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PSU report: Cycle track, buffered bike lanes working well, but could be improved

Posted by on February 24th, 2011 at 11:55 am

Cycletrack on SW Broadway-7

“Working well” says PSU evaluation.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Researchers at Portland State University have completed an evaluation of Portland’s cycle track on SW Broadway and buffered bike lanes on SW Stark and Oak. The analysis, prepared for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), shows that both of the bikeway types are “working well,” but PSU also laid out some recommendations on how to make them work even better.

Using a combination of road user surveys, video footage, and PBOT data, researchers Chris Monsere, Ph.D. P.E. (Civil & Environmental Engineering), and Nathan McNeil and Jennifer Dill, Ph.D. from the PSU Center for Transportation (the same folks who evaluated the bike boxes for PBOT last fall) compiled detailed information about how the bikeways were being used by people on bikes, on foot, and in cars.

The evaluation has some fascinating nuggets of information:

Cyclists expressed support for the cycle track. Over 70% of survey respondents indicated that the cycle track made cycling on SW Broadway safer and easier… Furthermore, motorists generally disagreed with the sentiment that the cycle track made driving less convenient or that it takes longer to drive this section of SW Broadway now.

Motor vehicle delay is still low after removing one travel lane… PBOT has received few complaints about traffic on SW Broadway (only four traffic-related complaints in the comment log). No issues with parking were identified as a long-term problem.

97% of cyclists are using the cycle track rather than the motor vehicle lanes (prior to the installation of the cycle track, 12% of riders “took the lane” instead of riding in the old bike lane).

Cyclist understanding of and compliance with the traffic signals on SW Broadway is poor… Many cyclists expressed confusion about whether they needed to stop or stay stopped in the cycle track on a red signal indication. Consistent with the survey findings, only 56% of cyclists observed in the video review stopped during the red signal phase (though this is consistent with only 59% of observed cyclists stopped during the red signal before the cycle track was installed). Thus, it is likely that the lack of compliance is related to the lack of conflicting traffic rather than the cycle track design.

Cyclist use of the left-turn boxes could be improved.

Cyclist and pedestrian conflicts are high… Over 40% of cyclists stated they had been involved in a near-collision with a pedestrian, while 12% of pedestrians stated they had been involved in a near-collision with a cyclist.

Loss of curb access presents a challenge to physically handicapped persons.

In a summary, researchers said “overall… the SW Broadway cycle track is working well.” However, they recommend improvements to reduce conflicts between people walking and biking. These include a bike-only traffic signal, a “wait here on red” stencil in the cycle track, improved crosswalk markings, and more.

Andy Clarke on Portland's buffered bike lane-1

Andy Clarke from the League of American
Bicyclists seems like the buffered
bike lane.

The researchers also found that the buffered bike lanes on Stark and Oak are “working well.” They also explored two main areas where they could be improved. Since the wide lane looks like a standard vehicle lane, the researchers recommend that PBOT considers additional marking and signage including more bike stencils and overhead lane control signage on traffic signal arms.

Researchers also identified right turns at intersections without a right-turn lane as a “key conflict area.” To remedy that, they recommend creating a right-turn lane by removing some curb parking, shifting the bike lane over, and re-striping in the manner shown below…

New PBOT Director Tom Miller is a proponent of separated bike facilities, so you can bet he’ll use this evaluation to inform decisions in the future. Give it read for yourself by downloading a PDF of the entire report here.

— Researchers Chris Monsere and Nathan McNeil will present this evaluation at a free seminar at PSU tomorrow titled, “Portland’s Cycle Track and Buffered Bike Lanes: Are they working?”

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

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Andrew Kreps
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Andrew Kreps

I really think buffered bike lanes are the way to go. That said, I think we can do more to educate all roadway users.

I’ve seen a bit of motor vehicle traffic in the Oak/Stark buffered bike lanes, both moving and stopped. This includes a City of Portland van that was blocking cross-traffic as the signal began a yellow phase. The van entered the bicycle lane and continued in it for two blocks before turning right on 3rd ave. No conflicts that time, but it would certainly qualify as an unexpected event for anyone entering the bicycle lane, or anyone trying to park.

Joe Rowe
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Joe Rowe

I was told that buffered bike lanes can’t happen even with loads of grant money to improve North Bound Williams. There are many fake excuses to condemn cycle tracks.

Former BTA staff now making money as Alta Planing consultants are trying to down play cycle tracks in public meetings. Michelle Poyourow said the PSU cycle track works because it is an experiment, with no bus stops. The truth is that there is a bus stop and it works extremely well. The bus stop on the 3rd block of the PSU track. The bus slows, down, pulls right, stops, fits fine. People leave the curb, walk over the bike lane, and board the bus. Happens several times an hour. I’d say about 120 passengers on & off each hour. That’s more busy that most bus stops I’ve ever seen.

Disabilities? I keep hearing bike projects blamed for hindering ADA accessibility. I’ve never heard any details or one compliant. Vehicles with lifts work fine with cycle tracks.

There is no reason why some of the big money for the N. Williams project can’t start a 3 block cycle track project. Come to the meetings.

http://bikeportland.org/2010/07/12/alta-wins-contract-to-develop-portland-bikeway-projects-36433

Paul Souders
Guest

I don’t mind sharing the Stark/Oak buffered lanes with turning traffic, so long as they enter the lane right at the turn. Way too many drivers go a block or two in that lane before turning.

OTOH these are pretty low traffic streets so it’s seldom stressful.

Carl
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Carl

I wonder if the bike-specific signals on the broadway cycletrack could be just be a “cyclists yield to pedestrians” light during the motor vehicle red phase. In other words, you may continue through the intersection as long as you yield to people walking. Realistically, that’s the most that many riders will do. The danger of running those lights when there are no pedestrians or streetcars present is near zero so the temptation is understandably high.

Alexis
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Alexis

The turn lane is an interesting proposal. I’m curious to see the presentation tomorrow at the PSU Transportation Seminar; maybe we can get some discussion going on that.

Ted Buehler
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Ted Buehler

I’m glad to see that the Bway Cycletrack and wide/buffered bike lanes are getting the official thumbs-up.

I’d like to see the “wide” bike lanes striped as “twin” bike lanes of 5′ each in places. With paired stencils–side by side. Then it’s the same recognizable proportions as a conventional bike lane that motorists see all over the city and they won’t get so confused. And slow bikers can keep to the right, fast ones to the left.

Kinda like the short section on the Madison Bridge at Grand (as you’re on the approach to the Hawthorne Bridge).

Higher capacity, higher speeds overall, fewer bike-bike conflicts.

Ted Buehler

K'Tesh
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K'Tesh

I’ll add that there are several storm drain grates (Type1 or (W)rectangular Roulettes) right next to curb cuts (@ Hall, Harrison, & Montgomery) that are too small for their inlets, and might catch a bike tire (in line with traffic):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ufobike/5391804743

or Wheelchair caster wheels:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ufobike/5389153173

I’m told that they can’t replace the grates because they don’t have any that fit, so they’d have to rip out the drains and replace.

Seems to me that they could just weld some material to a type 2 grate (an ADA compliant design) to make them fit in the larger hole (they are too narrow otherwise).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ufobike/2908537897

commuter
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commuter

I am an 11 year commuter on that stretch of Broadway and I am one who disagrees with the majority of the folks who took that survey. I have had more near miss incidents mainly from unaware pedestrians in the last year or so than in my entire 11 years on commuting on that stretch…

cold worker
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cold worker

i bike to psu daily and love the cycle track. as commuter said there are more oblivious pedestrians now but it beats the hell out of oblivious drivers down by all the hotels.

John I.
Guest
John I.

Seen a lot of people cut through the cycle track at the top to pass people in the middle lane before the 405 overpass when cars are not parked in the spaces. I really think a mild curb between the lane and the track would be a good idea.

eli bishop
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eli bishop

“Loss of curb access presents a challenge to physically handicapped persons.”

oh, bummer. i am sensitive to those who face physical challenges, and recognize ADA access often benefits more than the disabled (like, say, curb cuts!). i hope there is a solution to this.

Schrauf
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Schrauf

Paul Johnson
You mean 6 months. The Idaho Stop hasn’t been legal that long.

The law has been on the books 28 years.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Paul Johnson
You mean 6 months. The Idaho Stop hasn’t been legal that long.

What are you talking about Paul? Idaho passed their law in 1982. In Oregon we never passed it.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Carl
There would likely be better compliance if we asked people to do something that seems more reasonable, like YIELD.
Those idiots are not YIELDING, Paul. Portlanders, it seems, can’t handle the “yield” concept (perhaps because there doesn’t seem to be many yield signs here). They want a binary, black/white system of stop/go, my turn/your turn.
Life’s not that simple and street design and expectations shouldn’t be either.

I think it’s the Californian influence working against Portland on this one. Yield signs used to be much more prevalent, but after the Californian influx in the 1990s, these signs became increasingly ignored. Compare Clark County, Washington, which has a relatively high Californian transplant population, to Tulsa County, Oklahoma, which has next to none, and driver behavior at yield signs on freeway entrances. The yield sign might as well say “ram the guy who has right of way off the road” in Clark County, whereas people generally slow down or stop until there’s a suitable gap in Tulsa County.

commuter
Guest
commuter

Right hooks are actually not a problem on Broadway by PSU since there isn’t really a road to turn into. If you go up a few blocks past PSU, the risk of a right hook I think is even greater since cyclists are blocked by parked cars while riding in the cycle track which makes them less visible to drivers and ultimately if there is a truck or large vehicle parked right at the corner of a turn, you are less visible and more likely to get unintentionally right hooked. So for me as a cyclist, not only do I have to watch for inattentive pedestrians, I also have to look through a barrier of parked cars for potential cars turning right. As someone who has been commuting for more than a decade on this stretch of Broadway, the number of potential ‘hazards’ that I have to look out for has increased on this stretch.

are
Guest

Paul Johnson
You mean 6 months. The Idaho Stop hasn’t been legal that long.

the idaho statute, 49-720, has been in place since 1982

are
Guest

Paul Johnson
The difference between the Broadway example and viaduct example is that Broadway’s cycletrack functions as a buffered bicycle lane, whereas the cycletrack on the viaduct is physically seperated by a barrier creating a second roadway.

not at the intersection in question. there is a curb cut, which cyclists coming up from lovejoy in particular but also pedestrians use

are
Guest

incidentally, i think it is interesting that with respect to the buffered bike lanes, monsere and dill recommend the very same treatment — a designated space through which right-turning motor traffic should merge across — that PBoT has resisted with respect to ordinary bike lanes.

Ted Buehler
Guest

K’Tesh wrote
“I’ll add that there are several storm drain grates (Type1 or (W)rectangular Roulettes) right next to curb cuts (@ Hall, Harrison, & Montgomery) that are too small for their inlets, and might catch a bike tire (in line with traffic):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ufobike/5391804743

“or Wheelchair caster wheels:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ufobike/5389153173

“I’m told that they can’t replace the grates because they don’t have any that fit, so they’d have to rip out the drains and replace.”

K’Tesh — have you sent these photos in to safe@portlandoregon.gov? They’re out of compliance with the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan’s Facility Design Standards. Section D.1 “Drainage Grates” (Page 73). http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/BIKEPED/docs/or_bicycle_ped_plan.pdf?ga=t

Ted Buehler

Ted Buehler
Guest

I went to the seminar today, I thought they did a fine job of assessing how well the different new bike facilities were functioning.

Thanks much to PBOT and the Mayor’s Office for demonstrating to Portland and the rest of the country that these are good, functional designs for bicycle facilities. I expect that they’ll eventually be added to the MUTCD (or its successor) so that we’ll be able to ride in facilities like this in many cities around the country.

Ted Buehler

eric
Guest
eric

to all the comments above: TL;DR

As someone who has a multiple daily interactions with the cycle track, I think a good way to reduce cycle/ped incidents would be to put someone at each intersection with a club and clobber all the peds who take two steps out and then stand in the middle of the cycle track texting while waiting for the light to change. Failing physical abuse, an additional signal would be clearer, but a lot of the time people on bikes seem to just slow down and find a way through the hordes of college kids when the light is red. It’s more of a woonerf situation than a running the red into dangerous cross traffic situation, and it’s unfortunate that there’s not really a good way to make this work in our present traffic control regime.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

Ted Buehler
K’Tesh — have you sent these photos in to safe@portlandoregon.gov? They’re out of compliance with the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan’s Facility Design Standards. Section D.1 “Drainage Grates” (Page 73). http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/BIKEPED/docs/or_bicycle_ped_plan.pdf?ga=t
Ted Buehler

No, I hadn’t. But that could change…