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‘Friends’ share vision, push for bike-friendly Barbur Blvd

Posted by on December 10th, 2010 at 11:35 am

A design mock-up of SW Barbur with a dedicated and separated bikeway. Illustration is by Owen Walz, a planning student and co-founder of “Friends of Barbur.”


Friends of Barbur is a grassroots advocacy group started by citizen activists Kiel Johnson and Owen Walz. Their goal? To turn SW Barbur Blvd. — a high-speed state highway (99W) that runs adjacent to I-5 south of Portland — into a more comfortable place to ride a bike. Kiel (who you might recall as the Bike Train guy) and Owen (a freelance 3D modeler and sketch artist for design firms) combined forces to create a more bike-friendly vision of Barbur as their project for the Portland State University Traffic and Transportation class.

Transportation activist and BikePortland contributor Steve Bozzone asked Kiel and Owen a few questions about their efforts… But first, here’s one more of those amazing illustrations of what a bike-friendly would Barbur could look like..

(Owen Walz)

What inspired you two to create Friends of Barbur?

“What would happen if the 1,000 people who ride Barbur everyday showed up in front of ODOT and wouldn’t leave until ODOT decided to make some improvements? I want to find out.”
— Kiel Johnson, Friends of Barbur

Owen: We’ve both had to brave this route many times, having both lived in outer SW while maintaining busy lives in town. I chose to investigate cycling improvements along Barbur as part of my coursework at PSU’s Traffic and Transportation class. Kiel, having heard discussion of the issue in the activist community, joined in on the project as a community liaison. It occurred to us that we should try to keep some momentum going after the class, and form a group to unite the various parties interested in improving Barbur.

Kiel: There are few places left in Portland where you are forced to ride your bike next to cars going 50 mph. Whether or not you believe in God you start talking to him when you share one of the unlit bridges on Barbur with cars. During one of these experience I promised God that if he let me safely cross this bridge I would do everything I could to make Barbur a safer place for all people using it. Now if I die while going up Barbur at least people will be able to say, “he tried to make it better”.

You recently held a meeting about this project with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), how did that go?

Kiel: Everyone at the meeting was very receptive. There is a lot of enthusiasm and momentum for getting some improvements along Barbur. The challenge is going to be effectively channeling all that energy and getting as many people on board so that the Oregon Department of Transportation has to make some changes. Everyone has something to say about Barbur but if we are all yelling at ODOT nothing is going to happen. We need to create one really loud voice that they cannot ignore. This voice needs to include not just bicyclists, but motorists, pedestrians, and transit users.

Now…

when!?

As far as you know, has anyone else worked on similar efforts in the past?

Kiel: Yes, the Oregon Department of Transportation has looked into making improvements several times. Currently there are a lot of tools — like bike sharrows and separated cycle tracks — that the Portland Bureau of Transportation have been successfully applying throughout Portland. We want the Oregon Department of Transportation to consider some of these tools to make Barbur a safer place.

Owen: It’s clear that multiple organizations have been discussing the state of Barbur for a while now (including the BTA). There are plans involving the area, including one referred to as the ‘SW Corridor Refinement Plan.’ My impression was that most were long-term, ambitious plans. We heard about a plan that would route active transportation onto an extension of the SW Trails system running parallel to Barbur (potentially adding new bike/ped bridges along the way).

Who else is interested in seeing improvements to Barbur? Who would most benefit from them?

“Only 9% of all cyclists on Barbur are female, the lowest ratio of any bike route in Portland.”

Kiel: It is very important to talk about how doing this would benefit all Barbur users, not just cyclists. When I drive up Barbur I am very anxious that I am going to hit a cyclist. Sharing the road at such high speeds creates a dangerous situation for cars too, as they try to change lanes and rapidly slow down. Pedestrians would also benefit. Improving the bridge crossings would also create more room and distance from cars to be a pedestrian.

Right now Barbur is for the “Strong and the Fearless” and the “I just don’t have any other choice” rider. Only 9% of all cyclists on Barbur are female, the lowest ratio of any bike route in Portland. If we figure out why this number is so low we can make Barbur a safe bicycling option for many more people. Barbur connects many SW neighborhoods to the rest of Portland and if we are going to make bicycling a useful option to the 36,000 people who live in SW Portland we need to make Barbur a safer place to ride your bike.

Owen: Surprisingly there are a great deal of commuters using Barbur already (1,000 average daily bike trips by one count), and certainly their interests are in mind. In addition to working commuters, certainly the student population at Lewis and Clark would appreciate easier access to central Portland.

What’s next for Friends of Barbur? What can interested individuals do to support your work?

Kiel: Once we have developed a plan we want to do everything possible to make sure the people at ODOT know about it and know that there is support behind it. This will involve going around and getting community groups and businesses on board and showing up at ODOT with all these people. It took several years and lot of people standing in front of City Hall before Copenhagen decided to create the bike infrastructure it has today, there is no reason to think that Portland is any different. What would happen if the 1,000 people who ride Barbur everyday showed up in front of ODOT and wouldn’t leave until ODOT decided to make some improvements? I want to find out.

Owen: I would encourage interested individuals stay in touch with the BTA on this issue, as they would likely be involved with any proposal put forth. We’ve started a Facebook page called ‘Friends of Barbur.’ We hope the that number of ‘Likes’ that accumulate there will give a sense of how many people support improvements in the area. We would love to see any design suggestions posted to the ‘Friends of Barbur’ wall.

You heard them folks, get over to the Friends of Barbur Facebook page to learn more and show your support of this effort. These guys have the skills and the energy to keep this going. I wonder if this will be the first Facebook-based transportation activism effort that gains some traction in Portland?

We’ll follow the progress and keep you updated.

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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OnTheRoad
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OnTheRoad

The section of Barbur I’m more familar with is between SW Hamilton north to where Barbur branches left and Naito goes down to the RI Bridge.

Almost everyday, someone going south on Barbur in this section makes an illegal left-hand turn easterly onto the side streets leading down to Corbett. Illegal because they are crossing double-double yellow lines to make the turn.

Have to be especially alert through there. Seems like a different bike lane treatment would be needed here than illustrated above, since there are few side streets coming into Barbur in the stretch between Hamilton south to Terwilliger.

The bike lanes illustrated look like a good solution for the bridge section and the high-speed sections

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Thank you to all people involved in this. Barbur is indeed a frustrating route. Primarily it’s the flattest and most convenient route up the hill to the west side, however the high-speed traffic makes it more comfortable to take steeper or longer routes like Terwilliger or the cemetery. I would be happy to help with this.

paul
Guest

Great design for the cycle track section. I’m really impressed with angled “turtles” to emphasize the grapde separation. Particulary important for the uphill section where the speed differential between bikes/cars is going to be greatest. kudos

Rob
Guest
Rob

The proposed design falls short of its intent and is actually less safe, especially the treatment of the northbound facilities. See my comments on the design here for additional details: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=123437151053429&set=a.123437147720096.20548.123436277720183&pid=169653&id=123436277720183

Skid
Guest

I’m not that easily spooked on a bike and riding on Barbur Blvd. in either direction scares me. The most dangerous part is where Naito Pwky. merges from the right side onto Barbur (heading to the west side). I always feel like I am going to get hit from behind by merging traffic.

VTRC
Guest
VTRC

It’s trite but I’ve learned to take the lane there… I thought that was insane there, but one time I was waiting in the cross walk and the car in the leftlane stopped, the person behind him swerved into the right lane, and the person behind him started augering into the sidewalk…

Skid
Guest

Also, it’s not that well-lit. I’d be riding home in between midnight and 2am when the road is full of drunks. I know being rea-end on a bike is not the most likely scenario, but it is the only way I have been hit by a car on a bike.

I’ve ridden on other streets that people call dangerous, like Hawthorne, Division, Colubia, MLK, 39th, etc. and none of them bother me the way Barbur does. Maybe it’s because it is in between the city and the suburbs and sort of feels like a no-mans-land where if you did get hit nobody would find you until the morning.

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

Below is a link to google streetview of the place I think that Skid is talking about. My usual bicycle route to work for the last 7 years takes me through that spot. Making the merge vehicularly is about as safe as going onto the “jug handle” sidewalk and waiting for the traffic to clear, in my opinion. That’s because of the problem that Skid points out: one lane of traffic stops, and the other doesn’t. I end up doing the jug handle about half the time.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=naito+and+barbur,+portland,+oregon&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=29.496064,55.107422&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=SW+Barbur+Blvd+%26+SW+Naito+Pkwy,+Portland,+Multnomah,+Oregon+97239&ll=45.495864,-122.676687&spn=0.006362,0.013454&z=16&layer=c&cbll=45.495413,-122.677603&panoid=2azbDwh4xacoyphD7pcsqQ&cbp=12,0.39,,0,5.74

Jeff P
Guest
Jeff P

I used to ride Barbur everyday into downtown – 8 years worth since the office moved up there from the bottom of Macadam.

Although it could be perfected as proposed above – I have never had issue with the bridge crossings or the Ross Island/Front transfer. I would also never take the sidewalks. The road signs clearly state Bikes In Roadway before each bridge.

Think ahead; look behind; signal your move out; slide into the lane as far to the right as practical. Be consistent. Follow the rules. It works. Same applies to the shift away from RI/Naito – I never took that poorly designed ‘crosswalk’.

The only problems I actually ever had were with other bicyclists being arbitrary. I will say I have called the traffic line at PPD when noticing cars driving in excess of 50 mph there.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

I’ve taken Barbur from Capitol all the way North into downtown. It’s not great. It’s not horrible. It’s not for a novice. I’d love this raised path vision, but until that big change happens, we need some small changes.

a) more paint on the road, sharrows and slow signs.

b) more road signs to calm cars, like “share the road” when the bike lanes end randomly. “yield to bikes on bridge” etc.

c) better signs so cyclists don’t get lost, I’ve missed the connection when I wanted to leave Barbur and get to the Sellwood bridge – Better signs to help cyclists navigate the mess when you get near downtown.

FYI. Join the AROW list if people want to get involved in this type of active transportation. We’ll be meeting soon to plan for 2011 projects. One of those involves a change to Oregon law that really limits use of funds for bike projects. Change the law and Barbur could soon have fewer cars and more bikes.

http://www.activerightofway.org

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

Ooohhh I like those “When!?” type images… Let’s turn them into reality!

Dave
Guest

As someone who lives in SW near Capitol Hwy, I can this road sucks. I am very on board with this project and am glad BikePortland.org is covering it.

Onward!

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

I’ve never had a problem on the bridges there. Worse is going north where traffic splits to Naito. You’re on the right, and have the choice of a ped crossing or a 2 lane merge left. That is only fun with low traffic, or lucky light timing with the last one back at Hamilton.

OLD&SLOW
Guest
OLD&SLOW

I ride Barbur almost daily and I like it and think it is fine.
A nice bike lane, not much traffic, easy grade.
I agree coming back into town the merge with Naitto is dangerous and needs some work.
Maybe when Adams gets done putting tracks all over town they could look at just some paint and striping for this stretch. You know, priorities.
The rest of Barbur is fine, spending a bunch of money for some elevated track or something is just a waste.
People might spend some time learning how to ride a bike.

was carless
Guest
was carless

What about pedestrians? Or, are there any?

matt picio
Guest

There are a few – very rare. That section is a long stretch with the hillside on the west side and a drop off on the east. It tends to magnify traffic noise, and the area is very unpleasant to be in for long stretches, i.e. at walking speed.

That said, there are a few for which that is their best route on foot to their destination.

Rob
Guest
Rob

pretty much every time I ride into and out of downtown, I use SW Barbur.

I love that everyone seems to think it’s a dangerous stretch of road, because it’s really not. Sure, the bridge crossings south of Capitol Hwy. could use work (for all modes, not just bikes – the pavement is terrible for cars as well), and crossing the intersection at Barbur/Naito going northbound is awful — but there’s no real need for a grade-separated path along the full stretch of Barbur when there are already perfectly good wide usable bike lanes there.

The grade separated path isn’t really needed. Just widen the bridges, stripe the lanes, put in better street lighting, but don’t make me ride on what’s essentially a sidewalk. For now, I’ll be happy to enjoy Barbur (mostly) all to myself, it’s certainly nicer than having to dodge around all those riders you’d find on N Vancouver/Williams. 🙂

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Rob;
Thank you for your input. I don’t necessarily mind riding on Barbur. But I respectfully disagree with your post. The bike lanes are (except for the bridges) a decent size. However the high speed traffic, debris, and poor lighting create a ride that’s intimidating to many. The factoid that Steve posted about a 9%-91% gender ratio proves that this is not considered safe to many. Speed is very closely tied to crash rates across the board and would be even more significant on the downhill stretch of Barbur.
I wish you safe and happy riding
Aaron

Rob
Guest
Rob

We agree more on more than you might believe, Aaron. 🙂 I would love to address the high speed traffic, the debris, and the poor lighting on this strech of road. But a grade-separated path and additional pavement markings actually don’t accomplish these things (the speed, debris, and lack of lighting will still all be present if we were to make those changes). And it introduces new issues where none exist currently, plus the money could probably be better spent on other bike infrastructure projects.

In terms of speed and/or crash rates, I’d love to see data specifically tied to SW Barbur that tracks the accidents on this stretch of road between cars/cyclists. Do we have something like that?

The 9/91% gender gap, while regrettable, should not be used as an primary indicator of the quality of the existing facility in this particular location. Look at the bike network in SW Portland as a whole – there are few existing options, and almost all require riding up at least a few fairly steep hills.

Unfortunately, the geography and existing streetscapes are going to create challenges. A holistic approach is needed instead. Why not make sure that we’re implementing the SW Trails Bicycle Facilities Strategy (http://swtrails.org/swtrails_files/SWBicycleFacilitiesStrategy.pdf) to bring the whole network to Platinum status instead of focusing energy on a relatively small stretch of road?

matt picio
Guest

The debris might be worse with a grade-separated path, since street sweepers will not be able to clean it.

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

I agree with what Rob said. My usual turn-on/off Barbur is at Capitol where Capitol goes up the hill to Wilson High School. Occasionally I ride on Barbur further south to Multnomah Blvd. I say widen Barbur where it goes over the bridges, and near Multnomah. Forget about grade separated bike lanes that will never be swept of debris.

I’m concerned that that widening the bike lane over the bridges and by Multnomah will wait until they can put light rail down Barbur. Widened bike lanes shouldn’t have to wait, and in my opinion, light rail on Barbur would be a mistake. Rail transit on a street makes that street more difficult to ride.

Whoever is riding on Barbur is already having to handle some challenging streets, such as Beaverton-Hillsdale, Capitol, or Multnomah. If someone can handle BH, they can handle Barbur. I’d rather see the money that would be spent on Barbur for grade separated bike paths used toward fixing the intersection of Beaverton-Hillsdale/Oleson/Scholls. Yes, that intersection is outside Portland City limits. But if Clackamas County can be asked to support a fixed Sellwood bridge, Portland can be asked to support fixing BH/Oleson/Scholls.

Jeffe Portland
Guest
Jeffe Portland

I agree. Fix the bridges and most of it is fine.

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

Nice… sidewalk.

Where’s the bike facility?

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

And where is the bike facility that will allow a bicyclist to go at 30 mph down the hill on Barbur? Yes, it’s a downhill going into town, from about the intersection of Capitol (downhill from Wilson High School) and Barbur. No, the sidewalk pictured is not such a facility because it has expansion joints every few feet.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

There are tons of room for autos and many poorly designed intersections.

Don’t bother with expensive and experimental redesigning of intersections in attempts to make it work.
Go for the “monster truck option”:
make an over head deck bike super highway in the center of Barbur with on and off ramps at reasonable locations. This would allow designers to merge bike traffic back in to auto shared road space wherever it happens to be safest.

Barbur is so much of an eyesore that this can’t possibly detract. It would also allow for easy under deck mounting of street lamps for auto traffic on Barbur: some of these areas are woefully under lit for high speed urban routes.

was carless in pdx
Guest
was carless in pdx

I take it this is the billion-dollar option? 😉

Bill
Guest
Bill

I really like the questions about the Barbur/Naito intersection since that is my primary concern on this route. Are there any suggestions for that area too?

Another question, would the new and improved bridge crossings extend south all the way to sw 21st ave?

While I am with Rob in personally thinking this route is fine, I also think there are many people who would not use it until the improvements are made.

Bill
Guest
Bill

One more question, is there anything in the works for the I-5/Babur intersection near sw65th?

Rob
Guest
Rob

The Barbur/Naito intersection stinks. Agree 100% with you, Bill. I’d love to see what Kiel and Owen could come up with to address this.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

Kiel and Owen, have you talked with anyone about the bridges? They are the most significant pinch points, but IIRC no one plans to touch them because the cost of replacement would be so high. If you have any more information about the bridges I would be interested to hear what you learned.

Owen
Guest
Owen

Jessica,

We did speak with a few community members and ODOT representatives about the bridges. Factors we’re aware of:

-They’re not getting any wider, in a weight-bearing capacity (they’re very old, and actually supported by WOODEN truss).
-The concrete railing and the existing curb is actually load-bearing… so it can’t be changed.
-Therefor adding cantilevered ‘wings’ to widen the entire bridge is unlikely.
-ODOT is reluctant (or legally unable) to significantly reduce auto lane width, though we’ve been told there’s a chance the outer lanes could be reduced by a foot or more (potentially giving us room for a decent sidewalk extension on one side)

So… there are a lot of constraints to work within, but any small improvement would be quite welcome I would think.

matt picio
Guest

Re: load-bearing curbs – this is true with the majority of bridges in the Portland area. When I sat on the Multnomah PBAC we learned about it with some of the proposals for SW Multnomah County improvements.

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

When I do go south of Capitol on Barbur, I don’t take the sidewalk on the bridges. The sidewalk is too narrow. And it feels like the railing isn’t high enough. I’m more scared of going over the side of the bridge than of the motor vehicle traffic, so I go in the lane. Whatever improvements are made should include higher railings on the bridges.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

You may also have missed the tiny little sign prior to each bridge that reads “Sidewalk Users Walk Bikes”, which I read as: “Take the Lane”.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

I totally agree with Rob about the need for a grade separated facility on Barbur, I never felt particularly threatened by traffic when I used the bike lanes there. If there are concerns about cars getting too close to cyclists I’d just as soon expand the bike lane a bit (maybe give it an extra foot?) and add the reflective bumps near the edge of the lane in order to keep cars at a distance. I’d bet that this option would be less costly than the grade-separated facility while providing the same benefits.

Owen
Guest
Owen

Re: Grade-separation:

This was a best-case scenario in our minds, and another way to distinguish the lane as being more than a shoulder. Certainly a built-up structure would be expensive, and extra width and/or reflectors would be an improvement on their own.

Rob
Guest
Rob

If you remove the shoulders in favor of grade-separation, it makes the road more hazardous for vehicle traffic, because now there’s no place to pull over safely in the event of a breakdown, etc. All the existing drainage on the roadway would need to be redesigned, since the storm drains are located on the far right-hand side of shoulders and water doesn’t flow uphill.

Owen Walz
Guest
Owen Walz

We were hoping the grade would be mount-able by autos so that it would continue to double as a breakdown lane, although that might not be terribly clear to drivers. Drainage would certainly be a concern. I wonder if covered channels would be helpful.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

Tons of leaves and other debris make their way onto the shoulders of this road due to the maple forest and steep hill on the west (southbound) side. Wind and rain can cause the shoulders to be strewn, even the day after it has been swept. Sweeper access (as Matt P. said) and bomb-proof drainage are imperative.

BURR
Guest
BURR

If anything changed radically for cyclists on Barbur Blvd. in the next 10-20 years, I’d be amazed.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

I don’t ride Barbur, but I do fly over it on the Tram twice/day. From that vantage point, it sure looks dangerous. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t ride it as it is, but I know that Mrs Dibbly wouldn’t and she sure wouldn’t like me riding it regularly. And that’s my main point: We’re not going to get our modal share anywhere we want it to be if we’re designing facilities to make me (or many of the people here) comfortable with cycling. The goal has to be to make the roadways (seem) safer for that huge group that is interested in riding, but won’t because of current facilities (or lack of).

Grade separation is a great idea, but, as someone already asked, where is the sidewalk? If the idea is to make this upgrade useful for others besides people on bikes, you have to plan for peds, too.

Owen Walz
Guest
Owen Walz

Ideally this grade separation would be a shared facility, although the distances involved would still make it less than attractive for pedestrians.

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

The problem I have with facilities that seem safer is that they work less well than nothing. And, they are hostile to people trying to ride at something faster than 8mph.

My best (well, worst actually) example of seemingly safe facilities is the grade separated bike path on the north side of Garden Home Road west of Oleson. It exists on the north side, only, not on the south. And it has stop or yield signs for every cross street. Since it’s there, it will take longer for something that’s more usable to be built. But, it looks safe.

I question the assumption that we have to do cycle tracks or other grade separation to address the I-would-ride-but-its-too-scary crowd to increase our mode share. We’ve gotten where we are by building bike lanes. It’s worked so far.

joey
Guest
joey

Barbur is a broken street – you can’t walk it, biking it is only for the fit, driving it also sucks. It needs to become a complete street with slower speeds and good bike and pedestrian facilities. Does it really need two (or three) car lanes in each direction? Take away a lane. Give it back to the people!

Paul Souders
Guest

Joey FTW. I’ve lived 7 years in outer SW & I’ve ridden Barbur 100s of times. (I prefer Terwilliger but Barbur is 2ce as fast.) I drive my car on it even more. I’m one of those “strong and fearless” riders and it still skeezes me out.

I think about “solutions” all the time for those bridges, Naito, Hamilton, and other pain points farther out (near Fred Meyer or Capitol Hill Rd. for ex.)

I keep coming back to the thought that the road is *never* near full auto capacity inside Taylor’s Fy. Traffic might be standing still all over the city but you can still fly up Barbur. In the worst traffic you might have to sit through one cycle at Terwilliger or 19th.

Barbur was built as a highway long before I-5 existed. It’s still striped and engineered as if I-5 doesn’t exist, like there’s no alternative for 50mph+ traffic between Portland and Salem. That’s just nuts.

Joey is totally right: this highway needs to be turned into a street.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

I second or third that. Excellent point. The stretch depicted retains its rural highway characteristics, though it has urban congestion on either end of a three-mile (or less) stretch. Cars don’t need to be able to race from Terwilliger to Hamilton, just to reenter the urban chaos. The only reason this area retains a rural feel is because it is too steep to develop. But that doesn’t mean cars need to be able to go 50mph.

Fixedale
Guest
Fixedale

I don’t understand why anyone would ride on Barbur when you can ride on Terwilliger instead. They both essentially lead to the same place and with the exception of the lake that formed at Terwilliger and Capitol last night it is a much more pleasant ride. The first few commutes on it may seem daunting but with all riding, the more you do it the easier (and better for you) it becomes…unless of course you are Greg Lemond and you just go faster.

matt picio
Guest

Lots of people don’t like hills – Terwilliger has significantly more elevation gain, and at a much steeper grade than Barbur.

Bill
Guest
Bill

For me when commuting by bike from SE to Tigard, Barbur is both faster and getting to and from it is generally safer than getting to and from Tewilliger. Additionally I agree with Rob and Matt with concerns about keeping the bike lane clean if it is raised, and Rob’s comment about water run off. If not properly controlled it could lead to more monster waves hitting riders when buses and other fast or large vehicles pass.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

I ride on Barbur instead of Terwilliger because I don’t care to expend more time and energy than I already do to get from point A to point B. It’s not a recreational ride, and it’s not about challenging myself, it’s about efficiency. For the record, I’d rather deal with the faster traffic on Barbur’s wide shoulders than the slower traffic cutting onto the bike lane to straighten every inside curve on Terwilliger.

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

Consider SW 3rd and Barbur to Capitol and Terwilliger, via Barbur; versus SW 3rd and Barbur
to Capitol and Terwilliger, via Terwilliger. My gut feel is that the Terwilliger route is hiller.

So that I could have some data to argue with, I put both of these routes into mapmyride.com.

The first option is at http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united-states/or/portland/246129221948534451 . 348 feet of ascent, 52 feet of descent, 2.26 miles.

The second option is at http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united-states/or/portland/558129221961383291 . 407 feet of ascent, 148 feet of descent, 2.84 miles.

The ascent and descent numbers don’t make sense to me, since both start at the same place and both end at the same place. The net elevation gain either way should be identical. One way is a net gain of 296 feet, the other way is a net gain of 259.

Anyone have a GPS and care to map both alternatives, or can someone explain what I’m doing wrong with mapmyride?

gumby
Guest
gumby

I’ve ridden Terwilliger and Barbur and Barbur is much faster and doesn’t feel any less safe. The issue I have with Barbur is after it gets back into commercial districts and there are lots of cars pulling out of parking lots etc. It’s pretty hard to engineer a solution to that.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Cool that road needs some love, its hard road to ride on and Ive rode some wild areas. great news. I ride it to get into Portland 🙂

Joe
Guest
Joe

“Strong and the Fearless” sooo true

Kevin Wagoner
Guest

This is great to see. I would love to be part of the energy that makes a difference on this route. I commute by cycle several times a week on this section and find it scary. I also share the fear of being able to see cyclist on this stretch when I drive. It is great to see some organization start to build around making a difference.

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

Reading these comments is astounding.
The bridges? What is wrong with riding on the far right side of a traffic lane. There is not much traffic on Barbur.
Is this site dedicated to people who don’t ride bikes?
It must be, Barbur is easy as can be.
You know, we don’t have to make all roads for grandma’s riding huffys.
The commuters on Barbur are generally riding a fair distance and all the ones I see each day are doing fine.
Spend your energy teaching kids how to ride a bicycle, apparently a lot of folks here never learned.

matt picio
Guest

The section illustrated above is the section next to the hillside. Traffic speeds are high, traffic volume during commuting hours is fairly high, and there’s really nowhere to pull off to escape the noise. It’s not like the other stretches of Barbur. Not everyone is as comfortable as you at riding high-speed arterials. And many have sensitivity issues to noise, exhaust, etc. Ideas like this are valuable to find better solutions for these people.

Owen Walz
Guest
Owen Walz

Unfortunately the ideas we’ve illustrated here don’t deal with general atmosphere problems such as noise (Barbur would need a bigger overhaul to tackle that one). There have been some ideas put forward about using an off-road trail East of Barbur as a bike connection, which would certainly be the most pleasant riding experience. Of course that might require new bike / ped bridges parallel to the existing viaduct (an issue that came up at BTA meeting recently).

RMH
Guest
RMH

Elitist much?
I’m as fearless as the next guy (been skydiving, even) but Barbur is a tough sell for me and I can imagine it’s simply a non-starter for most people. C’mon, do you want more people cycling or fewer?

Chris
Guest

I hate riding my bike in SW Portland. Glad to see that the wheels are in motion there to improve things.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Is not TriMet in the planning stage for a rail line out Barbur to Tigard? That would mean new bridges and a lot more.

Probably five to ten years off, however.

Owen Walz
Guest
Owen Walz

Yeah. Closer to 20 years I would guess. It would be preferably to have some short-term solutions before then.

jim
Guest
jim

It looks like the emergency parking will have to be right in the middle of the bike lane.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

It already is, so no loss there.

Steve B
Guest

While it is tempting to pick apart the Friends of Barbur proposals and identify concerns within them, the important point is this: Barbur sorely needs improvements, and it won’t happen without significant pressure from the populace.

I really like the grade separation personally, but share some skepticism that ODOT would spring for such a high-quality bike facility here. You have to appreciate the outside-the-box thinking here with their proposed solution, even if it’s not what you would suggest.

I’m inspired by Kiel & Owen’s work: They are two people determined to re-ignite grassroots momentum for a better Barbur. I hope others will support Friends of Barbur in their work, and perhaps a few more Portlanders will be activated to take on a similar push for improvements in their neighborhood.

jim
Guest
jim

If they can put bikes on 1 side and walkers on the other- then why can’t they do the same for the new Sellwood bridge? It would make everybody happy (except for 1 cranky person writing letters to the A.D.A.)

Natty
Guest
Natty

I know this is just an artists rendition, but it’s an inappropriate use of the “sharrow”, which is intended for facilities shared with motor vehicles (i.e. roadway) and not separate {“ghettoized”} cycling infrastructure.

Paul Tay
Guest
Paul Tay

Why settle? Fight for the whole right, outside lanes in both direction.

davemess
Guest
davemess

I am about as fealess of a cyclist as they come, I grew up riding in Suburban Ohio!

I ride Barbur a good bit to get into and out of downtown from my home on Hwy 10, and I will agree that it is just a weird route, and definitely unsafe in some spots.

The route from Naito to Barbur is indeed strange, I mean all of a sudden you’re on a divided highway with no bike lane, then another divided lane comes at you from your right, then you finally get a bike lane in a tunnel, only to be shuttled up on the to the sidewalk on the other end, then dumped out into a bike lane with 50 mph traffic (I do think this section is okay).

I do have problems with the bridges and the turn off for Hillsdale/Hwy 10. This is a steep, sharp turn, and even taking it at pretty good speed, I am always a little nervous a car is going to rear end me, especially at night.

I was riding back from the waterfront this summer with a friend from Seattle, we both have ridden for decades and raced a pretty high level, so neither of us is a “nervous” rider. WE were taking the route up Naito to Barbur, and he turns to me and says “How did we get on a highway all of a sudden, you ride this way?”. I thought it was funny but also kind of sad.

This group is a step in the right direction. I really think I will have trouble convincing my wife to take this route to downtown, especially coming back from downtown, especially at night.

mello yello
Guest
mello yello

There has never been a bike-car collision on barbur. You gus are just scaring yourselves silly.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

I have not checked your facts, mello yello, but I’ve witnessed many high-speed close calls at the Naito/Barbur split northbound, and at the Hwy 10 (Capitol Highway) exit southbound, plus the two bridges in both directions, where bikes taking the lane are at a 10 to 30mph speed disadvantage. I still ride it. I’m not scared for myself, but I cringe at the thought of someone getting greased, because too many people think it’s ok for cars to haul ass and jockey for position even when they’re sharing lanes.

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

Thank you mello,
Barbur is not dangerous and the few commuters who ride it regularly know it.
All the others, don’t know what they are talking about.
The section going into and out of downtown needs some paint striping and a bit of attention, the rest is a bike lane and needs nothing.
Doveness, sorry, if this scares you, stick to the Springwater trail
Matt P,
Yes it is a high speed arterial with a good bike lane, what will change that?
The noise, etc. will not go down by spending a bunch of money on some stupid raised bikepath.
It also makes it no less dangerous. If a car is going to swerve off the road into a striped bikelane, it will swerve into some elevated path.
This is a road for dedicated long distance commuters. I ride it for my 13 mile commute to Washington square, most others do the same from SW Portland into town.
All you do gooders here don’t have a problem with Adams and the city fathers spending MILLIONS on street car rails all over town. Rails that are more dangerous to me than cars.
Street cars that I, as a cyclist, will not use.
Spend your time convincing the local politicians to spend a fraction of the money on just a little paint and a few signs and stop worrying about the few hard core commuters that use Barbur and don’t have a problem with it.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

So you and your hero brethren don’t have a problem, and “All the others, don’t know what they are talking about.” Thanks for clarifying that. If I had known earlier that you commuted 13 miles I never would have opened my mouth. I’ll try to stay off your “dedicated” road in the future, too. Between you and the cars, though, there’s hardly any “un-dedicated” roads anymore. Maybe if I achieve your 13-mile glory (you don’t stop for cookies, or anything?) they’ll give me my own dedicated road one day, then I can be intolerant of everyone else, because they’ll see what a hero I am.

mello yello
Guest
mello yello

A somewhat gruesome story my high school driver’s ed teacher told me…When he was a teenager, an accident on this stretch of barbur resulted in six high school classmates being decapitated by the edge of the upper windshield of a convertible they were riding in — one of those old fifties convertibles made of solid steel with no crumple zones.

Tbird
Guest
Tbird

To me this isn’t about the steely nerved studs who already brave Barbur nor is it about the gender inequality in the cyclist mix. It is about getting more people onto bicycles, as it is typically is whenever a separated facility is introduced.
Some of the folks above state they have no problem riding on Barbur. I’m sure that’s true, FOR THEM. It is not, however; true for EVERYONE.

My question to those who are reasonable enough to rise above the banter and name calling is this:
Shouldn’t everyone ( families, young or elderly folks, less confident/beginner cyclists etc…) feel safe riding on this street if they need/want to use it to access part of the city otherwise only reachable by car?

Erik
Guest
Erik

Should people have a right to “feel” safe or to simply have safe (enough) facilities? While I agree a balance does need to be struck, people’s feelings are often irrational and the best solution sometimes is to get better/more confident as opposed to wrapping the world in safety foam.

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

I ride Barbur to work every day. I guess I’m one of the 9%. It scares me every time. There are certainly interesting things in the bike lane. Once I ran over a machete.

I will fully support any move to improve Barbur for cycling. Thank you for your efforts.

Joe
Guest
Joe

@Fixedale I ride from 72nd all the way to the curves, and its a task I tell ya, getting to barbur is a challenge to. I think the biggest issue is 99 feeding into streets like this. * they just bloat up after time *
no prob riding just cars all over the place speeding and stinking up the area.. ohh the I-5 t section ugly

Fixedale
Guest
Fixedale

I’ve been riding downtown from SW for about 14 years using Terwilliger. It is about the same length of time going into town as the Barbur route. Strangely, I think it takes less effort, more coasting than the Barbur inbound. It takes (me) about 7 or 8 minutes longer to ride home up Terwilliger than to ride up Barbur. At the south end these two street cross at a point beyond the “no man’s land”. The north end dumps you into the downtown grid which is perfect for me. As for the “steep” uphill part, for me I would rather spend the extra time and effort than risk being clipped by a car going 40 mph plus.

OnTheRoad
Guest
OnTheRoad

I’ve seen car-bike collisions on Barbur.

I saw a car hit a bicycler using the “jug handle” crossing at Naito and Barbur.

The car was going south on Barbur and making the funky, but legal, u-turn onto Naito northbound. Cycler was crossing in crosswalk and got nailed by car that he didn’t see and which didn’t see him.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Old and Slow, I don’t think you get it….

They’re not trying to to improve Barbur for you or the other scant people that already use it (although I’m sure we will also benefit). They’re trying to improve it for the hundreds, if not thousands of people who don’t use it. The people who are too afraid to use it right now.

It’s not all about you, it’s about making the cycling infrastructure better than it is in the SW, and getting more people out onto the road. It’s about making the route a better option for people to get to downtown (it’s about the only option for some).

Would you feel safe taking your children on Barbur? And if not, what route would you use to ride with your kids into downtown from the SW, certainly not Terwilliger? And yet those are the only two options presently available.

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

Hmmm, I haven’t been described as “scant” in, ohh… ever. Oh, wait. You mean that there are not very many people riding Barbur now. 😎

Joking aside, you say that the proposed improvements are not for us who are riding Barbur now. The improvements are for the theoretical silent majority who are not riding Barbur now, but who might if only it wasn’t so scary.

I’ve been an software engineer for 30 years. When I do a project, I have to listen to what the users tell me that they want. I also have to figure out what the users really need. Much of the time, what the users want and what I think they need is 100% the same thing. Sometimes, it’s 0%. Often, it’s somewhere in between. If I build something that is not 100% what the users want, but what I think they need instead, I better be prepared to explain the parts that I did not build to the users’ specifications. And I should expect that I’ll have to provide that explanation multiple times.

In the case of Barbur, old&slow, Rob, perhaps some of the other existing users, and I, are saying that the first priority is widening the bridges. In this project, widened bridges are, I think, the part everyone agrees on. Elevated bike lanes are something the project engineers (in this case Kiel and Owen) think the users want.

Matt Picio and I point out that an elevated bike lane will collect debris because the street sweeper won’t be able to sweep it as easily. I didn’t see a machete like Carrie did. Instead I ran across a piece of tire chain and tire flattening shrapnel. See my post, with pictures, in the forums, at http://bikeportland.org/forum/showpost.php?p=25172&postcount=695 . Rob also thought that grade separation won’t help with debris. Old&slow, Rob, and I thought that the money for a grade separation was better spent elsewhere. I’d rather see that money go toward fixing Crash Corner, also known as Beaverton-Hillsdale/Oleson/Scholls. I pointed out that 30 mph on a sidewalk-like elevated bike lane on Barbur with expansion joints every few feet will NOT be an improvement.

We’re the existing users. If you go against what we say we need, then you better be prepared to offer some really solid arguments as to why. Merely saying that there’s hundreds of potential riders who will come out and ride Barbur if it “feels safer” is insufficient. The proposed fixes won’t do anything about the noise. An elevated bike track won’t won’t stop a 50 mph car any better than a painted bike lane. And an elevated track will collect more debris, which creates its own safety hazard.

OLD&SLOW
Guest
OLD&SLOW

dave, I do get it.
It is not about me, it is about money and priorities.
There is no money for a separated or elevated bikepath on Barbur. Look how much it cost to do a few blocks of SW broadway.
I am all for spending money on bike facilities, but the cities priority for transportation funding is for millions for streetcars. There is no money for both so all the people on this site who want Barbur fixed, want all kinds of money spent for bike facilities, quit voting for people who want to build streetcars when buses running on electric lines like Seattle has would serve the same purpose.
Streetcars have been discussed here and the same people who want money for bikes seem to also like the streetcars. Choices have to be made and the choice in this town is for streetcars over bikes.
Don’t blame my attitude for it.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“… Choices have to be made and the choice in this town is for streetcars over bikes. …” OLD&SLOW

That’s not really true. Some choices have been made for streetcars and bikes over passenger car motor vehicles regularly used to transport a single person at a time…but not streetcars over bikes. True, streetcar tracks pose a challenge to bike use on streets with them, but people can and do learn how to overcome the obstacle until future road infrastructure technology developments can make tracks easier for bikes to cross.

There are many people that aren’t able, and will never be able to rely on a bike for transportation. In many situations, for everyone, the streetcar is a better means of transporting them than a single occupancy passenger car.

With the large volume of fast motor vehicle traffic Barbur Blvd is obliged to serve, Barbur is a lousy road to ride a bike on. I’m not sure how much more favorable the proposed improvements can make the street be to a wider spectrum of rider than currently use the the road. It’s worth looking into though.

KWW
Guest
KWW

This is why east portland is such a mecca for bikes, west portland infrastructure is a mess.

NameWithheldThisTime
Guest
NameWithheldThisTime

All I want for Christmas is to get Multnomah Blvd. fixed and the Fanno Creek Trail re-opened. Gawd, what a mess…

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

This illustrates yet another problem with off-street bike paths. Entities like the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) view bike paths as a corridor they can use for whatever construction activities they have in mind. After all, it’s just a bike path, right? The bicyclists can go recreate elsewhere. The pressure sewer is one example. Another is the Oaks Bottom project that was to disrupt the Springwater. BES didn’t do that project, yet, due to funding, according to Jonathan’s post at http://bikeportland.org/2010/10/19/oaks-bottom-project-delay-will-postpone-springwater-trail-closure-41298

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

West Portland terrain is largely to blame for lack of efficient and safe cycling there. Narrow roads going up, down and around the hills, eh.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

The elevated treatment doesn’t fix any of the problems that a widened bike lane and reflective bumps couldn’t also fix (at a fraction of the cost). I support improvements (despite the fact that I always felt safe riding this route myself), but cost must be considered.

Joe
Guest
Joe

I’m coming from Wilsonville and its a wild ride everytime.. love the curves btw, unless dirty 😉

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

I’ve actually had more trouble heading inbound with cars on Terwilliger than Barbur. To take Terwilliger you need to merge left 2 lanes from Capitol, then climb, descend, and climb some more. The final descent into downtown is rather quick, and the bike lanes are not wide enough for that speed, so I take the lane. I have been honked at numerous times for that.

Barbur is is flatter, and lower, with a lower likelihood of meeting ice during the winter. Cars seem to be considerate making the right to go up Capitol. I signal left, to go straight, as in merging into the lane some, and people tend to slow. No luck at Naito northbound, but there is always the sidewalk (where you would get right of way following the crosswalk rules) or merging in low traffic.

Troy
Guest
Troy

Just fix the naito interchange and sweep the bike lanes more frequently. The lanes are plenty wide already, and I have NEVER felt afraid commuting up and down Barbur for 2 years. If ODOT ever has so much money that they start to throw it at these proposals, I’d rather take a tax cut.

And I love the stab at women riders- they all must be weak and afraid because they are underrepresented on Barbur!

Martin
Guest
Martin

One of the problems with the bike lanes of Barbur Blvd is debris, especially downhill because speeds are up. Yes, some of the lower section has been swept recently, but Barbur is covered with gravel around Capitol Hwy area and east. The next is the two bridges. Lanes could be narrowed a smidge, and a bike lane delineated with reflective paint/bumps would help. Another is the disappearing bike lane (can’t land-mark exact location—just west of SW Spring Garden, southbound?).

The two biggest concerns with riding Barbur Blvd involve the bridges and (northbound) the Naito Pkwy divergence. The proposed raised bike/pedestrian lane with sudden merges into traffic before the two bridges is a disaster in the planning, an expensive one well described in preceding comments. What to do about the Naito Pkwy divergence? A little common sense will go a long way in saving your life. The crosswalk works, just be patient. Most of the time traffic is sparse and the two-lane merge is easy.

All things considered, riding Barbur Blvd is not as bad as one would believe. Yes, it is very noisy, traffic is fast, and the bike lane iffy in places, but as a whole the bike lanes are fairly wide and I find the majority of drivers fairly courteous to cyclists.

My recommendation is to better delineate car traffic from bike traffic by adding reflective paint/bumps to the line separating the bike lane from traffic, provide a lane for bicycles on the bridges, and provide a continuous, no gaps bike lane. Repaving some bumpy/chopped-up sections and reconfiguring rain drains would help, too.

This is not a street I prefer to ride and would steer clear of it if I could, but I must use it. It’s not that bad. There are much worse.

Simon
Guest
Simon

I used to take Barbur every day for a commute during one summer. It’s not the worst route, but in the dark going home towards downtown it always felt just a little bit sketchy. especially the birdges. It’s nice to plan ahead and wait for no cars, but people drive VERY vast on this road. Some improvements would be welcome for people riding on it, I’m sure!

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

For a video reference, I just posted helmet cam video of my route starting on Capitol by Wilson HIgh School to the Barbur/Naito split. This was taken about 8:45 AM 12/14/2010. I included the part on Capitol so that Kiel and Owen are aware that some bicyclists really are going fast on Barbur, at least northbound. And, the part on Capitol also provides some context for some of the riding conditions for some of the bicyclists before they get to Barbur. The video is about 5 minutes long.

At the end of the video is an example of one of the hazards I encounter at the Barbur/Naito split. Bicycle traffic on the jug handle sidewalk has a Yield sign, as you can see in the video. So, I guess, if I am riding, I’m required to wait for the traffic to clear. Yesterday, a car in the near lane decided to stop for me anyway. The hazard is that a typical user will think, “Oh, traffic is stopping for me. I can proceed.” But, sometimes the far lane does NOT stop. You can see this on the video. Two more cars went through the far lane before a 3rd one stopped.

My gut feel is that it’s just as hazardous to try to make a vehicular merge as to attempt to cross using the jug handle sidewalk. So which I do on any particular day depends on how much traffic is present and how fast I feel like pedalling. I have no idea what to recommend others do here, except that if you do the jug handle, make sure BOTH motor vehicle lanes are safe to cross.

(Assuming this works) here’s youtube link:

Other things to note: at Hamilton, I take the lane to avoid a potential right hook by the right-turning car in front of me, which you can see, and the right-turning car behind me, which doesn’t show up in the video but which I could see in my mirror.

Coincidentally, there is another bicyclist also going northbound on Barbur. I don’t know who he is.

This video does NOT include the part of Barbur with the bridges which everyone seems to agree needs to be fixed, somehow.

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

A second try at posting the youtube link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK2eSoEj0JA

davemess
Guest
davemess

Wow, I never even knew that jug handle existed. I’ve always just merged into traffic and continued straight. Seems a pretty stupid traffic routing to get on the sidewalk and then cross.

You need to get some footage going South. That is where the real problems are (in my opinion).