Citizen activists request fixes to make streetcar tracks safer for cycling

The Eastside Streetcar Loop project has radically transformed Portland streets and citizen activists think more should be done to improve bike safety.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Volunteers working with Active Right of Way (AROW), a grassroots, Portland-based transportation advocacy group, have launched a campaign to make the newly constructed streetcar tracks in the Pearl District and on the Eastside safer for cycling. The effort is being led by AROW volunteer Amos Hunter, who has created the Streetcar Safety Working Group. The group — which included Chris Smith as a representative from Portland Streetcar Inc. and met for the first time last week — is concerned that new streetcar tracks laid down as part of the Eastside Streetcar Loop project have created several bike safety issues that are in need of immediate attention.

The new streetcar tracks on NW Lovejoy, NE Broadway, and on Martin Luther King Jr. and Grand Boulevards have brought major changes to designated bikeways and the roadway surface in general. While the public right-of-way has changed considerably, there is concern that not enough has been done to warn of potential safety hazards the tracks create for people riding bicycles.

Hunter and several other volunteers will sign onto a letter (PDF) outlining four immediate concerns (listed below) that will be published on the AROW website in the coming days and then sent to Mayor Sam Adams and officials with Portland Streetcar Inc. The activists are also working on a more comprehensive list of concerns, but their focus now are problems that, “should be addressed and resolved at once.”

Here is a summary of the list of immediate concerns along with proposed actions:

A truck turns right from Broadway onto Larrabee.

1) Problem: Increased potential for right hook crashes
Location(s): NE Broadway and N Larrabee Ave; N Broadway and N Williams Ave. (Lane configurations have been changed at both locations due to presence of streetcar line).
Fix Requested: Install a bike box on Broadway at Larrabee. Request immediate special traffic enforcement of right turn yield to bicycle lane compliance in these areas.

2) Problem: Unsigned/unmarked hazardous conditions on Lovejoy ramp.
Location(s): Westbound NW Lovejoy St lanes between NW Broadway and NW 9th Ave
Fix Requested: Temporary signage approaching or at the beginning of the ramp (westbound) alerting bicycle traffic to changes in traffic movement, (new right turn at 9th, slow for sharp turn); potential for track/wheel entrapment, and instructing “jug-handle” left turn maneuver.

3) Problem: Lack of way-finding to and around the new Lovejoy couplet. Lovejoy used to be the designated bike route in and out of Northwest but the streetcar project has all but decommissioned the street for bike use.
Location(s): NW Lovejoy St and connecting avenues between NW 9th and NW 13th.
Fix Requested: Way-finding signs should be placed to direct bicycle traffic through and around the new design as they approach Lovejoy from side streets.

Despite miles of new tracks, Portland
Streetcar Inc has not installed any
bicycle-specific signage.

4) Problem: Wheel entrapment and slip hazard on new east-side rail installations.
Location(s): NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and NE Grand Avenues
Fix Requested: Temporary signs warning of track hazard should be placed during construction at any point where new rail installation begins in the pavement. Permanent signs warning of track hazard should be placed where bike routes cross the alignment, where the tracks change lanes, or where the tracks turn on or off of the street.

Below is a Google Map of the problem locations created by Active Right of Way Streetcar Safety Working Group. You can also download the letter which details the problems and solutions here (PDF).

View Streetcar Loop Bicycle Safety Meeting 120810 in a larger map

Hunter and others involved in the Streetcar Safety Working Group have scheduled a meeting with Portland Streetcar Inc. to address these and other concerns for the first week in January.

Do you bike around the new streetcar tracks? How has the new treatment of Lovejoy treated you?

Stay tuned for more updates on this campaign. If you’d like to get involved, learn more at or email info[at]activerightwofway[dot]org.

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