Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

How are Burnside/Couch changes treating you?

Posted by on April 20th, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Bikes on Couch -4

Looking west on NE Couch at 12th. Will “interested
but concerned” ride on this?
(Photo © J. Maus)

The City of Portland recently polished off rolled out the latest changes on a major project in the Central Eastside. The East Burnside/Couch Couplet project turned Burnside into a one-way street going east and Couch into the main artery going west (complete with a brand new road to get onto the Burnside Bridge). We’ve shared how bikes would fare in this project and then updated you on how the changes came out.

Now I’d love to hear how the project is impacting your biking experience in this area.

Bikes on Couch -5

Reader Hazel G. lives at NE 22nd and Davis and wrote in to share her concerns. She says she’s noticed “a huge increase in auto traffic on Ankeny”. This is noteworthy because Ankeny is a bike boulevard street and is the recommended east-west connector from southeast to the Burnside Bridge. Hazel thinks now that Burnside is only one-way, many people are opting to drive on Ankeny. “I was actually taking a cab Saturday night and the cabbie even said he just uses Ankeny now.”

Hazel is also concerned that some people on bikes aren’t sure how to get onto the Burnside Bridge:

“I’ve noticed that there are no signs redirecting bike traffic [from SE Ankeny up to NE Couch]. I’ve even seen a few cyclists biking west on Burnside out of confusion.”

When I rolled out there earlier this week, I saw several people biking up SE Grand – a major state highway/arterial – to get to NE Couch. PBOT recommends heading north on 6th where bike lanes on Couch begin, but without signs it wouldn’t be obvious to do that.

Bikes on Couch -2

People on bikes squeeze between
parked and moving cars before bike
lane begins at 6th.

Speaking of Couch, bikes and cars share the road until those bike lanes begin on 6th. This is all fine and good, but not everyone knows how to take the lane and many people — especially the “interested but concerned” that we all want to attract — don’t feel comfortable squeezing between parked cars and fast-moving auto traffic. Adding into the mix on Couch is that it’s downhill. It’s great that the signals are timed, but the result is high speeds for both modes.

Once you get to 6th, things mellow out a bit thanks to bike lanes, but it’s still far from what I’d call a world-class solution. At SE Grand, for instance, cars and trucks turn right to go north and the right-hook potential was obvious. Cars are concerned with oncoming traffic to their left (not with bike traffic in the lane to their right) and since the signals are timed, bike speeds can be quite high approaching the intersection.

There’s also a TriMet bus stop on the corner of Grand and Couch, which means a bus swerves over and sits in the bike lane while servicing that stop.

What have been your experiences riding through this area? Do you think biking in this area has improved with the completion of changes made to this project so far? (I’d especially like to hear from regular commuters that experienced it before and after.)

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  • are April 20, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    i intend to scout this later today, but i guess i have to ask: if someone is not comfortable squeezing between parked cars and fast-moving traffic, um, how would putting in a striped bike lane (between the parked cars and the fast-moving traffic) help? the rider shown in the photo would be well advised to move a couple of feet to the left. then he would not be squeezed between anything. a striped bike lane would forbid that maneuver.

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  • Travis April 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I recently started making a few trips a week to SW and have been experimenting with taking the Morrison Bridge with hope of hitting Sandy. For an experienced rider I find Sandy to be the fastest route to my house off of 45th and Tillamook. I can no longer figure out the best means to find myself on Sandy. Thoughts?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 20, 2010 at 12:16 pm


    a striped bike lane increases the perception of safety for people on bikes and it gives an important visual cue to people in cars to expect bike traffic.

    i agree with you that people on bikes should move into the lane when a bike lane isn’t present, but most people don’t feel comfortable doing that.

    Perhaps sharrows on Couch are the solution.

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  • Anonymous April 20, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I do not like the west bound ramp onto the bridge. Very tight curves that ask for drivers to cut off the apex of the curve crowding those on the inside of the curve.

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  • Jason S. April 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    My normal commute was down SE Ankeny to SE Grand and over to Burnside. It took me a few trips to realize the new route (didn’t know about bike lane on 6th until read it here. Signs would be super helpful here). I was riding on SE Grand sidewalk to Couch and taking Couch onto Burnside Bridge.

    So far, not much of a difference.

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  • Dave April 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    While I didn’t ever take the Burnside bridge before this project (save maybe once or twice), I have done it a few times after the project, and I find going down Couch to be fairly stress-free, though I do agree with most of your potential concerns about speed and buses.

    Generally though, I’ve found if I take the lane and cruise at a comfortable speed, cars have been willing to just stay behind me, or change lanes to go around. I agree, it’s not exactly a world-class solution (if it were, there would be a SW Broadway style cycle track down the length of Couch from Sandy, or at least from 12th). To me, it just kind of strikes me as “eh, whatever” from a bicycle point of view. Not great, but not horrible. The project probably did improve things for pedestrians on couch though.

    I come up Ankeny from about 15th/16th to 24th every day, and I hadn’t really noticed that much automobile traffic on it as compared to usual (though it’s now closed partway for sewer work), but I had noticed that eastbound traffic on Burnside had become nearly non-stop for a couple of days, making it really difficult to cross Burnside above 12th.

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  • Bob R. April 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    “recently polished off”

    Umm, no. The project is really just past halfway finished. The improvements to the Burnside streetscape (including lane adjustments, sidewalk widening, new signals, curb extensions, etc.) have only just started, and the connector between Burnside eastbound and Sandy via 14th isn’t done yet either.

    Wait until a few weeks after everything is complete and open and the cones and barricades are down before assessing how motorists are treating side streets, interacting with peds/cyclists, etc.

    Thanks Bob. I should have made it more clear that there are further changes to come. I’ve edited the story a bit to reflect that. — Jonathan

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  • Matthew April 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Bob (#7), thanks for the clarification. I was wondering what had changed since Friday, when I walked up Burnside to see what the state of the project was.

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  • Paul Cone April 20, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Jonathan, I’m pretty certain that the width of Couch would not allow for two lanes of auto traffic plus a bike lane, and there’s no way you would be able to give up a traffic lane for a bike lane for all the traffic that used to go westbound on Burnside. Given that there were NO bikes lanes on Burnside east of the bridge before, at least it’s an improvement to have some, given the high volume of traffic and the restrictions of the landscape in this area. You might talk to Chris Armes, the project manager, about that, and also the scheduling details, some of which were just pushed out an additional week (probably due to rain — they can’t put pavement markings down in the rain).


    Paul Cone
    Mapping and GIS
    City of Portland, Bureau of Transportation

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  • Babygorilla April 20, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    I’m a regular commuter through that area, usually taking Sandy directly to Burnside or Irving with some turns to Bursnside (I used to use the 12th street overpass to make my way down to the Steel Bridge, but have favored the Burnside Bridge the last few months).

    Recently, I’ve found myself taking Sandy directly (from NE 24th) more frequently. Its much nicer with the newly paved Couch section as opposed to the horrible road conditions on Burnside from the 12th/Sandy/Burnside to the bridge approach. I’ve had no problems taking a lane once Sandy connects with Couch and the new road surface and downhill slope allows me to keep up with traffic with a mild pedal stroke. I actually find myself on the brakes quite a bit and don’t see any reason for someone to be shy about plopping themselves in the middle of the right hand lane on Couch once it passes 12th and the downhill starts. It seems timed perfectly for low speed traffic. I understand how people would be reluctant to take a lane on a road like Sandy, but this section of Couch is the perfect place to develop those skills and confidence.

    As for right hooks, that’s actually me in the pic above in the blue jacket. I might have braked (I don’t quite remember), but didn’t feel any danger at the time. I think that if you keep an eye out for turn signals and and your surroundings you are generally safe (I’ve had no right hook collisions or even right hook close calls in a decade of commuting).

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 20, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    I hear you Paul. thanks for the comment.

    I realize the project is not yet complete, but people are still using it and I’m curious how bike traffic is working out.

    I’ll definitely be doing more coverage as the traffic management aspects of the project become finalized.

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  • Paul April 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Take one lane from all streets in the city and make them bike lanes: 2-way bike lanes if possible 🙂

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  • Helen McConnell April 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    I sometimes ride across the Burnside Bridge when returning to work in the Pearl after running errands on the east side. I sort of stumbled upon the new Couch bike lane on Monday. As I rode the too-curvy lane, I thought “This was obviously not designed by a cyclist, nor with cyclists in mind. I wonder if Jonathan will be reporting on this?” Two thumbs-down from me for this new lane.

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  • KC April 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Ankeney -> Burnside Bridge is my normal route into downtown.

    I assume signs for the jog north from Ankeny to Couch are forthcoming. But I haven’t seen any mention of new signaling at 6th and Burnside. Is it fair to presume that there’s going to be semaphores at all the intersections between the bridge and 12th, just like on Couch?

    Like #4, I’m a little concerned about the curves in the approach to the bridge. Cars may be inclined to take a bit of the bike lane, but the thing that I thought about as I took it the first time is that it could be dangerous to bikes in the winter time, as that will be the area where sand and gravel will accumulate after a snow, and folks will have to take it extra slow to avoid skidding out and falling.

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  • Halley April 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    I feel like they’ve just moved that spaghetti mess from 12th/Burnside to 13th/Couch. I live off of Couch and am now unable to shoot straight down because you can only make right hand turns up Sandy there. So, myself and many other cyclists have been taking the sidewalk, cutting across crosswalks, etc to get back onto Couch, often not waiting for lights because they’re terribly set.

    Only suggestion given? Go several blocks out of my way and unproductively north to get onto Sandy just to get back on Couch. I miss bombing down Burnside to get to the bridge & work.

    Won’t even mention the lights don’t match up for efficient traffic, the parking on both sides of the street & the fact that when you finally do get a bike lane, there are at least three bus stops on it so you’re combating the bus (so you end up taking the lane anyway) and then get cut off on the on ramp to the bridge because whoever painted the lanes didn’t pay attention in high school math relating to the rules of parabolics.

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  • Steve B. April 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Hmm. Why couldn’t we have had a two-way cycletrack or buffered bike lane on Burnside? This would bring bikes to the main street and provide an alternative to Couch.

    The only thing I’ve noticed with the new construction is the really pleasant, smooth pavement. It’s the sort of thing that you appreciate in a car, but really drool for on a bike. Too bad mostly cars will enjoy it until they tear it up with studdeds. It’s a fun street to ride at night with low traffic, but I can’t imagine the faint of heart would enjoy it.

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  • BURR April 20, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    @ Paul #9: The way to get more room for bikes on Couch would have been to eliminate curbside parking on one side of the street. Instead the city built curb extensions on both sides of the street which serve primarily to preserve the curb side parking. Big fail.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 20, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Burr and Steve,

    Yes, cycle-track on Burnside. Yes, eliminate curbside parking.

    I realize this project isn’t complete, but when it is i’m afraid it’s just a standard project with some accommodation for bike traffic…. It, unfortunately will not be anything close to a bold, status-quo breaking project that truly makes non-motorized use the easiest/safest choice.

    When will a major road project in Portland live up to all our rhetoric? I’m waiting….

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  • She April 20, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Has the crossing at 12th and Burnside going south improved?

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  • alice's adventures April 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Now that Ankeny is under construction I have been taking Couch from the NE to cross over the Burnside bridge. When approaching Sandy on Couch, the only possible crossing is the pedestrian crosswalk which puts a cyclist on the left side of the road, rather than the far right lane. I don’t see any signs pointing an alternate (logical) route, other than turning onto burnside, turning right on 12th, then left back onto Couch. any advice?

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  • John Lascurettes April 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    A cycletrack couplet on Burnside from the bridge to NE 14th would have been perfect.

    I too share the concerns for the sharp s-curve with it’s narrow bike lane in the curves, the flat-to-wrong-way-leaning bank and the accumulation of gravel that’s bound to happen.

    Somebody is going to get seriously hurt there by this winter if not sooner.

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  • K April 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I live on NE 26th & Couch, & commute by bicycle downtown across the Burnside Bridge daily. My thoughts –

    * I think the E Burnside/Couch couplet project is a much-needed improvement to the area for revitalizing lower East Burnside, & on the whole, will be a wonderful improvement.

    A few concerns, however –

    * I am appalled at HOW MUCH MOTOR VEHICLE TRAFFIC is still using both the adjacent Ankeny & Davis Streets. It’s awful, just awful. My bike commute each way is highly unpleasant as a result. I envy people who get to bicycle in to work on bike streets like Tillamook and Lincoln and Salmon/Taylor and the like, because you bicyclists have it so good!

    * To try and be a good bicyclist citizen, and avoid Burnside and Couch Streets, I have been trying to take Davis Street westbound on my bike each morning towards the Burnside Bridge. It’s awful. I have to deal with a lot of severely aggressive motorists, many with Washington plates, coming off Sandy Blvd onto Davis at high speed (like, 40mph, which is high as far as I’m concerned), and using it as a cut-through to reach MLK/Grand (Davis has ONE stop sign, and no lights. Yeah. Great idea).

    * Heading east-bound up Ankeny Street after work on my bike in the evening is even worse – it’s just very unpleasant. I don’t know how families with small children can stand this bicycle boulevard. It’s so dominated by motor traffic. Evening rush-hour commuter traffic hogs the boulevard, starting at MLK/Grand, and petering out at 20th. Traffic volume drops at 20th, because there’s a diverter on the boulevard. Quelle surprise! Why not put in a diverter at SE 6th & SE 12th? Then it would actually begin to function as a bicycle boulevard. I find the volume of traffic on Ankeny too high for comfort, but above and beyond that, it’s the BEHAVIOR of said commuter traffic that scares me the most. A lot of the drivers are aggressive in their approach, and will crawl a few feet behind me on my bike, before screeching around me at high speed, gravel flying from their wheels. I’ve been honked at a lot on this bike boulevard. There are no signs telling motorists that it’s prioritized for bicyclists, so they just treat it like an extension of Burnside.

    If I can’t bike on Burnside or Couch, fair enough. But, I want to feel safe and not threatened or harried by rat-run commuter traffic blasting down the quiet parallel adjacent side streets. Greater diversion on Ankeny is going to be a MUST once the couplet project is completed.

    Regarding the couplet project itself –

    * Traffic on Couch is heavy, but drives a lot slower than it used to on Burnside before the couplet project, which is a plus. Since the project didn’t install a bike lane (boo! hiss!) I’ve just been taking the lane on my bike, when I occasionally will use Couch to head downtown. No problems there, the lights are timed okay if you’re a fast cyclist.

    * I’m not sure why the city caved in/wussed out about striping bike lanes on Couch. Aren’t they going to be GAINING a whole load of new on-street parking on Burnside, when that becomes one way soon? It seems like it would even itself out. I have yet to see even half of the existing spaces on Couch being utilized, so I’m not sure where this supposed demand for parking on the street is coming from.

    * My only other complaint, is, the bike lane on the newly constructed little “slip road” onto the Burnside Bridge is really, really, narrow, and hard to take at say, 15mph with such a steep curve. So, I take the lane on the curve too. Poor planning here, I hope they restripe it to be wider than four feet. I thought the new standard for any bike lane was five or six feet?

    * The new asphalt surface on Couch is very nice to bicycle on!

    I think that’s it.

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  • Suffering on 16th April 20, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    I and at least one driver waited on the north side of the intersection at 16th and Burnside just after 5:00 tonight, unable to cross. Five minutes? Ten minutes? I don’t know. The worst part of my mostly-bike-boulevard commute is often the intersection of 16th & Burnside, but tonight was the worst of the bad.

    I don’t see why the changes to the west should have had such an impact, but they apparently have. I don’t want to ride to 12th and approach kamikaze corner from there – 16th to Irving has always been the easier route. Maybe it’s time to try another way.

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  • John Russell (jr98664) April 21, 2010 at 12:34 am

    I’m from Vancouver, and when I’m taking the 205 bridge to downtown Portland, Sandy is my preferred and most direct route. Once past the hill near the Bike Gallery, it’s all downhill and I’m usually keeping up with traffic and having no issue taking the lane. While I already miss heading downhill to the bridge on Burnside, the new Couch is definitely nicer than the old route when it comes to cycling. The old route had narrow lanes, and the pro-time parking seemed to give you just enough room where it made it harder to take the lane, and easier for cars to buzz by you. With favorable signal timing and a nice downhill slope, Couch makes it quite easy to take the (very smoothly paved) lane, although I think sharrows should definitely be installed for the cyclists a little less fearless than myself.

    Coming back up Burnside at the moment was a mess with all of the construction and rush hour traffic. I can’t wait until that gets a freshly paved bike lane. With all of the ROW they’re effectively donating to parking on Burnside, it saddens me to think of how that could have been used to construct a world-class bikeway to the Burnside bridge.

    Also, looking through some old documents I have regarding the plan for the couplet, it looks like they had to apply for a design exemption from AASHTO guidelines to keep the street at 36′ wide, with parking reduced from 8′ to 7′ with two 11′ lanes. It said that it was done to preserve sidewalk width, but it’s unfortunate that there was no discussion of turning one row of parking into a continuous bike lane. I guess it’s too late with the curb extensions now. At least the pavement is smooth.

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  • John April 21, 2010 at 7:48 am

    I don’t think it’s that great now, but once the construction is done maybe it’ll get better. The twists going up to the bridge are indeed tight curves, and it’s kind of fun to use your speed from the downhill of couch on them, even if they’re un-banked. From what I can tell, the pedestrian signals aren’t in sync yet with the stop lights going down Couch. Today, they were counting down 3.2.1. and then it’d be a solid orange hand, but the traffic light stayed green. Typically I like using the count-down to gauge my speed and feasibility of making the light. Today I just barged the greens.

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  • tom April 21, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Ankeny is now an on again off again option with very poor signage during construction. Yesterday when I arrived at 11th and Ankeny the sign pointed to Ash only to find Ash closed and no detour signage. It was onto the sidewalk. It has been like this for weeks. Every morning and afternoon is a surprise.

    The city and construction companies have made little effort to help regular bike commuters ride between 11th and 20th on Ankeny and Ash.

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  • Dave2 April 21, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Let’s not judge until it’s done–we all know that construction zones suck one way or another.

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  • are April 21, 2010 at 8:24 am

    re comment 22 a few thoughts. one, good call on the davis thing. they should calm that street to prevent cut-throughs. two, the bicycling “community” must put pressure on PBoT to calm ankeny (and similarly clinton, especially as the davis streetscape gets underway). three, the redesign of couch is actually intended to make biking on that street easier. i did try this out yesterday, and found no difficulty claiming the right lane. seems the lights are timed for about twelve mph. posted limit is 25, and the design elements are supposed to favor about 20. four, the ramp onto the bridge is a bit tight, and actually i think the pocket on the left for people wanting to turn back west onto burnside is likely to back up onto the ramp and cause some problems. the bike lane is supposed to be five feet wide here, but i have not measured it. i can foresee some problems in the right corner. yesterday i rode a foot or so to the left of the line. five, they are actually gaining not very many parking spaces on burnside. oh, and six: according to the planning documents, when the trolley goes in, the seven foot parking lane on the north side of couch will become a dedicated bike lane.

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  • Wil April 21, 2010 at 8:53 am

    The area is a mess, no question, and the auto-bias of city planning is revealed in the on-again off-again closures of the bike boulevards without any bicycle-specific detour signage. But, worse than that:

    The new Couch ‘on-ramp’ curve for the Burnside bridge is a scythe, very efficiently designed to execute cyclists. I was riding side by side with a bus through there this morning, and even though the driver moved his front end into the left lane to prepare for the curve, the middle of the bus cut through the bike lane at the apex of the corner – a fact which I anticipated by braking hard and, of course, swearing, and thus narrowly avoided (by the braking part) the closing trap.

    Cement truck, anyone? The right hook is a built-in inevitability there, and there’s nothing a driver of a longer vehicle can do about it other than use the left lane.

    I can’t believe anyone thought this was a good idea. I will now start using the vehicle lane there, where folks will swear and honk at me. Sigh. It’s sure nice to live in a bicycle-friendly city, isn’t it?

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  • Bob R. April 21, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I’m under the impression that the curved ramp up to the Burnside Bridge is a temporary one.

    Take a look at an older map from 2007:

    Every older drawing I’ve seen shows the ramp to be located on SE 3rd, rather than on the vacant lot.

    I suspect that not knowing the fate of the Burnside Bridgehead project has caused PBOT to not want to build something expensive and permanent on 3rd (especially since it might have to be some kind of viaduct), and so what we have today was built up on fill on a vacant lot instead.

    Might be worth Jonathan giving someone at PBOT a call. 🙂

    Here is the revised 2009 plan:
    (Warning, big PDF, slow to load and render)

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  • Lenny Anderson April 21, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I believe that Burnside eastbound from MLK to 14th will have a bike lane. Correct? Couch is too narrow, but its downhill, so its easy to take the lane.
    The couplet is an extention of the downtown grid, so taking the lane should be the norm, especially down hill.
    Now we need to put the Burnside Bridge on a diet and go with two lanes for motorized traffic in each direction. Then build out both sidewalks/bikelanes to 14′ or wider bike/ped facilities above the curb…for a real promenade experience with great views.

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  • Wil April 21, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I wrote the city (Sam’s office) about my bus encounter this morning. I received a response within five minutes and have had three follow-up emails already. I’ve been assured that the Project Manager (Chris Armes) is bringing this to the Burnside/Couch design team to evaluate solutions.

    The person corresponding with me is Ginny Peckinpaugh, Adams’ Public Advocate for Transportation, who gets my vote of confidence for decency and efficiency.

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  • alice's adventures April 21, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I hope something comes of all this feedback, I have no idea how the city can fix this botched up westbound on-ramp.
    Couch feels crowded, and even if it is possible to take over a full lane, its is a big enough traffic artery that cars deserve 2 full lanes, and bikes one for themselves.
    I know I’ll be looking for alternate routes, perhaps Broadway to get to my job in the Northwest, and my boyfriend will be reverting back to his Hawthorne route to get to the southwest.
    Not awesome.

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  • Kathryn April 21, 2010 at 11:46 am

    My morning commute puts me on SE Ankeny from 28th to Sandy. I haven’t noticed a lot of increased car traffic on Ankeny but I have attributed that to the road construction on Ankeny. I’ve noticed that turning left on Sandy (usually off Ankeny, now off Pine, I think) is easier because there’s less traffic coming south on Sandy.

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  • Dave April 21, 2010 at 11:58 am

    @Suffering on 16th: I’ve noticed this as well, as I often cross going North on 16th on my way home. Since sometime last week it’s been nearly impossible to cross, with a completely constant flow of cars going East on Burnside. I’m hoping that once they install all the traffic signals on Burnside below 12th it will make a difference. Here’s hoping.

    Next best route I’ve found is just to take Ankeny/Couch to 20th, ride on 20th just to cross Burnside, and then cut off onto a less busy street.

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  • BURR April 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Let’s not forget that the whole idea behind converting these two streets into a couplet of one way streets is to enhance and facilitate motor vehicle travel, and any improvements for cyclists are simply an afterthought; so no one should be surprised that there are significant deficiencies in the cycling facilities.

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  • matt picio April 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    So, the short version is it’s still all screwed up, it has noticeable effects on existing bike routes, and there’s no firm promise that when all is said and done it will in practice be better for biking.

    Oh, and those riding from Ankeny to the Burnside Bridge now find the their route lengthened by 2 blocks.

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  • beth h April 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    So far I feel underwhelmed by the “improvements” which simply seem a way to make MORE room for autombile flow (perhaps in anticipation of development dollars finally pouring into the East Bank area?).

    I come from NE to my job in SE, and cross Couch and Burnside at 9th Avenue to get to work. I’m seeing lots more automotive traffic on Davis and Ankeny — was that PBOT’s intended effect?

    Also, folks are driving WAY TOO FAST on Couch now, and aren’t always stopping for the light at 9th (I nearly got hit two days ago by a car who decided to race the yellow light because he was just in too damned much of a hurry to wait for a cycle).

    Finally, I’ve seen too many cars that have tended to veer too close to the bike lane as we all negotiate the sharp curve onto the Burnside Bridge — and then turn hard right and sometimes almost cut me off as I am trying to turn onto the bike land on the bridge proper. Is this was someone’s idea of an engineered merging, it sort of doesn’t work.

    More car-centric infrastructure is what it all looks like to me. And I’m annoyed that my taxes helped to pay for it. Ick.

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  • Bob R. April 21, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Look, I know this project doesn’t represent a massive improvement for bikes and that, on a square-footage basis, most of the infrastructure is still for cars.

    But it *does* represent, on the whole, and improvement for bikes (with more improvements still to come when the construction is finished), and a big improvement for pedestrians.

    But what I don’t see this as some kind of massive expansion of automobile capacity, as some have characterized it.

    Quite the opposite, in fact: Any way you look at it: If you view the corridor as a whole, there’s _way_ less lane-miles for automobiles, and if you look at the primary traffic flows there’s still a bit fewer lane-miles for automobiles.

    Where the improvements for autos comes from is the same as much of the improvement for bikes/peds: The elimination of the badly-functioning intersection of Sandy/Burnside/11th/12th.

    The other improvement comes from having signals at nearly every intersection, instead of just a few. This regulates the top speed of traffic. So even though automobiles have shorter average trip times through the area overall, the number of speeding vehicles is diminished, similar to the way the downtown grid operates.

    I agree that bikes should have received more ROW in this project, but I don’t agree that this is some kind of massive expansion for autos.

    As another commenter mentioned, should a streetcar come to Couch in the future, the parking lane will be converted to a 7′ bike lane. So at least for this corridor, the interests of streetcar supporters and bicycle supporters are in general alignment.

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  • BURR April 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    As another commenter mentioned, should a streetcar come to Couch in the future, the parking lane will be converted to a 7′ bike lane. So at least for this corridor, the interests of streetcar supporters and bicycle supporters are in general alignment.

    1. I’ll believe this when I see it.

    2. Why do cyclists have to wait for the streetcar?

    3. Once again, PBOT came down on the side of curbside parking, rather than on the side of cyclists.

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  • Bob R. April 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    “I’ll believe this when I see it.”

    Take a look at the chapter on street-specific design elements:

    Go to page 15 of the document (Page 9 of the PDF) and you’ll see the technical reason why a bike lane comes with streetcar installation. The diagram shows the grade modifications needed to meet streetcar requirements, and the adjacent 7′ bike lane.

    (For the same reason that cyclists would rightly object to a bike lane adjacent to a narrow 7′ parking lane — streetcars don’t like to get “doored” either.)

    So the “when I see it” aspect of this boils down to whether or not the streetcar ever gets built. When it does get built, the technical aspects favor a 7′ bike lane.

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  • BURR April 21, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    I don’t see any compelling evidence there that explains why the city failed to dedicate space on NE Couch to bicycle travel instead of curbside parking, nor why bicycle facilities must wait for the arrival of the streetcar, which might never happen.

    In fact, they could probably build the streetcar and retain the curbside parking on NE Couch if they wanted to, just like on NW Lovejoy and Northrup, where the streetcar and curbside parking are squeezed into a narrow cross section, and bike facilities were rejected as an option.

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  • Bob R. April 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Burr –

    The Lovejoy issue you mention is along the very first part of the streetcar. They’ve heard a lot from the bicycle community since then and have changed design guidelines accordingly. The bicycle situation in the South Waterfront is an improvement over Lovejoy, for example.

    As for “dedicating space” to street parking on Couch — the parking was already there. Remember, many groups had input into the couplet plan, including existing property owners, business and residential tenants. Would you expect people on Couch to accept an increase in automobile traffic *and* the immediate removal of half the parking?

    (Yes, that presents an issue for the Streetcar as well, but property owners are generally supportive of getting a streetcar and may be willing to accept parking losses as part of the deal.)

    My larger point still stands: There’s good in this couplet for all modes. It’s not fantastically better for bikes, but it’s still an improvement, and it’s not a big giveaway to automobiles either.

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  • Bob R. April 21, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    PS… No they could not retain the parking on Couch with a streetcar. The ROW is too narrow. The ROW on Lovejoy is wider than Couch.

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  • Adam April 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    A number of previous commenters couldn’t have said it better: as a bicyclist, I don’t mind “giving up” Burnside & Couch Streets to automobile traffic per se, but I *do* demand a safe alternative bicycle route. The City is suggesting Ankeny Street.

    This would hypothetically be my safe alternative too on a bike, except currently it’s chock-full of aggressive cut-through motor vehicle traffic during my rush hour bike commute. and it makes for a highly stressful and unpleasant ride.

    Who do we have to talk to at the City to get the ball rolling on seriously opening up the discussion for more diversion on bicycle boulevard streets like Ankeny? Anybody have a suggested contact name?

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  • Adam April 21, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    ps – While I think the plans drawn up for this project are pretty poor from a bicyclist’s perspective (no bike lane on most of Couch, a too-narrow bike lane on the curve approaching the Burnside Bridge, no real viable alternative traffic calmed parallel street for cyclists currently available…) I must give the project management team credit for the *actual* construction work. It’s been seamless.

    Those complaining about tailbacks on Burnside…. those seem to be being caused more by the construction of the Streetcar down MLK/Grand, for which tracks are currently being laid across Burnside, and for which one lane of Burnside is closed coming off the bridge.

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  • LizardMama April 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    I usually bike the Burnside bridge and was somewhat leary of all the work, so have been on the bus and walking to/from work lately. I don’t mind so much being re-routed off Ankeny to Couch and all that, but (@29) the biggest thing I have noticed is the back end of my bus cutting off that darn corner of the on-ramp bike lane every time I’ve been on it. Makes me a bit frustrated that I felt reasonably safe riding this bridge before and I’m not sure I will now. Don’t know how they’d change that much… looks tight in there…

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  • BURR April 21, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    As for “dedicating space” to street parking on Couch — the parking was already there.

    And, unfortunately, the new curb extensions serve to ‘memorialize’ the curbside parking.

    Make no mistake about it, this is PBOT at their pro-motorist, pro-business, anti-bike best.

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  • Bob R. April 21, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    No, sorry, I don’t buy that a project which makes things better for everyone (to varying degrees) is therefore anti-bike.

    There are problems and compromises, yes… you might even go so far as to say “little for bikes”, but “anti-bike”? That’s just contrary to the facts.

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  • Paul Cone April 21, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    BURR, I’ve been waiting years for you to say anything positive about anything on this website, but to say PBOT is pro-motorist and pro-business and anti-bike is completely disingenuous and outright false. But I’m not giving up on you. Here’s a link for you…



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  • BURR April 21, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    sorry Paul, but PBOT missed the mark once again, and I stand by my analysis, motorists and businesses still come first.

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  • Bob R. April 22, 2010 at 6:13 am

    “and I stand by my analysis, motorists and businesses still come first.”

    That’s fine, but that’s a different analysis than your earlier “anti-bike” remark. It’s more like saying “bikes are last in line for improvements”. Not sure I agree, but still logically different than “anti-bike”.

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  • Van April 22, 2010 at 8:55 am

    That S curve leading onto the bridge is a little hairy for cyclists. Vehicles in the right lane always veer into the bike lane when taking that last bend to the right onto the bridge. I bet that stripe will be worn away within 3 months.

    I’ve started taking up that whole lane when I come around that corner so I don’t get pushed into the curb. That shouldn’t be a stripe but a barrier.

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  • Babygorilla April 22, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Still haven’t had any problems heading into downtown, either on Sandy / Couch or the curve onto the bridge (a little tight if you want to carry speed, but I just scrub speed and have taken it at the same time as a long box truck and a couple of cars). Must be something I’m missing.

    While not a Utopia for bicycle travel to most, it is a vast improvement for NE commuters who previously had to use Sandy/Burnside and the other less-major E-W streets to connect with the Burnside Bridge.

    I would be annoyed if I took Ankeny in eastbound by the fact that

    As for the trip back, the only problems I’ve had on Ankeny, when I’ve taken it, are caused by the horrible road conditions. New pavement would be nice.

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  • Joshua Cohen April 22, 2010 at 10:13 am

    I work at E Burnside & 11th so I bike through the construction zone at least twice a day. I can understand that drivers (of both autos and bicycles) have reason to complain about delays and confusing signage related to construction. However, I’ve already found lots of reasons to be happy about this project.

    First of all, my evening commute down Couch feels smoother, faster, and safer with the new pavement, timed lights, and riding in the middle of the right hand lane with the flow of traffic.

    Also, now that the westbound lanes of Burnside have been closed, I find it *much* easier to cross Burnside headed for points South. It used to be like a game of Frogger to get across the street at 11th & Burnside.

    I think when the project is complete, and the mess of an intersection that was 12th/Burnside/Sandy is in its final configuration, people will see a tremendous improvement for all road users.

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  • Steve B. April 22, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    This is some great feedback. I hope people caught how, when you write or call the mayor, PBOT, etc, they tend to pay more attention. This is a great opportunity to send in concerns DURING construction, while the contractors are already out there.

    503-823-SAFE with ALL and ANY of your safety/bike route/close call/wishes & needs requests!! It’s a one stop shop to hold the city accountable, and my experience has been very, very good. So far they are 4/4 with resolving my concerns. Good job, PBOT!

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  • James Buckroyd April 23, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I am a regular bike commuter across Burnside bridge and cross it twixt a day. Heading West from the NE Side, at the bottom of Couch, just before it turns onto Burnside bridge, it takes a right turn. The turn seems to be sharp, unexpected or abrupt enough that buses and cars drift into the bike lane. With the way the lights are set up, there is a high chance that you will be along side a vehicle, thus you are in high danger as it drifts over into the bike lane.
    Each time I have used this lane I have felt in danger. The only way to avoid is to take the car lane prior to the curves and hope the driver does not get annoyed.

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  • Eric Roesinger April 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    The Burnside bridge is my primary commute route to Beaverton from NE.
    The three pinchpoints I feel are at the first bus stop just off of Sandy, the high traffic section (where cars tend to turn right at speed) as you cross Grand, and the corner mentioned by James above as you turn onto the bridge from Couch. The first two can be managed via attention and vigilance, but the final corner onto the bridge is bad. The feeling of exposure at that point is a bit un-nerving for me, and I’m pretty comfortable on my bike. Hate to think of the beginner commuter next to a student driver making that turn together…

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  • Ethan Seltzer April 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks for asking! At least once a week I head west on Sandy from 21st for the J and M Cafe, via Ankeny. Now that the project is in motion, I have to make the turn onto Couch and then cut across two lanes of traffic to make the left-hand turn on 12th to get back to Ankeny. My overall impression is that this is now less safe than it used to be, and that I’ll be avoiding the intersection in the future. Too bad… I liked swooping down Sandy to Ankeny… no more. Someone is going to get squished trying to merge for that left turn onto 12th. What problem did this solve again?

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  • matt picio April 25, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Adam (#45) – All Ankeny needs to fix the problem is a traffic diverter in the right location – perhaps at 8th?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Just want to thank everyone for their comments on this post. Please read the story I just published that details changes being made now and in the coming weeks to improve the bike lane on NE Couch leading onto the bridge.

    Your comments really make a difference. PBOT is reading and they react. Thanks.

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  • Marc R September 16, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    It’s probably been mentioned more times than I realize, but that last stretch of NE Couch which takes you on to the Burnside Bridge – that is, that little piece of spaghetti – is indeed very awkward. Even as a very experienced cyclist, I would find it difficult to ride with any speed in the bike lane there, so I take the lane until the curving ends, then I move quickly to the right. And this is after coming down NE Couch by taking a lane! By doing all this, I find it safe enough, and cars have been respectful, but I don’t think it’s a very good situation for less experienced cyclists, whether due to possible right hooks or that piece of spaghetti.

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  • Marc R September 16, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    PS I just saw Jonathan’s note in another article that there are no plans for share lane markings on NE Couch in those critical blocks; if not, why not? Just because there is a bike lane doesn’t mean we can’t also insert signals to drivers to watch out for bikes taking the lane, say the one on the right. I think taking the lane is a good solution to the parked car and right hook mess – partly because it’s downhill!

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