(Photo © J. Maus)
The Portland Bureau of Transportation has announced a new twist in their North Williams Traffic Safety Operations Project — an educational campaign “to encourage safe and respectful traveling.”
The announcement was sent out via email to a list of project stakeholders. It comes just over one month after PBOT announced they would extend the project timeline in order to mollify some in the community who felt their concerns about the project were not being addressed.
Here’s an excerpt from the email (emphasis mine):
“While discussions about changes to the roadway continue as part of the North Williams Traffic Safety Project, we have heard loud and clear from the community that how people interact with one another while traveling up North Williams is just as important as engineering, and that conditions on the street feel dangerous today and should be addressed as soon as possible.”
PBOT has scheduled two meetings to brainstorm answers to the following questions:
1. What actions do people take when traveling on North Williams that seem unsafe or disrespectful to you?
2. What can people do when driving, biking and walking on North Williams to show their concern and respect for one another?
3. What is the most effective way to ask people to change their behavior during this summer campaign?
As N Williams bike traffic has exploded in recent years, it has also become notorious as a commuter raceway. During the hectic evening rush, the vehicle lanes are crowded with people — in cars and on bikes — zooming by, often without regard for others.
Case in point: The other day I was in the front of a platoon of about 30 bikes when I noticed a family with a stroller trying to cross the street. I stopped (as per Oregon law); but many cars and bikes zoomed past me and didn’t even seem to notice that someone was waiting to cross (or maybe they did but chose not to stop). It was disappointing to say the least.
And everyone has a story like that.
Suffice it to say, these brainstorming meetings are sure to provoke a lot of testimony. The question is, what will PBOT do with all of it? Asking people to be nice could have limited impact. The way I see it, until the roadway engineering changes significantly and bicycle traffic is given adequate access, the dangerous and stressful behavior will continue.
The meetings are this Wednesday (7/20) and next Wednesday (7/27) from 7:00 – 8:30 pm at Legacy Emanuel Hospital Room 1077.
I was on the Interstate Corridor URA Transportation Committee when the issue of safer pedestrian crossing of Williams came up…a few years ago. I was critical at the time of PBOT’s marked crosswalks and curb extension proposal as it did not address motor vehicle speed. That speed is the critical issue for safety of all users, and nothing encourages speed like a pair of lanes in the same direction. Even I have been known to go too fast in my rig up Williams Avenue. It needs a “diet” so people of all sizes, shapes, ages and races can more safely cross at any corner, all of which are crosswalks. And of course bikes as well as motor vehicles must yield to pedestrians.
“The question is, what will PBOT do with all of it? Asking people to be nice could have limited impact.”
everyone slow down? Seems a good start.
I’m glad there will be discussion, but simply promoting “politeness” won’t cut it. The street needs some serious re-designing.
Speed. The 11+mph buffer that the traffic cops give motorists is a dangerous and unacknowledged part of a system skewed in favor of cars.
…not to mention the curious habit of treating the speed LIMIT as a minimum. Both in combination make a mockery of the original motivation of our speed limits (fuel economy) as well as everyone’s safety.
Another case of a secondary preference: we would prefer to prefer to drive slower, but in practice we don’t. That is precisely where rules, laws, sanctions could play a key role: not aiding and abetting our weaknesses, but enshrining that which we know to be the prudent/safe/wise thing to do. Except that we have politicians who would rather pander than lead on issues like this; who shy away from a discussion of how we could better ourselves.
Bikesnob has attributed it to the rise in ‘Cat 6’ racing
In all seriousness though, yes people on bikes need to be respectful but the Williams bike lane is a simple matter of supply and demand. Clearly the demand has outpaced supply in terms of that bike lane.
I agree with everything Lenny said, though I think there are one or two stopgap measures that PBOT could take that would improve things.
First I’d like to see a bike box at Fremont and Williams. Right now there’s a queuing problem at the light with drivers having a hard time merging over to turn right on Fremont. And as the entrance to the worst part of segment 4 if you get stuck behind slower riders you’re pinned between cars on one side and riders passing dangerously close on your left in the tiny bike lanes.
This brings to my second suggestion, that bike riders should be encouraged to take the full traffic lane next to them if you’re passing other riders. I dislike people riding bikes that try and squeeze in between other bikes in the tiny bike lanes in segment 4 and cars next to them. Sharing the road is great only if there’s room. Otherwise grow a pair, be safe, and control the flow of traffic behind you.
I took the lane on Williams the other evening and it did not end well. I did a check of the lane before attempting to pass two slower cyclists ahead of me and the lane was wide open for a number of car lengths. I hand signaled and then moved into the lane. Almost immediately, I heard a car accelerate behind me and then aggressive horn honking coupled with some revving. I pedaled like mad to pass the riders, barely even taking the lane to begin with, all the while being aggressively honked at.
I will fully admit to sinking to the driver’s level by flipping the bird as I passed the second bicyclist and moved back into the bike lane. As the driver passed me, she had her window rolled down to yell at me. I already felt guilty about the finger, so I tried to keep my voice level as I said, “I am allowed by law to take the lane when necessary.” This was met with more honking and then she sped off at a speed well above the limit.
I rarely try to take the lane on Williams and try also to avoid excessive passing, but the bike lane is beyond capacity and sometimes you end up moving *much* slower than you’d like to be.
that motorist threatened you with a potentially lethal weapon. flipping them the bird in this context is not sinking to their level. its an appropriate expression of anger at violent behavior.
Well. . . I’m mostly in agreement and frankly, I use my right to extend my freakishly long middle finger whenever appropriate. But I felt bad in the context of the recent conversations with locals of the Williams neighborhood and the tension about race and class issues and bike infrastructure — and then here comes my white self flipping the bird like a gentrifying jerk-face.
This is over reacting.
Get over yourself. There was no violence.
I would not have accelerated. Don’t reward rude behavior. Let them wait.
Don’t pass folks in the bike lane! if they’re slowing down they probably have a good reason! Perhaps they are stopping for pedestrians! Stop for pedestrians! If you don’t, you just generate hate! Blow every red light you want to, but stop for peds! Its just right
Perhaps its time for a little “critical mass” type action on Williams; bicyclists could just take over the right hand motor vehicle lane and make it a “bike lane.” It would slow down the street for sure and dramatize the need for more space for this environmentally friendly travel mode.
That happens everyday already.
At a City of Portland Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting last earlier this spring, the N. Williams heard some suggestions from the Committee for bike lane treatments, such as textured pavement or bike-specific speed bumps, that would give a physical warnings to cyclists that they are approaching a crosswalk.
They weren’t suggested as “punishment for those scofflaw cyclists” or anything, just recognizing that we (awesomely) have such a volume of bike traffic on Williams that it requires a little more control to regulate speeds and behavior in order to keep it safe for the most vulnerable users of the road.
(Not sure if PBOT is actually considering those options, but they were suggested.)
“it requires a little more control to regulate speeds”
Nothing in Jonathan’s piece or in the comments suggests that cyclists are speeding. Giving pedestrians the right of way is NOT a speed issue, it is, as Jonathan stated, a *respect* issue.
No, it is a LAW issue. Cyclists are required to yield to pedestrians.
if the woman did not move into the crosswalk then cyclists were under no legal obligation to stop. once again illustrating how LAWS are imperfect instruments that citizens can choose to disregard (by politely stopping for pedestrians).
I would fully support that, as long as it was done in conjunction with similar speed reduction treatments for automobiles. After all, which mode speeds, kills, and maims the most?
THIS THIS THIS!
The auto infatuated are not worthy of legal status as sentient beings if they have deluded themselves in to believing that the city should spend money on road engineering treatments to slow down cyclists but nothing needs to be done about auto driver’s behavior.
I can sympathize with the idea of a “need” for a car.
I can sympathize with not being physically able to walk or bike even short distances due to age or infirmity.
I can even understand the idea of irrational fear that cycling or walking anywhere other than cyclists is a suicide.
But to be so mentally disconnected with the real world that simple fact of daily auto fatalities is overwhelmed by a scofflaw cyclist that causes no harm?!?
These people are more disconnected from the real world than people in pods in the Matrix.
“Corking” for pedestrians? Let that Mom & kids with stroller cross the street!
Since I live in SE and ride on Rodney when I’m riding N or S through that area, I haven’t witnessed the commute clot on Williams, but Lenny’s suggestion seems like a no brainer to me. Of course cyclists should take over the right lane en masse during the evening rush hour (or whenever their numbers warrant it).
The term “Critical Mass” was coined in Ted White’s wonderful film “Return of the Scorcher,” that promoted the use of bicycles as a primary form of transportation. It was used to describe the phenomenon of Chinese cyclists gathering at intersections until they achieved sufficient numbers, or “critical mass” to force motorized traffic to stop and let them cross.
I also think that cyclists should lead the way in giving pedestrians absolute priority when they wish to cross the street.
Why are so many people in such a hurry anyway? The ride home from work can be a very relaxing part of your day – if you let it. You might even enjoy some friendly interaction with your fellow cyclists and those pedestrians you’re stopping for.
(sorry about the rhetorical use of “you” in the last paragraph – it’s addressed to the speedsters, not the courteous & thoughtful rider reading this).
When I stop on my bike for a pedestrian to cross, I move over to the traffic lane and then do the big blatant “stop” signal with my left hand wide open, and wave it around a little. It’s not a perfect solution, but it gets better results than merely coming to a halt in the bike lane.
plus one. and plus one to the several commenters who have suggested asserting the right travel lane. there are very few places on north williams that i am willing to use the marked bike lane. for a couple blocks north of shaver, maybe, but that is about it.
something the city could also do here is enforce the existing law that forbids parking within 20 feet of a midblock crosswalk or within 30 feet of a corner crosswalk. visibility would be greatly improved. i cannot understand why this abuse of the commons is permitted to continue. because the problem is so widespread, it may require signage and painting the curbs yellow. but since one of the objectives of this project is to make the commercial area safer for pedestrians, they absolutely cannot overlook this.
That’s a great point. It’s really hard just to see pedestrians with all the parked cars.
There are also a couple of trimet stops on corners that almost always have people at them. It makes it really hard to tell if someone is waiting for the bus or trying to cross the street. For instance the Zebra crosswalk at N Williams and Morris has frequent pedestrian traffic to Dawson park and the trimet stop.
At best, these are meetings designed to tell us what we already know. At worst, a waste of people’s time so that PBOT appears to be active when it is stalling.
I keep wondering, again and again…
Why the city isn’t making money hand-over-fist aggressively ticketing enforcement of the crosswalk law, as it pertains both to cars and bikes failing to stop, either in response to a person indicating intent to cross, or in response to another bike or car that is stopping for the person to use the crosswalk (marked or unmarked).
Why? Why? Why? Does someone know?
I will bet a bike that nothing will instill compliance and courtesy more quickly and effectively than tickets, tickets, tickets.
I agree that more enforcement is needed. Education is great, but insufficient [based on empirical observations of human nature – read: selfishness].
Regarding the ticket as money-maker, I’m not an expert, but I did hear that the city actually gets only a very small percentage of the take. I think the bulk of fine money goes to the courts? and state agencies?? Can anyone clarify?
I agree that a period of aggressive enforcement can change the way people think … we have tons of illegal parking in our neighborhood, and by calling in some areas we create a ‘reputation’ that creates a lingering compliance. Thus, we just hit it hard once in a while, and that keeps ’em guessing. 😉
There should definitely be crosswalk enforcement actions on Williams. I don’t care if you’re riding or driving: respect people and obey the law.
Pardon the non-PC observation, but it seems to me that the greatest percentage of jay-walkers on williams happen to be minorities. I have several personal examples of people walking illegally across a do not walk sign and seeing me approach on my bike. I take great delight in coming as close to possible to them….or even brushing them with my shoulder.
That’s funny, cuz I see a ton of jaywalkers down town (enraging Trimet bus and MAX drivers – i hear the horns ALL day long) and MOST of them seem to be white.
Racial stereotypes and “such and such group just HAPPENS TO…” will do nothing to further this discussion.
why should anyone pardon such a b*llsh*t “observation,” and why is it okay to intentionally brush someone with your shoulder. wtf.
Y’all just keep crowding onto Williams and fighting each other while I have as leisurely or as speedy a ride as I please over on Rodney.
enjoy the crossing at fremont
It’s never been a major problem for me, ever.
I’ll stick to Rodney.
Not that speedy, unless you’re into blowing all the stop signs,and there is quite a bit of EW cut-through motor traffic across Rodney, so it’s not a safe place to regularly blast the stops. But I have enjoyed it as a nice, slow>/i> refuge from rush hour on Williams.
Yeah, maybe it’s not that speedy. Although on some occasions it feels like Rodney might be faster, particularly when the lights turn red on Williams — and correct me if I’m wrong but it doesn’t seem like they’re coordinated at all. We ought to do a Carmageddon-style race.
As for Fremont, I don’t love that crossing, so I assume I’m supposed to register some sarcasm there. However, it’s quite manageable and is certainly not impeding me. Heck, at the very height of rush hour it actually gets easier because the eastbound lane of Fremont is almost totally motionless (traffic light at MLK).
Yes – it is pleasant and underused over on Rodney..
And the crossing on Freemont is easily dealt with by turning right and then left on Mallory half a block later. Sometimes the fastest route is not a straight line, but our herd-mentality seems to make us think that since everyone is on Williams it must be the fastest route. The nice thing about Rodney (as mentioned) is that you have a choice of a leisurely ride. Those wide streets are a lot nicer than Williams.
All that said – people do need to stop for pedestrians on Williams and pass on the left. Also, note the physics of the situation communicate with people rather than flying by unannounced.
“1. What actions do people take when traveling on North Williams that seem unsafe or disrespectful to you?”
Getting passed too close by 25 foot long, mid 80’s vintage Buicks comes to mind.
who exactly are we stereotyping here
Perhaps it’s just an actual observation, even if it does not fit with PC ideology.
It sounds like signalization is needed for all bikes, cars, and pedestrians so the three do not come into conflict; ie, see standard Dutch infrastructure design.
Correctly designed infrastructure and signalization removes the conflict in modes, and therefore there is no need for “being nice” based on self-recognizance.
Fix I-5 and get those cars off Williams
Fix urban design and get those cars off Williams and other congested areas. 🙂
I seams like an unnatural mix to try and make an expanded bikeway on a street with such a high volume of cars on it. I think it would be a good step up to move the whole bike thing over a block and not have the big hassle with cars, buses, breathing in toxic fumes, doors,……..
It would also be so much more pleasant ride, safer for children too, would you want your kids riding on Williams?
the point is that there are more cars on williams than there are supposed to be. the solution is not to have everyone else run away. the solution is to get rid of a lot of the cars.
How many are supposed to be there?
This is a darn good question.
All I could find on this street is that it is classified as a “Nieghborhood Collector” (PBOT’s Transportation System Plan)which puts it one step from the bottom rung which are the smallest residential streets.
I was unable to find any proposed traffic flow for the original design nor any targets NOR any non-specific speed and capacity targets for Nieghborhood Collector streets.
Anybody gotta link?
not a direct response to your question, but look at page 4 of the “existing conditions” report for this project:
starting at cook, we are looking at well over a thousand motor vehicles an hour during the evening rush. more to the point, the transportation system plan you cite, at page 18 of chapter 5
Neighborhood Collectors are intended to serve as distributors of traffic from Major City
Traffic Streets or District Collectors to Local Service Traffic Streets and to serve trips that
both start and end within areas bounded by Major City Traffic Streets and District
Collectors. (Objective E)
what is going on here, and part of what the north williams traffic safety project is trying to address, is that a lot of this is through traffic.
I’m tired of being stuck in a hazard lane while the cars roll free of poor sight lines, opening doors, etc only a few feet away.
Just take the lane and don’t offer any apologies. The cars have two lanes– if they dont want to wait for bikes, they can drive around us.
I saw the group Jonathon was talking about. I do stop for pedestrians when I see them. The problem is, they are very hard to see sometimes.
During rush hour, there’s a lot going on. Doors, cars, other cyclists. The parking lane is 100% full, and if people are standing on the curb close to a parked car and are not over 6’2″ or so, they can be hard to see. The intersection at Failing by Pix and Lincoln is notorious for this.
I’m not excusing it, I’m just stating that sometimes it’s very hard to see what’s happening.
Also, could everyone stop passing on the right? If you want to pass, YOU take the risk. Don’t force me into traffic. I won’t slide over for you if it’s not safe and I’m much sturdier than the average right passing hipster. So just stop.
and agreed about the crummy sightlines to see pedestrians. By the time I see them sometimes I’d be rearended if I stopped, which annoys me because I’d like to.
Bicyclists need to stop for pedestrians like any other vehicle and need to pass on the LEFT! Please!
to avoid getting “doored” is enough reason alone to take the right hand motor traffic lane. They still have the left lane…how many do they need?
Curb extensions shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians and make them more visible as well as making it easier for them (us… once we park) to see traffic. Signals are expensive, make un-signalized crosswalks worse and encourage speeding (got to make the next light!). Better to engineer the street to reduce speed, and we all know how that is done…make it narrower! Speeds on Vancouver Avenue are significantly lower than Williams.
PBOT is also trying a politeness experiment tomorrow on Terwilliger. Thousands and thousands of people using all kinds of modes use both these streets every day. The problem with the human psyche is that we’ll only remember the one person who slights us. And even then, only if they’re doing something markedly different than we’re doing (people on bikes only see bad drivers; people in cars only see bad bike riders).
PBOT can keep its “politeness experiment”.
Asking folks to be “polite” on streets like Terwilliger (are you kidding me?) is like asking car drivers to give bike riders a wider berth so bike riders can take the lane.
I’ll stick the path of lesser resistance.
Actually, I see both and its why I don’t divide the world into cyclists and “cagers.” Carelessness, self-absorption, and ill-manners are not limited to a particular mode of transportation. I see plenty of jerks using either mode of transporatation. The same is true of considerate and conscientious people. I think the reason I get more hepped up about somebody being rude in a car when I am on a bike is the safety factor.