to the Interstate Bridge.
With no guarantee that a new bridge over I-5 between Vancouver and Portland will ever be built, transportation planners from the City of Vancouver are working on several projects they hope will improve bicycle and pedestrian travel across the existing span.
According to Senior Planner Jennifer Campos, Vancouver won a grant from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) to carry out a host of capital improvement projects on and around the bridge.
Campos said the new markings and signage coming to the bridge — which will cost $20,000 out of the $353,000 total funds available for the projects — is the result of increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic over the bridge her department first noticed in 2006. Along with that traffic, she says, they also noticed more calls about near misses, conflicts and collisions.
Initially, Campos proposed turning both sides of the bridge path into one-way traffic only for bicycles. According to Campos, WSDOT and ODOT supported the one-way concept, but they did not agree on the initial design of the pavement markings and signage to go with it.
The currently proposed markings and signage (which are shown in this story) are the result of the City of Vancouver going back to the drawing board and enlisting the help of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the City of Portland. Here’s a map of where the new markings and signage will go:
The directional stencil that will likely be used is based on the design Multnomah County uses on the Hawthorne Bridge. There are two basic stencils that will be placed on the bridge path; one will remind cyclists to yield to pedestrians and the other remind cyclists going downhill to yield to cyclists coming in the opposite direction. A sign will be installed to draw attention to the new stencils.
While the stencils encourage bicycles to travel in one direction only (with the flow of motor vehicle traffic), Campos assured me that it is not required;
“There has never been any discussion about making the directional riding a mandatory requirement, only suggestive as I know there are many cyclists who do not feel comfortable riding on the east side span.”
These changes to the Interstate Bridge are just one piece of a host of infrastructure improvements in the area around north side of the bridge that the City is calling their “Bike Vancouver” project. Total budget for the project is $353,000 (of which $218,000 is federal funding and the rest is local matching dollars).
They have already installed wayfinding signage to and from the bridge to destinations around Vancouver and plans are in the works to install a “left-hand turn pocket” to make it more comfortable for people on bikes to get onto the bridge path from Columbia Street going south.
Vancouver also plans to widen the pathway on the west side leading onto the bridge; add two covered kiosks (off of Columbia Street and Columbia Way) with information, maps, tips, upcoming events, and so on; restripe the parking lot on the northeast side of the bridge to give people on bikes more room to negotiate around a power pole (which Campos noted “unfortunately we couldn’t move”); and pay for police enforcement on the weekends to ensure that cars do not block the bikeway as it comes off of the bridge.
Along with all these improvements, the City of Vancouver has also launched an online survey to hear your feedback on riding across the bridge and on their proposed changes. Take the survey here.
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Signs aren’t going to help with a 4 ft wide path being used by both cyclists and pedestrians.
These signs aren’t going to change the way people act on this bridge.
The majority of people already act in a positive way when crossing this bridge.
Initially, Campos proposed turning both sides of the bridge path into one-way traffic only for bicycles.
That sentence makes it sound like they were considering banning pedestrians, which can not possibly be true.
The “yield to” sign seems like a failure. With some road signs, you read from nearest to you to farthest from you, so as you’re approaching, you see on the street:
Are you supposed to read the yield sign the same way?
If so, that would be “bikes yield to peds”. Or is it supposed to be “peds yield to bikes”? I always get confused by the backwards road markings, and I suspect dyslexic people will have even more trouble. I think this marker would be much clearer as a sign, rather than a road marking.
Most of these are not improvements. Navigating the left turn off southbound Columbia or around the pole on the east side by the old bridge building are not significant difficulties if you’ve ridden more than a few blocks on city streets (which could bring up that whole “bike facilities designed by non-riders” topic). Signage on the bridge itself is not a particular improvement since common sense and common courtesy quickly indicate the limited operating choices upon the bridge walkways. There is insufficient room to place different stencils on the path side-by-side, as on the Hawthorne – the walkway is just about one bicycle-width.
An improvement would be to attach a cantilevered deck to the side of the bridge – just one, say, on the east side – dedicated solely to bicycle usage (restrict all other traffic to the west side). Hang another three or four meters or so off there and stripe a lane down the middle and bam! World Class Facility.
Signs and stencils? Nobody already lacking the common sense to yield right-of-way or call out politely on approach to peds is gonna pay any attention to the new features. How about better lighting on the walkways? Too functional?
I’ve never had a collision problem with peds, but with cyclists, yes (I’ve actually heard a huffing racer-boy sing out plaintively, “On yer left!” from behind me! Hey. He was polite about it. He did not pass, though). And taking a trailer over the Interstate on the east side is kinda sketchy, too, regardless of blather about there being almost no difference in width, so it’s nice that both DOTs and the city of Vantucky have not changed the bi-directional status of the bridge walkways.
I’ve encountered self-righteous southbound cyclists on the west walkway (while riding north myself) who felt it necessary to stop beside me and lecture me where I had pulled into the girders (off the walk’s path) even though I was actually the uphill rider but had moved out of their way already. Counter-intuitive directional travel is gonna continue to happen as long as those walkways remain cramped and narrow.
Of course, better to see the money go toward bicycling infrastructure than down the automotive black hole. Sounds like much of these “improvements” are oriented toward tourism – whatever, if it gets ’em on bikes.
As for “police enforcement” against cars blocking the “bikeway as it comes off the bridge,” – what bikeway? The bridge has always had a sidewalk; there is no signage to indicate to automobile drivers trying to park in the lot across from the hotel that the walkway is even in use, let alone a “bikeway.” Signs there actually are a good idea. Don’t know who owns that property – wouldn’t be surprised if it was part of the bridge R.O.W.
Vancouver has come a long way for bicycles in the past years – striped & signed lanes, shared-use paths, etc. It’s good that Ms. Campos & her crew are continuing with the momentum and that’s something to be grateful for even if this just looks like a lot of make-work.
Gee, signs. Are these vandal-resistant? ’cause they’ll need to be. perhaps a small sign, in-between each series of girders should read “Pedestrian refuge”.
Look, Vancouver’s gotten very good at painting stripes, but those are just paint. The hypocrisy of their lack of urban planning, and their 1950’s land use strategies more than negates putting down some paint. So far, Clark County (I say Clark County, because Vancouver’s city limits are fluid), has shown a blatant disregard for public places, efficient transportation, and farmland preservation.
Sarah, that sign is a pavement marking, rather than a sign. But I agree such markings are still confusing, because you can always see the entire marker at once, and it is cumbersome to read backwards.
What shocks me is that downhill cyclists are told to yield to uphill. So, if one is going the “recommended” aka logical direction – with traffic – yet someone else is going against the recommendation, and then you meet them on the downhill – YOU still need to yield? Even though they are riding backwards?
Not gonna do it.
Ugggh. Downhill yield uphill sounds terrible to me.
I wish the City of Vancouver would grant the money to Portland to RESURFACE the REST OF DELTA PARK’S North-South road.
What is really needed are wider paths, but the bridge engineers will probably veto any suggestion like that or it would have been done already.
There are things that can be done with the existing structure:
1. Offset the railings outward so that it is safe to ride closer to the edge. Make them higher, too, so there is not the fear of going over them into the river in a crash.
2. Pad the girders. Recognize you’ve got a bad safety problem and at least mitigate it.
3. Do something about the chokepoints at the gates.
4. Install windbreaks between the girders and on the railings. The buffeting from gusts is a real problem.
I agree, downhill yielding to uphill on this bridge is less safe than doing it the other way. There is not a whole lot of room between girders to stop a bike if brakes are wet, the surface is slick etc. The uphill rider has a better safety margin.
Besides, the common courtesy among cyclists is for the slower one to make way for the faster when it is safe to do so. Persons who think otherwise have either not had put enough miles on the bike paths to have an informed opinion or are not thinking.
These are the improvements I suggested in the survey. The streets around there are so convoluted I don’t know if it makes sense, though:
“The road through Delta park is especially pitted with potholes. Rough riding in the dark. Resurfacing the rest of the North-south route would be nice.
Make existing bike lane in front of Taco Bell and BK on Hayden Island Dr. a southbound only bike lane. Widen existing sidewalk in the area to accommodate NB bikes and all pedestrians.
Install Diagonal bike crossing light from the intersection of Hayden Island Drive and Hayden Island Drive near the Taco Bell to the sidewalk across from it.”
It sounds like it would just be easier for Vancouver to take one final leap and put up the “bicyclists will be shot on sight” signage they’ve been waiting patiently to unveil.
The ‘yield to’ marking is confusing, I agree. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to yield to someone going slower on the bridge, I think that’s common courtesy.
This is a tight route, we’ll have to make the best of it until major infrastructure improvements come (hopefully in the form of a ped/bike/transit bridge!), until then signage is a good first step.
i love how this is being paid with grant money. (sarcastic). like all the new work on the bike blvd.s around portland. 300k is the cost of a traffic light, and here we are chasing after crumbs from giants. if this is the pace of progress, then I have lost all hope for a world with polar bears.
i’ve been riding the west side walkway to and from portland for over 20 years. if you feel the need to ride with the direction of traffic that’s fine. i feel it is a personal preference just not mine. yielding to the uphill cycling traffic is common sense, courteous and there is plenty of room to do it. even with the can haulers going to the safeway at hayden island. hey… most of those guys yeild regardless of riding on the up or down slope.
schrauf~not gonna do it? when you don’t yield and i head on you try not to be “shocked”.
i turn the soapbox over to you….
First, I’m all for any and all improvements to the existing bridge. And most of this package is very good — wayfinding signs, left turn pocket off Columbia St onto the bridge path, etc. Jennifer and the city deserve kudos for doing this and raising the funds.
As for the directional travel signs, I don’t support it.
Instead, I’d propose signs on the bridge for “counterflow” bike traffic that say “Yield to Oncoming Bicyclists.” Then there’d be an established procedure for who yields to whom, and the bike traffic going with the flow of cars gets priority.
Why? There’s lots of good reasons to want to ride both ways on both sidewalks —
1) distance. from downtown Vancouver to Delta Park it’s 1/6 mile longer using the east bridge path. From Barnes and Noble (Jantzen Beach) it’s 1/4 mile longer.
2) safety. the tunnels and overpasses have vagrants camped out in them 24-7. bicyclists should be encouraged to use whatever side of the bridge keeps them from having to go through sketchy tunnels. If you’re going from Target to your house in Uptown, it’s an easy 2 mile ride if you go against the flow of traffic on the west bridge. Or it’s a gnarly 2-1/4 mile ride where you need do dodge bums using the east bridge.
3) sunsets, sunrises. sometimes you want to ride on the side that has a killer view. I love riding north on the southbound bridge at sunset.
4) personal comfort. some folks get vertigo on the east side bridge since you see the water just off the side of your front wheel. the west side bridge has a wider path and a concrete curb so your water-free field of view is a fair bit wider
5) air quality. if you ride on the upwind bridge (whichever it is on any given day) you don’t breathe the exhaust of 6 lanes of freeway traffic.
These are all reasons why riding both ways on both bridges should be encouraged — give people the best possible experience on a crossing that has numerous sketchy elements.
Signs for counterflow traffic that say “yield to oncoming traffic” should do it just fine.
Again, Kudos to Jennifer for getting this project going, and 90% of it is great.
Three things. First, I like the idea of pavement markings and signs to try to improve bike/ped flow on the bridge(s).
Second, I like Ted’s idea that bikes going in the direction of car traffic have the right of way over other bikes. Bikes can ride on either side of the bridge, but riding “against” traffic carries the burden of yielding to on-coming bikes. This encourages split bike traffic, without mandating it, and avoids the shift in right of way at the crest of the bridge.
Third, I think the “bikes yields to peds” marking is confusing. The problem is that “yields to” is read from top to bottom, but the rest of the marking is apparently read bottom to top.
Respectfully to those who disagree, but I’d love to see directionality mandated on the current bridge. It is very difficult to navigate either side (I actually have an easier time on the east side than the west side) when there is oncoming bike traffic.
Last time I took this bridge, I was coming back to Portland on the west side of the bridge, and there was a man and his son on bikes coming towards me. I was heading downhill, and they pulled over to the side to yield to our (I was following another rider) approach. I wasn’t traveling very fast, fortunately, because after the first rider passed the child, he decided to turn over his shoulder and look at his dad, which meant his bike extended further out into the sidewalk, forcing me to a complete stop to avoid hitting his handlebars.
While this could be avoided if the father had exercised closer control over his son, it could also be avoided if bike traffic on the bridge was unidirectional.
Anyone who’s ridden this bridge before knows that there’s no way to safely pass another cyclist without one of them pulling into the nooks between beams – I just don’t think that the current arrangement of bi-directional travel is a safe arrangement.
@6 Schrauf: The path is still 2-way, so it is impossible to ride “backwards.” “Yield to uphill traffic” is pretty much universal: hiking, off-roading in a Jeep, you name it. It’s not something bicyclists can exempt themselves from because they feel like they have a right to go as fast as they feel like. Just like passing on the left is the law in this country. Oh wait…
Yield to uphill is very common, but in this case, I think it is backwards. It is much easier to stop and take refuge if you are the uphill rider.
The climbs are not impossible to restart on, but trying to stop while descending the east path could be trouble.
Navigating Jantzen Beach is my least favorite part of the river crossing. Narrow sidewalks, fast traffic & lots of it. Three fairly nasty street crossings packed into a very short distance. Ugh.
trying to stop while descending the east path could be trouble.
…and on the eastbank esplanade, and on the Hawthorne Bridge, and for a funeral procession, and…
You should NEVER create a situation where stopping “could be trouble.” You absolutely must be in control of your vehicle at all times. I can’t believe the number of people who have been hiding behind that excuse around here lately. It’s truly disturbing.
None of those are as steep or narrow as this bridge is. Yes, you do need to be able to stop for people or debris, but it might be better if the people on the steep downhill only had to slow, rather than make full stops under most passing circumstances. I think it increases the margin of error for those that have either inexperienced, misjudged their speeds or are acting like idiots.
I would still like any of those people to be able to make a safer pass rather than end up smashed into a girder.
Uphill has traditionally had right of way in the mountain biking world. That said, an unskilled downhill rider coming in too hot often ends up with right-of-way because they’re out of control.
The thinking goes, the downhill rider has to let go of the brakes to begin moving. Uphill requires powering up to speed.
While I usually agree with Matt P, Ted (#15) has some compelling arguments. If I’m out there at 10p, I’ll not roll through dark creepy underpasses.
“schrauf~not gonna do it? when you don’t yield and i head on you try not to be “shocked”.”
Matthew, is that a threat? I’ve never had a cyclist going the wrong direction not yield to me on this bridge, so I guess we have never met.
There is no room for two cyclists to pass each other on the east or west side of this bridge, therefore it makes no sense to not ride with traffic, which here in America means stay to the right.
When I come up on a slower rider going the correct direction, I keep a respectable distance back and pass them after the bridge. No big deal, and it is awkward if they stop to let me pass, physically and socially. But a cyclist going the wrong way? I’ve never yielded yet, and never will. I don’t care if going against traffic in this location is legal – it is nevertheless illogical and dangerous. I maintain my position of “not gonna do it”. Unfortunately I rarely ride that route anymore, so I won’t be able to walk the talk. I’m disappointed, believe me.
Should this proposed regulation be enforced, it will be selectively applied to the poor and the inconvenient folks who come under police scrutiny. It will serve little purpose to improve safety or traffic flow. It will become one more reason not to spend any money or time in Vancouver. The last time the City of Vancouver worried about my safety, they introduced a mandatory helmet law. If they want anyone to bike across that bridge,they should not be adding barriers to cycling, they should be removing them.
I’d place my vote for wider cantilevered sidewalks, that’s what made the Hawthorne bridge more bikeable.
And yielding to uphill traffic is a common mountain biking and cross country skiing practice, no reason it shouldn’t apply here also; although it would seem to make more sense to make bike traffic one direction only, again, similar to the Hawthorne Bridge.
quote “With no guarantee that a new bridge over I-5 between Vancouver and Portland will ever be built”
That is a dangerous rumor being spread by the BTA and many other pro bike people. It spreads the message that people don’t need to call the lawmakers or stay involved.
I could be wrong, but the new bridge is on the track to destiny, and we all know they are not going to just replace 6 lanes with the same 6 lanes.
Can anyone note a recent interstate expansion project in an urban area that has been shot down? The only project I can recall is the 3 voter initiatives ( one every 2 years ) to stop Cal-Trans from rebuilding the SF central freeway, damaged in 1989.
The signage “improvements” are only going to make things more confusing. The paths on the bridge are too narrow for two-way traffic and the stencils will do nothing to alleviate the issues. As a daily commuter, my observation is that there’s rarely anything creepy about the tunnel or underpass. Yeah, it can be a little dangerous when I have to swerve to avoid a bunch of people, and of course there’s the occasional broken glass bottle, but I feel safer on those parts of my commute than when dealing with someone’s comfort issue as they’re riding towards me on the west side of the bridge (especially after dark). If you’re not comfortable on the east side, why not walk your bike? Comfort should not be the reason to keep those paths two-way. And as far as pavement stencils go…If by “yield to uphill bikes” the sign means “cross their path to duck between the support beams” then I will NEVER yield because crossing oncoming traffic on a narrow street or path just doesn’t make sense.
Wait a second. What does any one need to ride back and forth to Vancouver for? If you are working in Portland and commuting from Vancouver, I thought I saw here that this is called, “Urban Sprawl”? Wasn’t the advice given to people doing this, by comments here, to move because you don’t want to subsidize their greed?
Ya, I’m pretty sure the general attitude here toward living in Vancouver and working in Portland has been that this is evil, Earth devouring, and selfish. In fact, there are a few comments here by people who’ve said that. I looked.
What about the livability of N Portland neighborhoods? Isn’t commuting back and forth ruining them? Not when it comes to getting what you want, huh?
ummm, vance (#28) i’m so sorry if living in vancouver and commuting to portland is so offensive to you.
wait! i take that back.
as a near life long resident and homeowner i have a large investment in my community up here. attending neighborhood association meetings, volunteering and being active in shaping the area in which i live is important to me. the bonds with neighbors i’ve have for many years gives me comfort and we help each other in many ways. an extended family if you will. you may call it a livability issue?
i believe clark county usually ranks in the top 2-4 counties for the state of oregon an far as income tax generators. we help pay for your schools, roads, police etc. thank’s for the privlege? i won’t call you evil or greedy so perhaps you could think about cutting a little slack.
i thank jennifer and the city for seeking community input on bike/ped issues by attending “bike me” and neighborhood association meetings and through surveys at these meetings and online. having this input and seeing how it effects our livability makes the investment in our community worthwhile.
and to those active in thier neighborhoods and community in portland~kudos to you as well. isn’t this the meaning of “stakeholder”?
Reponse to Matt (who I usually agree with) and Anonymous 28
> I just don’t think that the current arrangement of bi-directional travel is a safe arrangement.
It’s only unsafe if you’re unwilling to slow down when passing a stopped cyclist. Stopping or slowing to pass is still faster than riding the extra 1/6 mile.
Safety and vehicle speed are tradeoffs on the bridge. But you can achieve an overall shorter travel time for all by slowing down and using both sides, both directions.
Anonymous 28 wrote
> As a daily commuter, my observation is that
> there’s rarely anything creepy about the tunnel
> or underpass. Yeah, it can be a little
> dangerous when I have to swerve to avoid a
> bunch of people,
You might appreciate the danger more if you were a 120 lb woman and knew that if the bums stuck their foot out that they’d make you crash and theres no way you could fight off 3 of them.
> I agree, downhill yielding to uphill on this bridge is
> less safe than doing it the other way. There is not a
> whole lot of room between girders to stop a bike if
> brakes are wet, the surface is slick etc. The uphill
> rider has a better safety margin.
If you can’t control your vehicle, you’re riding too fast for conditions, and the odds will catch up with you somewhere — maybe on the I-5 bridge.
Riding slow and yielding is an option for all downhill riders.
Starting a bike on a steep uphill on a narrow path is not an option for some uphill riders.
Starting on a hill is tricky. You’re not stable until you’re moving at a couple mph, and need to swing the front wheel back and forth to maintain balance. There’s a fair number of situations out there where people can’t restart their bike going uphill on the sidewalk —
* wobbly riders,
* young or otherwise inexperienced riders,
* single speed bikes, or bikes with inoperable low gears,
* people carrying loads — kids or packages.
They don’t have the option to start going uphill. Downhill riders always have the option to start going downhill, since they get the gravity boost.
Edit — But you can achieve an overall shorter travel time for all WITH NO COMPROMISE TO SAFETY by slowing down and using both sides, both directions.
Ted, weird. I posted #28, and I thought you’d want to know that I’m a woman weighing 125 lbs. (and yeah, I should probably lose 5 lbs but I don’t think it would change my danger appreciate levels).
#29- Great job Vance, you sure beat the hell out of that strawman!