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For some, riding on Sandy Blvd is a risk worth taking

Posted by on May 10th, 2011 at 11:05 am

Despite being dominated by cars and offering no dedicated bike access, many Portlanders choose to ride on NE Sandy Blvd. for the same reasons people like to drive on it — because it’s the most direct and efficient route into the Hollywood District and downtown.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Northeast Portland resident Esther Harlow lives near NE 76th and Siskiyou and — despite its unpleasant and unsafe conditions — rides down Sandy Blvd to her job downtown every morning.

Riding on NE Sandy Boulevard? Are you nuts!?

Regular Sandy Blvd commuter Esther Harlow says her coworkers think she’s “crazy” for riding into work in downtown Portland on the wide, high-speed arterial. But for Harlow, and many others, the street’s dangerous conditions are a risk worth taking.

NE Sandy Blvd is a straight shot from outer northeast Neighborhoods into downtown. But if you’re on a bicycle, Sandy offers no dedicated facility and you must compete with fast-moving cars for road space (the road is slightly downhill headed toward downtown).

Sandy (red line) is a rare Portland street that doesn’t follow the grid.

In most sections, Sandy is the typical, auto-dominated, bloated arterial street (six lanes, four for travel, two for parking) that increasingly seems anachronistic in a city that is supposed to be a leader in non-motorized transportation.

But even with its lack of bicycle access, Sandy still has an allure for many bicycle riders. Why? Because it’s the quickest, most direct route from A to B (which is the same reason it’s popular for car traffic).

Riding on NE Sandy Blvd-8

Curious about the love/hate relationship many have with the street, I’ve been wanting to take a closer look at Sandy for months now. When Harlow posted a photo of a mangled, right-hook stricken bike with the caption, “It will take a death on NE Sandy to improve biking facilities” last week, I decided it was time to experience it myself.

I joined Esther (and her partner Timo Forsberg, who happens to work for PBOT in the Transportation Options division) on their morning commute last week.

What’s Sandy like to bike on? I asked Esther. “Gritty… Cars are very confused about how much room there is, unless you take the full lane.”

Curb extensions (where the curb juts out into travel lanes to make crossing easier) make things even more confusing, says Harlow. “In a lot of places it’s really wide; then suddenly, it gets really narrow.”

During our ride Friday morning, our senses remained on high alert. “Car back!” “Single file through there!” “That’s where that guy got hit.” “Here is the little bike lane they put in after a woman was killed several years ago.”*

Riding on NE Sandy Blvd-4-3

Ruts from bus tires and a door zone
add to the high-stress experience.

If Sandy is such an uncomfortable place to ride, why would Harlow do it? “It shaves a third off your distance,” she explained, “If we had to go Tillamook to Broadway or the Steel Bridge, it would add another 10-15 minutes onto our trip.” (Her total commute time is 25 minutes.)

Forsberg chimed in on why he takes Sandy, “Because I can’t get out of bed on time.” Forsberg says he’s tried various side-street routes, “But as time went on, I kept shaving closer to a straight line and ended up on Sandy.”

Reader Craig Santiago can’t fathom why anyone would want to ride on Sandy. “It is not worth the stress, danger, and exhaust fumes to take that route,” he wrote via email, “no matter how convenient. As a bicycle commuter, I ride to stay out of traffic, not to join it. Zig-zagging through the grid network of Portland’s quieter avenues is preferable to me.”

While it may not be for everyone, both Harlow and Forsberg feel some sort of bikeway on Sandy is needed. When asked for specifics, Harlow said, “A separated cycle track…[she started laughing as if that was a pie-in-the-sky idea]… Barring that, some signage about bikes being in the road.” Forsberg added that, “Even a bike lane would be great.”

I wasn’t able to confirm any upcoming City plans for a bikeway on Sandy; but that won’t stop the many bike commuters who rely on it every day.

*For more on the fatal crash on NE Sandy mentioned in the article, read this comment.

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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Zaphod
Guest

When I’m running late, Sandy is a direct line between my roaster and Whole Foods Hollywood. I decidedly take the lane unless there’s a long stretch where cars can get by. Ambiguity for drivers is the biggest risk as the road does vary in width. The cargo bike seems to get more respect than my skinny commute machine. I think one must roll fast, aware and with confidence to make it reasonably safe. If I have extra time, I choose other more scenic and peaceful routes.

John Russell (jr98664)
Guest

It was much the same for me when I lived in Vancouver. Coming off of the I-205 bike path at Killingsworth and Sandy, it’s a direct shot towards downtown. Having taken most of the alternative bike routes, I opt for the quickest route down Sandy. Up until 57th Ave, there is often an empty parking lane (Why not restrict parking to one side of the street in this stretch and use the extra space for a bike lane?). After Sandy starts heading downhill near the Bike Gallery, I take the lane the whole way, as anything else would be ill-advised. It’s downhill from there, making keeping up with the 25–30 mph traffic a non-issue for me. I generally do not use the bike lane near the Banfield, as this leaves my vulnerable having to merge back into the right lane. The couplet at Couch makes continuing onto the lower stretch of Sandy more convoluted than it previously was, but from there it’s a rather direct connection to the Burnside, Morrison, and Hawthorne Bridges.

It is worth noting that I rarely travel Sandy in the outbound direction, as I usually end up taking the Interstate Bridge to Vancouver to avoid the two-mile-long uphill on the Glenn Jackson Bridge while wedged between eight lanes of interstate traffic.

My old commute when I lived in Vancouver was quite similar in that I regularly took the the direct route, Mill Plain Boulevard, even though it was even less bicycle-friendly than Sandy, with three lanes in each direction and a 40 mph speed limit. It was .3 miles shorter and the speed of traffic allowed me to shave off as much as four to five minutes off of my 15-minute commute when compared to taking a much more bicycle-friendly route. The traffic was never an issue, as my fellow commuters seemed to have grown used to me taking the lane. I never once had an issue with traffic during my regular commutes, although different times of the day were often much different.

Dave
Guest

I would second this wholeheartedly – I live near 24th and Sandy, and think often about how convenient it would be as a bike route – the road is huge, under-utilized by car traffic, and in my opinion, a perfect candidate (along with NE Glisan) for separated bicycle facilities. If you really want to accommodate cyclists, accommodate them on the most convenient routes.

It’s really time for Portland to step up their game and start putting some action into all the talk they float about being bike-friendly.

rootbeerguy
Guest
rootbeerguy

for me, McLoughlin Blvd would be the most direct route from Milwaukie. But Springwater Corridor is really nice route especially in the morning. It is a bit longer but its nature setting makes difference.

BURR
Guest
BURR

If nothing else, there should be sharrows in the center of the right lane on Sandy and all other arterial streets like it.

Sharrows are a proactive way to make motorists understand that bikes will be present and to expect them in the lane.

Why are we still waiting for this to happen, PBOT?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

That’s a good question BURR that I’m still not clear on. I think what I’ve heard is that PBOT is concerned that sharrows would give a false sense of safety and they don’t want to use them as quick band-aids when a real, comprehensive solutions is what’s really needed.

BURR
Guest
BURR

And in the meantime, we get absolutely nothing on these streets, while ‘comprehensive’ improvements (i.e. expensive and controversial infrastructure0 remain years off in the future, if they ever get built at all.

How in their right minds can PBOT claim that doing nothing is better than using sharrows, or that sharrows themselves are a ‘do nothing’ solution, as Ellen Vanderslice was quoted as saying recently????

Brad
Guest
Brad

PBOT is always concerned when it comes to low cost, common sense solutions but never questions high dollar separated infrastructure that they can milk for national kudos and PR value.

False sense of security with sharrows? Kind of like a bike lane, eh?

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Wonder what would be more expensive:
Thorough comprehensive driver training BEFORE licensing
or
Redesigning all roads so that careless drivers are unable to cause “accidents”?

No amount of schooling will get rid of the “me first” attitude we are infamous for here in the USA.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

BURR (and others),

The “do nothing” concept in this instance simply means that PBOT now sees sharrows as a standard treatment to be done as a matter of policy… Therefore they no longer represent something additional/special in projects. Does that make sense? Sorry if not clear.

Basically saying they are done as a routine in certain circumstances and not considered “doing something” above/beyond.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Sharrows are not “do nothing”, I don’t get this sentiment.

Sharrows by definition declare that bikes and motorized vehicles should be sharing that lane – the WHOLE lane.

are
Guest

if someone at PBoT is actually saying that putting down sharrows would give a false sense of security, i would like to have that person quoted on the record. striped lanes give a false sense of security, especially when they are in a door zone or inside a right hook or next to a narrow travel lane with a high speed differential. but PBoT considers striping a bike lane doing “something.” sharrows do not tell a cyclist that a shared lane is safer than it was before the sharrows went down. it tells the cyclist not to hug the curb or the door zone, and it tells the motorist to watch the hell out.

are
Guest

and for these very reasons, a conventional striped bike lane on sandy would be a mistake, because it would confine cyclists to the least safe portion of the roadway. taking the lane westbound on sandy is a complete no-brainer. any motorist who “needs” to pass will have ample opportunity — in the left lane.

Andrew Seger
Guest
Andrew Seger

Great story. Really great mix of the personal narrative tied to a larger issue. Also agree with the coming investment in East Portland there still needs to be quick bike routes into inner Portland, and Sandy would be an ideal quick project. Unlike the Sullivan’s Gulch bikeway all the RoW is already owned by the city and there wouldn’t need to be any fancy cantilevered construction or erosion mitigation.

Options Guy
Guest

Thanks for the article Jonathan!
Having commuted Sandy regularly for about the past 6 years I find it is like the City itself – there are jerks and there are folks who respect and care for their neighbors.
Case in point – this morning I slowed as two huge pickup trucks came to a stop, one in each lane, with no traffic signal nearby. I looked around them and saw an older woman, tiny compared to the vehicles’ bulk, crossing Sandy’s wide girth on foot. She was going from corner to corner – using the legal (unmarked) crosswalk. Hooray for pedestrian right-of-way, and for everyone who honors it!

Harald
Guest

There’s an awful lot of talk of “danger” in the article, but no actual statistics about the number of collisions that happens on that street. Now I’m not in the camp that denies the importance of creating subjectively safe spaces, but having some sense of the more objective safety would nonetheless be helpful for making informed decisions (both for rider and for planners).

Options Guy
Guest

Here is a crash map for the City from 1999-2008:
http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?a=291393&c=44721
Sandy does show a large number of crashes, but then, it carries a lot of vehicles and has more intersections than other streets – intersections being the most common places for crashes.
Note – most of this data was collected before the Sandy Blvd Project (completed 2008), which introduced the “slaloming” features (curb extensions, etc.), added cross-walks and included at least one HAWK signal.
Although the street is still fast, the wide-then-narrow character tends to slow cars, compared to the straight-chute-downhill it used to be.

Esther
Guest
Esther

Thank you for the data, “Options Guy.” I also want to add I think the curb extensions & traffic slowing ARE wonderful improvements to Sandy, especially for pedestrians trying to cross (this morning I held up all the cars behind me when I stopped to let a woman cross in the marked intersection by the Buick dealership).
The street itself widens & narrows in a good number of spots without curb extensions – between 47th and 48th (by the Chevron) is particularly dangerous, it suddenly goes from wide enough to share the lane, to take-the-lane-narrow. I take great caution here in asserting the lane and prepare for it ahead of time, but I think it confuses drivers. This along with parked cars etc. create a lot of pinch points.

Esther
Guest
Esther

I just want to clarify I’m not sure about whether or not a woman died at the Banfield onramp or not. That could be my rapidly deteriorating memory/conflation with other events. Would love for someone to pipe in about when/why bike lane was put in at NE 37th.

Ross Williams
Guest

Here is a link to the final results of a 2005 planning process:
http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?a=90076&c=36373

Bikes from Page 9:

“Sandy Boulevard is a designated City Bikeway, and many cyclists travel on it between downtown and NE Portland, as well as between the surrounding residential areas and shops along the street. It is, however, a challenging cycling environment.

Due to the right-of-way constraints and the corridor’s need for on-street parking and auto capacity, bike lanes are not planned for Sandy Boulevard. …”

This is the introduction to a longer section.

Dave
Guest

What kind of designated bikeway is that? We could call almost every street in Portland a designated bikeway if Sandy is the definition.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I live in Hollywood and ride out to Boeing several times a week (on 190th and Sandy). For me, Sandy would be the quickest way, but I choose to take either the bike boulevard south of Glisan to Burnside, 122nd and the I-84 path, or 57th through the neighborhood to Prescott. Sandy is just too fast with too much cross traffic. I do have several co-workers that ride it in the morning (before 6am), but even they have learned to avoid it in the afternoon on the way home.

Also, for those hoping for any improvements, you might want to get in touch with these people:
http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=54307

It appears that this will just be a repaving project, and will not improve facilities at all.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Timing is everything. I sometimes take Sandy to downtown from 33rd and it is always light traffic at 6 or 6:30 in the morning. I usually don’t take Sandy home because traffic is heavier and I am moving slower (uphill). But in general it is not bad. I like many parts of East Burnside as well, despite Ankeny being nearby.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Most of the congestion on Sandy is caused by cars attempting to parallel park on the street. It is a throughfare and there is plenty of parking to be had on the side streets. For much of sandy conditions could be improved for all modes by removing the parking.

I am very concerned about how the future addition of a streetcar on Sandy which is likely to occur will make things much worse for bikes. Because of the parking you have to take the lane to stay out of the door zone and if they put tracks down the outside lanes it will create a very unsafe situation.

I also almost always use Sandy to get from my house out near 76th and Mason to downtown, it is much much faster than the other options.

Dave
Guest

Hopefully if they put a streetcar down Sandy, they put it in the middle of the street, with car lanes and then separated bike facilities and sidewalks on each side, like they’re doing with SW Moody Ave. Seems like a really smart layout to me that completely avoids bike/streetcar mixups.

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

“Sandy still has an allure for many bicycle riders.” ?!
Yep, just like paying taxes has allure. I think of this route as an infrequent and unpleasant necessity.

When you rides Sandy stay on your “A” game.

BURR
Guest
BURR

I love it when other so-called cyclists make decisions for others about where it is safe or not safe to ride, or what public streets you should not use because you are just a cyclist.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Also I would say that I have experienced a lot more road rage on sandy than I have actual danger. My favorite was the guy who yelled at me to get on the sidewalk. I talked to him about it at several traffic lights over the next mile to mile and a half until finally way down by the hollywood theater he told me I couldn’t be in the street unless I was keeping up with the flow of traffic. This was mind you after I had been keeping up with him just fine for well over a mile.

I was also once pulled over and told by a cop that I needed to ride elsewhere because it was prom night and he was worried that some drunk teen would run me over.

The reasons are the same, for some reason auto users feel that Sandy is not an “appropriate” place for cyclists, even though it is a city bikeway and is obviously the fastest most efficient way for cyclists to get to and from downtown. Maybe they need to throw down some of those sharrows along sandy…

bobcycle
Guest
bobcycle

Esther
I just want to clarify I’m not sure about whether or not a woman died at the Banfield onramp or not. That could be my rapidly deteriorating memory/conflation with other events. Would love for someone to pipe in about when/why bike lane was put in at NE 37th.

July 5,2001. A woman bicyclist died as she crossed the freeway entrance ramp at 37th. Witnesses said she was on the right side of a semi-truck that was entering the freeway as she tried to continue on Sandy. I happen to be in my car that day and was first on the scene. I will never forget. RIP. I went to a critical mass rally at that intersection the following week. I attended every open house for the Sandy re- striping and gave input. I like to think the short bike lane across the freeway ramp was a result of my and others input. I live in Roseway neighborhood at approx. 72nd and Sandy. I ride inner Sandy when in a hurry but that is not often. I often ride Sandy to Tillamook then connect w/ Broadway at 22nd. Tillamook has 4 or 5 stop signs in an 8 block section near the Library, which makes Sandy very tempting. Also noteworthy is that during rush hour 30-50% of traffic on Sandy have Washington plates. The more backed up the Banfield the higher the percentage.

John Lascurettes
Guest

I occasionally need to ride from Hollywood to downtown during morning commute and Sandy is the way I go. Can’t beat the directness of it, and it’s nearly all downhill from there.

For the most part, I take the lane – impatient motorized drivers have a whole other lane to take (and yet, they’re the ones I usually catch up to at the lights).

The sudden widening and narrowing of Sandy is the worst part of it. Some places a rider really should (must) take the lane for everyone’s safety, in others, the lane itself is nearly wide enough for two whole cars and the bicycle rider should ride as far right as practicable. The biggest surprise in all this is some of the rather abrupt narrowings of the right lane heading into downtown.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Oh. And only once was I passed so close that it rattled my cage. It was a City of Portland worker and I chased him down until he pulled into a yard near Voodoo Donuts and we had a polite conversation about safe passing distances and what the ORS around that are.

eli bishop
Guest
eli bishop

i’d like to see a bike lane on sandy: not terribly protective, but much better than nothing at all. it would become a street much like division, and i’ve had occasion to use & be grateful for division, even if it’s not an idyllic street.

BURR
Guest
BURR

when the Division Plan gets implemented, you will see the street get narrowed to one lane in each direction, with curb extensions and curbside parking, so the right hand lane will no longer be available to cyclists, another big mistake bin the making by PBOT, IMO.

ED
Guest
ED

I know this article is about Sandy, and not Division, but this comment piqued my curiosity. I live near Division and Clinton, and I am wondering why some cyclists would prefer to use Division over Clinton. Clinton seems equally as direct, with as few or fewer lights/stop signs and far less traffic. What’s the appeal of Division? I’m happy to let the cars take it.

BURR
Guest
BURR

the appeal of Division is that you often have your own lane, and it’s a much faster and more direct route from, say the Springwater Trail to Apex or New Season’s on lower Division, or points beyond, like the restaurants and carts around 34th.

On Clinton the hills are steeper, there are speed bumps and every traffic circle and intersection is a more serious potential conflict point with motorists than the intersections on Division, which are less frequent and the major ones are mostly signal controlled.

Liz
Guest
Liz

Jonathan – have you heard anything about a pedestrian hit by a car last Friday late afternoon on Sandy right in front of Laurelwood? We happened upon it right after it happened. Looked like she was trying to cross from their across Sandy parking lot. Its a tough place to cross – like most of Sandy. I was just curious as to how she was doing.

I know we completely avoid Sandy when commuting to work by bike. Always looks a little scary to me.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Crossing Sandy is at least as dangerous as riding on it. Cars do not stop even at the marked crosswalks. Perhaps some of that traffic enforcement from the cities safest intersection could be moved over to doing crosswalk stings in Sandycrest.

Esther
Guest
Esther

AFAIK they are planning to do a bunch of intersection/crossing improvements on Sandy. Peter Koonce, the engineer, was twittering about it awhile ago (@pkoonce)

pkoonce
Guest
pkoonce

Thanks for the reminder. I need to confirm they incorporated my suggestions to the design.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Was she using the signal right next to Laurelwood, or crossing illegally?

are
Guest

sorry, what do you mean by “illegally”?

Liz
Guest
Liz

She was crossing at the intersection of 51st and Sandy. There is no light there.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

It really needs enforcement, there is a family restaurant on one side of the street and their parking lot is on the other. Rarely if ever do cars stop for people crossing at the unmarked crosswalk there.

Dave
Guest

Another note about accommodating bike traffic on streets like Sandy – if it were nice to ride and walk along Sandy, people from the neighborhoods around would be much more likely to visit businesses on Sandy – as it is, many of them avoid the street unless in a car, which likely means they’re going somewhere else.

Brock
Guest
Brock

Very timely. i was just telling friends that I do not see why anyone would take Sandy when there are dedicated and marked bikeways a couple blocks away. I guess time is an issue for some but as a avid cyclist who also drives for must trips (kids sports, etc), I must confess that I get irritated with cyclists riding on Sandy. As much as we cyclists get pissed at those rude and dangerous drivers, we should recognize that biking on some roadways can create delay and danger for motorists and creates bad feelings when there doesn’t have to be any.

I know that I have enjoyed many waves, smiles and ROW’s from motorists just by being courteous and thanking them with waves for their consideration. Not only makes me feel good, it creates good vibes between cyclists and motorists. Something that is always in need.

I would encourage those you feel they “own the road” and can bike anywhere they damn well please, to take a little more time and enjoy the great cycle infrastructure this town already has. Some roads should probably be left to the autos that dominate it for everyone’s sake.

JMO-

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

cycling on sandy rarely creates a delay as it is a 4 lane road so autos can move over to the left lane if they are actually traveling faster than a cyclist. Delays on Sandy are caused by two things, cars stopped in the right lane attempting to back into a parking spot, and cars stopped in the left lane waiting to turn left (often illegally especially in the hollywood area). Cyclists are not slowing traffic on this road.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

There’s a study I’d like to see: causes of delay on city roadways. Hard to measure–or even define–“delay”, but taking into account things like drivers stopping to park, drivers stopping to make left turns, pedestrians crossing, general congestion causing drivers to have to wait for multiple light cycles to get through a single intersection, construction/roadway damage, crashes/stalls, police actions, and cyclists riding on the street, I have my own personal hypothesis about how the rankings would turn out. However, perception of what causes delay is a different story…

I will say that during peak times, there seems to be no shortage of delay on freeways; what’s causing that?

Ben
Guest
Ben

Love it! That would be a great study. Good point in the end — what really causes slow car traffic? Um, car traffic, duh.

Milkshake
Guest
Milkshake

About three months ago my employer moved out to 139th and Airport Way. I live in Sellwood. Three times a week I ride into the office and I’ve been using Sandy both ways with nary a problem. I’m comfortable on fast/busy streets. I take Sandy from about 24th to 105th on most days and have not been honked at once or had a close call. I attribute this to my ability to work with the traffic that is there.

You get irritated by cyclists on Sandy? I get irritated with vehicles who speed on residential streets, talk on their phones, and pass unsafely right before stop signs/stop lights. We all have a right to the roads in our city. If you don’t like me on Sandy, use the other lane to pass me. I will continue to ride where I see fit thank you very much.

Esther
Guest
Esther

I agree that courtesy goes a long way. I make a point as well, of smiling and waving to drivers, especially bus drivers, who are making considerable effort to drive legally, safely and courteously.

I also agree we have some wonderful bikeways in town. I always take Salmon instead of Belmont or Hawthorne, Tillamook instead of Broadway, etc. They are usually only a block or two from the collector/arterial.

However, like Jonathan wrote, Sandy is an anomaly because it’s on a diagonal unlike the other grid streets. Some quick Pythagoras Theorem math suggests to me that it shaves off roughly 25% of the distance. Not only that but compared to east-west bikeways like Tillamook, it eliminates a number of crossings where during rush hour, you don’t have the right of way, due to stop signs/lights and heavy cross traffic (57th, Sandy, 33rd, 24th, 15th, MLK, Williams all come to mind).

I generally play leapfrog with the #12 bus from 53rd all the way to Davis (where I leave it in the dust as it gets stuck in Couch traffic). So, the #12 bus is causing as much “delay, danger” and “bad feelings” to motorists as someone riding a bicycle down Sandy. Are you suggesting it also be removed from Sandy to a neighboring street?

Now that Sandy is no longer a state highway but is instead managed by the city, I hope that the city can make safety improvements to protect the growing number of cyclists who are using it.

are
Guest

are you completely kidding? there are at least two lanes in each direction, nobody is getting impeded. and some guy name of pythagoras or sumpn says it is the shortest route

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

Very timely. I was just telling friends that I do not see why anyone would take Sandy when there is a dedicated and marked freeway a couple blocks away. I guess time is an issue for some but as an avid driver who also bikes for most trips, I must confess that I get irritated with motorists driving on Sandy. As much as we drivers get pissed at those rude and dangerous cyclists, we should recognize that driving on some roadways can create congestion and danger for bicyclists and creates bad feelings when there doesn’t have to be any.

I know that I have enjoyed many waves, smiles and ROW’s from cyclists just by being courteous and thanking them with waves for their consideration. Not only makes me feel good, it creates good vibes between cyclists and motorists. Something that is always in need.

I would encourage those who really do “own the road” and can drive anywhere they damn well please, to take a little more time and enjoy the great public infrastructure this town already has. Some routes should probably be left to the bikes that dominate it for everyone’s sake.

Dave
Guest

Sharrows on a street like Sandy are not a “solution” for anyone but young, athletic types.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Dave, Sharrows would mean you were entitled to the lane. Why would you have to be young and athletic? There’s a whole other lane for faster vehicles to use. You’d be able to pedal along at your comfortable pace without worry of holding up traffic.

As it stands now, one does need to feel young and athletic to ride Sandy as the rhythmic narrowing-widening of Sandy’s length means taking the lane, going to the right, taking the lane, going to the right, checking over your shoulder before every time you need to take the lane.

Dave
Guest

Because subjectively, someone who is not adventurous is still not going to ride on a road like Sandy, and people are not likely to drive more calmly, sharrows or no. People use the road as the infrastructure dictates, not the paint on the road.

are
Guest

okay, but why should that preclude PBoT from putting down sharrows for the rest of us. i completely understand the push for this and that comfort route for the curious but ambivalent, or whatever the catchphrase is, but if there is a simple treatment that could make life slightly easier for the intrepid or whatever, why does PBoT refuse to do it?

BURR
Guest
BURR

exactly!

Dave
Guest

I wouldn’t be opposed to sharrows on Sandy (or other major streets) as long as that wasn’t an excuse to not do anything else.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Sorry, he should qualify that. Young and athletic, or old/slow and willing to take abuse from drivers

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Just painting a bike lane would make sandy much more dangerous if it wasn’t accompanied by the removal of the parallel parking on the street. The speed of both cyclists and cars on Sandy mean that a dooring could easily be deadly.

Dave
Guest

Build the sidewalks way out, put in a raised cycle track, make the sidewalk and cycle track continuous through intersections, and keep one lane of car parking, and one lane of moving car traffic on each side.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

One lane of parking next to one lane of moving traffic would create a congestion nightmare. The reason sandy is not a parking lot now is that you can move left to avoid the cars stopped in the right lane trying to park and right to avoid the cars in the left lane who are stopped waiting to turn left. The only way to create a dedicated cyclepath would be to remove at least one lane of parking, which is a good idea by the way as it solves the people in the right lane stopping to park problem. It does get a little hard to see how to do it in the stretches where the street narrows and there already is no parking, but they could probably figure something out.

On a side note it does appear that those areas without parking on Sandy still have businesses and have not turned into ghost towns so maybe we don’t need so much parking on sandy.

Dave
Guest

I won’t complain about getting rid of the on-street parking 🙂

Esther
Guest
Esther

Funny, Broadway is an alternative to Sandy if you’re going from NE towards downtown, and even though it also is in the door zone, no one says the bike lane shouldn’t be there.

are
Guest

thank you

bobcycle
Guest
bobcycle

Esther, I found the link from 2001 WW article
http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-253-crossroads_of_shame.html

David K
Guest
David K

I ride Sandy often after 3 am, and it’s a great deserted thorough-fare at that hour.

fredlf
Guest

I see a lot of bike infrastructure that fails to take into account the fact that bike “drivers” are no different than car drivers insofar as they usually want to go the fastest, most efficient way from A to B.

Rol
Guest

I don’t bike Sandy much lately, but in my past experience, there are long stretches of Sandy that I would say are not too bad — wide enough and sufficiently empty of parked cars to make for a de facto bike lane. The hairy spots seem to be mostly near where major roads intersect it. Such as Burnside (formerly), 33rd, and the stretch through the main part of Hollywood (I-84, 39th, Broadway, Halsey, 42nd et al). And actually the crash map posted above seems to confirm my feelings, which always tended toward higher levels of caution at precisely the places where the bigger red circles are!

BURR
Guest
BURR

John Lascurettes

The biggest surprise in all this is some of the rather abrupt narrowings of the right lane heading into downtown.

I assume you’re talking about the curb extensions?

According to PBOT, those are an ‘improvement’ for cyclists.

John Lascurettes
Guest

No, they’re not all curb extensions. Some areas (i.e., stretches, not bump-outs) of the right lane are as narrow as one large motorized vehicle, some are as wide as two.

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

Wowzers! Esther and Timo, you’ve got more courage than I. Ride safely out there!!!

eric
Guest
eric

sand is a convenient way to get out to NE when you really need to get there, and back to downtown. It’s a shame that because of all the bike infrastructure drivers don’t think bikes should be on that road. sharrows would honestly go a long way towards making bikes feel better, and make drivers feel better about bikes. (this goes for 11th and 12th, too)

Brad
Guest
Brad

Sharrows work.

I use NW 19th a great deal and consider it one of the safest stretches of road in the city. It is heavily trafficked with cars, especially during the evening commute. There is a solid line of parked cars along the far right curb. Why do I feel it is so safe? The sharrows make it abundantly clear that I and other bike riders will be present and taking the lane. It is one of the few spots in Portland that I see cars use turn signals and move entirely into the left lane to pass cyclists. Are all of Portland’s good drivers in NW? No. It’s because the sharrows are intuitive, very visible, and send a direct message. No signs, cute art projects, road furniture, or other subtle clues that a driver can miss. Just a big arrow with a bike rider that screams, “Share!”.

If you have the right to be in the lane (and you do!), if the sharrow makes it clear to all road users what to expect (and they do!), then you do not have to be young, athletic, or fearless to ride a bike on city streets.

Personally, I want a transportation system that I can navigate by bicycle now and not some expensive aspirational Euro-fetish pipedream that MIGHT exist in twenty years if the stars align, bike friendly pols keep getting elected, and the economy doesn’t hit another big bust cycle in that time. With enough sharrows, we could have a truly great bike transportation system in well less than a decade at costs that cannot be argued against. If we attempt to re-create Copenhagen, we’ll likely end up with a mile of cycletrack here, a couple kilometers of MUP there, and the same lack of connectivity and usefulness we suffer now.

Dave
Guest

For what it’s worth, I don’t think most streets in Portland need separated infrastructure – but I do think it would be *really* useful on main arterial streets like Sandy, Burnside, Hawthorne, MLK, Grand etc. The amount spent on putting in good cycling infrastructure on those few streets would probably be a drop in the bucket compared to the overall transportation budget.

BURR
Guest
BURR

that section of sharrows on NW 19th was PBOT’s original ‘test’ of sharrows. As you have pointed out, they work. That should be the signal for the city to use them on similar multilane arterials elsewhere in the city, and they should be doing it right now.

OnTheRoad
Guest
OnTheRoad

Plus one.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

Sandy is my preferred route to and from Hollywood. I don’t find it stressful or dangerous.

Brock
Guest
Brock

Milkshake, no doubt you will continue to ride where you want. I was only trying to suggest that attitudes like “If you don’t like me on Sandy, use the other lane to pass me. I will continue to ride where I see fit thank you very much.” keep the us v them / cars v bicyclist / i only care about me attitude alive and well in our town.

I will continue to do my part to show respect to drivers when I bike and to show respect to cyclists when I drive.

BURR
Guest
BURR

it is not, as you imply, disrespectful to take the lane and expect motorists to change lanes to pass, those are actually the rules of the road.

eljefe
Guest
eljefe

Thank you, BURR. It’s frustrating that we have to take the same flak from some of our fellow bike riders that we do from motorists. Part of “respect” means respecting ourselves and now cowering before someone else’s preference that we not excercise our rights.

are
Guest

plus one, burr. why must everything be centered on the momentary convenience of the oblivious motorist?

Nat
Guest
Nat

The same issue exists to a lesser extent with Foster Road.

Liz
Guest
Liz

I don’t ever bike on Sandy, except for the odd block here and there at staggered intersections. It’s scary as hell, unless it’s 2am and you have the entire six lane monstrosity to yourself!

However, I can see why people DO bike on it. Particularly people like Esther coming from more outer Portland areas. The grid system is so terrible and disconnected the further away from downtown you get. And the lack of any real bikeways east of 41st doesn’t help.

It would be wonderful to see a cycletrack on Sandy one day! Either way, I am thankful ODOT handed Sandy over to PBOT a few years back, enabling all of the new crosswalks and the like to be installed for the first time ever.

Brock
Guest
Brock

Ahh yes the typical responses. Our rights! It is the law! Yes, yes, all true.

It is not disrespecful to exercise your rights nor is it to keep from cowering. Just maybe it isn’t either to think of other people once in awhile.

Hard to see how suggesting shared respect offends. I guess it isn’t anti car enough.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“Hard to see how suggesting shared respect offends.”

Brock–

I think it seems too much like your idea of “respect” by cyclists for motorists means scurrying out of the way, taking a longer, more inconvenient route, and/or putting themselves in potential danger (hugging the parking lane), all so motorists won’t perceive that they are being held up by a cyclist. Whereas the notion of “respect” by motorists for cyclists seems to mean as long as cyclists are “out of the way”, there is no problem.

Is it disrespectful for drivers to park on Sandy, which requires them to STOP (not just go slow) and wait for all other traffic in the lane to STOP (or go around) before they can back into a space? To be “respectful”, shouldn’t they circle the block until a space opens up that they can pull forward into directly?

Is it disrespectful for drivers to make a left turn, which requires them to STOP and wait for oncoming traffic to clear, which in turn requires other drivers to STOP (not just go slower) or go around? To be “respectful” shouldn’t they make a right turn and then circle the block so they can wait on a side street until traffic clears in both directions?

Is it disrespectful for drivers to insist on remaining on Sandy, even if their presence there will cause traffic to back up so far that other drivers will have to wait through two or more signal cycles to clear an intersection? To be “respectful”, shouldn’t those drivers seek an alternate route to avoid creating huge backups?

Is it disrespectful for pedestrians to cross?

All these things likely cause more frequent and longer delays than a cyclist pedaling along in the right lane. Why are only cyclists considered selfish, arrogant road hogs?

Is it disrespectful for drivers to intimidate cyclists by passing too close and too fast? Is it disrespectful for drivers to honk or yell at cyclists who are riding legally on a designated bikeway? Is it disrespectful for drivers to blindly open their car doors into traffic without looking to see who they might hurt by doing it?

I don’t see the “shared” aspect of the kind of respect you appear to be advocating.

Travis
Guest
Travis

I ride Sandy all the time from Tillamook & 45th (home) to 30th as a cut through to “SE” or Laurelthirst or Laurelhurst Theater… With the exception of the 84 on ramp/overpass it’s usually smooth sailing. The traffic lights through Hollywood keep speeds in check enough to take the lane.

From my Hood there is no “safe” route but the pedestrian crossing at the Hollywood Transit Center, 47th (long ways) or Tillamook to the Fred Myer 84 overpass (yuck).

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Oh, man. I’m all for cyclists’ rights but these folks need a reality check. If Esther loves bicycling so much, why does she feel the need to shave “one third” off of commute that’s just a few miles long?

It’s not that Sandy is the only reasonable option– there’s plenty of alternatives. It’s not going to kill anyone to wake up 15 minutes earlier or ride a couple extra miles a week.

All that Sandy represents– reality check applied– is a way for Esther to make a big stink and feel important about herself. Part of being a member of a community is realizing that to succeed, it needs to cater to multiple groups at once. Can Portland have streets that cater to cars, as well as ones that cater to bikes? I don’t see why not.

SK
Guest

Word.

Esther
Guest
Esther

Thanks for the comments maxadders-they gave me a good belly laugh! “WONT SOMEONE THINK OF THE CARS?!?!” When the ratio of people who don’t bike because theyre afraid of auto dominated roads, to people who don’t drive because they’re afraid of bike dominated roads, is way less than 10:1, I will start worrying that advocacy for speedy vehicular through routes is needed.
By the way, you may be pleased to know that I have in fact bike toured extensively on highways 101, 26, 6, 14, 47, hcrh, and I84, several times by myself (in fact once my aunt and uncle passed me unknowingly outside B rookings, in their F250 and trailer home, and admired my bright vest without knowing it was me!) 48 hours before you left your comment I was biking on washington 503 after camping in battle Ground. So I consider myself an experienced rider with heavy traffic.
I don’t think level of expertise has any bearing on o ur expectations, as residents and payers of income and property taxes, to expect our city to accommodate safety both for the increasing numbers of bicyclists who are using Sandy as well as thr drivers sharing the road with them.

SK
Guest

Perhaps you have experience biking with “heavy traffic” but not much with sensible solutions. Sounds like its your way or the highway! And your way IS the highway, unfortunately.

Esther
Guest
Esther

Again, I’m confused by ad hominem attacks by someone who doesn’t know much about me. Also, as I pointed out, Sandy is no longer a state highway. It is a city street.

SK
Guest

I don’t know you personally, but this post IS partially about you and your actions/decisions to be heard (and seen). That was a “figurative” highway; don’t you get nervous riding on Sandy? Hopefully it won’t take an accident to change your mind. (I had one of those too [broken back, hit-and-run], perhaps that’s why I’m so adamant.) Best wishes, SK

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

SK as in SK Northwest?

http://bikeportland.org/2008/02/19/bta-appeals-court-says-sk-northwest-must-build-trail-6716

If so it is surprising to see you opposed to people riding on the street after how hard sk northwest worked to prevent the springwater corridor from being finished…

If not maybe pick a different handle…

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

possibly because cycling is not just about pleasure or leisure its also tool for getting from point A to point B. you got a problem with that?

Paul Tay
Guest
Paul Tay

Sandy….NO sweat. Got earplugs?

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

That’s the other thing. A few days of touring on the coast will acclimate you to dealing with RVs and lumber trucks. Even getting a couple miles outside the Portland metro from time to time will do a good job of reminding you about how easy it is to ride here, even on “difficult” streets like Sandy. These complaints strike me a possible only if you already live in a town that’s bent over backwards to provide safe, convenient facilities for bikes. Maybe we’re running out of arterials for people to get hysterical about.

Kathy
Guest
Kathy

And a dust mask!

Kevin Wagoner
Guest

Good article. I would just like to say thank you to people like Esther and Timo to have the courage to ride something not designed for bikes. No doubt it seems risky, but cyclist being seen out there helps keep the issue of needing to make improvements real.

Vancouver Commuter
Guest
Vancouver Commuter

Roads like sandy are the normal biking experience in Vancouver. Actually Sandy is much nicer than SE 34th in Vancouver, a street with a 40 mph speed limit and curbs on the sides so you have no where to go if someone comes too close.

Tim Roth
Guest

After reading this article, I promptly hopped on my bike and sailed downhill on Sandy. I love riding Sandy downhill. I would certainly welcome the addition of a bike lane though.

SK
Guest

Wow, as a cyclist myself I would NEVER consider riding down Sandy Blvd. during morning traffic (I live off 48th & Sandy) and tend to consider people who do annoying, ignorant and unwise. Is another 10-15 minutes on a safer route the city has spent money on to provide for cyclists really out of the question? You are playing with fire Esther & Timo and I don’t think you’re courageous, but ridiculous.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Go back and read biciclero’s excellent response (to Brock) on respect. Open your eyes to the messed-up reality we continue to abide.

marshmallow
Guest
marshmallow

Sandy is by far the easiest road to “hammer” from ne to downtown in the least time. Sight-lines are excellent due to angular cross streets. An experienced roadie could easily average 35 mph east to west, 25 mph west to east.

Mac_Rasc
Guest
Mac_Rasc

I am a casual cyclist who lives just off Sandy, and Sandy is the reason I will NOT commute downtown to my job. Way too intimidating for the newbie commuter, and I just can’t justify all the extra time trying to work around it. I really wish the city could understand that I’m not alone in feeling like this, and make commuting by bike easier for all. They could improve bike commuting rates dramatically. It almost as though they’d rather not disturb all of those WA drivers that race down Sandy in the mornings.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Though I have never ridden on Sandy, and will not until its rightful cycle track is completed, I respect those who choose to ride it. I would think it is not all that dangerous if you are disciplined about taking the lane well in advance of where you’ll “need” it.

ash
Guest

I think this is a problem everywhere. Some cyclists just can’t imagine biking on certain streets, and so are resistant to making changes on those streets and are just as bad as non-cyclists in chiding others. Seriously, who doesn’t do something to give themselves an extra 10-15 minutes in bed in the morning? Why shouldn’t she take the most direct route, especially to something essential like her job?

sara
Guest
sara

I don’t know if the bike lane was put in as a direct response to her death, but the young woman who was right-hooked by the truck turning from Sandy onto the Banfield on-ramp (sometime in the 90’s) did die as a result of that crash. Her name was Nancy Wernert.

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

FYI: Sandy Blvd resurfacing planned for summer, fall from NE 47th – 82nd by PBOT. Repaving, storm drain management “features” & traffic islands added. Will be unpleasant for bicycling during with lance closures & sounds like more of a squeeze after. I’ve lived nearby for 30 yrs & used NE Sandy for bicycling less so in recent yrs. Partially because of the excess speeding that’s really gotten out of hand. Project contact is kbria@whpacific.com, 503-372-3643.

Brad
Guest
Brad

If it scares you then don’t use Sandy and budget extra time to take the “safer” indirect route. I don’t think that we should be wasting a lot of money on a fancy cycletrack to assuage the fears of a few. The ROI on those potential users is low to nil.

Planners need to start seeing bike infrastructure like a business would. Run the numbers, assess a realistic mode share, and then decide if painted sharrows or loads of new concrete, removal of parking, legal fights over parking removal, etc. are worth coaxing the timid out on two wheels. I suspect the numbers won’t add up as the vast majority of “interested but concerned” will dig deeper into their arsenal of excuses to avoid bike commuting in anything other than perfect conditions.

BURR
Guest
BURR

An expensive cycle track on Sandy would be a ridiculous investment.

Cycle tracks are not about increasing actual safety, as there will still be a lot of conflict points at high risk intersections all along the route; rather, cycle tracks are all about changing the non-cycling public’s risk perception, in order to entice them to try cycling.

When the novices and untrained newbies have a bad experience on the cycle track and find out that risk perception =/= actual safety they are liable to quit cycling just as fast as they started.

PBOT should just paint the sharrows after the repaving, as it will take another 10 to 20 years to agree on, design, fund and build anything else, and doing nothing in the interim is not an acceptable solution.

are
Guest

sharrows are not about coaxing the timid, they are about defining the existing legal space. you will not coax the timid out onto sandy unless you destroy its function as a major arterial.

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

There is a spectrum between timid and intrepid. Different solutions will attract or influence different parts of that spectrum. Are there any solutions which have enough influence to be worth considering for Sandy?

are
Guest

depends how much you want to impair the existing flow condition for motorists. the posted limit is generally 35 mph, but anecdotally, at least, a lot of motorists exceed this. if you took calming measures that had the actual effect of bringing speeds down while still allowing 30k cars per day to get through, you might be able to put in something that would capture a sliver of the curious but apprehensive crowd. but not much more. and my concern would be that PBoT would opt for something that has the effect of limiting vehicular cyclists from asserting the travel lane and/or luring less experienced cyclists into doorings and right hooks.

onegear29
Guest
onegear29

Esther
I just want to clarify I’m not sure about whether or not a woman died at the Banfield onramp or not. That could be my rapidly deteriorating memory/conflation with other events. Would love for someone to pipe in about when/why bike lane was put in at NE 37th.

Yes a woman was right hooked by a semi truck that swung wide to make the on ramp and unfortunately took her life. It was about 10 years ago (??) with the outcome being the bike lane that is in place now.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

look…there are over a million bike trips a year in pdx. last year there was not a single fatality. so whats up with the histrionics?