As promised, PBOT turned on the new bike signals at the Broadway/Williams intersection today. It’s only been on for a few hours, and City staffers are now realizing that it needs some major tweaks before it’s ready for prime time.
Watch our video below for an idea of how it works…
Here’s what has changed at the intersection. There are two new bike signals on Broadway. One of them is on the sidewalk just before you get to Williams and the other is on the far (northwest) corner of the intersection. In addition, the five foot wide bike lane is now curbside the entire length of the block because both motor vehicle turn lanes are now right-turn only.
The two right-turn lanes have an advanced stop bar so that people in cars can more easily see if someone is waiting in the bike lane.
To trigger the bike signal, you must push a button that’s on the signal pole on the sidewalk. The bike signal will not activate unless the button is pushed. Bike loop detectors are in the plans, but PBOT project manager Jamie Jeffrey says the contractor is tied up on another job so they won’t be installed for a few more weeks.
How is this all working so far? Let’s just say there are some issues to be worked out…
At this time there are no “Bike Signal” signs on either signal head (they are coming though). This, combined with the fact that the bike signal is new, means that people on bikes simply aren’t noticing the new light. When I went to the site today, project crews and city staff were there stopping each person to tell them to push the bike signal button. Since the signals are turned on and they can’t stay there all night, there was some talk of just closing the bike lane temporarily until they could add signage and make a few other tweaks. (See more detailed update below)
Another issue worth noting is the turning movement of semi-trucks and large buses. If long vehicles turn right (north on Williams) from the right-most turn lane, their trailers tend to encroach on the bike lane. The city might consider moving the bike stop bar back several feet to avoid someone getting rolled over.
The intersection also lacks the flashing “No Right Turn on Red” sign that exists on the bike signal above the Eastbank Esplanade near the Steel Bridge. PBOT project manager Jamie Jeffrey said they plan to install one soon.
Also, in case you were wondering, the advance stop bar for the right-turn lanes is not a bike box, so it will not get the green thermoplastic treatment. The bike lane is also not slated to get the green treatment because if everyone follows the lights, there should never be traffic crossing over it when a person on a bike is present.
Once the city makes a few tweaks, this should be a solid safety improvement. We’ll keep you posted as things develop. More photos in the slideshow below…
UPDATE, 5:45pm: City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield said there are a number of things they plan to do to improve people’s awareness of the bike signal. The plan now is to put up warning signs, burma-shave style, that say, “Bike Signal Ahead,” “Bikes Use Signal,” and then another sign pointing out the push button that will go on the traffic pole.
The changes are slated for completion by tomorrow. For the rest of the peak hours tonight, a flagger will remain present. Later tonight, the right-most right turn lane and the bike lane will be closed and all traffic will transition into one of turn lanes. Then in the morning, the flagger will stay in place until the other changes are in place. “We’re definitely in a transitional period right now,” Burchfield said.