This week’s question comes from reader Darren P. Darren wonders about something I think many people have encountered over the years…
“Road crews block bike lanes with their road work signs. The signs intended to warn us of dangers are dangerous. Is this legal? Is there a better way?”
I feel your pain Darren and this is something I’ve covered quite a bit in the past.
When I see this happen, I try to just take a deep breath (holding back my annoyance that someone has disrespected the bike lane) and merge into the adjacent lane. I can remember one instance a few years ago where a construction crew had placed a fence across the bike lane on Williams. It was so egregious (see photo at right) that I called and emailed the company about it. They responded quickly and moved the fence a few days later.
While not all construction crews have gotten the memo yet, many have. Remember the awesome, temporary bike lane crews made on N. Vancouver during a project near Legacy Emanuel Hospital last summer?
As far as I know, there is no legal accountability for this specific situation, but there are guidelines and policies.
Temporary Traffic Control Handbook.
The City of Portland’s 2030 Bike Plan addresses this in section 3.6.4 “Temporary bicycle facilities during construction.” The Plan says, “When construction activities in the roadway affect bikeways, safe and convenient detour routes through or around the construction zones should be established.” Taking this policy one step further, the Plan says signage “in advance and through” work zones should be “a condition of street use permits.” That action is listed as an “immediate” priority. I took a look at a street closure permit application and, while there isn’t specific mention of bike lane blockage, there is a stipulation that some projects might warrant a “traffic control plan” to be signed off by the City Engineer.
For streets managed by ODOT, we look to the Oregon Temporary Traffic Control Handbook. The OTTCH, which is specifically for projects lasting three days or less, says a “Bicycles on Roadway” sign must be placed prior to other warning signs in any work zone where “a significant volume of bicycles can be expected and the work requires bicycles to use the travel lanes.”
So, it turns out that yes, road crews can block bike lane, but they should be sensitive with the placement of their signs. And in case you’re wondering what you can do if you see a dangerous and/or poorly placed construction sign, your best bet would be the City’s 823-SAFE (7233) hotline.
As always, I now turn to you for wisdom and input on this issue…