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PBOT director Sue Keil issues statement on Couch bike lane

Posted by on May 7th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Eye to Eye Campaign Launch-8.jpg

Director of PBOT, Sue Keil.
(File photo © J. Maus)

Here’s the latest in the East Burnside Couch Couplet story. Yesterday PBOT released an official statement about the dangerous bike lane from head of that bureau, Sue Keil.

In the statement Keil writes, “It has come to the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s attention that the bike lane leading from NE Couch onto the westbound Burnside Bridge may present a hazardous condition for bicyclists.”

Since Friday, April 30th Keil lists the actions her department has taken “in response to complaints and a bicycle injury”:

  • Ground out the slippery bike lane stripe and replaced it with temporary (non-slip) paint;
  • Prepared to re-stripe the street with a wider (6-foot) bike lane using non-slip textured striping;
  • Prepared to install a new solid center lane stripe with raised bumps between the vehicle lanes to keep drivers from drifting out of their lane on the curve; and
  • Prepared to install a three-foot painted buffer zone between the new, wider bike lane and the vehicle lane on the second curve of the transition.
Update on Burnside-Couch project-5

The bike lane on NE Couch leading
up to the Burnside Bridge.

Keil further explains that the buffer zone and bike lane striping will have “bumps on the vehicle side so drivers receive a tangible warning if they enter the space designated for bicycles.”

After these changes are implemented, PBOT plans to conduct a safety evaluation and then assess whether any long-term safety fixes need to be implemented.

“The Couch transition is a key link between the eastside and the central city,” Keil writes, “and we are committed to ensuring that it serves as a safe, attractive connection for all users.”

The BTA says the entire East Burnside Couch Couplet project is “not ready to ride” and they want PBOT to look at bike safety improvements beyond just the Couch s-curve bike lane, but Keil’s statement makes no mention of those suggestions. The statement also doesn’t mention that one of the reasons cars were encroaching on the bike lane in the first place was because PBOT crews striped one of the motor vehicle lanes 2.5 feet too wide.

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  • Will Cortez May 7, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Ugh. This is spot is fine. And yes, I base this off my sample size of one…

    I agree that negotiating the turn in a vehicle will cause them to drift into the bike lane just as they do in the zoo parking lot as you leave the zoo and head down toward Hwy 26 (the bike lane has been all but erased by vehicle tires). Additionally the little bend in the road on NW Cornell Rd between Saltzman & Murray (the wetsbound lane is wiped clean due to car tires).

    I don’t know that bike bumps are the way to go as cyclists are just as likely to hit them when debris forces us away from the curb and into cars. Besides, many of us “ride big” in an effort to create a buffer zone for ourselves and will ride close to the line anyhow. This is the reason the city of Beaverton decided to go with bike lanes 1 foot less in width than Washington County chose to go with.

    Maybe more signage like the Share the Road signs?

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  • encephalopath May 7, 2010 at 10:13 am

    The bumps idea assumes that there is or should be strict segregation between bicycles and motor vehicle traffic. Unless they come up with a completely separate bike facility, that just can’t happen.

    PBOT should familiarize themselves with the list of exceptions to the far right rule in 814.430. There are lots of reasons for bikes to leave the bike lane. Bumps won’t be helping anyone.

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  • Steve B. May 7, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I heard concrete barriers can help keep cars out of bike lanes.

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  • zuckerdog May 7, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Maybe this connection is cycletrack in disguise; it’s just waiting to evolve. Hopefully nobody else gets hurt before it comes to fruition

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  • Perry May 7, 2010 at 10:39 am

    TD5200 Boomerang Surface Mount Reboundable Delineator – makes one hell of an impression on the wandering automobile.

    (crap, blew the opening tag…)

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  • zuckerdog May 7, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Maybe this connection is cycletrack in disguise; it’s just waiting to evolve. Hopefully nobody else gets hurt before it comes to fruition.

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  • Seager May 7, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Bumps?!? How does that make the area safer for cyclists? What if they need to leave the bike lane to avoid a hazard?

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  • beth h May 7, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I used the bike lane yesterday at rush hour and every single car that passed me in that “second curve” totally ignored the so-called “buffer” painted onto the road.

    I’m with Steve B. (# 2). Let’s add some kind of physical barrier that more clearly divides the bike lane from motorized traffic.

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  • matt picio May 7, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Raise the bike lane 4 inches – that’ll keep cars from encroaching.

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  • John Peterson May 7, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I’m still taking the lane through there….

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  • trail user May 7, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Bad design from the beginning. The left car lane is narrow as all get out. And I drive a little miata sized car. Bikes shouldn’t have a problem keeping up with traffic by taking the lane through the S curves then jumping back in the bike lane.

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  • el timito May 7, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Yay to bumps!
    They sure make a difference at this similarly-challenging curve, where Rosa Parks turns into Willamette Blvd:,-122.699725&spn=0.000916,0.002736&t=h&z=19

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  • Hart May 7, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Concrete barriers like now!

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  • Kaeta May 7, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    +1 to concrete barrier or raised bike path. let’s get real PBOT

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  • Spiffy May 7, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    as you can see on the Portland Blvd / Willamette Blvd transition stated above the cars not only go into the buffer zone but cross completely over it into the bike lane and have completely erased 2 white stripes by driving over them…

    this is always what happens to bike lanes on corners… and it always pisses off cars when you stay in the bike lane because they don’t see it and think you’re jumping out into the road in their way…

    bumps and lines will not help…

    cutting bumps into the road would be a better idea since those can’t get erased and take many years to wear down (unless studded tires remain legal)… I see a lot of the “reverse bumps” in places that plow snow and don’t want to scrape the bumps off, so they recess them and the reflectors into the road…

    I like those orange Boomerang Surface Mount Reboundable Delineators though, I bet that cars would be able to keep out of the lane most of the time with those… and there’s room in-between for bikes to get out of the lane if they need to avoid debris…

    there needs to be a physical barrier more substantial than a painted line and a few little bumps that will be eroded in a month…

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  • trail user May 7, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    At least one bridge should be fun and fast, and it’s this one. All the other bridges are slow as fudge and put you on a “designated path” like second rate citizens. Morrison goes nowhere but is peaceful, if not boring, the Hawthorne is overcapacity, steel is narrow, and Broadway has girders in the way. If you’re a fan of boredom, ride the other bridges.

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  • KWW May 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    When does the concrete barrier rally happen?

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  • Dave2 May 7, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Maybe it’s time for a Critical Mass ride to go back and forth through the couplet area. Lock it up for a few hours.

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  • Van May 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I’ve ridden through the curves everyday this week and not once have I used the bike lane (except one morning when a flagger forced me into the lane). When coming into those curves, I’m usually hitting a good 15-20 miles per hour since the lights are timed in the prior 3-4 blocks.

    The bike lane is simply too narrow (even if they widened it) to negotiate at that speed. I suppose I should slow down but I feel taking up the entire right lane is a safer bet that being in the bike lane at this point.

    The right turn off of Couch onto MLK is a bigger concern to me. There has always been a tuck on my commute at some point on Couch and the potential for a right hook is so great that I don’t even use the bike lane there.

    I agree with the previous comment that sharing the road signs directed at vehicles along couch and around the bends would be extremely helpful.

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  • MIndfulCyclist May 7, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I am with everyone else on the bumps. It sounded all right at first, but a car traveling 20+ mph may have hard time correcting it soon enough.

    The one potential problem I see with a barrier is that it leaves little room to ride away from hazards. When someone inevitably throws a beer bottle in there, the glass will shatter and cover the entire lane.

    I have yet to navigate this, but have seen it up close when riding the bus. I think extending the sidewalk out would be best. If there are future problems with bikes and pedestrians, put stripes down like the Hawthorne Bridge.

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  • hanmade May 7, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    PBOT personnel should be required to ride the streets they design for bikes. They need to feel what it’s like ‘up close & personal’.

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  • q'Tzal May 7, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Turtle/large bumps: good
    Seperated cycle path: better

    Cheapest real short term solution: laser speed trap catching speeders in the middle of the S-curve. Enforcement must be done Southern style: cop with speed gun doesn’t move, he radios to at least 5 other cops in cars handing out maximum fines with no remorse. Drivers are dumb enough they might be able to fund a school district for a year with the traffic fines from one month.
    How about full lane width speed bumps? Three locations: prior to S-curve, in the middle and after. Speed bump would need to extend to bike lane so that cars don’t drive there to avoid the bumps.

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  • Red Five May 7, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    has the protest been scheduled yet?

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  • are May 7, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    the fundamental problem with this design is the existence of a striped bike lane, at all. widening the bike lane, putting in bumps, raising the lane, putting in a concrete barrier . . . jeez.

    just. take. the. lane.

    also, they could drop the indicated speed to 15 mph through the curve.

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  • q'Tzal May 7, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    The fundamental problem with the “just take the lane” philiosophy is that some people are too timid to do this even in a rolling metal cage.
    I am a vehicular cyclist. I cycle daily on Canyon, TV Hwy & NW Yeon where there are no bike facilities. I have less problems with heavy traffic than most people seem to have in bike lanes. But it scares most people.
    Just saying “Get over it!” Is not going to get people on to bikes, out of cars or endear cyclists to the general taxpaying public.
    These are the people that will get us the votes that will mainstream cycling; let’s stop trying to alienate then by implying they “aren’t man enough to take the lane.

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  • Joe Rowe May 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Dear Sue Keil,

    Don’t try to apply small cheap fixes to your big mistake.

    Really Sue.. if you and your staff are reading this we would like you to respond directly to us, not the media. Why can’t you respond here?

    Bumps do very little. The problem is that your staff made a costly mistake in not putting the bike path at the same level as the sidewalk. It keeps the path cleaner too.

    When will you ever admit your mistakes?

    Until you get this bike path back up to the height of the sidewalk you must put in a concrete barrier, no matter how ugly.

    I see some major irony here. You lay down tiny bumps because it will keep cars out. On 82nd street you put up concrete barriers to keep out pedestrians. Nuts!

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  • Lidwien May 7, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    And while they are at it, how about improving the connections between the Burnside Bridge and the Ankeny bike boulevard in both directions, both physically and with signage showing which way we are supposed to go. And how about telling bicyclists which way to go when the roads are broken up in a different block each day of the week due to Burnside Couch couplet, sewer, and streetcar construction. Don’t just put up one detour sign and then leave us hanging… The whole area has been a disaster zone for months now.

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  • are May 8, 2010 at 10:06 am

    re comment 25. not talking about man enough. talking about infrastructure treatments. you cannot safely put a bike lane next to two twelve-foot travel lanes through a curve posted at 20 mph. motorists will clip you at the curve, regardless of stripes or bumps. putting a bike lane up on the sidewalk or whatever just moves the problem farther down the bridge. what they need to do is narrow the travel lanes to eleven feet and drop the limit to 15 mph. which you and i know they will not do, at least until someone gets hurt. in the meantime, the only thing you can do is to take the lane. coming down the hill, you have no choice, and the lights are timed to make it actually pretty easy. then they put this stupid bike lane in at 7th and all hell breaks loose.

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  • resopmok May 8, 2010 at 11:02 am

    +1 to are and trail user. The easiest, cheapest and safest fix: put in a bike box at Grand to help against being right hooked. Then erase the bike lane to (between Grand and MLK as well) and through the curve until the bridge, replacing it with sharrows.

    This way, coming down the hill with green lights, you’ll have plenty of time and speed to merge before you reach the curve, and if you have to go from a red at Grand, you’ll be out in front of everyone (where they might not like you, but you are still visible).

    PBOT won’t be able to find the “perfect” solution that will please all types of riders, because there isn’t one. I think it is better that we have a variety of different facilities to choose from than just stoop to the lowest, “safest” denominator. Raise the bike lane up on a curve? Let’s not forget the bike lane is at road level across the bridge, meaning the confused will stay on the narrow sidewalk and everyone else will be taking roller coaster curb ramp rides. Maybe even more important to talk about anyway is what happens when you reach the other side of the bridge and the bike lane just disappears? Maybe we should spend some of all this windbagging and public money to talk about that for a moment?

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  • AdamG May 8, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Sharrows please.

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  • Adam May 8, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I’ve never, ever considered myself a vehicular cyclist, but I’ve just been taking the entire lane on Couch all the way downhill – including the curve – from 12th to the bridge. I think it might possibly annoy some m motorists, but… truth be told, I just feel safer on my bike that way.

    It’s great to see PBOT jumping on a fix for the curve so quickly. I hope it makes conditions much, much safer for the thousand-plus cyclists who use this route daily to get to work.

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  • Marcus Griffith May 8, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    The issue was not just a safety risk to cyclists, it was also a safety risk to the motor vehicle traffic. The direct damage to a motor vehicle in a bike vs car collision may be minor, but on a busy street, the possibility for the serving into another car is high.

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  • BURR May 8, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    seems like the ‘bikes as rolling pedestrians’ point of view is winning over the ‘bikes as vehicles’ point of view at both PBOT and Alta.

    Plus, PBOTs design standards for bike facilities continues to be crap. The original design here was crap and the ‘fix’ is probably going to be crap here as well. When the hell is that going to change????

    Just another recent example – has anyone here tried to access the eastbound Morrison bridge bike lane from Naito Parkway? Almost impossible to do without illegally riding on the sidewalk and playing Russian roulette with exiting oncoming traffic in the RTOL on Naito.

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  • Tourbiker May 8, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Statewide 12-15mph zone. remove the bike lanes thru there. Take the lane.

    Issue citations to automobile drivers abusing the riders…add cameras..lots could be done.
    If you slow the traffic down, the bikes can integrate with more fluidity.

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  • alex May 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    even with the new rumble strip and buffer i still see cars cutting into the bike lane. i will keep taking the lane on this one…

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  • LizardMama May 13, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Rode this stretch this morning, by coming west on Ankeny, north on 6th across Bside, wait at light to turn left onto Couch, got in bike lane and waited at the next light to cross MLK/Grand. The way the lights were timed, traffic was stopped at Grand and I was right up front, so no right hook issue. Then we all got off to a nice slow start through the curves. New striping at the second curve seemed to help, but as I mentioned, cars were all starting through it from a stop at Grand. I can see it might be different if everyone hits the lights on Couch.

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  • jim May 18, 2010 at 11:28 am

    If they just put the bumps right on top of the slippery paint than the bikes won’t ride there. From my observasion of how bikes ride they don’t need more than 2 ft. to ride- so wider lanes wasn’t necessary, unless your one of those Lance wanna be’s that think they are on a track all the time regardless of everything

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