The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Follow-up: No ‘Bikes in Roadway’ signage for Sandy Blvd

Posted by on May 18th, 2011 at 8:42 am

Riding on NE Sandy Blvd-5-4

PBOT says ‘Bikes in Roadway’ signs
aren’t the right approach for Sandy.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Remember our story last week about NE Sandy Blvd? We shared the experience of riding on that large arterial street through the eyes of Esther Harlow.

Despite a lack of comfortable bike access, many people like Harlow prefer riding on Sandy Blvd because it’s a straight shot into the central city. While more significant bike access improvements on Sandy aren’t in the near-term pipeline, Harlow had an idea to improve bike access she felt would help the situation immediately.

To make the bike/car interactions a bit more pleasant, Harlow wants to have “Bikes on Roadway” signs installed. She made an official request to PBOT with her idea. Harlow heard back from a PBOT civil engineer and she shared the response with us. PBOT declined the request, but the engineer makes a reasonable case for his decision. The reply (below) might help others understand the thinking PBOT does before deciding whether or not to install signage (it’s also cool to see a government agency take someone’s request so seriously)…

“Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns regarding bicycle safety on NE Sandy Blvd. I appreciate your concern for the safety of Portland’s streets. As you requested, I considered the installation of BIKES IN ROADWAY signs on NE Sandy Blvd.

Bicycles have an equal right to the roadway as motor vehicles according to State law. The installation of such signs is not necessary to designate NE Sandy Blvd as a shared-use facility. Drivers of motor vehicles should expect to encounter cyclists on all public streets. The City prefers to install signs only where they would be most effective. For example, you may have seen similar signs on SE Hawthorne Blvd. That roadway features substandard lane widths which increases the risks to bicycle safety. NE Sandy Blvd features standardized lane widths and a straight, level alignment which provides drivers adequate visibility when approaching cyclists in the roadway. Additionally, the installation of such signs on NE Sandy Blvd would set a precedent that all arterials without bike lanes should have such signs. City-wide, this would require the installation of hundreds of signs, an undertaking which would be financially irresponsible to carry out. For the reasons listed above, I do not recommended the installation of BIKE IN ROADWAY signs on NE Sandy Blvd at this time.”

The engineer also encouraged Harlow to contact him directly with any questions.

We’ve asked PBOT if there’s anything planned — or anything possible — in the near-term to improve bike access on Sandy Blvd (there’s a repaving project slated to start very soon). We’ll keep you posted if we hear anything.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • q`Tzal May 18, 2011 at 9:11 am

    There is just too much of every type of roadway activity going on on Sandy Blvd for a “Bikes in Roadway” sign to mean anything.

    What might be needed is a Burma shave meets PSA style of over the road signs that subtlety educate the general public about rights of all on the roads.

    Also maybe a sign like: “Roads are for everyone”
    and underneath is included a set of simplistic road sign icons for a freight truck, cyclist, car and pedestrian.

    Or: “NO, the road does NOT belong to you. Everyone is paying for it. Learn to share.”

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  • are May 18, 2011 at 10:04 am

    while i do not disagree with the logic of PBoT’s response here, i would note that they do not have any problem spending money putting sharrows on side streets where they are unnecessary and inappropriate.

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  • cycler May 18, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Interesting article on the similar phenomenon of “slow- children” signs by Tom Vanderbilt in Slate today.

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  • bobcycle May 18, 2011 at 11:52 am

    “NE Sandy Blvd features standardized lane widths and a straight, level alignment which provides drivers adequate visibility when approaching cyclists in the roadway”

    While these may be “standardized lanes” I could show the PBOT engineers many places along Sandy where the lanes narrow substantially forcing cyclist to slalom in and out amongst traffic. It is confusing for both autos and bikes. Narrowing occurs near bump outs, left turn lanes and pedestrian crossing islands. I was always told to be predictable and hold your line but riding Sandy you must either take the lane all the way into town or slalom in and out. For this reason I think the signs would be a good idea.

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    • are May 18, 2011 at 2:28 pm

      sharrows are one thing, and might not cost all that much. but signage could be expensive, and nearly invisible in all that clutter. also, the “cyclist in roadway” signage is usually used (see section 9B.18 of the MUTCD) where cyclists are entering the roadway, either from sidestreets or because a segregated facility is ending.

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    • q`Tzal May 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      Are these lane widths still standardized after we subtract the width of on street parking AND the door zone?

      Its all fine and good for PBOT to say “our roads are plenty wide `nuff!” but once you subtract the unusable and unsafe portions of the roadway we are left with taking the lane in total.

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  • Ted Buehler May 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    As of 2009, “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signs are approved by the MUTCD.

    This is a more assertive sign than “Bikes in Roadway.”

    I’m not aware of any “Bicycle May Use Full Lane” signs in Portland yet, and I can’t think of a better place than downhill on Sandy to introduce them to Portland’s drivers.

    MUTCD is at
    Click on “Part 9, Traffic Control for Bicycle Facilities” Signs are on page 793, the sign is # R4-11

    (I don’t see “Bicycles on Roadway” in the current MUTCD, though I know it’s still in Oregon’s “Sign Policies and Guidelines”)

    Nice work Esther!

    Ted Buehler

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  • BURR May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm


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  • dwainedibbly May 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    It’s the right decision. If those signs went up, drivers would be, in effect, encouraged to think that bikes were not allowed on roads without the signs.

    I agree with Sharrows, as a first step.

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    • Psyfalcon May 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm

      If sharrows went in, drivers would be encouraged to think that bikes were not allowed on roads without the sharrows.

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  • GlowBoy May 23, 2011 at 12:00 am

    There’s already too much sign clutter, and it’s already axiomatic among traffic planners and engineers that motorists don’t read signs under ordinary circumstances. I agree it was the right decision.

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  • GlowBoy May 23, 2011 at 12:03 am

    I do like the idea of replacing the existing “Bikes in Roadway” signs with “Bicycles May Use Full Lane”. Most drivers don’t understand the intent of the “Bikes in Roadway” signs anyway.

    After all, most Oregon drivers either aren’t from here, or (if they are) never took Driver’s Ed.

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  • Paul Johnson May 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Better yet, don’t put up more signs about cyclists, and instead use a “THRU MOTORISTS USE LEFT LANE” sign.

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