Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

PBOT gives North Portland intersection a traffic calming makeover

Posted by on August 24th, 2010 at 11:30 am


Lots of changes at intersection of
Wabash, Willamette and Bryant.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Bureau of Transportation has completed their re-design of a North Portland intersection where two bike boulevards and a high-volume street intersect. The N. Wabash/Willamette/Bryant triangle has been significantly re-striped, two median islands have been added, there’s a new crosswalk, and other new signage. Taken all together, this intersection — which used to be relatively uncontrolled (see photo below) — is now a key hub in Portland’s burgeoning bike boulevard network. PBOT project manager Kyle Chisek says the signage, markings, and other work at this intersection cost about $9,000.

To get an idea of how major this change is, check out the before and after. Below is a satellite view of the intersection before the changes:

And here’s the PBOT graphic showing the new features:

I rode out to the intersection today to see for myself how the new treatments looked and felt.


Now, only bikes can go west
on this short stretch of Bryant.

The first thing I noticed was where people in cars used to whip off of Willamette to go north on Wabash, there’s now a median island with a bicycle only cut-through (see photo at top of story). The bike cut-through leads to a buffered bike lane and bike traffic can continue north on Wabash without any stop signs. In another traffic change, motor vehicle traffic cannot continue westbound on Willamette from N. Bryant. Cars must turn right (north on Wabash) or left (south onto Willamette).


Note the striping of two parking spaces
away from the curb.

Another thing that jumped out at me was how PBOT maintained four motor-vehicle parking spaces. On the short segments of Bryant and Wabash adjacent to the large, planted median island, the road configuration now consists of a bike lane with a three-foot buffer; a parking lane; and a standard travel lane. These are essentially short little cycle-tracks.


Looking north at new median and crossing at Wabash.

The other big feature is the new crosswalk on N. Willamette. For people too timid to take a lane and turn left off of Willamette onto N. Bryant, there’s now a buffered bike lane that leads to a curb ramp and a zebra-striped crosswalk across Willamette (as well as a median island for “refuge” if you need it). Of course this latter movement is more of a pedestrian-style way to go left, but with the speed and volume of cars on Willamette, there’s no shame in playing it safe.

Speaking of speed and cars on Willamette… that street is notorious for both. The speed limit leading up to this newly revamped intersection is 35 mph. While I observed traffic this morning, I cringed a few times as joggers tried to cross and people came to abrupt stops. I also noticed some pretty long wait times for people on bikes trying to get across Willamette from Wabash.

I think initially, PBOT’s work here will confuse some people (I watched a man drive up and over the median with a bike cut-through to go north on Wabash from Willamette), but once people get used to it, this will do wonders to help calm motor vehicle traffic while making travel for bicycles much more efficient and safe.

Have you experienced this intersection since the changes were made? I’d love to hear some other opinions. For more on this and all of PBOT’s bike boulevard projects, check out their “Next Generation Bicycle Boulevards” page.

See more photos in the gallery.

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

  • Matthew August 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Great to see enhancements like this!

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  • Patty August 24, 2010 at 11:48 am

    This is a great improvement for bikers and walkers in the neighborhood!

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  • BURR August 24, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    that looks over-designed and mega confusing, I’ve never had a problem at this intersection.

    IMO, we’d be better off if they had spent our money repaving the eight or ten substandard blocks of Bryant east of this location…

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  • Tonya August 24, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    The last time I rolled through there, the striping had just begun and it wasn’t clear how it was going to be configured in the end. I was expecting the car and bike travel lanes to go in the same directions near Willamette. It seems like this configuration might be a little confusing.

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  • Oliver August 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Looks great (yet possibly confusing). I’ll have to go that route on the way home tonight.

    It’ll certainly improve N. Wabash for the residents of that street, reducing, as it will, the through traffic coming off Willamette for points north.

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  • Anonymous August 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I have used this intersection since the change and I love it. I usually ride with my 2-year-old daughter through here and I feel much safer. If anything, the changes make motorists more aware of cyclists. Since I have my daughter with me, I really appreciate the addition of the crosswalk. With a 2-year-old, I always take the most cautious way, even if it’s slower.

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  • Lazlo August 24, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    A waste of money, make-work project. I’ve ridden there hundreds of times without ever having any kind of incident. Like many of the traffic calming efforts of PBOT – the traffic circle at Ne 8th & Tillamook for example – this was unnecessary and will probably do more harm than good.

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  • Joe Adamski August 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    This, coupled with the improvments several years ago at the intersection of Willamette Blvd and Rosa Parks have had a calming effect on Willamette Blvd along this stretch. Prior to the improvements, there was little to discourage higher speeds from Rosa Parks to Portsmouth. I can’t fail to mention the crosswalk improvements at the University of Portland, either. The end result is more compliance with speed limits and while Bryant/Wabash/Willamette looks confusing, it also has a huge “hey look closely here, stuff happening here” message for motorists to see from blocks away. I rode through the triangle this morning and had a much better feeling about this interesection than I imagined I would , from when I first heard of the project.
    Thanks to PBOT and the folks who showed at the neighborhood meetings to contribute their thoughts and opinions when it was in the planning stage.

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  • TonyT
    TonyT August 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    That’s awesome.

    Trying to take a left off of Willamette onto Bryant was just nerve-racking (especially at night in the rain), and I’m rarely intimidated by high-traffic areas. Taking the lane verged on death-wish given the speed that cars would come ripping around that area. Killing that Wabash north-bound “ripper” was a really good idea too.


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  • flowb33 August 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Can’t put a pricetag on calming the fear of would-be cyclists on these new N. Portland routes. That people feel safe and protected is key to meeting our capacity goals.

    That said, I’d love to see the final cost for this intersection. I suspect its ~ or > $100,000. Could we have made things safer with 50k and spent another 50k somewhere else? May not be a fair question.

    Another factor here is that Willamette Blvd. is being studied for a more fundamental redesign for car/bike/ped usage. And I bet in the not-too-distant future, some of the new features here will be torn up and re-done to accommodate the redesign. Maybe a more reserved phase 1 was warranted in light of that project?

    Rant over though. I love these BBs and am excited to see the new network come together.

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  • Unit August 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Hey Burr, do you really have nothing better to do than be a total jerk on bike blogs? Everytime I read your posts, I cringe. IMHO, You do more to harm the bike community in this town than most.

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  • are August 24, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    re comment 3, while it appears complicated, the central theme is that anyone wanting to go northwest on willamette from bryant is going to have to take a brief detour and scope the intersection from a ninety degree angle, rather than looking back over their left shoulder.

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  • are August 24, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    oh, and um, only southbound traffic on willamette has a clear shot at getting onto bryant/wabash. which could mean a lot of motorists hanging a tight right from northbound willamette. this could turn into a severe right hook issue.

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  • Esther August 24, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    As a regular commuter to and from St. Johns to downtown, I love, love, love this improvement!!! Joe A. is right that it has slowed speeds somewhat in the area. That curve is particularly bad because it seems like car drivers have tended to veer right into the bike lane in that segment.

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  • BURR August 24, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    re. #12: might be alleviated somewhat if that bus stop area was also marked as a RTOL for northbound traffic on Willamette; that would mean right turning traffic would merge through the bike lane prior to the intersection rather than making a sharp right turn through the bike lane at the intersection.

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  • Michaewh August 24, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I encountered this intersection last week before it was completely finished. I approached in a vehicle heading south on Willamette, wanting to turn left onto Bryant. It appeared to me that it was not allowed, so I drove past and then turned left onto Wabash. As I was doing that, it was suddenly clear that I made a mistake.

    From that direction, I found the intersection highly confusing. A much bigger standard arrow (where the sharrow is now) might help….

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  • Michaewh August 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Looking again at the diagram, it appears that turning left onto Bryant is no longer allowed for drivers heading south on Willamette. So, as a resident of the neighborhood, how am I expected to travel if I want to go East on Bryant?

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  • Chris Sullivan August 24, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I hit this intersections several times a week, and what a relief it is to have these changes. If you think this design is crazy, think about navigating this intersection with NO STOP SIGNS. I was always fearful of a N-bound car turning off of Willamette onto Wabash at 35 MPH and not seeing me or my daughter. Now they have to make a much sharper turn onto N. Bryant and then hit a stop sign.

    Much safe, much calmer, much needed.

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  • red hippie August 24, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    I live on Willamette Blvd a few blocks from St. Johns and ride through this area a minimum of 8 times a week. This project, in conjunction with the treament on the turn onto PORTLAND BLVD has had a really great affect on the overall safety and speed of the traffic in the area. Wonderfull.

    I really hope they bring the same treatment to the northern part of Willamette Blvd. People regularly speed down the road and the bike lane disapears around the train bridge. In my five years, we have had four case hit by drivers, of which two were totaled. So far the City has not been too interested. I hope the planned redesign has some positive results.

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  • pdxebiker August 24, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I regularly ride and drive this route, and find this to be a welcome improvement. It is a little confusing to see parking in the middle of the street on Wabash, as it is a short block and not immediately apparent as a cycle track, but I think long-term, it is much improved.

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  • thumb August 24, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    this was a needed improvement but could have been handled much better.
    the new markings are extremely confusing – people aren’t used to seeing parking spots in the middle of the street in that area.
    all they really needed to do was add a 4-way stop at the wabash/bryant intersection.
    if you are driving a car and you want to turn right on willamette from wabash you have to cut across the pedestrian crossing before you can even see what traffic is doing on willamette. a simple stop sign would have cars slow down enough to not just roll through the wabash/bryant intersection which is where the real problem was….

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  • peejay August 25, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Who stops at stop signs? /sarcasm

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  • matt picio August 25, 2010 at 8:34 am

    BURR, Lazlo – Just because you haven’t had incidents at that intersection doesn’t mean no one has. I *have* been nearly struck there twice by cars flying off Willamette onto Wabash at speed. At the very least, the new island prevents that, which I think is great. And $9,000 for a project like this is spare change – that would barely pay for the road closure on an arterial paving project.

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  • BURR August 25, 2010 at 8:46 am

    sorry, but there is no way that only cost $9K, the new paved median alone probably cost upwards of $20K.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 25, 2010 at 8:53 am


    I had the same disbelief, but I asked twice and can say with certainty that that cost is accurate. I could still be mistaken though… perhaps Kyle Chisek or someone else from PBOT will chime in?

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  • EmGee August 25, 2010 at 9:34 am

    I am very familiar with this intersection as both a driver and a cyclist. The changes are a definite improvement. This location has a bad history for crashes but I think it is much safer now.

    Bicyclists going south on Willamette who want to turn east on Bryant still have a risky time of it. There is now a second option of riding up to the crosswalk at the Wabash intersection, but at the moment that is not as safe as it should be.

    The new crosswalk is not being respected by motorists. I don’t think it is sufficiently visible to them: it is in an unlikely location for a crosswalk and drivers are distracted by a lot of other potential risks right in that area. Perhaps the powers that be could put up “crosswalk ahead” signs. What would be really nice would be a set of those crosswalk warning lights, but budgets being as tight as they are, that prolly isn’t going to happen.

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  • Roger Averbeck August 25, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Before arriving at a conclusion, passing judgment or criticizing these and other new improvements, please go spend some time there during the morning or evening peak traffic hours.

    Drive through in a car. Ride your bike and walk through the intersection from a variety of directions. Even more importantly, spend some time just watching how all modes including less experienced riders, kids or seniors on foot or bikes navigate the improvements. Remember that anything new requires a short period of adjustment.

    Your assessments, opinions and constructive criticism will now have much greater credibility…

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  • JE August 25, 2010 at 11:41 am

    There were two problems with these intersections. First was that Bryant & Wabash was uncontrolled and cars turning onto either from Willamette could be moving at a high speed. I’m surprised I never saw an accident there, though I did see some close calls. That has been solved, thankfully.

    The second and worst problem was the speed, volume and dispersion of traffic on Willamette. That is not really addressed with these improvements. Nothing, no signal or stop sign, interrupts the flow of traffic on Willamette (and Rosa Parks) from Greeley to Portsmouth. By contrast Columbia has three signals along that stretch and Lombard has a lot more than I’m gonna count here. So traffic on Willamette speeds up and spreads out with no break in which to cross. The center “refuge” island helps in that now you can take your chances one lane at a time instead of two, but the problem remains.

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  • Steve B. August 26, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I rode this as they were putting it in and I was pretty excited. Anything that calms speeds on Willamette is a benefit to all road users.

    My dream is to see the southside of this street turned into a 2-way cycletrack/MUP. With such stunning views, I think it would be a great asset to all the joggers and create a better experience for those biking through the area. The only place I’ve really seen Portland do this is in the Rose Quarter (although not separated). I think the consolidation of 2 one-way bike lanes would afford more space for both directions, and get cars further away from people on foot/bike.

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  • Charley August 26, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I like it. I ride up there and always hated the thought of someone turning hard right on my tail as i head north.

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  • Cameron September 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    As a regular commuter along Wabash to Willamette from Willis every morning, I totally love and appreciate this new intersection. Just this morning, I was using the “safe area” to get half way across Willamette, and the east-bound traffic STOPPED for me to get all the way across. That never happened on the “old” Willamette, where you’d have to wait for a break in 35-40mph traffic IN BOTH DIRECTIONS before making a break for it.

    I also love the changes along Wabash itself, where all the stop signs are now pointing to the cross streets, instead of the old half along Wabash/half on cross streets configuration. Nothing sucks more when riding a bike than having to stop every two blocks.

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