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Thoughts, observations on N. Williams bike traffic

Posted by on July 21st, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Bike traffic - N. Williams-2

Evening rush-hour on N. Weidler at Williams.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The other day on my way home I found myself right in the middle of major bike traffic on N. Williams Ave. I usually go up the Mississippi/Albina Hill, but the heat made Williams much more appealing.

My first sign of bike traffic was at the bike-only signal atop the Eastbank Esplanade at the east end of the Steel Bridge (at intersection with N. Interstate/NE Lloyd). There were about 12 people stopped at that light — enough to make me take my camera out.

Bike traffic - N. Williams-4

A game of leap-frog is
about to begin…

Then, as I waited for the light at NE Weidler I had to double take at the line of 12-14 bikes making their way up to Williams. As that group joined me and a few others on N. Williams, I stayed back to take photos.

I’ve heard a lot about the leap-frog with TriMet buses that happens along N. Williams during the evening commute and I knew this would be the perfect time to see it. Sure enough, a bus came along and what happened next was very interesting.

Watch what happens when the people riding bikes realize the bus needs to cross over their lane to get to a stop…

People have several different reactions to a TriMet bus pulling in front of them.

The photo reminds me of a shark swooping in on a school of fish. Notice how they all scatter for survival. It’s interesting to see the different choices each one makes. One guy doesn’t feel like stopping at all and he swoops around to the left to keep going. Another person heads straight for the sidewalk to maintain their momentum. Others decide to just stop and wait behind the bus. (*Note that TriMet GM Fred Hansen recently told BikePortland that bus operators are now trained to not signal at all prior to servicing a stop, precisely to avoid confusion like that seen in the photo above).

Bike traffic - N. Williams-8

Looking south at N. Graham. Notice how little
room bikes have to operate (can
you even spot the bikes in the photo?).

Further up the road it becomes clear that as bike use has soared on N. Williams, the roadway space allocated for bicycle traffic is not adequate. A four foot bike lane is sandwiched in between two other lanes of fast-moving motor vehicle traffic and a lane for on-street parking (*update: on many blocks there is on-street parking on both sides). This is far from the “world-class” bikeway experience the Bureau of Transportation is striving for.

In 2008, the Bureau of Transportation counted 2,750 bike trips at the intersection of N. Williams and N. Russell. That’s a 30% increase over the year before (similar to a 28% increase in bike trips citywide between ’07 and ’08).

Bike traffic - N. Williams-10

By contrast, motor vehicle traffic counts on Williams have remained relatively flat. A count at Williams and Alberta in 1996 showed 6,264 car trips. In May 2004, that number had dropped to 5,950 (and then it spiked for some reason in October 2004 to 6,723).

These counts (and these photos) show that bicycles make up a significant portion of traffic on N. Williams. As dense residential units and bicycle-oriented development continues on N. Williams, bike traffic will increase along with it. If my math is correct, given current trends, bikes could soon make up half the trips in this corridor.

It seems like PBOT might want to consider putting N. Williams on a diet. It could stand to lose a few feet of car space. How about taking it down to just one motor vehicle lane, one bike/bus shared lane, and then the on-street parking lane?

Do you ride on Williams during the evening rush hour? What is your experience? Surely there is something that can be done to improve bike/bus/car traffic flow. What are your ideas?

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104 Comments
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    John Russell July 21, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Well, it’s one-way, so here’s an idea:

    Take out the on-street parking on the left side and then move the bike lane to the left side of the street, widening it with the newly reclaimed parking lane. Now you have an ultra-wide bike lane without the threat of dooring on the opposite side of the street from bus traffic, preventing any of this leapfrogging that always occurs.

    Other than the opposition to the removal of a parking lane, is there any reason why this wouldn’t work? I often prefer left-hand bike lanes on way way streets for some reason. Maybe it’s the fact that drivers can more accurately judge how much room with which they can pass.

    Any other suggestions?

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    patrickz July 21, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    I’ve been cycling on Williams since before bike lanes and agree with your idea: a bus/bike lane and one motor vehicle lane. (Lately, I’ve watched for buses and tried to either slow down or “breakaway” to avoid having the “swoop” cut me off).

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    Blair July 21, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    They should move the bus stops to the left side of the street. How easy would that be?

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    Jessica Roberts July 21, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    It’s funny you bring this up – just in the last few days I’ve been observing that the scramble signal at the top of the Esplanade regularly has more bikes waiting than there are cars waiting at either of the other two legs of the intersection have. Maybe it’s time we gave a scramble signal green after each other auto movement, no?

    And I also, as an especially slow bicyclists, dislike being in the bike lanes on Williams. I’m constantly being passed on both sides by bicyclists which is pretty uncomfortable. I especially hate being passed on the right but it’s hard to blame bicyclists as there are often very few cars parked in the right-side parking spots. Maybe we could lose the parking on one side of the street and get a double-wide bike lane?

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    olivia July 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I also think it’s timely you brought this up. I rode N. Williams in evening rush hour last night, as it is not our normal commute thoroughfare. I was uncomfortable with all the bicyclists, buses, and drivers on the road. Especially as I am commuting more with my daughters on their own bikes, we are a very slow group. Yesterday, riding slow and solo, I was passed twice by bicyclists on the right without warning, and that was a bit frightening. I do see the perceived need to pass on the right when there is much obstacle to passing on the left, but I already ride as far right as I can, so I also think passing on the right is dangerous.

    I am going to avoid riding N. Williams for now, as I don’t think it is safe for me and my brood.

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    bahueh July 21, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    here’s an idea…everyone slow the &*^& down and pass buses and other riders on the left when its safe and quit advocating for infrastructure needs to accomodate bad riding styles and choices…unless y’all would like to get out your check book and pay for such things.

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    williams rider July 21, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I ride the Williams route in the evening, and on days when its too crowded (agree w/ being uncomfortable with that much passing) I’ll often pop over to Rodney 1 block east. More stop signs, less passing, no bus leapfrog. Another nice alternative is Holladay to 7th.

    Some thoughtful development on Williams could easily make it into a “world class bikeway experience”, which would be great!

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    Dave July 21, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I’ve been riding home on N.Williams for a year and half now. It can get very crowded during the summer and I agree with Johns solution or Blairs (moving the stops makes sense)

    Often as the lights turn green to cross Weilder and Broadway there is mad scramble to get up to the front of the line. As further up the road where there are more cars passing becomes more difficult. I often find myself just by passing Williams on busy days now and going up to 7th to avoid the big mob of riders all trying to pass at the same time. So I think a wider bike land could certainly help. I am often guilty of riding fast just to stay away from the groups of riders who might be going slower than I am.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 21, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    bahueh,

    I find it interesting that your comment, advocating for a “take the lane” style of riding, comes just after two women that are several months pregnant.

    They are not about to try to mix with traffic in this situation. End of story. It is riders like them that necessitate bikeways that are safe and comfortable and provide a level of separation and breathing room away from motor vehicles.

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    Dirk Diggler July 21, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I use Williams all the time as it is the most efficient street to get to/from any point south of my house. Boy, oh boy has it gotten congested over the last couple of years as more businesses have opened on Williams and more people are commuting by bike. Two obeservations…

    1. The bus situation needs to change because the bus drivers I’ve encountered, either on my bike or while driving a car, are super aggresive and somebody is going to get hurt.

    2. It would be great if there were a wider bike lane so faster cyclists didn’t have to take the road to pass the slower cyclists. Passing slower cyclists during rush hour can really suck.

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    are July 21, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    the problem is the existence of a striped bike lane at all, coupled with the incessant “ride to the right” mantra. a lot of people heading north on Williams are going to be making right turns along the way — many at Tillamook, just a couple of blocks up, so stashing them in a striped lane to the far left is not a solution.

    as for the photo showing scattered responses to a bus coming across the lane to the stop: the correct answer is (a) pass on the left, though “swoop” would not be necessary if the cyclist was asserting the lane, as the bus would not have overtaken in the first instance.

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    jeff July 21, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Welcome to my world. Things will be ok again when the rains come 😉

    These days I either avoid it altogether (7th or 9th) or take the right lane and throw the hammar down.

    Seriously, I agree that removing parking from either side of the street would go a long way towards creating more room and help with the “dooring” threat. It is time.

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    twistyaction July 21, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Moving bus stops to the left wouldn’t work because the access doors are on the right side.

    Didn’t I recently read on this site that Tri-Met bus drivers have been instructed not to signal a pull-over if there are cyclists next to or behind the bus to avoid confusion such as that pictured above? Aren’t they just supposed to slow or stop until the bike lane is clear, then signal and move through?

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    are July 21, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    re Jonathan’s comment that came up as I was writing mine. absent a striped lane, and absent on-street parking on the right side, there would be no reason why a slower cyclist could not comfortably ride in the right third or so of the traffic lane. part of what both comments 4 and 5 complain of is cyclists passing on the right, for which there really is no excuse.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 21, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    RE: bus signaling comment from twistyaction #12..

    yes, you did read that here. however, I think even if a bus didn’t signal, just having it slow down would make most people on bikes assume it was about to move over into their lane.

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    GLV July 21, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    They should move the bus stops to the left side of the street. How easy would that be

    You would need a dedicated Williams Ave bus fleet, with doors on the left-hand side of the vehicle. And therefore you would have to change ALL the stop locations on lines 4 and 44. (asking riders to queue in the travel lane while boarding the bus is not an option) At ~$250K a pop for a bus, it’s likely in the 10 million + range. Re-striping the bike lane would probably be a little bit cheaper.

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    Jordan July 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    @Blair
    Bus stops have to be on the right because of where the door is.
    I like John Russell’s idea. Bike lane on the left and let the busses and cars duke it out. The biggest problem with this however, is the on-ramp to 84 or whatever that highway I never go on is called.

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    John Lascurettes July 21, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    One frustration with leap-bus-frog no one has mentioned is that many of the drivers fail to pull all the way over into the bus zone and completely straddle the bike lane (and sometimes half the car lane). It makes it much more tenuous to pass on the left, but I still do. Other drivers do seem to make a concerted effort to pull all the way into the bus zone.

    Jonathan, did you notice the road patching going on at N Williams and NE Morris? The construction crew filled in the ditch well enough across the traffic lanes but did not across the bike lane, making it a pretty deep ridge. To the crew’s credit, there is a “bikes in roadway” sign 1/2 block before, but when I’ve signaled to take the lane, many cars have not yielded and have forced me to take the hit of the ditch.

    I would like to third the nomination for taking out the parking on the LEFT side of the street and making that a buffered bike lane. There would be no bus-leap-frog this way. It also eliminates all the crossover and jamup with cars at the intersection of N Williams and Fremont. The only dangers would be the cars that dart across the road from the left after coming off the Fremont bridge at N Cook and N Fargo to go north on Williams to get to eastbound Fremont.

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    twistyaction July 21, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    RE: cyclists assuming despite Tri-Met’s stated policy comment from Jonathan #14

    It seems like Tri-Met has done their part with their drivers by instituting a sensible policy regarding crossing the bike lane. Whether or not the drivers follow this policy is another matter. However, it seems like cyclists have a responsibility to know the “rules of the road” and act accordingly. I certainly think all cyclists in a bike lane should assert their right to the lane (within reason) before darting out of it to the left and right. Tri-Met has made an effort to behave predictably and with respect for our mode of transport, we should be able to do the same.

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    Esther July 21, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Only sorta related, but getting onto Williams from Broadway/Weidler is hairy these days when it’s crowded. The bike lane on Broadway from Benton to Williams is so crowded and narrow, that I feel completely squeezed in and claustrophobic when it’s hot out with exhaust in my face. The other day I was in bike traffic along there and we were going so slowly that it actually made it more difficult for me to pedal up the hill.

    It is also very sketchy when you take the “left turn” diverter to get onto Williams- which puts you right up behind the intersection. It’s fine when no one else is there, but when there are 2 handfuls of people there before you, you have to ride the wrong way in the vehicle traffic lane on Williams to u-turn and get behind them (or else, just sorta get along side them in the vehicle lane and let the jockeying as you cross Broadway and Williams sort it out).

    I randomly took Winning Way for those few blocks the other day, which was quiet and practically empty, and I avoided the crowd and the weird left turn scenario, but there definitely ahs to be a better way 🙂

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    goldsanto July 21, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    The worst door zone, in my experience, has been in front of the convenience store on Williams and Fremont. There’s always someone hopping out to run into the store, or pulling out of a parking spot to try and beat traffic whose signal just turned green at Fremont.

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    Allan July 21, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    As an occasional rider of this route and occasional driver of it as well, I agree for the need for change. There are a ton of bikes as there should be, this is basically a bike expressway.

    I think the left-side bike lane should be given a decent amount of credit, this could solve a number of problems. It could take the entire current left traffic lane. There is alot of left-turning cars that will now be turning left from the other (right) lane. What is the typical setup for this? This is especially prevalent at Cook and Fremont. I’m excited for improvements to this area

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    Scott Cohen July 21, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    NE Rodney is not a bad alternative if you feel like cruising a little more slowly and not feeling rushed.

    You can pick it up at NE Hancock and it continues all the way to Ainsworth and beyond. I usually jump on a Tillamook. Crossing at Alberta and Killingsworth can be a pain depending on auto traffic.

    Of course, that’s not a solution to the larger capacity issues on N Williams bike lane…

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    Matt Picio July 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Jonathan, regarding traffic on Williams and the 2004 numbers: it looks like traffic on Williams has increased about 8% between 1996 and 2006. The 2004 numbers are anomalous and easily explained – at the time of the traffic counts in 2004, the Broadway bridge was closed, removing a major source of additional traffic on Williams.

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    nuovorecord July 21, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    I think John Russell has the right idea here. That was my first thought as well.

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    aljee July 21, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Vancouver/Williams is a proposed streetcar corridor. If it ever happens, it would be possible (or essential) to have the stops on the opposite side of the street from the bike lane.

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    E July 21, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I sometimes take the bus up Williams and just this summer noticed the incredible number of bikes on that road. From the bus it is impossible to see exactly what happens between bikes and bus but it looks like an amazing ballet.
    I rarely ride on Williams but I’ve encountered some of its problems elsewhere. I’ve played Trimet leapfrog on N Willis, but there are hardly any cars there to deal with. And I’ve been passed on the right on SW Broadway. That’s another tough situation; the bike lane is narrow, and I ride to the left to avoid the door zone, and lots of riders are faster than me and would rather risk doors than cars. Can’t blame them really.

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    toddistic July 21, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I thought I saw you out there the other day Jonathon :). As a year round bike commuter on Williams / Vancouver this congestion is mostly filled with fair-weather bikers who abandon their bikes when the rain and winter months approach. My favorite day is Monday when all of the PIR / CX guys are heading up usually because they are travelling at the same speed as I am. I’ve had some great sprints with some of them up Williams. Of course they make me pull most of the way! 😛

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  • […] St. location in Portland, and we were interested to read Jonathan Maus of bikeportland.org’s thoughts on N. Williams traffic. July 21st, 2009 | Category: […]

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 21, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    “this congestion is mostly filled with fair-weather bikers who abandon their bikes when the rain and winter months approach

    don’t forget that it’s not just the wind and rain that make people stop riding in the winter… I think it’s also the dark and wet conditions that make unsafe bikeways feel even less safe to novice riders.

    If we had a truly world-class bikeway system, we’d see much less winter rider attrition.

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    Dana July 21, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    I don’t ride up Williams anymore because it is a death trap.

    I take the slightly longer, but much less stressful, NE 8th Ave and just cruise all the way home.

    Can we get a version of the SE Harrison/Lincoln Bike Boulevard please?

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    Ted July 21, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    If I am passing another cyclist on Williams I look over my shoulder, wait for a gap in the traffic, then move into the traffic lane to pass. If traffic is heavy and I cannot do that, and there is space on the right, I will pass cyclists on the right. I was unaware that some cyclist feel uncomfortable being passed on the right. I am curious to hear from someone who can explain to me what that is about?

    I feel very fortunate to be able to ride Vancouver and Williams every day for my commute. I have been riding it regularly for 3 1/2 years and I cannot recall any run-ins with cars or buses. It is a busy road for both bikes and cars because it is a quick and direct route north, especially when I-5 is jammed at rush hour.

    While there are certainly lots of bikes, there are far more cars. It is my opinion that to limit car traffic to one lane would be a traffic nightmare during rush hour.

    I appreciate hearing from those that find riding on Williams to be not to their liking so they take a side street. It would seem this would be a far simpler solution than reconfiguring a street to accommodate peak bike trips during the summer months. There are days during the winter when I ride home in the dark and the rain when I see no bikes on Williams at all but there are the same amount of cars.

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    Kt July 21, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Wait a second.

    TriMet’s bus policy is to now NOT signal when the buses are pulling over to stop??

    Since when do buses get to be exempt from the rules of the road?

    Personally, pulling over without signaling is a pet peeve of mine. I’m not psychic, you know. Those turn signals are there for a reason: to let the rest of us know what the driver is going to do next!! Same reason motor vehicles have brake lights.

    Anyway. Maybe that’s just me. 🙂

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 21, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Several people have mentioned and/or advocated using NE Rodney (or other alternate to the west) as a solution.

    I think it’s unacceptable to ask people who live west of Williams to go even further east, out of their way, just to be able to feel safe and comfortable on their way home.

    Many people are on Williams because Greeley, Interstate and the Mississippi Hill are not viable options (they are either too dangerous, too steep, or both).

    I think Michigan is a great option to the west, but not many people even know it’s there.

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    toddistic July 21, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Jonathon @ 29.

    I don’t think there is much we can do about changing winter daylight hours, the frigid cold or the rain.

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    ME 2 July 21, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    baheuh #6, did you ever think that the infrastructure plays a role in some of these bad riding styles? When this lane was originally set up what was the forecasted load of total traffic volume for bikes? 5%? 10%? Now we’re seeing stretches where 1/3rd of all traffic on this road are bicycles.

    It seems pretty clear that bike traffic has exponentially exceeded the load projections for this lane. When that happens, revising the infrastructure is exactly what transportation planners are supposed to do.

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    Esther July 21, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    With all the talk of alternate routes like Rodney and 7th, 8th, and 9th, I just checked the Bicycle Master Plan proposed updates for this area:
    http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=44672
    It looks like no changes are proposed for Vancouver/Williams but that bike boulevards are proposed for both Commercial/Haight to the west and Rodney/Mallory to the east. I imagine both of those would take some of the heat off Williams especially as they became better known, especially to cyclists who prefer quieter & slightly slower to bicycle expressways.

    They are releasing the draft incorporating public comment from the open houses late this summer, for “public comment.” Would this be a good time to bring up the issue of improving Williams too?

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    Esther July 21, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Jonathan, I agree with you about options for North Portland riders!! I want to add to my last comment that even with the potential Commercial/Haight improvement, west-bound riders would still be forced to take Williams from Weidler to Fremont. which as we know, is where some (if not most) of the most dangerous congestion is.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 21, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Esther,

    thanks for linking to the Bike Master Plan. Tomorrow I will begin a multi-part series that looks at what’s in the plan and hopefully gets people interested enough to get involved and comment when the time comes.

    now…as for Williams. Our City Bike Coordinator Roger Geller has said publicly that “our infrastructure has not kept up with bike use”. This is a clear situation where that applies.

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    Oliver July 21, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    1.Widen the sidewalk cutout at the scramble signal so southbound bike traffic doesn’t have to veer into the lane to get onto the sidewalk to descend the hill, and nearly collide with waiting northbound bike traffic on the sidewalk.

    2. Start heavy enforcement against the freeway bound cars that crowd into the intersection @ I-5 south onramp/N. Williams blocking the bike lane after their light has turned.

    3. Re-time the signal at Wheeler/Williams/Winning so getting across Weidler & Broadway on the same cycle doesn’t require a full sprint.

    4. Fix that confounded pit in the bike lane referred to by John (18). I don’t care if they ran out of asphalt, (not my problem) the contractors have created a road hazard and it’s been nearly a month now.

    5. I have had a building feeling for sometime now that this street should be reduced to a single vehicle lane. But I would be equally comfortable with sharing a transit lane with buses, or having a dedicated bike lane on the left.

    6. Reducing auto traffic to one lane would negate my final gripe which is that traffic (hazard) island at Graham street which narrows the lanes.

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    twistyaction July 21, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    @Kt #33: You mis-understand the recent change in policy. The drivers (as far as I know) have been instructed only to signal when the bike lane they must cross has cleared of riders. If there are riders in the bike lane that would be affected by the bus’ crossing to the curb, the bus should slow to let the cyclists pass before signaling, then moving to the curb. The decision to not signal their intent to cross the bike lane if riders are in it stems from Tri-Met recognizing the cyclist’s right not to be cut off. I like that. I think we, in turn, should act predictably and not scatter all over the place when we see a bus slowing (for us) in order to pull over for a bus stop.

    I hope this is clear now. Tri-Met is still using all their signals, all the time (or are supposed to be). They have just given cyclists the courtesy and respect of not presuming that once the bus’ right turn signal is on, the bus driver will expect bike lane traffic to yield. That’s the scenario for buses moving right across the bike lane. The law remains that when a bus is leaving the curb and the little yield sign on the left-rear of the bus lights up, all vehicle traffic which would have overtaken the stopped bus must yield for it to re-join traffic.

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    Paul Cone July 21, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Rodney is OK until you get to Fremont, then you have to wait for the traffic to clear, which is usually quite busy at rush hour, because Rodney doesn’t go straight through there — it jogs east 100 or so feet. Fix Williams.

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    are July 21, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    if the striped lane were not there, and cyclists were encouraged (rather than in effect forbidden) to assert the right travel lane, and if everyone understood that passing is done on the left (like in the, y’know, real world) there would be no need for a bus driver to wait for anything to “clear.”

    re comment 32. I don’t care where you pass me, but the social norm is to pass on the left. that is where my mirror is, and that is where I am expecting to see you. if you attempt to pass on the right, you are taking the risk that I might fade right (whereas people do not generally fade left in traffic).

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    joeb July 21, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    As Oliver #40 says, I get in the lane and sprint up to Broadway just to catch the light there and at Weidler. Then I sprint another block until I can get into a break in the bike lane jam. It’s kind of fun and I hope I’m not being rude. The traffic thins out enough then that I can wait my turn and take the lane if I need to pass somebody. I’ll make do with existing infrastructure. Although a bike lane on the left in place of parking sounds interesting. It doesn’t seem there are many store fronts relying on parking on the left side of the street. Dawson Park, residential, empty lots… Maybe angle parking on the right could make up a few of the lost spaces. Or does angle parking not work with busses?

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    eric July 21, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    As someone who uses williams occasionally for many of the reasons stated above, I have several suggestions:

    Re: Taking the lane. I do this a lot. A lot of the drivers on Williams do respect bikes in the road, but a significant minority believe that bikes have NO PLACE in the traffic lane and they will buzz you close and get all pissed off. Not really a nice way to get home at night, and I’d rather not deal with road ragers.

    Re: slowing down; No. You speed up.

    Re: No bike lane at all. Then most people would find another way to get to work or home, like drive. Most cyclists are total pussies about taking the lane. This has to do with the fact that getting buzzed by some toothless idiot in a clapped out jalopy with washington plates is scary, especially since your family won’t get any money for suing them once they run you over.

    I like the idea of the left lane wide bike lane: this would remove a lot of the conflict with the bus, and would give people space to pass the slows without risking their neck in occasionally hostile traffic. Of course, the businesses won’t have it, since they need parking for both their customers.

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    Tony Fuentes July 21, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I travel the Williams/Vancouver corridor between Ainsworth and the Esplanade on a regular basis – 3-4 times a week RT.

    I have to say that on my own priority list, I don’t view the Williams corridor as one in need of bike infrastructure improvement or funding.

    I can appreciate what some folks have expressed and what Jon documented, but I have to say that I haven’t had any real issue with cars or buses on Williams. I have never had leap frogging with a bus last more than a stop – two at the most.

    I am not some risk taker or super biker, I am an experienced cyclist and here is what I typically experience heading North on Williams during the PM peak:

    Once you are off the esplanade/steel bridge, you may see a bunch of bikes at the light at Weidler (mostly because folks are coming off the Broadway Bridge)

    I believe this temporary pack has more to do with the nature of the lights at that location than anything else. Same thing happens to cars during peak at certain locations – they bunch at the lights.

    However, the bike pack dissipates pretty quickly once you are heading up the hill.
    You won’t see a dozen bikes waiting at Russell or Fremont or any other light North of Broadway (or at least, I have never seen this).

    As you can imagine, a lot of passing happens between Broadway and Fremont as the pack stretches out heading North up the hill on Williams. And here is where I think there may be a safety concern with traffic on the corridor.

    Namely, during this thinning of the pack you won’t hear much voice or bell usage during passing. It gets mentioned here a lot but really bikers don’t really see each other unless they hear each other first.

    More striking, in my personal opinion, is that there are folks who are strong riders that are unwilling to take the auto lane to pass other cyclists – even when it is completely clear.

    Instead these folks squeeze by other bikers in the bike lane itself or on the lane’s striping (i.e. within the dynamic envelope of the biker being passed).

    Now, I know there is some ODOT thing about needing to use the bike lane and blah, blah, blah but I don’t think that is what is happening here.

    Honestly, I think there are riders out there who are not used to riding WITH auto traffic; i.e. they are most comfortable traveling in a bike lane or other designated/dedicated bike area and may not realize the risk they are taking by trying to stay their “safe zone” or as close as possible to it.

    Now, I realize that situation I am outlining could be viewed as evidence for why the bike lane should be wider but I don’t see it that way.

    The auto lane is available, or will be if you hold back for what is always less than a minute – even during peak traffic, really. So I think the capacity is already there; however, the experience and education may not be.

    So yes, there is a bit of a problem here but I think there is a soft fix to this – namely, education and experience.

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    Allan July 21, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    why does the left lane bike lane have to replace parking? there should be enough space to have a bike lane then parking then cars then parking like so:

    peds | bikes | park | cars | park | peds
    this would replace the current setup of:
    peds | park | cars | cars |b| park| peds

    don’t you think this would be glorious? where there isn’t currently parking, the bikes and cars would be next to each other.

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    N.I.K. July 21, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I find it interesting that your comment, advocating for a “take the lane” style of riding, comes just after two women that are several months pregnant.

    They are not about to try to mix with traffic in this situation. End of story. It is riders like them that necessitate bikeways that are safe and comfortable and provide a level of separation and breathing room away from motor vehicles.

    Jonathon, while bahueh’s suggestion that increased/improved infrastructure is worthless is a bit extreme, your demand for the illusory safety of separate infrastructure is itself a bit short sighted. It’s impossible to deny that riding *sensibly* and *predictably* factors into things. You could put in two-stage bike signal and a six-foot wide lane that turns into a ramp that takes cyclists up and over the bus stop and then back into a safe position, with a timed sensor that gives the bus an all-clear. It’s not going to do jack in the way of preventing people who ride too close/too fast for conditions/without signaling/etc. from confusing the hell out of everyone else and putting themselves (and likely others at risk) -pregnant women or otherwise! Put in all the cycletracks, bike lanes, and so on that you want – the person weaving around the bus without signaling or shooting onto the sidewalk and back will still screw things up.

    Infrastructure needs increase when demand increases, and this stretch of Williams has got it in spades. Assuming that the increase is thoughtfully engineered and carefully planned, it still needs to be used properly. There’s no either/or about it.

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    Ray Penrod July 21, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    As a frequent user of this route from the Esplanade to Ainsworth, I’d like to compile a “Greatest Hits” of suggestions:

    From Oliver:

    1.Widen the sidewalk cutout at the scramble signal so southbound bike traffic doesn’t have to veer into the lane to get onto the sidewalk to descend the hill, and nearly collide with waiting northbound bike traffic on the sidewalk.
    Poorly planned in the first place…
    “Let’s put the scramble sensor right in the middle of the road.”

    2. Start heavy enforcement against the freeway bound cars that crowd into the intersection @ I-5 south onramp/N. Williams blocking the bike lane after their light has turned.
    Perhaps a stoplight camera???

    3. Re-time the signal at Wheeler/Williams/Winning so getting across Weidler & Broadway on the same cycle doesn’t require a full sprint.
    Seriously…this would take how long to correct? Am I pushing my luck to ask for Russell, too? Maybe for those of us that can maintain a good pace (15+) through that stretch.

    4. Fix that confounded pit in the bike lane referred to by John (18). I don’t care if they ran out of asphalt, (not my problem) the contractors have created a road hazard and it’s been nearly a month now.
    I’m surprised I haven’t flatted yet.

    Thanks Jessica…
    just in the last few days I’ve been observing that the scramble signal at the top of the Esplanade regularly has more bikes waiting than there are cars waiting at either of the other two legs of the intersection have. Maybe it’s time we gave a scramble signal green after each other auto movement, no
    Again, a really easy fix.

    Thanks Esther…
    I just checked the Bicycle Master Plan proposed updates for this area:
    http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=44672
    It looks like no changes are proposed for Vancouver/Williams but that bike boulevards are proposed for both Commercial/Haight to the west and Rodney/Mallory to the east.

    The traffic from Weidler to Fremont would be much more difficult, however. My suggestions…
    1. bike boxes across BOTH lanes of through traffic at Weidler/Williams that funnel bike traffic to the entire right-hand lane of Williams before Broadway. If the lights are re-timed as per Oliver’s suggestion, this would work splendidly.

    2. A shared bike/bus lane on the right. Most frequent users of this route would learn quickly just to stay near the left side of the right lane (near the center of the road, I guess) to avoid the leapfrogging of buses. Plus, North of Russell, remove parking from the left side of the road and add a left turn lane for the hospital streets (Knott, Graham, and Stanton). AFTER removing that dump-4$$ traffic hazard island at Graham.

    3. By the time we get to, say Monroe or Fargo, we could be down to a normal bike lane because the faster riders would be ahead and the slower behind. This would also help out all of those drivers that are still amped up from the madness that is the East end of the Fremont Brige at rush-hour. But PAINT THE BIKE LANE AT FREMONT!!!

    Thanks for your time,
    Ray

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    jered July 21, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    As a regular Williams/Vancouver biker I LOVE the route as it is one of the fastest ways to get anywhere on a bike!! Yes, the bus leapfrog can get annoying,but if you’re a bike that has a drivers licence it is pretty easy to negotiate because you know the rules of the road. Is the bus stopping and I’m close behind? signal and go around to the left if safe or just wait. Is the yeild flasher on? Yield. Uncomfortable passing the bus – wait. Yes, there is a ton of traffic, but due to the sparse placement of traffic signals the bike traffic spreads out pretty quick. In some ways I feel safer when there is the congested bike traffic as I feel the cars MUST be aware of all the bikes because they are literally everywhere… As a faster, more experienced rider when I need to pass I’ll shoulder check and take the lane when it is safe to do so. On super hot days, or days where I’m not into people I’ll duck into the neighborhoods and cruise, perfectly viable option and still very direct and quick.

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    N.I.K. July 21, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Well said, jered. Though for what it’s worth, it’s not necessary to be *licensed* to know the rules of the road. Leastways, if you’re a cyclist. The bike itself may have some issues. 😉

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    Kt July 21, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Twistyaction, thank you! What I meant, though, was why did TriMet decide to allow their bus drivers to not use their turn signals at all around bikes?

    As a cyclist, I like to know that what the bus is doing. Even if he plans on waiting for me to clear, it’s still nice for him to use his turn signal, so I know what his intentions are and can get out of the way much faster.

    Or, I can slow down and wait for him.

    I would appreciate it if TriMet drilled it into their drivers that a turn signal does not automagically give a bus a clear space to pull over– but a turn signal goes a long way to helping create that space.

    Now, as for the whole “passing on the right thing”, and why I hate it when people do that to me (and apparently, I’m not alone in my feeling):

    I am not expecting you to come up on my right side. I do not have a mirror over there, and am not in the habit of checking over my right shoulder for upcoming traffic. I do have a mirror on the left, and am in the habit of checking over my left shoulder for traffic.

    Therefore, when you magically appear off my right shoulder expecting me to pass, well, bad things can occur. For instance, I may be startled and fade left into traffic at a bad moment. Or I may lash out at you verbally for scaring me. Or I may crash into you when fading right for whatever reason.

    Seriously. Look ahead, keep an eye behind, and time your passes so you can pass on the left. Commuting home from work is not a race.

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    Steven J July 21, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    It’s not a question of “if” it’s “When”

    In the next 10 years we will see bike freeways, or designated north south east west, and smaller feeders.

    Scale the freeway system down to compare.

    surfaced roads (cement/Blacktop)as we know them, were originally developed to improve the travel experience for bicycles

    Imagine riding on a dirt road along with horse & buggys instead of busses & cars. Without the balloon tires.

    Least our forefathers had some vision.

    Is the best the engineers here in Portland muster’, “back in angle only” Parking?

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    Ray Penrod July 21, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Just remembered that there is no parking on the left North of Russell…I guess auto traffic will just have to wait for all of those left turns.

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    jeneraldisarray July 21, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Ted,

    Just as when driving on a two-lane road with traffic traveling in both directions, passing ought to be done on the left. A motorist would not tolerate passing on the right in such a situation.

    As when driving, very slow-moving traffic should keep to the right (though it’s not necessary to stay ALL the way to the right, just a little to the right of the center of the lane) so that passing on the left can be accomplished more safely.

    Since a cyclist’s speed can vary widely based on endurance, strength, etc., it’s not reasonable to expect that everyone can maintain a particular speed. Therefore, some of us will want to pass slower-moving traffic. It will be the passer’s decision, however, and not a necessity, nor a right.

    The passer needs to stick their neck out, so to speak, and perhaps assume a bit of risk as they make the pass. Maybe this means taking the lane in order to pass on the left, or it could mean shouting (and maybe ringing a bell) ahead, “May I pass on the right?” or “I am passing on your right!”

    There are several particularly iffy situations in which Portland cyclists pass on the right. Westbound on Hawthorne Blvd at the onramp for the Hawthorne bridge, a cyclist riding in the bike lane is passed by a cyclist on the left AND the right simultaneously. When the cyclist who passed on the left slides in front of the lane-rider, the person who passed on the right is already there, (or vice versa) the two come close to colliding, and the passee ends up having to avoid hitting either of them from behind AS everyone is struggling to get up the incline of the onramp. Messy and unnecessary.

    Another scenario: On a bikeway like Williams, a rider attempts to pass another on the right with a car parked to the right of the bike lane a short distance ahead. Passee unexpectedly shifts gears and “puts the hammer down.” Passer did not expect to have to speed up to pass passee, must narrowly avoid hitting parked car either by dropping back or by cutting off passee. Also messy.

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    Mike July 21, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    I almost got run over by a bus running a red light today! The light was green and I started to go (it was a weird intersection where the bus was approaching from an angle out of my line of sight) – if the driver hadn’t seen me going and honked I could have quite literally been killed! What the hell TriMet driver, whoever you were?!

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    Mike July 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Re: 53

    And sometimes people feel like bicycling quickly and sometimes people feel like bicycling slowly.

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    Kimberlee July 21, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Thanks for the post, Jonathan. I would love to see Williams put on a diet, since this is my “safe” route when conditions are too treacherous (i.e., wet and windy) or I am just too tired after work to go up Greeley. I am most concerned about getting doored, as I have had several near misses on Williams. Why not get rid of the parking on the right and expand the bike lane?

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    Malex July 21, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    I ride extensively in NE/SE and have never been close to getting doored.

    I’ve been on Williams once, and I almost got doored – I think my brake lever brushed the door. This bike lane needs fixing.

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    vantucky matthew July 21, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    bahueh #6

    precisely. and a bell ring, or an “on your left” would be great as well. it’s simple respect. and for those “just too hip” hipsters that give me that glazed look, blast though red lights and in general ride like a tool… when my grandmother drives over you i’ll only worry about her since she’s the one that will have to live with your mistake.

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    jeff July 21, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    I use Williams going North (evenings), but take a different route in the mornings. I’m curious – is there similar southbound bike traffic in the mornings on Vancounver? I ask because the Vancouver bike lane is extra-wide, with only one lane of vehicle traffic most of the way. I wonder if that eases the congestion at all?

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    Allan July 21, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    additionally, there is no natural ‘collecting point’ on the southbound route where almost everyone has to stop at the same place, as there is at broadway/weidler on the south-bound end of this route (@ 58)

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    Jessica Roberts July 21, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Jeff #58, southbound Vancouver bike traffic is, indeed, a bit higher than bike traffic on Williams. Last summer, Vancouver at Russell had about 3500 bikes, while Williams at Russell had more like 2750.

    In the 2008 Bike Count Report [PDF here] Roger’s explanation for the discrepancy is:

    “N Vancouver is the most direct
    inbound route from many North Portland neighborhoods, and is characterized by a slight downward grade for most of the ride. In contrast, N Williams has an upward grade for most of the outbound ride. The difference between the two counts may be explained by bicyclists who commute by bike in the morning, but switch modes and take the nearby MAX Yellow Line or any one of several bus options (Frequent Service 4, 44, etc.) on the return trip to avoid the uphill grade. Another reason for the difference may be that bicyclists who ride N Vancouver inbound because of its directness prefer to take a less direct route on the return trip (such as N
    Interstate/Greeley or N Mississippi/Albina) because it offers shopping or dining options.”

    I wonder if some of it is chicken-and-egg, though: fewer riders on Williams because the facilities are worse?

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    NPBike July 21, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    As stated earlier, the freeway on-ramp at I-5/Broadway makes a left side bike lane near impossible in this corridor. That on-ramp is the only reason Williams/Vancouver are one-way today.

    I might suggest making Vancouver a residential street again and have Williams be two way but it presents the same issue.

    The only solution is to have TriMet drive the bus backwards up Williams, putting the doors on the left side.

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    Tonya July 21, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Although I like riding Michigan when I’m not in a hurry, I find all of the stop signs really slow me down compared to Vancouver/Williams. I’m a daily rider up Williams (because I find it inconvenient to make a left to get back over to Michigan when traffic is heavy) and I also take the lane when passing. It’s not a scary as it sounds, but please signal, folks. I’ve found drivers appreciate it when I make an attempt to communicate what I’m doing.

    I’d love to see Commercial become a BB, but that will require diverters every few blocks. I already have a near miss @ Commercial once or twice a month because drivers see a nice wide road and really get going.

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    Jay R. July 21, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I still think that buses NOT signaling is the stupidest thing since Greedo shooting first.

    Yeah, I’d much prefer to be blindsided by a bus than know that one had intentions on my lane…

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    LoneHeckler July 21, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    I commute from the Irving Park area. In the mornings, I use Vancouver to go southbound, jogging over to Flint to catch the Broadway Bridge. In the evening, I avoid the Williams route and instead cross at the Hawthorne Bridge and wind my way through quiet neighborhoods — yeah, a little out of the way, but much more peaceful. I guess I’m one of the reasons for the difference in numbers between am and pm.

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    joeb July 21, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Williams collects bike traffic from the Broadway bridge in the PM. Broadway Bridge traffic splits off from Vancouver at Russel in the morning so it may have more traffic, but it never seems as congested.

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    Steve Bozz July 21, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    I agree with others who classify Williams/Vancouver as a bicycle highway. It’s what I use when I need to dart downtown for work, but if I’m not in a rush, I always take Rodney instead. The enhancement of this street as a more righteous bike highway should include two bike lanes – one for slower traffic and one for passing.

    PLEASE, DO NOT PASS BICYCLISTS ON THE RIGHT! If you have the power to overtake someone, please alert audibly with a bell or a gentle but clear “on your left” and pass in the traffic lane.

    No matter how big the bike lane is, I don’t think it’s wide enough to be sharing with anyone you’re not riding with. Passing should be done outside the bikelane, in the traffic lane.

    I find both cars and buses on this route to be rather careful and attentive to cyclists. Surprisingly, the drivers on this route do seem to have an extra sense for the cyclists on this route.

    I would like to see Williams 1 way as Vancounver is. That would afford a bigger, buffered bike lane without losing the parking (if that’s the hold up).

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    Kara July 21, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    I’ve been riding Williams home for about two years, ever since I moved to St John’s. Lately, I’ve actually been trying to find ways to avoid Williams and try other routes because it’s been feeling incredibly dangerous lately.

    BOTH cars and bikes are combining in large numbers to make things super scary. During a moment when a bus dropped in for a stop, a few people headed straight into the car lane and right in front of cars which slammed on their brakes. I chose to simply stay back behind the bus instead. With all of the bikes, cars try to get past us quickly which ends up having them moving really fast on that road.

    On top of it, I’ve run into many cyclists who ignore the rules of the road: passing on the right, blowing through stop lights, getting into the other lane w/o looking or signaling. I’ve been cut off, passed closely on the right and forced into traffic, actually making me not look forward to my bike ride home.

    I would love it if a larger bike lane were created to allow for a larger group to move through smoothly and putting it on the left would solve a lot of the congestion. I also think a massive education push for all those cyclists who come out during the summer could help. There are a lot of newbies out there who might not know the rules of the road.

    Right now, my solution is to find another way home.

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    Marie July 21, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    I live off of Albina, so when I’m going into town, I take Interstate but when coming home I’ll usually take Broadway clear up to N. Williams to get home. (Interstate and Mississippi/Albina are way to much of an incline for me.) Or I will hop the Max. Personally, I think N. Williams is one of the better biking streets–I’ve had far more problems on that small stretch on NW Lovejoy through the Pearl.

    My main complaint is that island near the hospital (is that Graham St?) that is the only place where I ever feel sort of iffy… the island “chokes” up everything and to top it off, there is a bus stop immediately after the island.

    Another thought: I never ride up the hill from the transit center, but I do frequently ride the #4 bus. During rush hour it is nearly impossible to get through that stop light (with the Southbound I-5 traffic) and many times I just cringe watching cyclists try to get through the gangle of impatient drivers sitting in the intersection on a red light trying to get on the freeway. Maybe the PoPo needs to consider it for one of their “sting” operations 🙂

    And finally, I’d also like to see them align the stop lights better at Broadway/Wiedler. I can never make it through both…

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    BURR July 22, 2009 at 12:04 am

    I don’t ride this route but I see lots of great suggestions here for improving it from those that do.

    Maybe PDOT will actually implement some of these suggested improvements in ten years or so, if you’re lucky!

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    joe July 22, 2009 at 5:34 am

    put me on the side of people who think the bike highway should be wider than 4 feet.

    thanks for thinking ahead on this a little bit – the bus leap frog is a problem that needs a better solution than just not signaling and “making eye contact”.

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    beth h July 22, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Thanks for covering this issue, Jonathan.
    Here’s my 3 cents:

    1. Good luck getting rid of on-street parking, especially in a neighborhood where many older single-family homes do not have garages or real driveways. Not gonna happen.

    2. When a bus overtakes me on the way to a bus stop, I SLOW DOWN. I may even stop and wait a respectful distance behind the bus until it gets out of the bike lane.

    3. I like bike lanes. They invite far more people to ride bikes for transportation than any “take the lane policy” could. NONE of my less-experienced cycling friends would consider riding today if there hadn’t been bike lanes in their neighborhoods.

    4. If Bike riders want to be seen as part of traffic, ore of them need to behave accordingly and stop riding like they’re the only people on the streets. Sharing the road works both ways.

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    Jimmy P July 22, 2009 at 9:00 am

    I’ve been riding this route for almost two years, and during the summer it is far more stressful. More bikes, more cars, more pedestrians. Things I’ve noticed:

    1. Taking the lane is great, but I’ve been honked at and flipped off more than I can count on Williams because drivers don’t realize that we have the right of the lane to pass. I’m not darting in front of cars, I wait for a clearing and take it. I then get some car going 40 honking at me.

    2. In general, I’ve really not had bad experiences with buses. I do something simple, I look at the mirror to see if the driver is looking. Make eye contact, it works.

    3. The bike lane’s narrow. Please don’t ride side-by-side.

    4. I think more enforcement/education needs to be done with cars that the bike lane is not a right-turn lane. I see many people do the California thing where they pull into the bike lane and drive for 10 yards and then turn right.

    5. Why is the Vancouver bike lane so huge and the Williams one so narrow?

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    Matt Picio July 22, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Dana (#31) – That’s kind of an exaggeration, isn’t it? Deathtrap? It’s one of the busiest bike corridors in the city, and we don’t hear of a lot of injuries in that corridor, and I can’t recall any fatalities (indeed, at least one of the alternatives to Vancouver/Williams *is* lethal – Interstate, at least until the right-hook situation which killed Brett was remedied.

    As Esther pointed out in #37, there will be Bike Boulevard alternatives in the near future, and even without Bike Boulevard treatments those streets are fairly safe already.

    Kt (#33) – Right on, and if that *is* the Tri-Met policy, it needs to change RIGHT NOW. At least with a car, I can sometimes see the driver glance over their shoulder before they move into the lane – I can’t usually see the bus driver.

    twistyaction (#41) – Are the buses using their hazard lights when slowing in cases where they can’t get over due to bikes? They are required to by law, to help prevent getting rear-ended. The policy is still screwed up. If they intend to get over, they need to signal. Cyclists riding in traffic can figure out what to do on their own.

    Paul Cone (#42) – “Fix Williams” – What’s broken?

    eric (#45) – re: speeding up. No, you slow down, unless it’s safe to pass, and then do so at a safe distance. Audible signal isn’t required by law, but it’s nice and keeps the other person from being startled.

    If you can’t manage to hang back until it’s safe to pass, then get off the road.

    It sounds like you have no problem taking the lane, so those remarks aren’t really aimed at you per se – they’re aimed at those who feel the need to pressure the person ahead of them in the bike lane, and then who pass with a foot clearance without any warning. Sure, warning isn’t required by law, but really – if you scare the bejezzus out of someone, and they wobble into you, you could both go down – how much effort does “on your left” cost, anyway?

    Kt (#52) – Amen. I have people sometimes shoot between me and parked cars on the right when I ride up Hawthorne, even though I keep as far right in the bike lane as is practical, to leave them room to pass me on the left. Invariably, they give no warning – I only see them if I look in my mirror when they are far enough back.

    Steven J (#53) – speaking of, I had a brief conflict with a motorist yesterday who was trying to park in “back in angle only” parking, because when approaching an intersection with a turn signal on, their intentions were unclear (unless / until they shift into reverse). Fortunately we were both polite and adult, and his window was down.

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    Meg July 22, 2009 at 9:16 am

    I’ve been wanting to rant on this subject for a while. I don’t have time to read all the above comments, so I’m sure I’m repeating some of what’s been said, but:

    1. Williams in the summer has way too much bike traffic on it. I have pretty much never had any problems with the car traffic, sans buses, and even then they are usually pretty courteous (and I try my best to return it). Bikes though? Yeah. I have gotten in the habit of just pulling off to the side and waiting as each “bike pack” passes, so I don’t have to sit at the front of them sweating as I wonder what creative method each one will use to zip by me as quickly as possible. A lot of people on this route are every bit as bad as angry rush hour car drivers!! Sitting right on your tail and obviously impatient… Never so much as an “on your left” or anything when they do zip past, often in part of the small bike lane. I would probably have a lot more problems if I didn’t have a good mirror, and ride very defensively.

    Very few smiles or friendliness all around, it seems like most people see it as a raceway.

    This is sad because at all other times of the year, this is a really fantastic route for me. I’m right at the point of swearing it off for summer use.

    2. People not following traffic laws — ok, this is much less of a concern on this street than many others I’ve been on — but people don’t stop for pedestrians at the crosswalks and they often just run right through red lights. Momentum Schmomentum — this is not safe! I sadly can’t say “it’s not expected behavior” because I am finding now (on other streets, anyway) that even when I’m following stop sign and traffic light rules, cars will timidly sit there and wait for me to go, expecting me to do so anyway. This should be an indication of how widespread the problem is.

    3. The screwed up connection between Broadway and Williams. The nice construction fence that I notice is still there, uselessly blocking the bike path. The best compromise I’ve seen so far is bikes going up and turning right facing oncoming traffic onto a one-way street so they can swing around and get into the Williams bike lane. Thankfully there’s not much traffic there usually, but that’s also mighty dangerous. Not to mention probably legally questionable … still waiting for the “surprise sting” right there…

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    El Biciclero July 22, 2009 at 9:27 am

    “…a rider attempts to pass another on the right with a car parked to the right of the bike lane…” …the driver of which opens the door.

    Disclaimer: I have never ridden on Williams.

    General principle: Don’t pass other cyclists on the right; at least not on the street. Especially if you are blowing through a stop sign that someone else is stopping or stopped for. Instability is greatest when starting or stopping, and you never know which way someone will wobble as you try to squeeze by.

    Also, every time I hear “slower cyclists should ride farther over to the right so faster ones can pass”–I cringe. On streets with curbside parking (which it sounds like Williams is) the closest anyone should be to a parked car is three feet away. That three-foot space is called “The Door Zone”. Just this morning a lady in my residential neighborhood opened her car door ahead of me without looking (or maybe just without seeing). Only because I was far enough over to the left did I not have to swerve, brake, or take a hit. Please don’t expect or ask slower cyclists to take additional risks so you can more easily pass them.

    End of outsider meddling.

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    maxadders July 22, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Matt (#76), I agree– calling Williams a “death trap” is a huge exaggeration.

    Slow riders who can’t reasonably keep up with other cyclists should take other routes during peak hours. Williams, though the flattest route, is mostly a long uphill grind. If you’re commuting from the far end of the Broadway bridge, you’ve got a decent climb under your belt before you touch Williams proper. By the time the northbound bike congestion begins, slow riders feel overwhelmed.

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    JCallough July 22, 2009 at 10:21 am

    I’ve been commuting to PSU on this road for two years and riding it as my main thoroughfare for even longer, often times at rush hour. I have noticed over the last few years a significant increase in bike traffic here and am unsure how I feel about it. I think it is great that more people are on their bikes and it gets me excited that the culture is growing, however, it is discouraging that so many “casual” riders do not understand the rules of the road and riding etiquette. For example, if there are 10 bikers waiting at a light and you pull up to that light realize one thing, they are not waiting there for the fun of it! Do NOT run the light!!! It is a very expensive ticket and you make the rest of us look bad!

    Having 15 – 20 bikers waiting in the bike lane at a light and only 1 -2 cars gives me a good feeling, but when the light turns green and 3 -4 riders take off in all directions to get the lead it can get hairy. Don’t get me wrong, I pass right along with the rest of them but you must be aware of your surroundings and not just assume that cars will stop.

    The buses on this route are another story. They are some of the most aggressive in Portland! I wondered why they don’t signal prior to a stop and now I know that this is how they have been trained. Is this how the public transportation is run in a platinum bicycle city? Is it safe? The buses will pass you, blast smog in your face, cut right in front of you (through the bike lane) with no signal, force you to pass them, and then speed up and repeat… You will have to leap frog as many as 10 times as you ride the blvd. Unsafe!

    I agree with the author on his proposed alternative. A shared lane with one for car traffic is a good solution and should be explored in depth since it is a relatively inexpensive fix to a potentially dangerous situation. What will it take to get the problem fixed, another death of a cyclist? Will it be me? Will it be you? If auto-drivers were so easily killed or maimed in an accident do you believe they would make changes?

    On another note, I think that everyone would benefit from reading the laws that are posted on this link: http://bikeportland.org/2009/07/21/tickets-now-on-sale-for-portland-stop-of-bicycle-film-festival/

    Safe riding and lets try to remember, we are not cars, we are not aggressive, we are bikers, and we are having FUN!

    Jason

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    Rollie July 22, 2009 at 11:09 am

    There are many streets parallel to Williams. I don’t take Williams at rush hour because I don’t like being around cars, other bikers, or waiting at traffic signals like a punk. Simple as that. One of the chief advantages of using a bike as far as I’m concerned is that you don’t have to submit to being funneled and bunched up into arterials the way the cars do; you can take side streets and utilize extra capacity that’s built right into the road network but usually goes under-utilized.

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    are July 22, 2009 at 11:19 am

    much of this discussion would be mooted by getting rid of the stripe and reinforcing the message that a cyclist is entitled to take as much of the lane as is required for her safety. getting rid of parking on the right side would not hurt, either. there is no reason why a slower cyclist should feel she has to take another route, geez, people, there is plenty of room to pass if you just take it.

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    Blair July 22, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Duh. I forgot about the inconvenient fact that buses only have doors on one side when I suggested moving the buses to the left lane on Williams. I was envisioning streetcar and light rail when I wrote that, which have doors on both sides, and which is obviously the superior transportation mode.

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    maxadders July 22, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    #82– What? A slow, timid cyclist is not going to “take the lane”. Someone who feels intimidated by moderately fast packs of cyclists isn’t going to feel comfortable putting themselves in the path of cars doing 35+ mph. Get real.

    People just dawdle in the bike lane. It’s not a mutli-use path, it’s a shared street! take another route if you really feel one of the best bike routes in this part of the city is a “death trap.”

    I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s pretty damned good compared to, say, MLK.

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    Mr DeJerk July 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    I noticed that traffic a few weeks ago, when I was going South on Williams (2 blocks north of Killingsworth), and almost got run over by the crowd of commuters speeding North.
    I think turning N Rodney or Mallory into bike boulevards would make a lot of sense, specially because it is way more pleasant to ride those streets (the trees, residential feeling) than breathing bus exhaust. There are some neighbors already discussing this idea.

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    Allan July 22, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Here’s another suggestion instead of the lefty bike lane: narrow the street to 1 lane, AND make bus islands kind like the sketchy island at graham street but with bus shelters and have the buses share the car lane. then have the whole right lane for bikers.

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    Lenny Anderson July 22, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Williams needs to be put on the same diet as Vancouver…one motor vehicle lane. Single lane travel is always slower, and reduced speed is key to safer streets for everyone…cars, buses, bikes and peds.
    Whoever can figure out how to mix bikes and buses should get the Nobel prize. And please pass on the left at all times.

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    al m July 22, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I wrote this about 7 years ago:

    I attempted to get a decent photo of the “swarm” before they entered
    into attack phase, however I could not activate my camera phone in
    time.

    As some of you know, these bicycle swarms attack buses using two
    attack units, the “blockers” and the “confusers”.

    The bus generally comes upon one of these swarms at red lights. When
    the light turns green the swarm breaks up into these two types of
    attack units. The “blockers” pedal as fast as they can to get ahead
    of the bus, their aim is to prevent the bus from ever getting ahead
    of them, thereby “blocking” the bus. See my photo “blockers”

    The “confusers” stay behind the bus, swarming to the left and right,
    so the driver really never knows where they are or how far back they
    are. This of course confuses the driver almost to a state of utter
    despair.

    Like the hyenas of the Serengeti, who relentlessly hound their prey
    until they eventually just give up to exhaustion, the bicycle swarms
    hope to break down the poor exhausted bus driver!

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    John Lascurettes July 22, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Al. Count me among the “blockers.” But it not to deliberately block the bus. I simply go as fast as I can off the line—simply to make myself more visible to whatever vehicle is beside me at the light.

    Your real problem is not with said “blockers;” for they are only asserting their legal right of using the lane the must use (which had right of way). Your problem is with the “confusers” that are behaving like a random cloud; but if you’ve read through the comments, you’d have understood that Trimet’s own policy of not using a blinker until the lane is clear is confusing to a lot of bicyclists. I don’t think it’s a bad policy. Those bicyclists should be using their right-of-way lane and the bus can come over once it’s clear; however, that’s pretty intimidating to many cyclists. It’s an inherent problem of buses crisscrossing the painted bike lane. It’s hard on you and it’s hard on us.

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    Rico July 22, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I ride up Williams past Ainsworth 4 times a week. I think most of the cars and busses expect bikes on that road and drive accordingly. If I were to choose some random other N/S street such as Rodney, I’d be worried about people pulling out of driveways not expecting fast moving bike traffic, all those intersections where there is no stop sign for E/W traffic (or even the ones that have one, but the sun is in the Westbound drivers’ eyes), and crossing the major streets like Fremont and Alberta. Williams is the better choice. I like the idea of making the right lane shared by busses and bikes and only have one car lane for all those people commuting to Vancouver, trying to beat out the traffic on I-5. These cheats will get much more numerous if that new I-5 bridge ever is built creating and even worse bottleneck on I-5 from Broadway to Columbia.

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  • A J Zelada
    A J Zelada July 22, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Another variation of John Russell’s idea is to move the right hand parking westward to where the bike lane is now; move the bike lane eastward and place the bike lane next to the curb. I think this is what a number of Sweden’s streets are like. Let the bus pull into the parking lane set aside for disembarking…then the emerging bus passenger would have to be off their cell phone and be aware of bicyclists coming up on them! Bicyclists would be aware that passengers are going to get off as the bus is bigger than most cars and visible from the bicyclist’s approach.

    Some small occasional signs of ‘slow keep right might increase courtesy might help clueless bicyclists.

    Another idea is make the entire right hand lane a sharrows lane during 4 to 7 pm for buses and bicycles to have complete access to the full lane. We have the statistics to reinforce the growth…imagine if all the bikers were driving this northbound street!

    I think I would suggest the bus driver signal ‘yield’ and make the right hand stop to let off passengers…signals are courtesy; the yield triangle is courtesy.

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    are July 22, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    re 84. if a “slow, timid” cyclist does not take the lane, a cyclist in a bigger hurry can easily pass on the left.

    on many stretches of Williams, you will be “in the path of cars doing 35 plus” whether you take the lane or not, because the lane is too narrow to share safely, even with the stripe.

    I myself have no real problem with Williams, largely because I disregard the striped lane as much as possible (sometimes it is a visual distraction).

    but my perception of Williams is that a “slow, timid” cyclist would tend to choose another route — probably Rodney, though the crossings at Fremont, etc. might be a bit daunting.

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    cheem July 22, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    ah, tour de williams and tour de vancouver – everyone wants to lead the peloton once…why it’s a race I’ll never know – especially on the way into work…can’t wait for the rain to fly and thin the crowds…

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    Gabe July 23, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    This will probably get some flames, but I think a large part of the problem with Williams bike traffic are bikers who can’t handle playing nicely with others.

    You want to be in front of everyone? Fine — totally cool. But don’t try and sneak by when I’m on the lefthand side of the bike lane to avoid car doors, and don’t jump out into traffic right in front of cars (I saw two people do this last Friday and I just don’t get it).

    Yes, you may have to wait 10 or even 15 seconds for car traffic to clear so you can pass on the left. No, it won’t hurt you. I’m not a slow rider but I *behave* like a slow rider in the pack until it’s safe to pass in a way that won’t scare or confuse my fellow riders.

    Be polite and safe for your fellow riders and it will come back to you. Do otherwise and you give us all bad reputations.

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    vantucky matthew July 23, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    gabe #95

    kudos. respect begets respect. keeps all of us safer and sends a positive message to motorists too. we have to live with them as well and getting along just makes it better for everyone. also bodes well for encouraging more cycling commuters.

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    James H July 23, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I ride this route daily and tend to pass all but a few bikers. Here are my two cents.

    In my view, most of these problems can be solved by following the rules that are instinctive to most of us who have cars. Doing so will lead to predictability, which is the #1 way to prevent accidents.

    1. Don’t pass on the right. You wouldn’t drive your car on the highway shoulder to pass a slow car, and you shouldn’t do it on your bike. Wait until there is room on the left and pass safely.

    2. Don’t share a bike lane with your friend, and don’t force that experience on a slower biker by trying to pass too closely on the left. You would never pass a slower car in its own lane, no matter how wide the lane was. If a bike is in the bike lane in front of you, that lane is taken, end of story. You need your own lane (the car lane to the left) in order to pass.

    If a bike is off to the right of the bike lane (entirely outside the bike lane), think of it as a tractor driving on the shoulder of I-5. Slow down and pass very carefully.

    3. Wait your turn! If you’re driving on the freeway, you wouldn’t jump into the fast lane to pass a big rig if some yahoo was approaching from behind at 85 mph. The car lane is sort of the same idea when it’s next to a bike lane. If the speed limit is 25-30mph, expect cars to travel at 30-35mph. You’re probably biking between 10-20mph at most. Give cars the room they are expecting. You have every right to take the lane, but not if it forces the car driver to slam on his/her brakes. You wouldn’t do that in your car, so don’t do it on your bike.

    Similarly, if you want to pass a big rig doing 55mph in heavy traffic, and you jump into the fast lane and pass at 57mph, you’re going to annoy some folks behind you. Most people passing others on bikes are doing so at no more than 1-2mph faster than the bikers they’re passing. If you can wait 30 seconds to let ten cars pass you, and then have plenty of room to pass, rather than hold up those ten drivers for 30 seconds while you pass one bike, you’ll do the whole bike movement a favor.

    4. Check your blind spot. Do NOT think it’s safe to pass simply because there isn’t a car immediately to your left. You need to look back to judge how far the next car is AND its speed. Most of the problems I see are foolish bikers who pass very closely to slow bikers, 6-12 inches into the car lane at most, without signaling or looking for traffic. Again, you wouldn’t pass on the freeway without checking your blind spot, so you shouldn’t do so on your bike.

    5. Don’t run red lights. It makes bikers look dumb or selfish or both.

    I have to admit that I’ve been generally satisfied with behavior from cars and from bus drivers (who frankly have a terribly difficult job). It’s mostly the summer and newbie bikers who lead to these problems.

    BUT, we all started out somewhere, and we’re all learning every day. We should be so lucky to have loads and loads of newbie bikers every year, making all kinds of mistakes. In time, bike commuters will become so abundant that we’ll all follow the rules as instinctively as we do when driving.

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    Ray Penrod July 23, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Agreed. Some cyclists think they are part of the solution when in fact, they are part of the problem.

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    John Lascurettes July 24, 2009 at 10:30 am

    James, you had me until this part:

    In time, bike commuters will become so abundant that we’ll all follow the rules as instinctively as we do when driving.

    😉

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    David M July 24, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Have to agree with James on this one. I ride Williams all the time and in the summer I am bemused by the circus it becomes. Unlike cars, on bikes we aren’t all on a level playing field. Some riders are going to be stronger and faster than others. Don’t pass on the right and if there isn’t space in the car lane to pass on the left, just wait. If one can’t handle slowing down and getting back up to speed, maybe you aren’t the b@d@$$ you think you are. I don’t mean to be inflammatory but I come from a state and city where the bike infrastructure just isn’t there and to me Portland is really a utopia. It is a little frustrating to see the divisive attitudes in the bike culture here. We all want a common goal which is achieved by getting more people on bikes, yet if cyclists are scaring the crap out of newbies, that isn’t going to happen. As far as the busses go, those drivers have no interest in hurting anyone. They will lose their job, it really is that simple. Most of difficulty with buses on Williams from my point of view is caused by bicyclists. I’m not saying that there aren’t bus drivers who aren’t aggressive or dangerous, but a majority of the time they do the best they can in the situation. A bus isn’t a surprise to me on Williams. I can hear them coming and I know exactly what they are going to do. Most of the time if I am close to the stop, they wait for me to clear. If they pull in front, guess what I stop, or if there is room and I can safely go around I will. It really isn’t rocket science. We really can’t expect to ride our bikes in the city and never have to stop or slow down, it just isn’t realistic.

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    Mr DeJerk July 24, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    It will be a sad day when people start riding their bikes as automatically as they drive.
    I am a very aware (and fast) bicyclist and don’t understand how some people can be that spaced out when riding in traffic. Nonetheless, I’d rather keep the spontaneity inherent to riding your bike, even if that creates bike traffic jams.
    I think the bike revolution should also be a revolution against accepting “being in a hurry” as normal.

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    Sarah O July 26, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    I’ve started commuting daily to downtown using the Vancouver/Williams couplet, and I’ve actually adjusted my schedule to try and avoid as much of the afternoon bike traffic up Williams, for my own safety.

    Besides the people who pass on the right, which I cannot abide – I’m on the fast end of cyclists myself, so you have to be FLYING to get past me – I’ve seen some real head-scratchers. Some dude swung from the sidewalk, between parked cars, straight into the bike lane without looking behind him, cutting off me and three other commuters, before running the red at Shaver. I’ve seen plenty of red-light runners, but I’ve noticed an increase of people coming up from behind me and actually positioning themselves in front of me when I’m stopped at a light. Are you serious? 9 times out of 10 they are slower than I, and have pushily placed themselves directly in front of me at the stop, so I have to crawl along and wait for an opening in the traffic to finally pass – which sucks extra hard when climbing uphill, and I need all the momentum I can get. Reading these comments makes me more aware of giving extra space to people when I pass (on the left, always), and I’ll make it a point to verbally shout “on your left” no matter how winded I get.

    I’ve never had trouble with the buses on this route, but I did have a tri-met operator pull up next to me to lecture me about passing the bus once the yield signal flashes. Problem was, it wasn’t flashing until after I’d already made my way around the bus! It’s illegal to pass a bus once its signal is flashing, BTW.

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    N.I.K. July 26, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Sarah O, the bike-on-bike leapfrog game you speak of almost as great a concern as the one with buses! I’m consistently blown away [here in Chicago, but also similarly during my Portland days] by the number of people who cut in front of me on my commute when I’m stopped at a light. They move at an absolute crawl. They tend to weave left and right, then nearly topple as they look for a hole in cross-traffic, then shakily start to move through the intersection. Maybe they’ll pull that stupid right-left half-crosswalk move, or maybe they’ll just move through obliviously. But by the time they’re 2/3 across, the light’s already gone green, and I’m accelerating quickly in an appropriate gear, claiming my place in the lane so I can pass them safely *and* maybe gain them some blocking for the Great Dopey Re-merge.

    A few blocks, a red. Rinse, repeat. Boo. Hiss. 🙁 I can’t help but think not only about how much easier these folks riding sensibly (which doesn’t necessarily mean “fast”!) would make my commute, but also how much easier it would make *their* commute. It’s not meant as pompous as it sounds, but really: how can we get other people to bike better?

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  • Hardly dangerous « bicycle to the sun August 4, 2009 at 11:55 am

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