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First look at City’s final plans for Broadway/Williams

Posted by on September 16th, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Existing conditions at Broadway/Williams

N Broadway and Williams, one of Portland’s most dangerous intersections to ride a bike through, is finally going to be addressed. No, this isn’t just another drill. This is actually going to happen. Bureau of Transportation spokesperson Dan Anderson confirmed today that the project — which includes lane re-striping and a bike-only traffic signal — should be completed by the end of October.

Before I go into the plans, I’ll explain the context of the problem for those not as familiar with this intersection. Currently, the bike lane headed westbound on Broadway (which is a four lane arterial) is sandwiched between two right-turning motor vehicle lanes at Williams (the bike lane merges over into the middle of two other lanes prior to Williams). Making matters worse is that most cars turning right (north) from Broadway — approximately 1,000 of them per hour according to PBOT — are headed onto I-5. There’s also a gas station on the corner with two large driveways. (Check the aerial view in Google Maps via this link.)

O.K., now onto the plans…

Plan drawings of the notorious intersection. (Not easy to read, I realize that).

The big news is that bikes will now have their very own traffic signal at Williams. Also, instead of merging one lane over, the bike lane will stay curbside the entire time. Two right-turn only lanes will remain directly to the left of the bike lane, but they will never have a green light when the bike lane does and there will be no right turns on red. To improve visibility, PBOT will install an advance stop line for the two right-turn lanes. This will allow people in the bike lane to roll out in front of cars.

The new signal coming to Broadway at
Williams will be similar to this
bike-only signal at Lovejoy
and the Broadway Bridge.
(Photo: Jim Parsons)

Back in November 2008, plans called for eight-foot bike lanes; however, I learned today that due to constraints placed on PBOT engineers by the new streetcar line, the bike lanes will remain at five feet.

City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield says that as long as people comply with the traffic lights, the new design will eliminate right turn conflicts. Given that most people are not used to looking for bike-only signals, this could be a tricky situation. A similar signal configuration currently exists at the top of the Lovejoy ramp on the west side of the Broadway Bridge. Burchfield said today that PBOT will likely do some marketing and outreach in tandem with this project in order to increase awareness of the bike signal.

Another thing that will change with this new bike signal is that people using the bike lane will likely experience longer and more frequent delays than they previously did. For a detailed examination of how the signal phase timing will work, read the story we published back in November 2008 (I confirmed with Burchfield that it’s still accurate).

The intersection of Broadway and Williams has been the site of numerous crashes and much consternation from both PBOT staff and the community for at least three years now. However, given a combination of factors, the project had languished until now.

Carter McNichol, construction manager for Portland Streetcar, says once his crews finish work in the Pearl District, they’ll begin work at this site. The changes are scheduled to be completed by the end of next month. Construction will be done in phases so stay tuned for any details on detours or traffic alerts. For extensive coverage of this intersection, see our archives.

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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BURR
Guest
BURR

Once again the bike lane is moved to the right of the right turn only lanes.

🙁

Anyone else here feel like trying to get PBOT to change their designs is like beating your head against a brick wall?

Separate signal phase for bikes or not, it’s a dumb design.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Could we get an elaboration on the “constraints placed on PBOT” on why they couldn’t widen the bike lane?

Hart
Guest

To get to Williams from Broadway, just turn right two blocks early. There should be a sign directing cyclists to do so.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

John,

According to Burchfield, it had to do with the fact that the streetcar – as it passes over the I-5 overpass – has to move more toward the center of the overpass. If it could stay closer to the curb, PBOT would have had more room to give the bike lane more width. does that answer your question?

And Hart,

That’s actually a pretty darn good idea…. But most people are continuing westbound on Broadway toward downtown. I do that when I’m headed n on Williams though.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Jonathan, it does. Thank you.

TimberJoe
Guest
TimberJoe

Woo finally.

While I still don’t know that I will ride down E broadway (the parked cars and their doors…) this should make it safer for those that do.

Is it possible to get a hi-res image of the plans to look at?

Thanks for the coverage over the years of this mess of an intersection.

fredlf
Guest

I’ve had a couple of Portland area commutes that had intersections signed No Right on Red. My (purely personal, unscientific) observation is that a small minority of drivers actually obey the sign. Usually, if one goes, everyone behind follows suit, without ever checking for a sign (or a bike in the bike lane, for that matter).

I don’t think this will help much. Going around is the best solution for the less confident rider, and taking the lane the safest option for the bold. More and more complex signage won’t make things any safer.

I think the whole area should be re-done as a set of narrow, signless roundabouts so everyone has to hang up the phone and pay attention for a change (just kidding,mostly).

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

I’m glad this will be done in phases. I hope problems are answered with “we can fix that” rather than “this is set in stone”.

The major problem remains: 2 right turn lanes. The signal at Lovejoy street works because there is only one lane allowed to turn right.

It would be so simple to install some very good sub-surface bike sensors and a few buttons that cyclists could press. As soon at that trigger happens, the Westbound cars on Broadway should get giant yellow, then red light for 10 seconds.

No bikes, then no red light?

I want more than a picture. I’d like Mr. Anderson to say how long bikes have to wait when we stop in our corral? The wait at Lovejoy street is tollerable.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

Joe Rowe, in case you’re interested, I have some audio of City Traff Engineer Burchfield explaining why they need both right turn lanes… .download the MP3 here

Also, for a detailed explanation of how the signal timing would work, see our story from 2008.

Lance P.
Guest
Lance P.

Hart. Most of the morning bike commuters going west at this intersection are not going to Williams but to downtown.

are
Guest

seems to me you got four plus travel lanes from about seventh on down, certain from sixth, and it is not until just before victoria (where they move the bike lane over one) — six, seven blocks — that you begin to say to motorists, hey, if you wanna go north on I-5 you better get the hell over one of these days. but don’t worry, we’ll still give you two turning lanes.

how about if instead we start telling motorists to merge right a few blocks earlier and reduce the exit to one lane?

yeah, i know, rob burchfield says x, y, and z.

usually i get on at flint, but occasionally i will take broadway in from, like, 21st. somewhere around third, depending on the traffic, i simply get into the second travel lane. i try to just shrug off motorists (usually over in the left lane, where it really should be none of their concern) shouting “get in the bike lane.”

studies have shown that motorists will not respect no right turn on red.

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

Ugh, still doesn’t make me want to ride through this area. I’m lucky enough to live a bit north of Lloyd Center, so I just head down to Vancouver and bypass that whole area all together.

I do realize that not everyone can do this, and that those coming down Broadway may not want to go several blocks out of their way just to go around a single intersection.

snolly
Guest
snolly

I do have concerns that the bike signal will be visible and recognizable enough to people that are not familiar with the area.

Jonathan,

Any word on how this intersection will be timed in conjunction w/ North Vancouver – will bikes be disrespected and have to stop at both intersections for an extended period?

—It’d also be nice if they could do something about the right hooks @ Flint/Wheeler.

Jason
Guest
Jason

I live two blocks from this intersection and ride and walk through there all of the time. The intersection is currently signed for no right on red, but nobody obeys that signage. In addition, this is a high speed area as people speed up to get on to I5. It will take a lot of work on PBOTs part to change driver behavior and in the meantime there is the continued possibility for some nasty accidents.

dennis
Guest
dennis

I’d totally be with this, if only:

A hydraulic Bollard was placed in front of the automobile turn lane, to prevent people from running the light. Drivers don’t understand “No Turn on Red” signs at all.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Needs:
) back lit BIKE SIGNAL sign that blinks during green cycle for the first year.
)HI-RES photo radar, red light camera to automatically ticket every idiot driver.

Random_rider
Guest
Random_rider

This will probably reduce right hook incidents but will almost definitely increase ill will between cyclists and motor vehicles. Each will resent that the other gets a mode specific light sequence. We’ve already been told that our wait will be longer. Cars will resent the no turn on red rule (and frequently ignore it) and will view the bike only green light as taking away from “their time” and look at it as a bike “special right”. Overall this may be safer as far as individual interactions go at this location but increase the bike vs car zero sum mentality.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

I honestly think this is a great solution that accommodates traffic going both west into downtown and turning north onto Williams. And Engineer Burchfield is correct that as long as people obey their signals there’s no right-turn conflict.

Skepticism for motorists not turning right is understandable, but let’s not bash this scenario for that because any other arrangement requires motorists to be even more courteous than this.

Paul Tay
Guest
Paul Tay

“people using the bike lane will likely experience longer and more frequent delays than they previously did.

“City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield says that as long as people comply with the traffic lights, the new design will eliminate right turn conflicts.”

Oh, right. Someone please pass the Purple Kool-aid. I STILL believe in Jim Jones too.

Round-n-round we go. Good grief, if the engineering geniuses are so intent on confusing the rest of us clueless neanderthals, with more lights, signs, and stripes, in the effort to make us down, maybe they are getting the message? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Cain’t possibly be true.

JJ
Guest
JJ

Looks absolutely terrible.

-Shorter light phases for everyone, longer waits for everyone. And Im going to make a wager that the bike lane will get the shortest green in the intersection.

-Without camera enforcement, no turn on red becomes “you shouldn’t do that” instead of “DONT DO IT” which will result in a collision.

-VCs who chose to use the regular straight lane will be harassed.

Why cant the bike lane be to the LEFT of the right turning lanes? I can’t think of a single reason why.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Would it be possible for the city to just drop a jersey barrier between the bike lane and the two right turn lanes? A cheap and easy solution to right hooks.

S E Cyclist
Guest
S E Cyclist

Hart (#3) suggests turning north a few blocks east to get to Williams. That’s exactly what I do, but most bicyclists heading west on Broadway are continuing westbound.

I’m skeptical that cyclists will wait for the bike only signal and that motorists will obey the no-turn-on-red sign. Just this morning as I drove through the area, I saw a cyclist run the red.

I thought there were some better options disussed last November.

Velo
Guest
Velo

Why can’t we just take the lane?!
“newbies” could take the street car.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

wait a minute…

the only reason they need a bike-only signal is because the left-most right turn lane is a combo straight and turn lane… if they’re converting both right turn lanes to turn-only lanes then they need to put the bike lane to the left of them

wow, I can’t believe they would even think of this crazy solution… especially in direct contradiction of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices which says “A through bicycle lane shall not be positioned to the right of a right turn only lane”… (thanks Paul Tay)

just put it to the left of the right-turn lanes like it should be and where it makes sense to everybody… no need for another signal…

Blah Blah Blah
Guest
Blah Blah Blah

I love the “drivers don’t respect the no right turn on red” argument coming from a community of cyclists that can’t even respect stop signs.

Yeah, the intersection kind of sucked, but if you pay attention to what is around you and set yourself up, it wasn’t too bad. What really unnerves me, is Broadway east of the signal. At least at the intersection with Williams you kind of know what to expect, but east of the intersection, it’s all cars making last minute right hooks and doors flying open.

are
Guest

re comment 24, because somewhere there is someone “willing but anxious” or whatever the catch phrase is, huddling in a bunker, who will not join the velorution if it requires merging left across motor traffic. and the rest of us are elitists.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

@ Velo, #23: Yeah, let’s get those new riders back off their bikes, that’s the idea. Why bother trying to make things safer? Sorry to be snarky, but just sayin.

Martha R
Guest
Martha R

I agree with other posts that drivers routinely ignore “no right on red” signs; if PBOT is really going to build this, they must put in a red light camera (and brace themselves for processing a bazillion tickets).

I prefer the idea of making both lanes right turn only (no straight ahead allowed) and putting the bike lane to the left of them. Merging across a car lane is far less scary than hanging out on the right side of vehicles that might or might not turn.

Paul
Guest
Paul

The advance stop for cars should help with the “no right on red” signal, much like how the green bike boxes work. If it’s bright and clear motorists are more likely going to comply. I’ve experience a very high rate of compliance with the green bike boxes so hoping the advance stop is just as decipherable! I do like the automatic bollard suggestion 🙂

jv
Guest
jv

I think that a red light camera would be very good to have at this intersection. That way there can be statistical information about compliance with the signals for both cars and bikes (though of course there is no way to ticket bikes). I think moving the stop line back might help a bit with the “no turn or red” thing.

An additional item that should be installed, since the bike lane is to the right, is a button for bikes to push to activate the light. If it is just activated by timing it will take forever, and I’ll probably just move left and use the auto lanes.

Steve B.
Guest

The constraints of the streetcar line are troubling, I thought this area was identified in the BMP for a separated cycle track.

With a treatment like this, they’re essentially laying the small beginnings of a separated bikeway here. Now if they ever want a cycletrack, I guess they’ll have to route the bikes onto the sidewalk. Hmm.

BURR
Guest
BURR

There’s room for lots of things if they stop insisting on two right turn lanes.

The safest thing to do would simply be to close the freeway onramp.

Mark C
Guest
Mark C

While this is an improvement, riding down Broadway in general kind of sucks. Since I live to the north, it’s a no-brainer for me to take Knott-Vancouver-Russell-Flint. For those coming from the south, I’d suggest going at least a few blocks out of your way to Tillamook. It’s a much nicer ride.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

I am not sure this is still the best design option available to PBOT.

Have all options been evaluated fully by a larger group (say a subcommittee of the PBAC)?

I ask as I wonder if there is truly a “need” (in light of the safety deficiency) for a double right turn at this junction…given that most traffic in the peak goes to I-5 where there is a ramp meter on for a single lane of traffic. I would think that there may be less delay if the bike phase could be avoided…If there was only a single right turn lane then there would be room for separate bike lane for thru bike traffic and one for right turning bike traffic. Thru bikes would still have to merge across the right turn lane 2 blocks before the signal (like now).

PROPOSAL
If the current design is the ‘best’ compromise for safety…then I would ask that some striping modifications be made: enlarge the bike box, since the bike lane has been narrowed – to increase bicyclist storage capacity (has this been modeled to determine the size of the box based on the cycle phase and peak traffic?).

Add bike stencils to the bike box (I did not see any on the sample page provided). Extend the bike box to the centre line to allow bikes to wait for their through movement in front of the thru lanes…unless they can do this safety from the box in front of the right turning lanes(?)

Add supplemental smaller signal head (small bike only traffic signal on lower part of kerbside pole) and a blackspot mirror on kerbside. I assume the bike signal head will use the LED bike symbol vs. the more confusing traditional signal head with supplemental bike sign (as on the Broadway Bridge).

Seth D. Alford
Guest
Seth D. Alford

Lately I have been thinking that it would be useful for PBoT to have a physical test area of some sort. The purpose would be to demonstrate to the bicycling community, and to PBoT itself, how proposed changes to bicycle infrastructure might work. I’m thinking of a big empty parking lot with orange cones to simulate car and bike lanes.

Cars and buses would be represented either by actual cars and buses, or because of liability issues, by car or bus sized metal frames covered in padding. The frames would be mounted on wheels. “Drivers” would push the frames along with their feet, Fred Flintstone style.

PBoT would invite anyone who wanted to come out on a Saturday afternoon and try out how, for example, different configurations for a simulated Broadway/Williams intersection might work. The whole thing would be videotaped. PBoT would put up the videotapes on its web site, show them to to the BAC, etc. We’d all critique the various designs. For various engineering and legal reasons I’m guessing that PBoT couldn’t just build what everyone thought was the preferred alternative. However, PBoT would have to carefully explain why they built something different than what everyone liked.

thru biker
Guest
thru biker

Oops. Cut and paste error. I guess I could use a “preview comment” feature. Since it says my comment is being moderated, perhaps the moderator could ‘block’ the previous comment and just accept this version:

Ugh. +1 @ 24 & 28. It’s really not very difficult to merge across the right-turn-only lane(s) a block or more before the signalized intersections, especially because there is usually enough traffic that everyone’s moving slowly. Once you get past Victoria, though, there’s a mad scramble of merging, lane changing and trying to beat the lights, so it only makes sense (and safety) to move through-bikers over next to the through-drivers before reaching Victoria.

This design is really horrible! At the west end of the Broadway bridge, I suppose it’s unavoidable because the bikes are coming off the sidewalk, but you still have to slow or stop, even with the green, until you can confirm that the right-turning vehicles are actually going to yield. This design will just impede and frustrate everyone. the bikes are coming off the sidewalk, but I still feel I have to slow or stop, even with the green, until I can confirm that the right-turning vehicles will yield.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

i like the idea of a red light camera. not only will it make for safer biking but its also damned funny.