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Burnside-Couch project brings changes to bikeways

Posted by on March 24th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Update on Burnside-Couch project-2

Looking north on NE 12th at Sandy/Burnside.
(A bicycle-only lane is coming soon).
(Photos © J. Maus)

The East Burnside Couch Couplet project is nearing completion and the Bureau of Transportation has already begun the “traffic transfer” that will eventually turn Burnside and Couch into one-way, east-west thoroughfares.

What will these changes mean for people on bicycles?

It’s been six months since I took an in-depth look at how bike traffic is impacted by this project, so last week I got a briefing from PBOT on the latest updates and bike traffic advisories. I also took a reconnaissance ride through the area a few days later just to see how things were shaping up.

Aerial view of Sandy/Burnside/12th
intersection. Imagine a bike-only lane
where that middle lane is now.

The big news is that the notorious northbound intersection of Sandy/Burnside and 12th is getting some bike-specific improvements. PBOT Project manager Chris Armes said instead of the current configuration of two standard through lanes and one right-turn only lane, they will change it to one through lane and one right-turn lane. In between both of those lanes will be a new bike-only lane. This should help create space for people on bicycles and remove the confusion and safety issues at this intersection.

Beginning next week, some other big changes will happen; Sandy will close between 12th and 14th forever and Couch will become one-way between 14th and MLK Jr. Blvd.

New bike lanes on Couch begin
at NE 6th Ave.

I rode westbound on Couch the other day and noticed new traffic signals at every intersection. Also, beginning at NE 6th Avenue there are newly striped bike lanes that lead you all the way onto a new stretch of road that takes you from Couch onto the Burnside Bridge via an s-curve.

These new bike lanes on Couch tie into the newly recommended route for bike traffic headed downtown on SE Ankeny. Instead of going all the way to MLK and then connecting onto Burnside, the new route will be to head north on 6th to Couch and then head west, taking Couch all the way onto the bridge.

Beginning the week of April 4th, East Burnside will become one-way between the bridgehead and 14th. (As a cautionary measure, you are advised to avoid Sandy/Burnside between 12th and 20th until the second week of April.)

For more on this project, read my in-depth report, check out the official project page, and watch a short video and more over on The Oregonian’s Hard Drive blog.

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18 Comments
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    Seph March 24, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Finally, something has been needing to be done with this area for a while. There was no safe easy way to cross Sandy. This is going to make the inner se much safer and easier to access.

    I wouldn’t complain if they closed Sandy off all the say to where it hits Washington or Stark. I love using Sandy to go out to the NE, but in the inner se it is just a pain and a hazard.

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    Bjorn March 24, 2010 at 11:00 am

    From your photo is looks like the black truck is parked half in the bike lane. Did they make those parking spots so narrow that cars are going to be encroaching on the bike lane? Seems like a pretty bad door zone if it is how it appears.

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    Allan March 24, 2010 at 11:16 am

    It will be interesting to see what happens when sandy south of this whole project gets some serious development. for now, its just an area to ride through. hopefully good decisions will continue to be made.

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    Gregg Woodlawn March 24, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Hopefully the Streetcar will be coming up and down the couplet soon too. Any word on that?

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    Paul Johnson March 24, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    If Sandy is closing between 12th and 14th, where’s US30 Business going to go?

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    Paul Johnson March 24, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Bjorn, the black truck appears to have been Parked While Californian. Compare the location of the right side of the black truck with the right side of the car behind it.

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    Beth March 24, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I currently live on Couch Street at 32nd, and ride it everyday downtown, across the Burnside Bridge.

    I’m very disappointed that the project has chosen not to stripe a bike lane the entire length of Couch. The project seems to be expecting cyclists to take Ankeny instead. But cyclists are not going to go out of their way to cross Burnside to get to Ankeny, only to have to cross Burnside AGAIN, to get back onto the Burnside Bridge. It’s preposterous.

    Since there’s no bike lane between 6th & 14th, I’ll just be forced to take the lane, because I don’t have time in my morning bike commute to cross Burnside TWICE to ride on Ankeny. So much for creating better traffic flow. The project is just going to see a lot of frustrated cyclists like me taking the lane and slowing everything down for everyone.

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    Den March 24, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    @Beth #7
    I fully agree. the idea of directing cyclists to the streets that they are allowed to use is absolutely infuriating. My taxes pay for my share of all these streets as far as I am concerned. These one way streets are going to cause cars to go faster.

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    Spiffy March 25, 2010 at 7:41 am

    about the door zone and the black truck, it would be nice if they would stripe the right-hand border of the bike lane to let cars know where the border is… looks like there will be a lot of cars parked wide there since there’s no line to tell them to stay tight to the curb…

    (awaiting forum activation)

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    Todd Boulanger March 25, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Spiffy – I assume there are (or will be) “parking tees” here to communicate to drivers where to park in the vehicle storage lane vs in the bike travel lane.

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    Lenny Anderson March 25, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Couch, westbound, is downhill and depending on how the lights are timed, it should be easy to just take the lane, then switch to the bike lane at 6th.

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    beanphed March 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I’ve been doing this commute for over 3 and a half years and I almost NEVER take burnside west. The best road by far is NE Davis. It’s an unobstructed (currently) piece of road that stretches from 12th down to MLK (Or grand, which ever is first). It’s quiet, down hill, no stop signs or lights. You just have to contend with the smell of baking bread every once and a while.

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    Beth March 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I would disagree about NE Davis being quiet. It’s very busy with motor traffic during morning rush hour, all of it coming off Sandy Blvd at very high speed, using Davis as a shortcut down to MLK/Grand, to avoid the mess where Burnside/Sandy collide. I think if speed bumps were installed on NE Davis however, it would be *perfect!*

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    Michael March 25, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    By “Sandy will close between 12th and 14th forever” do you mean no vehicles will be allowed on it? What does it become then, a pavement park?

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    jim March 28, 2010 at 12:28 am

    The black truck is doing what is called “Idaho Park”, almost legal..

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    Lisa G. March 28, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Bjorn, Paul and Jim: The photo was taken so you can’t see the traffic light that the truck is stopped at. There is no bike lane yet. This is the “before” photo.

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    Paul March 29, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Took the northbound 12th ave bike lane today, its awesome! It makes my ride from SE to Lloyd District much easier.

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  • […] week I shared how the East Burnside/Couch couplet project would impact bikeways. One of the biggest changes I warned you about was a new lane configuration on NE 12th at Sandy. […]

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