The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

The Going gets easier at MLK

Posted by on March 22nd, 2010 at 11:05 am

Going bike boulevard at MLK Jr. Blvd-2

MLK at Going looks a lot different now.
-More photos below-
(Photos © J. Maus)

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is moving forward on their Going Street Bicycle Boulevard project.

One of the centerpieces of the estimated $250,000 project is the crossing of MLK Jr. Blvd. For the uninitiated, MLK is a major north-south arterial that’s technically a state highway (99E). That means it handles a lot of fast motor vehicle traffic and because it is so unpleasant to cross in many places it acts as a de facto barrier between neighborhoods.

To make the new Going Street route a place “where bicycles, pedestrians and neighbors are given priority,” the city has just installed new signage, pavement markings, and (most importantly) medians in the middle of the intersection.

I went out this morning to take a closer look.

Going bike boulevard at MLK Jr. Blvd-7

People on bikes get to cut
through the median.
Going bike boulevard at MLK Jr. Blvd-1

Right turns only please.
Going bike boulevard at MLK Jr. Blvd-5

Looking south on MLK.

Turning movements for motor vehicles are now limited to right turns only in all directions. There are also new advisory signs on MLK warning of the presence of humans. For people walking, there are new zebra-striped crosswalks and advance stop lines prior to the intersection where motor vehicles are supposed to stop. The new median barriers also have bike lane-sized cut-throughs.

People can now use this generously sized median area to wait for a break in traffic — and the idea is that the mere presence of these medians, signs, and paint will make that task much easier.

The next big piece of this project will be getting people safely across the off-set intersection at NE 33rd. Construction on that section is set to begin next month.

Learn more about what’s in store for Going Street via this in-depth look at the plans we published back in November or check out the City’s bike boulevard page.

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

  • […] facebook, Going Street Bicycle Boulevard, It's Happening on Dekum, Jonathan Maus Check out Jonathan Maus’ write-up at on the city’s changes to MLK Boulevard at NE Going, posted today. He describes how the […]

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  • are March 22, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    this looks good. what they have planned at 33rd looks like a nightmare. two-way cycletrack for a half block, with a box at the north end for cyclists eastbound on going to sit in and wait for an opening, trying to peek around cars parked immediately north of the bulbout. obviously any cyclist northbound on 33rd would ignore this treatment entirely, and if i were heading east on going i would be inclined to ignore it as well.

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  • Lillian Karabaic March 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Wish they could afford a HAWK signal. That would truly make this safer.

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  • Lenny Anderson March 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Only a very experienced biyclist would brave this crossing of MLK even with all the paint. Years ago a citizens committee chose Tillamook for an early NE bikeway (please hold that other B-word), because it offers a signal at MLK and (via US Grant) at 33rd. Doing bikeways without signals at major arterials is doing it on the cheap. And signals need to be responsive, not “hit the button and wait a week” as at SE C. Chavez & Taylor by the library. What you say?! you want to interrupt the orderly flow of cars to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. What would ODOT say? What would PBOT say?

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  • dsaxena March 22, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I agree with #3 and #4. There’s a crosswalk across MLK on Staford that I use once in a while and like most crosswalks in town, the majority of drivers don’t stop and I have to sit around waiting until 1 considerate person does so.
    Speaking of…I rode the I-205 path for the first time in a while this weekend…not having a light to get across SE Division is a very similar situation. What we need at these crossings is pedestrian/bike activated red lights to stop traffic.

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  • Gregg Woodlawn March 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    It is a HUGE improvement over a week ago. THANKS PBOT!!!

    It is a nice step forward.

    I’m guessing that a HAWK signal would make it safer as well.

    This will definitely make it safer to go to the Bike Farm, the Bike Temple (for a little while longer), King school and farmers market, the Boys and Girls Club…

    I’m looking forward to making Holman safer too. 🙂

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  • KJ March 22, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    awesome, love it. I used this crossing when I first moved to NE for awhile and it was hard, lots of waiting. Not particularly safe. I’d use the median as it was before to wait.

    So I switched to Skidmore, which has faster traffic but bike signals and a cross light.
    I will be thrilled to use this crossing!
    Agree with Lily, HAWK signal would be the icing.

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  • matt picio March 22, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    This is great, love it. Good going, PBOT, I applaud the project. Excellent, and I look forward to seeing what the rest of Going will look like.

    When more funding becomes available, PLEASE put in a HAWK signal here, because while I appreciate the “generously sized” median, my one complaint is that it is not wide enough to accommodate a bike PLUS a trailer, which means this intersection will continue to be difficult for families towing small children.

    Keep up the great work, and please improve it more when funds are available!

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  • beth h March 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    This is a good start to resolving this issue. MLK is a major thoroughfare and it’s great to see that PBOT recognizes the need for walkers and bicyclists to be able to cross safely. (I think it would be SO great if PBOT were eventually able to add a few more MLK crossings like this between Broadway and Lombard!)

    That said, I agree with those who’ve called for a HAWK signal as well, as this would improve the crossing tenfold.
    Thanks, PBOT.

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  • Scott Mizée March 22, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    looks very similar to the new installation on Rosa Parks at Concord Bike Blvd. Interested to see how more of these play out…. especially the new infrastructure planned at the intersection of Wabash/Bryant Bike Blvds and Willamette (non-bike) Blvd.

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  • borgbike March 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I anxiously await PDOT turning stop signs along Going.

    It will be exciting to see how this effort increases traffic on the Vancouver/Williams couplet. I think it will. It should boost overall ridership.

    I’m curious as to how aggressively they will be cutting off car traffic from turning onto Going.

    I’m a little bummed that I never received an email from PDOT for the second phase of the public comment on this project. Maybe I missed it in my spam folder?

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  • cyclist March 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    borgbike #11:

    I don’t think they’ll have to work all that hard to keep car traffic off of Going, Prescott is just one block south and has only 1 traffic signal between 33rd and… I think 9th or so? That’s not to say that there won’t be any traffic calming on Going, just that the amount necessary should be minimal because a better alternative for cars exists one block to the south.

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  • are March 22, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    but prescott does not go through at MLK. i will guess that the “problem” with signalizing this intersection, hawk or otherwise, is that there are already signals at alberta and again at prescott and yet again at skidmore. this would be a case in which ODoT rather than PBoT makes the rules . . .

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  • KJ March 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Good point, Are.

    I wonder if the fact that Going is now right turn only will also deter car traffic to Prescott and least going west.

    I too look forward to the turning of the stop signs.

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  • carlos March 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Taking Going 5 days a week for my commute to work. Road through the new construction this morning. Actually had a car stop for me at the intersection. I too am excited for all the signage, median, crosswalk, but am always nervous crossing two lanes of on coming traffic especially when one lane has cars stopped. Never know if cars in the other lane can see you or not.

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  • Amos March 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I love me some cut-throughs and diverters, don’t get me wrong, I just have a bad feeling about this one. Cars go so fast here, I worry about over-confidence in the infrastructure.

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  • morgan scott March 22, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    This is AWESOME.

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  • Paul Johnson March 22, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    So bikes can’t make a left off of MLK onto Going? IF they can, then an EXCEPT BICYCLES sign needs to be added to those signs.

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  • John Lascurettes March 23, 2010 at 8:06 am

    For people worried about crossing MKL at Going, it’s going to be a breeze, even without the light. I’ve been doing it at Mason (one block south of Prescott) for a couple of years now. Going west on Mason, I wait for the southbound traffic on MLK to break. I ride to the split median and wait for the northbound traffic to break. MOST of the time, the cars stop at that point.

    Someone mentioned the amount of lights on Presoctt. There’s actually two between MLK and 33rd. One at 7th and another at 15th. Personally this is my preferred bike route for that very reason. No stop interruptions. If they turn all the stops on Going to allow bikes to breeze through, I may just switch to that..

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  • John Lascurettes March 23, 2010 at 8:10 am

    Sorry, Mason is two blocks south of Prescott.

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  • MLK/Shaver Neighbor March 23, 2010 at 8:49 am

    As someone who lives a few blocks away, I can say that this will not change things much for that intersection. We fought to have new crosswalks installed on MLK at Failing and Beech (they put them in as signs only). My experience is you cant even get the Police to stop along MLK even if your standing in the middle of it waiting to get creamed. also consider that there were already lights at the corners of Shaver and Skidmore why did the city need to waste however much money on this because they want to move the bike route over?

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  • John March 23, 2010 at 9:04 am

    As a bicyclist that lives a couple blocks away on Going, this is a HUGE improvement. Going is a natural path of least resistance for bicyclists. A single accident could cost well more than the price tag on these kinds of projects–not to mention any personal losses. I’m very appreciative.

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  • are March 23, 2010 at 9:56 am

    re comment 21. i think it is well known that i am not an apologist for bike infrastructure. and i am frequently in this neighborhood as a volunteer for bikefarm. usually i will use alberta coming and going, but sometimes shaver or skidmore. and sometimes prescott heading east, making a left off of MLK. however. there are many less intrepid cyclists who would be much more comfortable on going. and though most “bike boulevard” treatments fall considerably short of realizing the objective, even i — the intrepid, vehicular cyclist, infrastructure naysayer — do find that it is pleasant to ride on quieter streets, away from angry, careless, inept motorists and their noise and fumes. even prescott, which is well paved and has most of the stop signs turned, can sometimes be dominated by motorists.

    the going concept needs some work, especially at 33rd, but turning some stop signs and creating this crossing island will help. they will need to resurface one block between about 16th and 17th, and there will need to be enough calming to discourage heavier motor use.

    possibly the reason not to choose skidmore is that it is farther away from alberta and requires crossing prescott to get to and from alberta.

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  • Jackattak March 23, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Big props to PBoT! This looks great! I understand that cost was a factor so I won’t gripe about the lack of a HAWK, although the addition of one would’ve made this perfect instead of 90% there.

    Keep up the great work, PBoT! Hope to see more improvements like these.

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  • Anonymous March 23, 2010 at 10:47 am

    While I appreciate PBOT’s efforts I have to agree with #21 that these kind of crossings are very ineffective as it doesn’t matter how much paint or signs you put up, drivers ignore them.

    I ride across a similarly marked crossing at C. Chavez on my commute every day and have rarely had anyone yield. I even had a Tri-Met bus speed up and just miss me which was reported and told by the supervisor in the investigation that they “do not have to yield and I was taking a chance with my life by not waiting until there was no traffic to cross”.

    Every bit helps but I’d prefer they use the funds towards signaled crossings, not signs.

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  • cyclist March 23, 2010 at 10:48 am

    are #13: Going is no longer a through street for auto traffic at the MLK intersection thanks to the new median treatment, so I think my point about auto traffic choosing Prescott over Going still stands.

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  • Laurie March 23, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Thanks, PBOT, the MLK crossing is so much easier and safer with the new features. We ride this route daily to and from school. My 7-year old daughter commented, “This is the best birthday present ever!”

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  • chelsea March 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I am happy to see this, since I live just a couple blocks away, but a signal would make it much more safe and helpful.

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  • matevz March 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    @#8: good point about trailers. I haven’t used it yet, but the median doesn’t look much wider than a standard bicycle.

    I noticed a similar structure to the MLK crossing on N. Portland Blvd west of Interstate. Has anyone else seen/used that one?

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  • Steve B. March 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I tried out this intersection yesterday. Certainly the increased signage and paint is a marked improvement.

    It’s disappointing that PBOT didn’t consider a more buddy-friendly version of these dividers to allow for people to cross while traveling abreast, or as stated earlier, people with wider loads. What about tricycles?

    Until this intersection is signalized, it will be an incomplete bike boulevard. I think anyone with kids or those not looking for a life-in-your-hands adventure will continue to make use of nearby controlled intersections, Skidmore/Shaver/Alberta, to cross MLK. That said, none of those crossing feature anything to make them pleasant to cross on a bike, they’re just better than ‘risking it’.

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  • Paul Johnson March 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    As far as I can tell, the channels at that intersection are six feet wide, which is the standard Oregon bicycle lane width, and two feet wider than federal minimums. That’s plenty of space. Besides, you should be single file in a bicycle lane anyway. If tricycles and trailers can’t fit through a standard six foot lane, there’s something fundamentally wrong with the design of the vehicle. Even a Smart Car can fit through that gap!

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  • bikieboy March 23, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Lenny A. #4 — ‘And signals need to be responsive, not “hit the button and wait a week” as at SE C. Chavez & Taylor by the library.”

    Absolutely. Love that signal at 33rd crossing Stark, where it detonates just as soon as the loop detects you (got to be in the correct spot, y’know?). The signal at Cesar C/Taylor you refer to can be either fast or slow (up to 45 seconds) depending on where you catch it in its cycle.

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  • Steve B. March 24, 2010 at 10:12 am

    >>Besides, you should be single file in a bicycle lane anyway.

    That’s exactly what we are progressing away from. Single-file bike lanes are sooo 1995! People organically want to ride in clusters and side by side. Take a look at the recent BP article on family biking.

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  • Paul Johnson March 24, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I saw the article on family biking. I also pointed out that at least one of the cyclists was riding to the left of the centerline in a no-passing zone.

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  • Scott Mizée March 24, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Paul #34… and your point is?

    The point of the people you are bantering with is that
    “This is NOT a bike lane project.”
    “This is NOT a bike lane crossing of an arterial.”

    I don’t know the answer to this, so I will ask, how much time have you spent riding with kids on the streets of Portland? If I take my kids across MLK at this Bike Blvd crossing, I’m going to want them clustered up snug with me or other adult riders… not single file strung out as targets for oncoming motor vehicles.

    That being said, I visited this site on my way home the other night and I was not overly disturbed by the relatively small curb cut width width in the center island.

    What I was more concerned about was there are not any significant visual warning devices on the ground (some sort of striping, etc) telling drivers that this is different than other cross walks along MLK.

    Why don’t we have a bicycle crosswalk in addition to the pedestrian crosswalk?

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  • Paul Johnson March 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Scott, your kids are your problem, not mine. If you can’t teach ’em to ride single file, you’re teaching them to be a hazard to themselves. I think you answered your own question re bicycle crossWALK. Bicycles are vehicles, not pedestrians; a crosswalk is the wrong traffic device for the job.

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  • Scott Mizee March 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Paul, I fully accept the responsibility for my own kids. …and I certainly DO teach them to ride single file when it is appropriate.

    I’m not sure how I answered my own question re bicycle crossWALK. Perhaps you would like me to call it a bicycle crossBIKE.

    Yes, bicycles are vehicles, not pedestrians. However, they are NOT AUTOmobiles either. A person on a bicycle is not the same as a person on foot, nor is it the same as a person in an automobile. Therefore, the rules and accommodations for bicycles as vehicles should be reasonable and appropriate for those unique characteristics.

    The whole point of these bicycle blvd projects is to reach the rest of the folks in town who are interested in riding, but don’t feel the existing bike lanes or other on street facilities are safe enough for regular use by the or their loved ones. We want to make biking more attractive than driving for more people.

    I was simply saying that some additional surface treatment here to point out the bicycle crossing of MLK may be warranted and desirable.

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  • Paul Johnson March 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Crossbike? Now you’re just inventing traffic control devices. Please consider cracking open the MUTCD and SHS at some point. A traffic signal would probably be best, and not one of those button-actuated POS’s, either, something that you can stop over the sensor and get detected.

    Given that “For the children” is quite literally the most baseless, fact-free, emotionally driven argument possible, used as a last resort by people whose position is completely indefensible; why didn’t you explain your position rationally and intelligently the first time?

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  • Scott Mizée March 24, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    now we are apparently just making each other laugh, Paul. Sorry, but I don’t typically “crack open the MUTCD” for blog threads.

    Thanks for the compliment on my logic, rationality and intelligence.

    I’m sorry you thought my argument was emotionally driven. I did not at all intend to say that the entire crossing should be based on “For the children.”

    anyway… I think we are the only ones left in the room and if this conversation were to continue, I’d prefer it to be done face to face rather than with the internet in between.

    cheers. I’m going back out to enjoy the sun.

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  • jeff July 6, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Sorry to revive an old thread, but I thought I’d report on Going – speed humps have been installed from Vancouver to 33rd, and they are in the process of turning stop signs between the arterials (7th, 15th, etc.) Watch for cars crossing that are used to the old configuration!

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  • esther July 6, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    i don’t think young children should be riding bikes on busy streets for transportation anymore than they should be driving cars.

    i don’t want my streets and highways dumbed down to accommodate the bicycling needs of grade schoolers, thank you very much.

    why should mlk traffic stop for us if we’re trying to cross it on a bike. they’re the major thoroughfare with the right of way while we’re coming off a side street with a stop sign. what this new improvement does is makes it easier by giving us a pitstop so when traffic is busy we can cross one set of lanes at a time.

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  • roger noehren July 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Since the goal of bike boulevards is to create safer routes for less confident &/or able cyclists and to encourage more people to use bikes for transportation, I think it is essential that automotive traffic on them be kept to a minimum by actually restricting its access.

    A small sign suggesting that people driving east use Division (at se 12th & Clinton) deters very few drivers, who understandably seek ways to bypass congested arterials.

    I attended a PDOT brown bag lunch a few months ago which showed traffic calming techniques in the Netherlands. A big part of it is preventing people from driving more than a couple of blocks on streets designated as quieter neighborhood streets.

    Old River Road between West Linn & Lake Oswego is a beautiful example of a road which is an excellent bike route, because cars can only gain access from the north end, which keeps the through automotive traffic on Hwy 43.

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