Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Photo essay: Riding the new Burnside bikeway

Posted by on January 20th, 2011 at 5:05 pm

The new bikeway on E. Burnside — while not the separated facility we should have — gives people dedicated space to ride along one of Portland’s vibrant commercial corridors.
(Photos © J. Maus)

We’ve reported quite a bit on PBOT’s East Burnside-Couch Couplet project; but I felt like the bikeway centerpiece of the whole thing — a new six-foot wide bike lane on Burnside from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to SE 13th Avenue — deserved a closer look. I spent some time on it this morning and invite you to join me for a ride-along…

It was nice to see that PBOT rolled out the green carpet as you approach Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd from the Burnside Bridge. This color in the bike lane helps draw attention to a conflict with right-turning vehicles…

Burnside has more than just green thermoplastic, it’s now a “green street“, and it will likely get even greener as all the plants and trees grow up. It’s impossible to miss all the bioswales built into the new curb extensions…

Due to the highly commercial zoning on Burnside, big trucks unloading supplies into stores are common. Thankfully there are turnouts for them and, once parked, they shouldn’t block the bike lane…

It’s unfortunately too rare in Portland, but I love when our main streets have dedicated space for bicycles. I’d rather have a wider and separated place to ride, but even with a six-foot wide bike lane it’s possible to do some window shopping…

Speaking of the bike lane and lack of separation. While it’s nice to have some space, is this the type of cycling environment that will attract the 8-80 year-old or the coveted “interested but concerned”?…

As you approach the 12th and Sandy intersection, the bike lane goes uphill and jogs over. There’s also a TriMet bus stop just east of the intersection below. This section felt a bit precarious to me…

At the end of the new bikeway, you get rather unceremoniously shown the door. At SE 13th, the bike lane terminates into a curb extension and you are encouraged (via a sign) to head one block south to Ankeny to continue eastbound…

It’s great to have a wide bike lane on Burnside. It would be even greater to someday have real, world-class bike access on this street with physical separation from motor vehicle traffic. I’d love to enjoy the same level of safe access to this street that other vehicles enjoy. If I did, I’d be able to bike comfortably with my kids to the many interesting businesses in the area.

What about you? Do you use the new bike lane on Burnside? How does it feel to you?

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  • Nick V January 20, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    1. Before the new bike lane, I would cross the bridge eastbound and get on SE Ankeny ASAP just because there was so much less traffic and congestion (vehicular and otherwise). Next time I’m there I’ll definitely try to stick with Burnside and see how it has improved.

    1a. The danger about that plan is that the gravitational pull of the Doug Fir Lounge sucks me right in.

    2. Unrelated, but that jacket is sporty. Nice job!

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  • Scott B January 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I second what Nick said I would immediately go over to Ankeny, much safer and far less traffic I will have to try the new lane on Burnside sometime to see if I like it better than Ankeny.

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  • Dabby January 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Good photo essay…

    I must say, in reference to your bringing it up above, that a separated bikeway would not be sharing the road. From there the idea of separation becomes backwards thought.

    And I thought that is what it is about.
    Sharing The Road.
    I mean that is what is plastered everywhere right?
    It’s on the damn license plates..

    We have no need to fully seperate bikes from cars.
    We DO have a need to make drivers more attentive.

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    • Paul January 20, 2011 at 8:39 pm

      What about sharing the road on smaller streets? I have absolutely no desire to ride on busy streets without separation – either physical or at least 6 feet. I do everything I can to avoid it. What works for some may not work for all.

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  • carye bye January 20, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Nick V — funny!

    I didn’t even know about it, and was also used to having to drop over to Ankeny, while merging at the end of the bridge between cars — fine for a daily rider like myself but I can imagine way scary for others. Never loved it, but now with the bike lane on Burnside, I found myself going straight, and then turning onto Ankeny a few blocks later. LOVE IT! In fact I’ve been really diging the couplet in general and appreciate all the thoughtfulness to include bikes.

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  • eli bishop January 20, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    turning left onto ankeny from 13th on a bike seems… harrowing. extending the lane one more block would mean you could turn east onto ankeny from a much more low-traffic street.

    still, i’m glad to see burnside get a lane! makes much more sense to use the bridge now.

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  • Christopher Pierce, DC January 20, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    I noticed that the city engineers changed (slowed down by about 8 MPH) the lights headed down hill on NE Couch headed west. This makes for a whole lot of bicycle braking and passing the same cars and buses over and over. I find SE Ankeny generally more pleasant than E Burnside to ride as there tends to be less garbage and construction debris on the road and less A-holes who refuse to give you an inch when speeding past you up hills.

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    • are January 20, 2011 at 10:35 pm

      why not just stay in the lane with traffic rather than passing repeatedly

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  • Hart Noecker January 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm


    We have no need to fully seperate bikes from cars.

    Couldn’t disagree with you more. You don’t speak for me or the thousands of others who would love to see this kind of infrastructure make our city once again the capital of cycling.

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    • Dabby January 20, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      Once again, we do not need separated bike ways.
      I know this to be true.
      Entitlement and fear (timidity) may say otherwise, but they are both wrong…

      My main point in relation to this article was that “Share The Road” is Jonathan’s slogan. That is where it came from.
      So what is all the talk about separation? Pick a road and ride down it. All this “changing lanes” on separation/ bike lanes/sharing the road?
      This is Portland, not Amsterdam.

      In Portland I, and many others, like to ride on the same street everyone else conveys themselves on.

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      • beth h January 20, 2011 at 8:36 pm

        Let’s make a deal.

        1. You and the other ex-messengers and other hale-hardy types can stop picking on “timid” bicyclists like me; OR

        2. The NEXT time I get smacked by a car while trying to “share the road”, YOU can pay for my medical bills, lost wages and bicycle damage.

        Whaddya say?

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        • spare_wheel January 20, 2011 at 9:23 pm

          except that (imo) vehicular cycling is safer than timid cycling.

          i am all for cycle tracks and bike lanes but they should not be an after thought. imo, this bike lane is not an example of progress.

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    • Paul January 20, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      I second that

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    • Tim January 21, 2011 at 5:26 pm

      Why does Portland need to be the Capital City for Cycling?

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  • Mindful Cyclist January 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I have taken it a couple of times and prefer just to shoot over to Ankeny. Less traffic, less right hook potential, less exhaust emissions. Plus, I have to compete with three busy bus lines and since the bioswales stick out so much, it is hard to pass them.

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    • jim January 23, 2011 at 10:16 am

      There are 2 different type of roads for 2 types of cyclists. On Concord you find people riding, enjoying their ride down the bike blvd, one block over on Interstate you find bike comutors that are just trying to get from point A to point B in the fastest mannor possible. Apples and oranges, 2 different types of cycling ameneties just one block apart for different types of users.

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      • Paul Johnson January 24, 2011 at 4:52 pm

        Given that the bike lanes don’t go all the way through on Interstate, I’m pretty sure Concord is the “through route,” and Interstate serves mostly as local access. I’m sure traffic counts hear me out on this, too.

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  • Jason S. January 20, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    I really like the new bikeway heading east on Burnside. Before, like others, I would make a right turn onto Ankeny. I never really liked it. It seems much faster to head up Burnside; if you are lucky, you can make all the lights. Once I pass 12th, I can turn right by Old Wives Tale and hit Ankeny. Much improved in my point of view.

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  • BURR January 20, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    why would you want a separated facility?

    It would be very dangerous because of potential turning manuevers at all those closely spaced intersections.

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    • Hart Noecker January 20, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      I think you may wish to study how separated bikeways that have already been built function.


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      • BURR January 20, 2011 at 9:33 pm

        I’m not easily influenced by propaganda.

        the dutch have separated bike lanes because their roads run along canals and intersections are infrequent.

        Portland has short city blocks and intersections are numerous and frequent.

        I think of it as right hook hazards that you can’t avoid because you are penned into a bike lane with walls, to the right of right-turning traffic. Trapped like a good little lab rat in a maze.

        no thank you.

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        • Hart Noecker January 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm

          Propaganda, lol. Okay, pally. Enjoy your status quo bike lanes and the rest of us will keep pushing for additional improvements.

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  • BURR January 20, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Also, is the bike lane really 6′ wide where it passes those curb extensions? It looks narrower to me.

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  • Barney January 20, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    – Turning right onto MLK, quickly crossing 3 lanes, and now maneuvering with the streetcar tracks all made getting onto Ankeny pretty hairy, especially if cars are also turning right from the bridge. Staying on Burnside until at least 6th is now far more pleasant and safe.
    – Crossing Sandy is easier than on Ankeny. On Ankeny, you have to watch for North/South traffic on Sandy as well as Southbound cars on 11th who are watching to their left before turning right on Ankeny. They are not looking right to see if any cyclists are trying to cross.

    – It would be great if it didn’t end so abruptly.
    – It encourages cyclists to stay on Burnside, meaning they miss Citybikes Annex on Ankeny and 6th…a bummer for the business and any cyclist in need who doesn’t know of this nearby shop.
    – You still have to tango with Trimet buses, whereas you are bus-free on Ankeny.

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  • Barney January 20, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    @ Eli Bishop
    You may be thinking of the wrong street…13th between Burnside and Ankeny is about as low traffic as they get in this part of the city.

    @ Christopher Pierce
    I noticed that about the Couch lights. I like it, though, since there’s no bike lane until you hit Grand. When I’m commuting amongst a bunch of cars, I’m glad they have to take it slow. I stay in the lane the whole time to avoid all the back and forth.

    @ Dabby
    We definitely need drivers to be more attentive. But why insist on sharing the road because of some slogan? I don’t know its history, but I imagine the slogan is based on having to work with what we currently are stuck with (1 road for everyone) than it is an idealistic sentiment. We don’t ask pedestrians to share the road because they are slower and more vulnerable than cars. We should be able to give cyclists some of the same protections as pedestrians for the same reasons.

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  • PJG January 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    I love the changes to Burnside headed east (especially the end of bridge merge with cars). It’s night and day for the better compared to the old situation. However, let’s talk about the changes to Couch.

    I come from south and cross Burnside to get to Couch in order to head downtown every day. I won’t bike Grand, so I cross at 6th. The lights crossing Burnside/Couch are awkwardly timed and it can be difficult to make two greens in a row.

    Also, delivery trucks for the mattress store at Couch and Grand very frequently block the bike path. It’s a real pain in the bunk bed.

    Last, I think there should be a no right on red at Couch at Grand. I still see near-right hooks despite the green box.

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    • Greg January 21, 2011 at 4:47 am

      I’ve also noticed the awkward timing of lights trying to get from Ankeny onto Couch westbound. Since PBOT has the lights on Burnside timed in an eastbound wave, and the lights on Couch are a westbound wave, the place they seem to consistently overlap is on 8th.

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  • Paul Johnson January 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    I’m not down with separated infrastructure except as a bicycle expressway. Eventually, you need local business access, and businesses typically need truck access, so they’re not typically going to have driveway access on cycleways (with this Albertsons in Beaverton being a notable and extremely rare exception).

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm


    Nice to hear from you again. Hope you’re doing well.

    I know your disdain for separated bikeways well. I agree w/ you that we need to also focus on sharing the road and educating road users about how to be law-abiding, attentive, and considerate of others. However, we also need to create a bikeway system that has some separation in certain areas — especially on commercial streets and in the downtown core. We will never reach our goals for bike ridership until we start putting bicycles on their own lane. The simple fact is that kids and older people and novice riders will never even attempt to ride next to 20-30 mph buses and trucks.

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    • Paul Johnson January 20, 2011 at 8:50 pm

      I’m thinking lower speed limits and better enforcement (for both motorists and cyclists) would go a long way in making sections like the Couch-Burnside Couplet safer. There’s not exactly the space (what buildings are you going to take out?) or the distance (what streets are you going to grade-separate?) to make a dedicated cycleway really pay off in city center (ie, not just Downtown District, but all of the central districts) that haven’t already been built. Cycleways need signal priority (something the Springwater Corridor still lacks even at signaled intersections) or grade separation to increase speeds and minimize congestion to work effectively (hence the need for

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      • Paul Johnson January 20, 2011 at 8:54 pm

        err, need for segregated bicycle/foot paths (a cycleway with sidewalks).

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    • BURR January 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm

      It sounds like you’ve drunk the cycle track koolaid, Jonathan.

      The only separated system that’s worth building is one that’s completely separate from the road grid and there are no or very few intersections.

      Funding for separated paths should be going to complete the Willamette Greenway from Lake Oswego to Kelly Point on both sides of the river, and the Sullivan’s Gulch trail, and not to on-road facilities.

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      • Dabby January 23, 2011 at 10:59 am

        That first sentence is sweet…

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      • Supercourse January 24, 2011 at 6:40 am

        Right on Burr….I’ve been riding the same streets here since “72” and it never cost the city a dime, and yes the Willamette should get all the money until it’s done and then move on to the next.

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  • was carless in pdx January 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    the Burnside bike lane is like night and day. I’ve been riding on Ankeny for about 4 years, and have switched to Burnside. Unfortunately, I always hit one of the lights red, and have to stop.

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  • Julian January 20, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Congrats on inventing “Share the Road”, Jonathan. I did not know that 🙂 I hope you’re getting your fair share of the license tab fees.

    Here’s why “Share the Road” is a crappy marketing and legal concept:

    And I’m still waiting for someone to show me a city with substantial bikeshare (>20-30%) that works without dedicated bicycle infrastructure.

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    • Paul Johnson January 20, 2011 at 8:59 pm

      That article really seems like it’s splitting hairs and missing the purpose of the signs, which is to warn other road users that diligence and care might be required for a particular hazard that is inobvious to some road users. In this respect, “Share the Road” signs aren’t any different from “Pedestrian Xing” or “Stop Ahead” signs.

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      • David January 20, 2011 at 10:57 pm

        I disagree. “Ped X-ing” and “Stop Ahead” signs, as you point out, refer to specific conditions that a driver typically wouldn’t otherwise expect. “Share the Road” does not refer to a specific condition. With whom? Where? When? How?

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        • Paul Johnson January 21, 2011 at 6:27 am

          Sure it does, if you’re not ignoring the sign above it.

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    • Spiffy January 21, 2011 at 7:05 am

      the author makes the horrible assumption that the “share the road” sign is only for motorists…

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 21, 2011 at 10:00 am

      Congrats on inventing “Share the Road”, Jonathan. I did not know that 🙂 I hope you’re getting your fair share of the license tab fees.

      Dabby might be referring to the “I Share the Road” slogan/campaign that PBOT began after tensions rose in the city following an infamous lawsuit that involved a man who was buzzed by a TriMet bus. At that time, the city wanted to fire up the “Share the Road” campaign and I suggested that we focus on a personal pledge — and said they should add the “I” in front.

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  • Liz January 20, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Lordy, Ankeny Street SUCKS for bikes these days. So much car traffic on it trying to avoid the the new lights on Burnside/Couch.

    Can we get a fricking diverter at SE 12th and Ankeny already people, PLEASE?

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    • BURR January 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

      Personally, I’ve been using Ash for years, it’s one block south of Ankeny and has a lot less traffic.

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  • BURR January 20, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    My main point in relation to this article was that “Share The Road” is Jonathan’s slogan. That is where it came from.

    actually, Jonathan’s slogan is ‘to inform and inspire’

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    • Dabby January 20, 2011 at 10:09 pm

      I typed wrong. He came up with the “share the road” concept, I think, to raise awareness..
      Didn’t mean really it was his slogan…

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  • Stig10 January 20, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    This is great, but I wish the Burnside bike lane improvements would address the notorious Max tracks issue at 97th. (Tracks cross bike lane at 45 degree angle supplemented by Trimet’s awful squishy surface stuff that’s crazy slippery when wet if you’re using the crosswalk.)

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    • Paul Johnson January 20, 2011 at 10:14 pm

      Oh, that whole area is a mess, not just for traffic entering or leaving the bike lane. They have lanes of Interstate cycleway traffic using a crosswalk and running contraflow, too, that could be easily fixed with a bike left turn only lane and a conversion of one of the pedestrian signals to a bicycle signal in the vicinity of the Burnside overpass. Not sure where you’re getting 45⁰ from though, going southbound on I 205 across the MAX tracks, the tracks cross at approximately -69⁰ to -80⁰ angle depending on whether or not you’re staying in the right lane or crossing the centerline, respectively, which should be navigable by anyone capable of riding over a garden hose without falling. Going westbound on Burnside, they cross at approximately +16⁰ angle, which is sketchy at best if you aren’t prepared for an abrupt and otherwise unnecessary lane change to the left.

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  • Doug Klotz January 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I suspect the bike lane width measurement includes the concrete gutter.

    Do those swales looks like a better or worse place to ride next to if you have to swerve “onto the sidewalk” (or over that curb into the swale)?

    Another instance of PBOT being required by BES to add the swales, even though they take away sidewalk space on a busy (and getting busier) commercial street where walking (and biking) should be encouraged. The sidewalk narrows down from 13 feet to about 7 feet behind the swales. I asked if they could put them around the corners on the side streets to no avail.

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    • BURR January 21, 2011 at 12:24 pm

      I’m not a big fan of either the swales or the curb extensions. I think they are more of a hazard to cyclists than anything else.

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      • Paul Johnson January 21, 2011 at 12:47 pm

        How so, keeping in mind you shouldn’t be riding on the parking strip to start with…

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        • BURR January 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm

          they are another obstacle cyclists, who are required to ride FRAP, need to deal with, and they force cyclists out into traffic at times when the parking lane is empty and it is unnecessary to move left to avoid parked cars and such.

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          • Paul Johnson January 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm

            “Far right as practical” doesn’t mean “so far right you hamstring yourself on parked vehicles and the curb.” Ride farther left.

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  • Steve B January 20, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    The Burnside bike lane feels extra wide, I like it. We definitely need to do better in the future, especially considering the enormous right of way on Burnside. Here’s a quick concept I put together last year trying to rethink the Couch/Burnside ramp, still improperly sloped and no separation from the big trucks and buses encroaching in the bike lane to make the awkward S turn: http://www.flickr.com/photos/intersection911/4605641685/

    Has anyone figured out how to get from 12th street, heading south, to Ankeny in a reasonable manner? I find myself still having to dart across 2 lanes of awkward angled traffic to get there, and it’s such an important connection!

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    • Greg January 21, 2011 at 4:56 am

      I regularly go from 12th to Ankeny by making a left onto Davis, then a right onto Sandy followed by the immediate left onto 15th. It’s not ideal by any stretch, but seems much less hairy than other options.

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  • Chris Shaffer January 21, 2011 at 7:44 am

    I live in this neighborhood, and the new Burnside/Couch couplet has really ruined Ankeny from 15th to 11th. Many westbound cars make a fast left turn off Burnside onto 15th, then a quick right onto Ankeny to avoid the couplet and zip over to 11th.

    The new eastbound bike lane on Burnside is nice enough, but still a bit scary for my 12 year old daughter. I don’t think it’s going to serve the 8-80 demographic well.

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  • Tbird January 21, 2011 at 9:03 am

    “While it’s nice to have some space, is this the type of cycling environment that will attract the 8-80 year-old or the coveted “interested but concerned”?…”
    It’s nicer than what was there before, but not quite what’s need to attract the un-lycra-ed masses.

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    • Paul Johnson January 21, 2011 at 10:49 am

      I don’t see a problem with the couplet save for the bad turns on Couch by the Burnside Bridge, and I’m about as far from Lycra as you can get.

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  • Brandon January 21, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Ride it daily. Love it.

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  • Andrew January 21, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I ride Burnside with regularity, but typically only to about 12th. The new bike lane is nice, and I use it when I first cross the bridge; however, my destination is on the left, so I generally move over and take the left lane at some point. And frankly, having a street light at every block really slows traffic on Burnside, letting me easily keep and often set the pace in the left lane.

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  • CaptainKarma January 21, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I hate being looked down on by giant axe murderer advertising. Gives me a bad feeling and I might fall off my bike

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  • J.R. (Business Manager) January 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Much better eastbound. Thank you!
    Couch/Grand westbound should be “no turn on red” or have a green bike box to avoid right hooks.

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  • Jonathan Gordon January 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I rode the eastbound portion the other night and it certainly felt like an improvement. I have to agree with a poster above who mentioned the light timing issue. With the slight uphill grade, I had to really put the hammer down on my pannier-laden commuter bike in order to keep up with the greens. Any chance the lights can be re-timed for a more bike-friendly green wave?

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  • Zaphod January 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I unambiguously LOVE the new infrastructure. I roll deliveries both West down Couch into the bridge at a perfect pace, taking the lane as appropriate, ignoring the bike lane if there’s a motorist making a right turn to eliminate risk. East up the hill off the bridge one must maintain awareness even though there’s the green thermoplastic giving a visual cue that I might be there. Up the hill I typically make it much of the way but red is in my future unless the bike is empty. This is fine as I’m not the normal rider as I have a 110 pound machine. And the jog over to Ankeny is ideal. The bioswales look good, serve a function and subtract nothing when I ride. I understand that curb extensions and the like can force a rider into traffic in some instances but that’s not what is happening here unless I’m missing something. You have a wide bike lane not encrusted with debris (generally of course) and all is well. There is a bus route that I wish wasn’t there but hey, we *are* sharing the road right?

    Between this and the Going (sharrows based) green street, my business rolls more efficiently and more safely.

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  • BURR January 21, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Paul Johnson
    “Far right as practical” doesn’t mean “so far right you hamstring yourself on parked vehicles and the curb.” Ride farther left.

    Thanks, but I already know how and where to ride.

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    • Paul Johnson January 22, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      Apparently not, if you’re making the kind of elementary mistake that’s pointed out explicitly in the Oregon Bicyclist’s Handbook ODOT puts out…

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      • BURR January 22, 2011 at 9:33 pm

        I never said I ride in the parking lane, all I said was that crowding cyclists with curb extensions is a bad idea.

        unfounded assumptions and the internet go together like flies on poop

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  • dwainedibbly January 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Jonathan: thanks for the photo essay. I would like to see more posts like this. There are parts of town that I don’t regularly ride in and this sort of thing makes it easier to understand what’s going on.

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  • Dabby January 23, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I have seen more cyclists contacting curb extensions and calming devices than I have ever seen contacting autos or pedestrians…

    I would venture to say that these traffic calming devices and the newer swale ideas do cause, and will still cause, entirely more harm in general than the autos they are meant to slow down…….
    These are incidences there will be no stats on, as they are surely unreported accidents…

    This is not to say do not like traffic calming devices, as they are fun to bunny hop or jib when riding around town…
    Oh, and they work to calm traffic. Kind of.

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