Special gravel coverage

Should highways be the new bikeways?

Posted by on December 14th, 2009 at 11:51 am

Bridge Pedal 2009 from the air-12

It’s already there, so
why can’t bikes use it?
(Photo © J. Maus)

As Portland and many other cities ponder big plans for bikeways in the coming years, one question that comes up a lot is how to pay for new infrastructure. When I’m asked that question, I say we don’t need to spend all our money on new bikeways because we’ve got all the infrastructure we need. What we need is the political will to re-allocate our existing road and highway network to accomodate bicycle traffic.

As we’ve experienced with the North Portland Greenway and the Sullivan’s Gulch trail projects, the development of off-street bikeways takes many years and millions of dollars to complete (one piece of the Sullivan’s Gulch from the Esplanade to NE 21st is estimated to cost $7.7 million).

So, why not use the infrastructure we already have? It just so happens there’s an interstate a few feet from the proposed Sullivan’s Gulch trail alignment and, downtown Portland is hemmed in all sides by highways.

And in turns out that I’m not the only one thinking like this.

In an article titled Rethinking the Interstate published in Metropolis Magazine in January 2009, Congressman Earl Blumenauer said our nation’s expansive highway network represents “a tremendous national untapped resource.”

Story continues below


Here’s more:

“What if we could make those highways beautiful… by using the corridors for more than moving cars and trucks? What if we thought of them as the backbone of a new, more diverse 21st-century transportation system? ‘It’s time for a different vision,’ Blumenauer says. ‘And a principle for that is how we coax more out of existing resources.'”

That article didn’t specifically mention bicycles (it focused on rail and hubs for electric cars), but as more and more people go by bike, why not use the many acres of urban interstates to move human-powered vehicles?

In Portland, our Highway 26 provides the most direct and flat route up and over our West Hills. Some commuters (and Zoobombers on occasion) already use it in the downhill direction, and a more pleasant lane of their own would coax some of them to commute up it as well. There’s also the Fremont Bridge. For North Portland residents, that bridge could be a direct link to Northwest Portland. And how about I-84? Instead of working for years on a trail project that might never happen, why not simply build a bikeway onto the existing highway?

And this same thinking doesn’t need to stop at highways. Think of streets like Sandy, MLK, Grand, and so on, where the space exists for bicycles, but where currently only the “strong and fearless” dare tread.

The idea of “bicycle highways” got some major exposure in the latest New York Times Magazine. They focus more on plans for bicycle-only highways in Copenhagen, but shared highways might be a more practical first step.

On that note, another initiative that’s gaining steam in America is Adventure Cycling’s U.S. Bicycle Route System. That effort identifies existing transportation corridors that, once identified and connected, would result in a nationwide bikeway network similar in concept to interstate highway system (we’ll host a live interview and Q&A with an Adventure Cycling staffer on that project in February. Stay tuned for details).

The City of Portland has already done some re-allocating — the new cycle track on Broadway and buffered bike lanes on SW Stark and Oak are good examples. Those projects were done at a very affordable cost and they provide a much more comfortable and feasible space for bike traffic than the standard bike lanes of yore. So now, perhaps we just need to to expand on that example and have bicycles boldly go where no bicycles have gone before.

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  • Paul December 14, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I’d love to see more aggressive conversion of old or abandoned rail routes too. The rail line that heads through Grants Pass and to Medford would make a lovely bike highway. Maybe add B&B’s and pubs along to way to encourage touring for the masses.

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  • st December 14, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    It’s a nice idea, but I commute on the bikepath along the 26 almost daily. It’s noisy, the pollution on bad days gives me a headache, and it’s all around unpleasant. I can only image it would be worse /in/ a lane next to cars. Maybe some kind of sound barrier/wall/vegitation would help.

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  • Anne Hawley December 14, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    I’ve been following Victoria’s Ride from Boston to Santa Monica, and was astonished to learn that it’s apparently legal to cycle on the freeway in some parts of the country–if no other route exists.

    I love the idea of coaxing more, and non-motorized, use out of the most massive engineering undertaking in human history. We should never have interstates inside city limits to begin with, but since we did, let’s use them better.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) December 14, 2009 at 12:05 pm


    that’s the general rule as I understand it. In Portland, bikes are allowed on most sections of our metro-area freeways. ODOT tried to prohibit this use a few years ago, but we called them on it and they quickly pulled back on the idea.


    definitely. the vision would be to create more separation from motorized traffic somehow.

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  • wsbob December 14, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I always marvel at people that say they like riding next to highways whose lanes are packed with cars either idling along from 0-10 mph, or streaking by at 60mph and more. With the noise, filth, and imminent potential for catastrophic danger, how can that possibly be a healthy or pleasant experience?

    Make the highway speed limit for all vehicles 30mph during rush hour…then maybe. During rush hour, I’m not sure the reduction in speed would actually reduce trip time for motor vehicles; it might actually help to make traffic flow better through the various pinch point exits.

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  • Nick December 14, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    This is a brilliant idea, although the pitfalls could be seriously hard to work around. The bridges in particular are long, grinding hills. Noise, pollution, and fear of safety would probably not be simple or cheap to address. The idea is definitely worth exploring, though.

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  • Patrick December 14, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    In my experience of biking the Columbia Gorge, where the route occasionally drops on the interstate, is that it is surprisingly not as bad as you’d think. With a few very notable exceptions (Shellrock Mountain) the wide shoulders, the traffic moving at a constant rate, no side traffic, and rolling out the miles in an efficient manner—Interstate riding is a nice option for a bicycle traveler. I would also like to see ALL bridges open to bike traffic (here in Portland and in the Gorge).

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  • Neil
    Neil December 14, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    I too commute along 26 and have thought about such an addition for riding up and over the hill instead of having to ride through Washington Park.

    Were it separated from traffic fairly well, I’d love to have that as another option.

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  • Todd Boulanger December 14, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Up here in Washington State we [bicyclists] are lucky to have basic access to our State Routes (14 & 500) here in Clark County plus portions of i-205 & i-5.

    As the article stated these improved limited access routes are often the most direct and level routes*…I used to pedal SR-500 to work each day as it was quicker by half vs. the trail network (45 vs. 25 minutes) and likely safer – less conflict with commercial driveways, right turning cars and better sight distances.

    The commute route I took could be very bike friendly by having some very simple (and ‘low cost’) enhancements:
    – add bike stencils to the shoulders (to communicate to drivers that bicyclists by law are allowed to access these publicly funded facilities);
    – sweep the shoulders monthly as needed (large debris and vehicle droppings where the greatest danger);
    – modify the traffic islands (to allow bikes to pass freely without having to merge into #1 lane); and
    – enhanced bike lanes to cross single lane ramps (placed at a 90 degree midway down the ramp).

    Longer term issues to deal with would be to not permit the use of double ramps without mitigated bike (and pedestrian) crossings…as crossing a double ramp is about ~300% more tricky than a single ramp.

    I have brought these concepts up to our local (and statewide) WSDoT staff during multiple meetings but with little interest to date yet.

    *There was no complete and direct bike lane route on city streets to my job site then.

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  • Todd Boulanger December 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    The engineering for these facilities has been worked out and is accessible to our highway engineers if they were motivated to address these design deficiencies.

    Just check out the bikeway design manual (“Sign Up For The Bike’, in English) by CROW (NL), 1996 edition – it can be bought on line or locally borrowed.


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  • Brad December 14, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Neil (#8)

    A path from the Zoo exit down to the Jefferson Street exit would be a quick and easy fix. In fact, a dirt maintainance path already exists – just pave it. Put a separation barrier on the shoulder through the tunnel and down to Goose Hollow and the project would be complete. Going west? Place barriers from Jefferson up to the Zoo exit. Canyon Court provides decent access both east and west from the trailhead at Sylvan.

    wsbob (#5)

    IMHO – this is the route we should be taking. Building a wholly separated bike only network is nearly cost prohibitive and not an easy political sell. While riding next to traffic is not the most pleasant affair, I prefer it to waiting a decade or more to get a “perfect” bike system in place. Want a bike utopia? The first battle is to establish beyond argument (and our little bubble) the legitimacy of bikes on all manner of roadways.

    I’ll take barriers and bad air for the time being. I want to ride now and not wait until I am an old man to see more direct routes around town. I am also a big believer that creating more direct and reasonably safer routes gets more bikes on the road thus improving our clout. Build for the bold and somewhat brave first. If we only plan around the most fickle “interested but concerned” demographic, then we will not see a real network for a long time. By then, Toyota and Honda will be mass marketing affordable hybrid and hydrogen vehicles to the masses and cars will still rule the roads a generation from now.

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  • SaladTosser December 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    The only way I’d “choose” to ride next to a highway would be if the number of cars traveling on it were drastically reduced (such as an end of oil scenario). On the few occasions that I have ridden in close proximity to a highway in the city I have been miserable. Why anyone would do this at all is beyond me. The noise alone is atrocious, not to mention the smog, fumes, pollution “corridor” that is ever present.
    It’s very stressful to me to have giant semi’s blasting by me at 65 mph, vans, suv’s and even cars. I want riding to be less stressful than driving
    so in my opinion at the fastest, I would prefer vehicles to be driving no more than 35-40mph within close proximity to my bike. And, I prefer less trafficy roads (my lungs do anyway).

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  • Anonymous December 14, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    A week ago you were anti highway (no mt hood highway etc…) now you want to be part of the highway- or just take them over like in the picture.

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  • Neil
    Neil December 14, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    @Brad Going west, I do use Canyon Court to the trail at Sylvan. Didn’t know about the maintenance path headed east though. Interesting.

    I do enjoy riding past the zoo and through the park, but I’d like the option of a more direct route.

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  • Jacob December 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    When riding to Beaverton I take Burbar to SW capitol, nice easy grade (except for the hill on the very beginning of capitol).

    Though it may put many of you further south than you want to be, it pretty much took me straight to my job when I worked in tech (I’ll never work in a cubicle again to be honest).

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  • Steve B. December 14, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    If this sort of idea was implemented alongside road narrowing and other traffic calming, on the highway, I’d be super plussed. Why not make the cars slow down through the cities and neighborhoods, and lower the noise and menace.

    Riding on the interstates and smaller highway routes (like US 101/1), most of it is ridable for the hardened, seasoned cyclist. But really, if we’re trying to get a wider sample of people who cycle, extensive treatment–beyond paint–would be critical, which would drive the price point considerably.

    Still, if the cost of oil skyrockets over the next decade, our highways could become defacto bikeways with food carts, public spaces, and educational centers in short time! That’s my little interpretation of a massive greening of our highways.

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  • Michael M. December 14, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Not bad ideas, but I’m with the chorus of ‘I wouldn’t use it.’ My one brief experience on the I-84 path left me half-deaf in my right ear for a few hours. And it stank. The noise and stench of I-84 is bad enough waiting for the MAX at the Hollywood Transit Center.

    As for riding on Sandy Blvd, no thanks, bike lanes or not. Much of it is fairly uninspiring, scenery-wise, and it too is noisy and smelly.

    The problem with the “strong and fearless” and “interested but concerned” categories is that they leave out those of us who aren’t particularly fearful, but nevertheless aren’t concerned exclusively with the shortest distance between A and B. I prefer most of all having interesting routes and a variety of choices (reasonable choices, that is — I don’t mind adding 15 minutes to a commute on some days to take a different, somewhat more circuitous route, if it provides some variety). That’s why urban life has always appealed to me — unlike with the suburbs, you aren’t essentially locked into a freeway/highway/major-thoroughfare route to get from home to work and back again.

    But, whatever works for you, go for it.

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  • Neil
    Neil December 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    @Michael M (#17) For those of us on the west side, there’s a bit of geology that gets in the way of choices for routes. Granted, development of roads into town and connectivity through neighborhoods can all be better, there’s no ignoring terrain.

    And the urban/suburban trope is old, get over it.

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  • Paul Johnson December 14, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Adventure Cycling operates the US bicycle route system exclusively in their wildest, wettest dreams. It’s a project of USDOT, not Adventure Cycling. Asking AA for something as simple as map data gets a bitchy, snide response saying they’d rather keep that data to themselves.

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  • matt picio December 14, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I think some sections of some highways like 26 would be great to have as routes, because auto-centric pathways got all the easy routes up the hills. In order for it to work, however, there needs to ba a large separation between uphill cyclists and motorists, and preferably a sound barrier. More importantly, there would need to be something to prevent conflicts between cyclists and the motorists who were entering and leaving the freeway – exit ramps are the most challenging parts of the freeway to navigate across when you’re on a bike.

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  • Matt December 14, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    If bicycles are everywhere, people will have to deal with them everywhere. The community I used to live in provided numerous scenic, but rolling and twisting bikepaths. When I’m wasn’t out for scenery, I would ride on the 4-lane highway just to make time, but a lot of motorists would say “stay on the bikepath, that’s what it’s there for.” (They would say this in conversation. Most were pretty civil on the road.) I say I don’t want to go out of my way any more than a car has to, when I’m trying to get somewhere. I don’t always have the extra 15 minutes for scenery. Allowing and accommodating bikes everywhere would remove the option of telling them to “stay in their place”.

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  • wsbob December 14, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    “… . In order for it to work, however, there needs to ba a large separation between uphill cyclists and motorists, and preferably a sound barrier. …” picio #20

    An earthen, planted sound barrier would be nice. Perhaps some of you have ridden the bike path out in Beaverton going east to Sylvan. This bike lane parallels Hwy 26 a distance of (guessing) 100′ or so away, and is higher than the highway by 10′-20′ along its length. It has a sound barrier; an 8′ concrete wall.

    I suppose it’s better than having the motor vehicle traffic noise in your ear, but it’s not great by any means; not from a hearing or a visual standpoint. The side of the bike path without the wall has very nice views of older residences and deep wooded ravines.

    The maintenance road south of Hwy 26 between the zoo exit and Goose Hollow: It can be seen at points from the car when driving that section of 26. I’ve been surprised that mountain bikers or zoobombers haven’t started using it. It may be illegal for people to be down there if they aren’t working for pge or some such thing.

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  • bikieboy December 14, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    jonathan : “In Portland, bikes are allowed on most sections of our metro-area freeways.”

    well, that’s overstating it a bit. The only freeway sections i can think of that are open to bikes (the ODOT state bike map shows what is & isn’t open) are US 26 west of Jefferson ramp, I-205 between i-5 and West Linn, I-5 south of I-205 interchange, and I-84 east of Troutdale.

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  • John Russell December 14, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    You really probably shouldn’t get me started on how much I love freeway cycling. Faster, safer, smoother, etc.

    For those of you who would prefer a map over the slightly more cryptic words of ODOT, I’ve made this:

    From south of Eugene up to Longview, I’ve cycled nearly every mile of freeway in the Willamette Valley, as well as SW Washington. The longest ride I’ve ridden was 130 miles from Eugene to Vancouver, 110 of which were non-stop on the shoulder of I-5 (the rest stops sure are nice). I have had fewer issues with other vehicles on all of the freeways than I do on a usual commute to school.

    In my opinion, OR 217 is probably the least productive to safe cycling. The Banfield, while technically off-limits, is much nicer. I-405/US 30 over the Fremont bridge has some of the widest, most scenic shoulders of which I know. I-205 through East Portland is probably one of the nicest: shoulders wider than the bike path itself, and no dangerous arterial crossings. I-5 through North Portland is never narrower than absolutely necessary, and the only pinch point on I-5 between Tigard and Portland is due to be given ample shoulders: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/REGION1/iowaviaduct/

    I think we need to get together and petition ODOT to allow cyclists on these perfectly safe stretches of freeway. Our tax dollars are already paying for them; it would be nice if we allowed to use them (legally).

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  • Paul Johnson December 14, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Folks who can actually read a map notice that all freeways in Oregon except for select sections of I-5, I-84 and I-205 within Portland and Eugene are open to bicycles.

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  • Anonymous December 14, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I think the rule of thumb for interstate travel on bicycles in all areas where the speed limit is 65 mph. This indicates rural areas and longer spacing between exits. Off limits are sections where the speed limit is 55 mph which indicate urban areas with closer exits.

    I do know that I-5 through Medford is off limits to bicycles.

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  • dan December 14, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Some of the best bike paths I’ve ever been on are old highways that have either been allowed to fall into disrepair, or simply aren’t used anymore due to construction of a modern freeway that goes the same place. Too bad there’s no real chance of that happening in Portland.

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  • K'Tesh December 14, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    As a regular (or was a regular) rider of Hwy 217, I would love to see more MUP’s paralleling highways (like I205).

    It might not be pleasant with the noise, but it’s flat, and quick, and with a few small areas, almost the full width of a car (if not larger).

    You also have the benefit of no oncoming traffic, and no intersections.

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  • Lester December 14, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    I ride from Vancouver to Olympia on I-5 quite a bit. I find I like riding 8 feet from 70mph traffic better than I like riding 3 feet from 50 mph traffic.

    If all of HWY 411, Jackson HWY and Old HWY 99 had proper emergency lanes, I’d probably take them up to OLY even though it’s more circuitous, but ’til then I’ll take the freeway.

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  • Lester December 14, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Oh, I should ad that I find jumping on I-5 south to Salem as soon as it’s legal to be the best Portland-Salem route. My prior comment concerning 2-lane blacktop highways with one foot of shoulder applies here as well.

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  • Lazy Spinner December 15, 2009 at 5:00 am

    Thank you, K’Tesh. If bikes are ever going to be used and seen as serious transportation tools by the masses then what you describe is vital. Making a handful of close-in Portland residential streets a bit more pleasant to leisurely spin on won’t make any real dent in personal auto use. Making it easier for those living beyond the 40’s and the ‘burbs to get around by bike gets more cars off the road. Those are the cars causing the congestion each rush hour!

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  • Ginny Sullivan December 15, 2009 at 8:57 am

    To Mr. Paul Johnson
    Regarding Adventure Cycling and the U.S. Bicycle Route System, I’m sorry if you ever sought information on our route data and felt you didn’t get your question answered. We are very transparent with both our own Adventure Cycling Route Network (www.adventurecycling.org/routes) and the the data we’ve gathered for the pending U.S. Bicycle Route System(www.adventurecycling.org/usbrs). Our maps are for sale but the cost doesn’t even begin to pay for the work we put into the maps, we supplement our Routes and Mapping Dept. through our other programs and donatioins. Regardless, if people inquire about our routes, we are more than happy to share our expertise.

    You are somewhat correct in that the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) doesn’t “belong” to Adventure Cycling, although we are taking a coordinating role. The system will belong to the public. By working with State and local transportation authorities, there will be greater buy-in for cycling and better support and maintenance for the facilities; including signs.

    The USBRS will use a variety of roads, highways, trails and even interstate highways when necessary. The idea of Bicycle Highways certainly fits within the concept of the USBRS – but it will depend on each situation. Certainly, the comfort and safety of the cyclist will be a main priority.

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  • Ginny Sullivan December 15, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Just a general observation of some of the comments concerning noise and pollution when having to ride next to cars on highways and busy roads, what if those cars were electric (quiet, no emissions), were fewer (because we have good transit systems) and we slowed things down (because the road is shared with bikes)? Think of how that might feel. Let’s dream big.

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  • Jim Sayer December 15, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Re: #19, 32, 33 — A PS on Adventure Cycling’s routes and map data – we also make the GPS waypoints for all of our routes free and available to the public. Still, most traveling cyclists like to buy our maps – as a secure old-fashioned back-up and because it’s easier to understand the route context and logic than on a wayfinder or iphone.

    Great conversation and useful information – thanks!

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  • Aaron December 15, 2009 at 9:25 am

    I’ve also ridden many highways including out in the gorge, I-5 (i think) north of Vancouver, and out to Mt Hood. I was even told to get off the highway in New Mexico by a policeman who didn’t know the law correctly. It’s not very dangerous where exits are far apart because the shoulder is 10ft and the rumble strips keep most cars out of it. The main issues are that the scenery stinks (and that’s not all that stinks) because state DOTs remove all vegetation along them to prevent people from crashing. Then there’s also the noise and pollution. (Which is also why I’m not thrilled with the Hwy 26 bike path) So I only take them when there’s no other option. It’s not necessarily dangerous, just very unpleasant.
    And if I may reply to comment#13 I believe that Jonathan is against NEW highway construction, but not against more intelligent use of the existing infrastructure.

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  • rev December 15, 2009 at 10:58 am

    The best way to get new infrastructure is to have our presence felt.

    Jan 16-18 we will have that chance.

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  • Paul Johnson December 15, 2009 at 11:21 am

    To: Ginny #32,

    I personally find it morally reprehensible that you’re selling that geospatial data rather than cooperate with OpenCycleMap.org. Furthermore, when we approached Adventure Cycling with the idea, rather than a simple “no, thanks,” we got a several-page response basically saying, “No, we don’t want anything to do with you, in fact, you’re the competition!”

    Never mind the whole idea is to build a worldwide bike map. Rest assured, though, that the USBRS will be mapped, with or without Adventure Cycling’s help.

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  • Virginia Bicycling Federation December 15, 2009 at 11:26 am

    As Paul mentioned, rail corridors are great opportunities for bikeways. As many towns were formed around rail lines, they make great backbones for local and regional trail systems. Also, their moderate and consistent grades are easy and appealing for the most casual cyclists.

    But let’s not limit this to abandoned rail corridors! Trails along active rail lines — rails with trails — are a viable solution, with many examples in use already. Please sign our petition, and get your organization to write a letter of support for our rails with trails resolution.

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  • Kt December 15, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Wow, Michael M, #17, I didn’t realize that as a suburb dweller and cyclist I could only ride on the major arterial roads and highways out here.

    I guess all those neighborhood streets and the Fanno Creek trail are arterials and highways?

    Newsflash, urban city dwellers: Us folks out here in the ‘burbs actually do have good viable NON ARTERIAL routes to use to get places. We aren’t all locked into the highway/interstate mentality that you are stereotyping us with. Knock it off, thanks.

    As for the article: I think the title should read, “SHOULD highways be the new bikeways”.

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  • wsbob December 15, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    NYTimes/ninth annual year in ideas/bicycle highways

    Did any of you read this little article in the Times(Blue posted it’s link in The Monday Roundup, but nobody’s commented on it so far). Now there’s an idea that I’d like to see pursued for our area. Some excerpts:

    “The bicycle highway — no red lights, no cars — is every cyclist’s fantasy. There are now signs that infrastructure is catching up with the dream. In October 2008, an association of U.S. state-highway officials approved the concept of a national Bicycle Routes Corridor Plan — the first step in potential American bike Interstates. ….Copenhagen, however, began last month to create the real thing: a system of as many as 15 extra-wide, segregated bike routes connecting the suburbs to the center of the city. These are not bucolic touring paths; Copenhagen’s bike highways are meant to move traffic. Nearly 40 percent of Copenhagen rides a bike to work. …”

    Even lacking a highway for bike use, simple, practical connectivity between the burbs and the big city would be enormously helpful for traveling by bike when you really need to gets somewhere without dawdling around. The byways and MUP’s like Fanno Creek are fun and enjoyable, but I imagine that for many people’s needs, something a little more straighforward…like a lane as big and smooth as one on a highway without the motor vehicles… could sure come in handy.

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  • Michael M. December 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Kt (#39) — I’m sure you have more options than major arterial roads & highways, wherever you are, to get from and to some places. But if there are a multitude of options to get from, say, Hillsboro to Portland, then why is US 26 so congested much of the time? Why, when I lived in Hillsboro, did I have only one route to get from home to high school?

    Back in the day, our house in Hillsboro was on a rural road that led right into town. We lived just on the edge of what might be considered ‘suburban’ right before it got ‘rural.’ I got stopped & questioned by the police on two different occasions simply for walking the half-mile toward town to my friend’s house, because it was so rare for anyone to be walking on our street (which, at the time, lacked sidewalks). I vowed then that I would never live in an environment where walking on the street where you live was considered suspicious activity.

    Is that the totality of suburban living? Of course not. There are lots of trade-offs between the suburban & urban, and some prefer one to the other, for perfectly legitimate reasons. I know which I prefer, for plenty of my own reasons, which include that your choices of routes are always going to be more limited in environments that are built around lots of subdivisions connected by arterials than they are with interconnected urban street grids. That’s not stereotyping, that’s a fact.

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  • Bike Hobo December 15, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Paul, are you listening!! ACA gives all of their GPS waypoints away for free, for all of their routes. If you want to put them in OSM, have at it! All they sell is the paper maps that they research, draw, upadte, and print. Whats wrong with getting compensated for all that work. And they are non-profit. You should ask your-self why your so angry. Leave the computer a while and go ride a bike!

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  • Paul Johnson December 15, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Bike Hobo #42:

    You are aware about copyright law, right? ACA’s POIs are copyrighted material. They cannot be legally entered into OSM, and deliberately violating copyright is a very good way to get yourself banned from ever contributing to OSM again (and damage your professional credibility if you’re a surveyor, civil engineer or cartographer).

    Therefore, if ACA doesn’t want to play ball, they are not a friend of the bicycle community. It’s all or nothing!

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  • Chris December 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I have done a little bit of riding in Beaverton while trying to restrict myself to side streets. It wasn’t completely possible. Adjacent subdivisions don’t always connect, and you sometimes have to hop onto an arterial like Canyon Road for at least a few blocks to find the side street leading to the next subdivision. Also, there are few highway crossings that aren’t interchanges. That said, biking Beaverton isn’t that difficult.

    As a person who prefers to ride on quiet streets while using arterials mainly for very short distances when necessary, I think the best and cheapest way to improve the bike experience is to provide connections where such quiet routes terminate – more bridges and underpasses highways, waterways and railways and more medians at arterials.

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  • El Biciclero December 15, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Seems like paved old railroad tracks–or new paths next to working RR–would be great “highways” for bikes, as long as they were wide enough to allow passing in both directions and pedestrians were few and far between. Existing street crossings would serve as natural entrance/exit points. I think it would also be awesome if the RR crossing arms and lights were kept and used to provide safe bike crossing…

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  • Bike Hobo December 15, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Yeah, Read their copyright info:

    If you use the ACRN GPS data to create a map or display for use on your website, blog or other internet distribution, you must credit Adventure Cycling Association and include a link back to the Adventure Cycling website using the following link: http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/gps.cfm. Logos are available for this use on our Logos and Icons page http://www.adventurecycling.org/downloads/logosweb.cfm. Your application of the data may only be utilized for non-commercial informational purposes and generally accessible to users without charge. Please read the full agreement before continuing

    Free to distribute with credit for non-commercial, no charge use.
    Looks like OSM fits that bill.

    Not friends of cyclists? Let’s see, 30+ years supporting bicycling, largest mapped touring network in US, maybe world, and works for USBRS at their own expense, which will be in direct competition to their own routes!

    But collects some small fees for services and products to keep it all going. And is still non-profit? Let’s give credit where due; sounds like good folks doing good work for cyclists.

    But if you negotiate anything like you blog, no wonder they didn’t want to work with ya! Be nice, it goes a long way!

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  • Paul Johnson December 15, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    ACA’s licensing is not open enough by any standard: Restricting any use is as good as locking it up tight. There are companies such as Cloudmade and deCarta using OSM data, and OSM is perfectly OK (and even encourages this), because it proliferates local knowledge to a high-detail map for all to benefit from. By contrast, ACA’s licensing is “we have ours so screw you.” ACA has already made that perfectly clear in this thread. If they don’t want to cooperate with the community (the WHOLE community, not just fairweather recreational cyclists), it’s their loss, but they should do the right thing and go away. Having false support like the ACA is worse than having active detractors like the automotive lobby.

    Because of this lack of cooperation with the community, I seriously question the ACA’s motives. If they didn’t have ulterior motives, there’s no reason NOT to share all their map data under a reasonable license as outlined above (or at least not lead one to believe they’re up to something underhanded in response to a request for help). ACA started their own shit storm (largely out of being nasty in response to a polite request for help), and it’s entirely within their own power to make things right.

    By comparison, Metro responded to THE SAME boilerplate with, “Yes, adding Bike There to OSM sounds like a great idea. Give us a few months and we’ll do it.” And it’s not like Metro doesn’t make money from publishing map data themselves, Metro just happens to have something called a moral compass.

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  • Bike Hobo December 15, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Asking for credit for their work is too restrictive! What planet are you from? You are what we call “impossible people”! Folks that want it all their way, no compromise. You just want a fight, you should just go away! Now riders who “just” recreate on their bikes aren’t pure enough for ya. What an elitist! S* Storm, what S* storm, you’re the only one complaining. Right, there’s a conspiracy, OK, I see where you’re coming from. A huge bike touring cabal! You didn’t even get a nasty letter did you? You just didn’t get your way, so let’s throw a fit. I don’t believe you! Post that nasty letter up here. If you want the “community” to be on your side, what do have to lose? You won’t, because this is all made up to make you feel important! I’m done, not another second of my time. What an idiot!

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  • Paul Johnson December 15, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Nobody’s saying citing a source is too much effort. I’m not pulling an elitist move, in fact, just the contrary, I’m taking ACA to task for having an elitist attitude towards anyone who isn’t a weekend recreational cyclist: They’re favoring this group exclusively over the vast majority of cyclists. Because ACA has restrictions on commercial use and derivative works, it’s not suitable for use in a project that has community support.

    ACA has a legal disclaimer and copyright added to outgoing emails by their server. I’m afraid you’re going to have to ask the ACA to post it; they hold the copyright to their nastygram. I’ll be happy to cough up the nastygram if you cough up some money so I can retain a lawyer.

    This isn’t about being impossible, this is about doing what’s right. ACA isn’t doing what’s right.

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  • Jim O'Horo December 15, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    st @ 2, Anne Hawley @ 3, & Jonathan @ 4:

    Noise alongside any busy freeway is always a problem. It bothers me too, which is one of the reasons why I avoid riding freeways whenever possible and reasonable. One solution is to carry a set of earplugs – when the noise becomes bothersome, put the earplugs in. Pollution is a more difficult issue. I’ve found no effective way of dealing with it. One could use an inexpensive dust mask to filter out dust and soot from diesel exhaust, but gasoline/diesel fumes, nitrogen and/or sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, ozone and other gaseous pollutants go right through a dust mask. The only way to stop them would be to use an activated charcoal respirator such as those used for commercial spray painting – not at all comfortable if trying to breathe while pedaling a bike. Ironically, addition of rumble strips has increased the amount of debris accumulating on freeway shoulders.

    As far as I know, freeway riding on US routes is allowed nationwide unless an individual state DOT prohibits it. Riding on the shoulder of an INTERSTATE route is permitted from the Rockies westward except for relatively small segments, usually near or in heavily travelled urban areas, designated by the various state DOT’s. In the past 15 years I’ve made many round trips back to Grand Rapids, MI, both by the most direct route along I-80, and also sometimes returning via a more southerly route through Colorado. I have occasionally observed cyclists on Interstate shoulders in WA, OR, ID, CA, MT, WY, UT, CO & NE (I-80 west of the jct. with I-25). I’ve personally ridden thousands of miles on Interstates in WA, OR, ID & CA and never had a problem. It’s been shown in two surveys (Kaplan in 1975 and Moritz in 1996 – both passed peer review & were published) that riding on the wide shoulder of a freeway has a lower risk per mile ridden than the same distance ridden on any city street except those with properly marked bike lanes. In many cases allowing cyclists to use currently prohibited freeway shoulders and bridges in the Portland metro area would not only save time, distance and effort, it would provide lower risk routes than riding on city streets – the only caveat is that cyclists would often have to get on at an entrance and immediately back off at the next exit to avoid crossing multiple lanes of high speed motorized traffic.

    On the freeways themselves I doubt that we’ll have any luck separating motorists from the shoulders. This is shared space needed for motorists to pull off the travel lane in case of breakdown and for movement of maintenance vehicles. DOT is unlikely to dedicate it to cyclists.

    Todd Boulanger @ 9
    It’s good to see you weighing in on this issue Todd. As usual, your comments & suggestions are constructive & well thought out.

    RE: SR14: The westbound 1.9 mile segment between Grove St. and I-5 has now been closed to cyclists; using that segment required crossing the 55mph right lane exit to I-5 northbound to get to the City Center exit ramp – very risky!
    Besides SR-500 cyclists have full use of SR-501, SR-502 and SR-503, though we recommend against the 6.9 miles of SR-503 between Rock Creek Rd. and Amboy because of narrow, winding, shoulderless sections with lots of log & rock trucks.

    Regarding your excellent suggestions for your commute route along SR-500, these suggestions could apply as well to any freeway commute route.
    I doubt that WSDOT would put either bike lane symbols or diamonds onto freeway shoulders as these symbols would likely cause some motorists to believe they were prohibited; shoulders are shared space, so sharrows might be appropriate.
    Sweeping has always been a problem on freeway shoulders, especially here in the northwest with the large numbers of log & chip trucks and gravel trucks. Even monthly wouldn’t be frequent enough in some areas, but with $$ forever short, maintenance is always difficult.
    WSDOT has been giving more consideration to cyclists during design phase of highway construction in recent years. With the reconstruction of the remaining intersections along SR-500 between Thurston and I-5 we will see improved conditions for cyclists.
    Enhanced bike lanes to cross single lane ramps: I haven’t seen this done in the US, but I encountered one some years ago at the interchange connecting Hwy. 19 and Trans-Canada Hwy. 1 on Vancouver Is. in BC. It had a bicycle STOP sign at the point where cyclists enter the crossing and seemed to me to work well. Motorized traffic volume was considerably lower than I’m accustomed to in the US. They also had a short paved path across a grassy portion of the interchange to get from one ramp to another, something I’ve also not seen in the US. By “midway down the ramp” I assume you mean ½ the distance from the start of the exit to the last point where one can cross at a 90 degree angle and still get directly to the freeway shoulder. Literally going ½ the distance of the total ramp would normally take one well past the point where crossing would be easy. In practice I usually start looking back for a gap in exit traffic slightly before the beginning of the exit ramp and cross quickly as soon as I see a suitable opening. Normally one can see far back at an exit ramp; this is important when trying to judge whether or not to cross a 60 mph stream of traffic. Crossing entrance ramps can be a little trickier as visibility backwards up the ramp is usually not nearly as good.

    Subjectively I feel the estimate of a 3x risk crossing a 2-lane exit/ entrance vs. a 1-lane exit/entrance is, if anything, conservative. Riding out between 2 lanes of 60 mph traffic is a great way to avoid getting old. I don’t do it. If I come to a 2-lane exit ramp, I exit the freeway and get back on at the next entrance ramp. With a diamond interchange this usually means simply crossing the cross road and riding back up the shoulder of the entrance ramp.

    The Clark County Bicycle Advisory Committee has had a similar experience to Todd’s when dealing with WSDOT. We’ve been trying for YEARS to get them to simply post signs directing cyclists off SR-14 at 2-lane exits and back on at the entrance ramps, and they refuse to do anything about those dangerous situations. Maybe someone has to get killed to get their attention.

    A few people posted comments seeming to hope for the day that oil runs out. Most who have not worked in the oil industry do not realize that even in the lower 48 where many think we’ve already pumped most of the oil we still have a lot left underground. In a first effort the amount of oil extractable from a particular deposit varies widely between 30% and 70%, depending on viscosity, porosity of the rock and other factors and averages 50%. Simply put that means there’s as much oil down there as we’ve already pumped. It’s just waiting for the price to get high enough to make it economically attractive to pay for secondary and tertiary recovery techniques. It will be a long time before “end of oil” – sorry to disappoint you. In the meantime we will develop autos that will be smaller, lighter, quieter, and run on different energy sources (electricity, hydrogen, etc). I’ve even heard of a personal 2-seater that is powered by a tank of high pressure compressed air. The automobile isn’t going away; it’s just going to change.

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  • Paul Johnson December 15, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Interstates are open to bicyclists nationwide unless otherwise posted: This isn’t different than locally here in Oregon.

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  • Mike Deme December 16, 2009 at 11:10 am

    According the FHA:

    Why are bicycles prohibited from using the Interstate shoulders?
    Each State establishes the operating rules that determine which vehicles are allowed on the Interstate highways under their jurisdiction. Most States do not allow bicyclists on the Interstate shoulders, but bicycle use is permitted in some States, particularly in the west where there is less traffic and where good alternative routes may not exist for bicycles. Determining if bicycle access should be permitted is done only after careful study and consideration of how bicyclists and motor vehicle traffic can safely negotiate on- and off-ramps. The safety of all roadway users must be considered. In addition, some Interstate highways, mainly in urban areas, have been built with bicycle paths.

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  • […] while high on drugs is finally charged; evidently, justice delayed ≠ justice denied. Why not turn highways into bikeways? Just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get your bike. MIT […]

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  • John Russell December 16, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    RE: SR14: The westbound 1.9 mile segment between Grove St. and I-5 has now been closed to cyclists; using that segment required crossing the 55mph right lane exit to I-5 northbound to get to the City Center exit ramp – very risky!

    The Clark County Bicycle Advisory Committee has had a similar experience to Todd’s when dealing with WSDOT. We’ve been trying for YEARS to get them to simply post signs directing cyclists off SR-14 at 2-lane exits and back on at the entrance ramps, and they refuse to do anything about those dangerous situations. Maybe someone has to get killed to get their attention.

    @ Jim O’Horo #50,

    “RE: SR14: The westbound 1.9 mile segment between Grove St. and I-5 has now been closed to cyclists; using that segment required crossing the 55mph right lane exit to I-5 northbound to get to the City Center exit ramp – very risky!”

    You must be mistaken. This stretch of SR 14 hasn’t been closed at all. There are signs posted saying that cycling on I-5 is prohibited, but that’s it. It’s even legal to take the ramp to I-5 northbound and continue up to the Mill Plain/Fourth Plain exit, where a “Bicycles must exit” sign is in fact posted. Also, I’ve never once had a problem crossing the exit to I-5 NB. The traffic and sightlines are usually favorable enough to allow crossing the exit at speed.

    “We’ve been trying for YEARS to get them to simply post signs directing cyclists off SR-14 at 2-lane exits and back on at the entrance ramps, and they refuse to do anything about those dangerous situations. Maybe someone has to get killed to get their attention.”

    They’re only dangerous if you lack common sense. While a two lane exit is much more difficult to cross, prohibiting cyclists from crossing these ramps isn’t the way to go. Using common sense, I’ve never had a problem crossing these, and prohibiting me and other cyclists from doing the same would only make it illegal to ride as safely as we already have been. Remember, laws only affect those who choose to abide by them.

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  • John Russell December 16, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Those first two paragraphs were quotes, and not my own words.

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  • bb December 17, 2009 at 7:14 am

    Outside Vail CO the trail from Frisco to Vail. Runs right along the Freeway, (doesn’t even have a barrier on some portions.) This is contra flow also. In Arizona I can ride most of the interstates minus only a few areas, which are posted by the state.

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  • Paul Johnson December 17, 2009 at 10:01 am

    re: Contraflow bike facility on freeway.

    I would strongly reccommend pointing this out to CDOT to fix. Contraflow facilities on a freeway without physical separation is unlawful in the US.

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