Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

See PBOT’s latest tweak to Broadway/Williams bike signal

Posted by on December 28th, 2010 at 11:20 am

Broadway Williams Bike Signal-1

PBOT crew at work this morning.
(Photos © J. Maus)

A Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) signal operations crew was out at the new Broadway/Williams bike signal this morning. The new signal was installed on October 13th to try and decrease the amount of right-hook collisions that have plagued the intersection for several years.

After over two months, even after some initial tweaks to make it work better, some motor vehicle operators are still not complying with the “no right turn on red” sign.

At issue is a curbside bike lane that is to the right of two right-turn only lanes. PBOT’s new bike signal gives the bike lane its own green light, but the problem is that people in the right-turn only lanes would see the green indicator and assume it was for them — and then make an illegal turn that put non-motorized traffic in danger.

Peter Koonce is the manager of PBOT’s traffic signal operations division. He says they think compliance has been “pretty reasonable” at Broadway/Williams given the complexity of the lane configuration. He said they’ve been trying to make the green bike signal indicator invisible to motor vehicle operators. They’ve used louvers to shield the indicator but the green light could still be seen.

This morning, Koonce’s crews installed an “optically programmed signal head.” Koonce said the new signal head allows them to change the aperture of the light to narrow its focus, thereby making the green light visible only to people in the bike lane. “Think of it like a laser, as opposed to a light bulb that can be seen 360 degrees.”

This morning, crews tweaked the green light on the bike signal so that it can be seen only from the bike lane. It seems to be working perfectly. Here’s some photographic evidence…

The photo below shows the view from the standard vehicle lane to the left of the bike lane. At this moment, the bike lane has a green light but notice that you can’t see any hint of green from this lane…

… But when you’re in the bike lane you can see the green light no problem.

The new bike signals are experimental treatments that have yet to be approved by the Federal Highway Administration. While Koonce acknowledges that, “There’s no national standard for this that’s one of our problems,” he also says, “we’re not going to rest until we feel like it’s as safe as it can be.”

This is a good improvement and hopefully signal compliance will continue to get better in the coming days and weeks.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

117
Leave a Reply

avatar
42 Comment threads
75 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
44 Comment authors
JJJsuburbanadamjimq`Tzal Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
A.K.
Guest
A.K.

Hmmm, interesting solution. We’ll have to see how this works.

Though I think you’re being a bit optimistic/generous with this: “but the problem is that people in the right-turn only lanes would see the green indicator and assume it was for them”.

Rather, I think it’s people driving like jerks because almost everywhere else right-on-red turns are legal, and no one has any patience to wait for their turn. If people driving are mistaking a green bike-shaped signal for them, they need to have their license revoked and be sent bike to drivers ed, or be taught basic comprehension skills.

rider
Guest
rider

I don’t think the reason people are still making right turns on red at this intersection is because they’re jerks is generally true. Moreso, I think it’s conditioning. I know when I take the Rosa Parks exit off I-5 southbound the light at the end of the ramp is a no right on red. I’m so conditioned though, to turn right on red that I have to make a conscience effort every time I approach it to not go into default mode. That’s why they installed the more attention getting flashing no turn sign, unfortunately it isn’t going to work every time.

Dave
Guest

This is pretty cool, and interesting technology – my only worry is that I hope it won’t confuse people when everyone in the bike lane just starts going suddenly, with no indication (to the person in the car) that anything changed. Of course, if they just follow their signal, nothing dangerous should happen, and I suppose people should get used to it eventually.

Andrew Seger
Guest
Andrew Seger

Eh this is still really bad design that drivers wont follow ’cause it’s not intuitive.

adam
Guest
adam

I drove by this area this morning and it seemed like someone had been injured or worse at this very location. can’t wait to read the official report on this one.

Lazlo
Guest
Lazlo

It’s been illegal to turn right on a red there for many years, and I think the addition of the bike signal increased the occurence of violatons. It seems like the bike signal goes green without being triggered by a bike, which may have added to driver confusion.

Alexis
Guest
Alexis

A friend of mine just reported being hit there today. No broken bones apparently but he may have other injuries. “Reasonable” compliance is a nice traffic engineering goal, but it isn’t much comfort to the people riding through here and getting hit.

BURR
Guest
BURR

more band aids on a patient that needs major surgery

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

I have watched some crazy dangerous stuff happening there (admittedly from the safety of a van) and I applaud PBOT using every arrow in their quiver to clearly communicate when cars must stop at this intersection.

Paul Hanrahan
Guest
Paul Hanrahan

People who turn right illegally will continue to do so. Not seeing the bike signal will aggrevate the situation because the drivers will percieve bikers breaking a red signal. Better they should see a green signal, but it should be in the outline of a cyclist, so the drivers will be aware that it is specifically for bicyclists. This keeps them aware of other traffic (us) and so they may be more cautious as they attempt to turn right on red illegally.

michweek
Guest
michweek

I don’t believe that anyone who has passed a driving test could mistake this signal treatment.
What’s missing here is enforcement against offenders who are blatently braking the law.
Aren’t there red light cameras in use elsewhere (beaverton comes to mind) specifically for right turns?
Doesn’t it seem like negative reenforcement(sp) is a plausible strategy here rather than adding more and more signage?

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps

Neat-o.

beth h
Guest

“I don’t believe that anyone who has passed a driving test could mistake this signal treatment.”

And therein lies the problem.

While we’re talking about requiring bicyclists to get licensed, we haven’t mentioned the need for drivers to undergoe occasional refreshing and re-testing of their skills.

I have a tough time trusting the “intuitive” nature of all this signal tweaking when non-compliance — willful or otherwise — is still such a huge issue.

Mark C
Guest
Mark C

Seems like motorists comply with the signal at the west end of the Broadway Bridge, which is similar, so I would hope compliance at this location will improve as people get used to it.

As I’ve said before, though, the best thing to do is head a few blocks farther north to Tillamook or Knott and bypass the whole mess via Flint.

craig
Guest
craig

Jonathan, what time was this? I drove there at about 11 am and noticed from my car that the green bike turn signal looked extremely bright from the car lane, and it occurred to me that this would easily be misinterpreted in a car driver’s peripheral view . This was before reading your article (just now).

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

No amount of signalizing, special-signalizing, “no-right-on-red” signage, flashing red “no-right-on-red” signage–nothing short of retractable bollards or spike strips is going to make a straight-ahead bike lane safe when it is to the right of TWO right-only auto lanes. Nothing. Not. One. Thing.

“we’re not going to rest until we feel like it’s as safe as it can be.”

…Then either break out the paint and move the straight-ahead bike lane back over where it was (but farther over to accommodate the TWO right-only lanes), or break the bank and install retractable bollards. Oh yeah–or just declare it to be “as safe as it can be” and let the occasional cyclist get run over. No big. As long as the largest possible volume of Single-occupant motor vehicles can be shoved through the turn every minute. Since that’s the real priority here, not safety. Caveat cycleor.

…right-hook collisions…have plagued the intersection for several years.

…and many years to come.

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

Mark C
As I’ve said before, though, the best thing to do is head a few blocks farther north to Tillamook or Knott and bypass the whole mess via Flint.

Agreed. When I lived in NE I’d never bike across the overpass on Broadway, and I consider myself a strong and confident cyclist (I take lanes without issue, riding among cars doesn’t bother me, etc. etc.). It just felt, to me, like it was asking for trouble to try and continue straight while two lanes of fast-moving traffic are trying to turn, thinking about the freeway and other cars rather than cyclists.

It is one of the few areas I’d actively avoid.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

as El Biciclero points out…

At issue is a curbside bike lane that is to the right of two right-turn only lanes.

they can make this safe by installing lanes that aren’t in direct violation of their own laws… as we’ve read we aren’t required to bike in these lanes because of their location… their incredibly bad location… the rules were there before they “fixed” the intersection and they ignored them…

keep the turn lanes against the side of the road… let cars merge into the turn lanes with the bike lane having right of way going straight… just like the book tells them to design it…

Steve B
Guest

It’s fascinating to watch the process of tweaking the signals here.. it’s a considerable challenge to segregate the different modal symbols, and I’m glad we’ve got talented folks working on it every week.

I was out here the other day and watched two people on bikes fly through the red bike signal, while the two turning lanes had the green. Thankfully, two attentive motorists saw this, were traveling at a reasonable rate of speed, and were able to stop before a crash took place. Just wanted to share that it’s not just drivers who have compliance issues.

Early on, there was a concept that included a concrete barrier at this intersection, separating bike and auto traffic. I hope such an idea for separation is considered going forward, Broadway presents a great opportunity for separation.

The signals are top notch, but the lane striping on Broadway leaves a lot to be desired.

Stripes
Guest
Stripes

Not sure if it’s been fixed since I last biked through this intersection, but the “No Turn On Red” lit up sign DID NOT FLASH.

It really needs to flash for motorists to comply.

mello yello
Guest
mello yello

we need more paint on the ground, not this…maybe some red that says “Hey Numbnuts, Don’t Cross” or somesuch

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

it would have been less expensive to just install a red light camera.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

El Biciclero
Uproar from whom? Those that would have to pay for it, or those that would have their portraits taken for $200?

…I meant pay for the installation, just to clarify. Anyone caught by a camera could be considered to be “paying for it”…

are
Guest

plus one here as well

Aperture
Guest
Aperture

At some point, Portland should consider following the lead of New York City where the rule is simple and easy to remember: No turns on red. Any time. Anywhere.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Aperture
At some point, Portland should consider following the lead of New York City where the rule is simple and easy to remember: No turns on red. Any time. Anywhere.

I couldn’t disagree more. Safety should always be the highest priority, but efficiency is still on the list.

BURR
Guest
BURR

Screw efficiency, right on red is the ultimate motorist-first law. It assumes that motorists are smart enough to determine when traffic is clear and it is safe to turn right on red but; for example, that pedestrians looking at the exact same traffic situation are too stupid to see that the way is clear and it is safe to cross against a red light.

Allan
Guest
Allan

Just a comment. As a result of this change, traffic coming from points south getting off at the I-5 Rose Quarter exit used to take a left onto broadway and then a right onto williams to head into the neighborhoods. Most of that traffic now goes straight across broadway and then left on the next block (hancock), then right at williams. From what I can tell, this reduces the number of vehicles turning right at this intersection while increasing cut-through traffic in the “neighborhood” although nothing is really on those streets (victoria, hancock).

Does PBOT care about this? Is this an acceptable outcome? I think yes, but I wonder if anyone else has noticed this/cares.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

If you’ve got to throw this many signals and signs and a freakin’ polarized light at an intersection . . . STOP!

You’re doing it wrong.

jim
Guest
jim

Why not put the bike signal on a post on the sidewalk right next to where the bikes stop? The separation would help motorists differentiate the two types of signals

JJJ
Guest
JJJ

How much money has been spent on the failure of this project so far? Is the guy in charge related to the contractors who keep going out there to “fix” it?

The only logical answer was clear on day one.

Straight traffic should be to the left of right turning traffic. Always. No ifs or buts.

Real easy project.

Stripe right turn lanes on the right. Stripe bike lane to the left of them. Paint it green.

At most, you’d need one sign
“Right turning traffic yield to bikes”

But even that would not be necessary.

And that signal pole violates the number 1 rule of traffic engineers:
-Use as few signs as absolutely necessary.

One Way!
Only!
No Turn on Red!
Only!
No Turn on Red!
Bike Signal!

Is this a speed reading test or an intersection?

You know how many bike signals would have been needed if you placed the bike lane on the left?

Zero.

How many flashing signs?

Zero.

How many optical tricks?

Zero.

HarryTasker
Guest
HarryTasker

I pass through this intersection frequently. The issue isn’t the light or placement, it is timing. Right now the bike lane gets the green light before the cars in the right turn lane but at the same time as the cars heading forward on broadway. This tends to have drivers eager to go right off the line as soon as they see green, even if not for their lane. If the light on Victoria, the street before Williams, goes red before the light on Williams then that will allow the block between williams and victoria to clear and it is then that the cyclists should go, there may be a few cars turning on from victoria, but that is a great deal less than those heading straight on broadway.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

DAMN!!! Those lights look just like the ones at Broadway/Lovejoy. I’ve been trying to get improvements made there. Anyone? Anyone?

One Less :(
Guest
One Less :(

Maybe its time for PPB to do a traffic “sting” at this intersection. I’m guessing the people that ignore the signal one day, do it everyday because there is never anyone to slap their hand and give them a ticket.

Come on coppers, do yo job, and bust them bad drivers already!

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

In response to ‘Paul’s comment about near side traffic signals…in my professional experience they are very effective and useful for bicyclists and pedestrian when set up correctly, as is common in Northern Europe. Sadly they are not a more common tool in the US…

…Nearside signals are self-enforcing the behaviour of keeping motorists back off of marked crosswalks/ stop bars and help to open up the sight triangle at intersections. They do need different intersection engineering, take away some traffic capacity and often need a smaller bike friendly signal head lower on the nearside signal pole. Their effect on right turn on red movement also tends to restrict their adoption too.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

It is easy to forget that the wide scale adoption of “right turn on red” is a very recent in the lifespan of our communities. I remember it coming out to NJ in the late 70’s/ early 80’s…out of the desire to keep traffic moving for purposes of fuel savings (oil shock #2) and not to improve traffic safety.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Looking back at Jonathan’s photos of the signage at this intersection…the right turn only sign is missing the allowed “except bicyclists” regulatory sign?

adam
Guest
adam

can we just get an easy way for bikes and peds to get thru or around the rose garden already?

I mean, how long do we have to ask nicely for some real safety while we ride around?

jim
Guest
jim

The painted stop line for bikes needs to be moved back a few feet from the corner. The cars in the right lane turning onto williams tend to run accross the end of the bike lane, this can’t be safe. It is a common thing for painted lines for cars to be set back when they think turning traffic might encroach in on them, especially trucks that need every inch they can get.
Please don’t censure this, I think it is an important safety issue and it contains nothing political.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

JJJ
Do cyclists expect bike signals…?

Given that other kinds of restricted lanes have their own signals, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

These are pretty new, why not create the near side expectation?

Because we’re talking about a restricted lane signal, ultimately, and the standard for those was long since established for the far side of the intersection, over the lane. The only thing that’s really nonstandard about the bike signals is the shape of the filter inserted behind the lens (the bicycle logo).

adam
Guest
adam

I have, literally, biked all over this world. portland is the first place I have been where politicians are patting themselves on the back so hard they cannot make anything happen. Amanda Fritz excluded.

suburban
Guest
suburban

It’s still effective to use the wider through-lane, as there is obviously a hazardous condition in the narrower lane.