks are all over I hope you enjoy riding through town!

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  • TS March 4, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Given that the alternative is probably “no right turn allowed” (and that would also be reasonable, given the situation), I think the Trimet suggestion is just a work-around.

    Those who ride through that intersection regularly will simply arrange their route to not make a right turn there, which leaves only the riders who are unfamiliar with the area and possibly unfamiliar with Trimet’s suggestion. I haven’t seen the intersection, so what kind of safety measures are in place to prevent them from making a right turn? I don’t see any guard rails, or even signs. Is someone going to have to make an illegal right and get run over by a bus before it gets fixed?

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  • Vance March 4, 2009 at 5:55 am

    “Copenhagen Left”, c’mon really? I mean really? Sheesh. Ya, and we could’ve used electric buses instead of trains. 5th, 6th, 10th and 11th now all have stupid train-tracks on them. That leaves a park, and SW Broadway to cross town on. Sure hope the city doesn’t get much more, “Bike Friendly”. I’ll be walking if they do.

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  • Randy March 4, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Time for the history machine. In the 1970’s the goal was to get more pedestrians and bikes to downtown Portland. Human powered transport is low carbon and low pollution transport. Check out slowplanet.com to find walkable and healthy cities.

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  • Paul Tay March 4, 2009 at 8:08 am

    I prefer the Denver DNC turns. Simply blow as many reds as possible, while da cops are busy gunnin’ for da anarchists.

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  • Editz March 4, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Why not accept that just like cars, bicycles cannot go everywhere they want to. Your choice of transportation comes with both advantages, disadvantages and certain sacrifices. Go an extra block and do a normal turn.

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  • k. March 4, 2009 at 8:34 am

    It seems that there are at least a couple of minor variations of this type of turn. The original “Tri-Met turn” the “Copenhagen left” or a combination where instead of stopping at the crosswalk and walking your bike through, you stop on the far side of the cross walk but in the right lane and then ride through when you have a signal. I can’t imagine how any of these would be considered illegal. I’d say use which ever one works for you. The disadvantage to the Copenhagen left is that it only works turning from a one-way street to a one-way street. That’s not a problem with many of the down town streets, but it is with some.

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  • Zaphod March 4, 2009 at 9:26 am

    I dig the transit mall.

    I popped on there N of Burnside and rolled up to Madison then popped onto the Hawthorne bridge. What I LIKE about it is that the lane is narrow so it is absolutely unambiguous that cars cannot pass and it feels completely safe to take, nay own, the lane. And the traffic lights are timed such that it must be like 12 mph or so. I was handily able to roll with the lights on my cargo bike. Cars were also going at this pace so the feeling of holding up traffic was absent. This is a rare experience on the cargo bike uphill.

    All of this whining about making a right turn when it means we (collectively as a society, not just bikers) get a superb streetcar system seems somewhat minor. There are other routes that work fine when your destination is West of 5th.

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  • Lenny Anderson March 4, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I checked out the bike/auto lane on the Mall, both 5th and 6th with my Specialized Globe. Its made to order for bikes, despite the limits, for obvious reasons, on right turns. 12 MPH lights, no parking, clear separation between the lane and the bus lane. We need to take that lane, own that lane, make that lane a de facto bike lane.

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  • 180mm_Dan March 4, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Ride full lane. Ride full lane. Take your right like a car.

    If that seems hard to imagine, then you probably rarely ride downtown.

    That’s the beauty of downtown, bikes are as fast as cars because the cars are looking for a parking spot or otherwise plodding along.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 4, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    it would be neat if someone put together a bike ride on the new mall so folks could get a feel for riding on it with a lot of other bikers…

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  • Dave March 4, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    I go down 6th coming from OHSU and going towards Madison every weekday evening around 5.15, if anyone wants to join me 🙂

    I agree that it’s nice just riding in the lane through there, because the traffic is controlled enough that you never move very fast. It’s pretty laid back. Nice cruising past PSU too, lots of people out and about.

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  • S March 5, 2009 at 1:46 am

    Has anyone even been to Copenhagen? That’s not really how we take lefts…

    We ride through the intersection, make a hand signal, and stop at the opposite corner to wait for the light to change in the perpendicular direction, and resume riding in the new direction. There is no dismount, lane change, or crosswalk required, and strangely the ‘Copenhagen Left’ really only works for turning left…

    If fact, given how stress free the process is, it really should be the standard for all bike lefts on large streets.

    (And when Portland eventually gets up to over 30% of traffic by bike, the right hand turn for cars at red lights should be abolished too.)

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  • […] engineering techniques applied to overcome right hooks and left turn issues, including bike boxes, the Copenhagen-Left, no-right turn exclusions, and more. There was a rudimentary attempt at drawing a right-hook […]

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