PBOT: Changes coming to new bike signal on Broadway

This morning, crews stood at the
signal to make sure people knew
it was there.
(Photo: Kristin Bott)

As I reported yesterday, the new bike signals installed on Broadway at N. Williams have been turned on. Unfortunately, they weren’t quite ready for prime time and there were safety concerns that became apparent once everything went live. This morning, PBOT shared a list of changes they plan to make at the intersection immediately.

The issue of most concern to PBOT was that road users (mostly people on bikes) were not aware of the new bike signal. This is serious, because with the bike lane now to the right of two right-turn lanes, there’s potential for collisions if people do not comply with the signals (learn more about how the new signal works in this post).

I spoke to City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield via telephone today to learn more about the changes.

When the signals went live, people on bikes had to push a button to trigger it. That has now changed. Currently, the signal is set to be triggered each cycle whether a bike is present or not. Within the next day or two, Burchfield says new detection loops will be installed. The new loops will detect a bike when it’s 80-feet away. The detection will also be able to extend the green — from about 8 seconds to as much as 12 seconds — if more than one bike is present. In addition, Burchfield says the bike light is now timed specifically to bike speeds to be in coordination with the light at N. Victoria Ave. to the east.

The displays will be larger and
the frame will become yellow.

As I mentioned in an update yesterday, burma-shave style signage is being installed to point out the new signal to people on bikes. Expect to see a “Bike Signal Ahead” and “Use Bike Signal” signs as you approach Williams.

PBOT will also change the color of the back plate on the main signal head (there are two signals, one is curbside and the other is on the main signal mast). Currently black like the other signals, PBOT will install a yellow back plate so it stands out from the others. They will also install larger lens displays on the signal, changing out the 8-inch diameter displays for 12-inchers.

Several people have asked about a larger, illuminated “No right turn on red” sign similar to the one currently used at the bike signal at NE Oregon and Interstate (near Peace Park). Burchfield confirmed that one of those is on the way. Unlike the NE Oregon/Interstate sign, this one won’t flash. It will just turn on when the right turn lanes have a red.

In addition to these engineering and hardware changes, Burchfield says he’s got staff from PBOT’s Transportation Options Division (the marketing wing of PBOT) trying to think of a way to do more outreach to let people know about the new signal.

I asked Burchfield why the intersection went live before all these things were done. He said it’s an example of how PBOT is striving to implement traffic solutions that are commonplace in Europe, but are not the standard here in the states. It’s making Portland a “world-class bike city in an American context” issue that bike coordinator Roger Geller has talked about in the past.

“There is no standard here for the signage that’s required for a bike signal,” Burchfield says, “so we have to borrow from what we know from Europe. To be honest, it’s fairly challenging.”

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