(Photos © J. Maus)
At the end of October 2010, PBOT re-opened several streets in the Pearl District just west of the Broadway Bridge following construction of the new eastside streetcar loop. The changes brought on by the streetcar project were very significant, especially for people riding bicycles.
NW Lovejoy, which has been a key part of the bikeway network for years because of its direct connection onto the Broadway Bridge, was decommissioned as a bike route. A street that used to have bike lanes in both directions now has no dedicated space for bikes. PBOT and streetcar planners decided to make NW Marshall (one block north) the new bikeway in order to turn Lovejoy into an eastbound couplet (with on-street parking on both sides and three standard vehicle lanes).
In addition, new streetcar tracks have been added close the bike lanes on the ramp on NW Lovejoy leading to the Broadway Bridge.
Judging from recent observations of bike traffic the area, these changes are still causing confusion for people riding bicycles; and they appear to have made bicycling in this area more stressful and dangerous.
Back in December I shared what I call the “track-straddle” phenomenon. Because of the presence of streetcar tracks on the downhill (westbound) side of the Lovejoy Ramp, cars are straddling the tracks which causes them to drive on the bike lane. This is not only illegal (according to ORS 811.435), but it creates a squeeze on the already narrow space dedicated for bicycling.
As these photos attest, people in cars are still driving upon the bike lane.
I’ve also noticed that the bike lanes have been restriped and widened several inches (about the width of the stripe itself). While this gives a few more inches of breathing room, it puts the bike space that much closer to the tracks.
Other problems also remain with the bicycling conditions in this area.
While PBOT hopes people take NW Marshall and not NW Lovejoy, old habits — and a desire for direct, A to B access to businesses and destinations — mean that people are still bicycling on it. During my observations, many people rode both east and west on NW Lovejoy, despite the dangerous and awkward traffic conditions it put them in.
With Lovejoy no longer accessible to bikes, many people are using the sidewalk…
…Which puts them into an awkward and potentially dangerous crossing situation on the next block…
Heading eastbound on Lovejoy, bicycle riders are forced to navigate some tricky track crossings, including a new curb extension/streetcar stop at the intersection of 9th where there is just a few inches between the curb and the tracks.
Since riding on Lovejoy isn’t pleasant or recommended by PBOT, if you are heading westbound off the ramp, there’s a left-turn island to help you continue south on NW 9th. This “Copenhagen left” works in theory, but I noticed several people who didn’t use it. One woman on a bike told me she was confused and that she didn’t feel safe standing out on an island (despite it being painted green) in a traffic lane.
Another issue I noticed yesterday was the tricky navigation of the tracks when riding southbound on NW 9th up onto NW Lovejoy to go east. The left turn to get into the bike lane puts you right in line with streetcar tracks.
These changes and the confusion by people riding bikes that remain — a full nine months after the changes went into effect — seem like a step backwards in bike access and bikeway quality.
What do you think? Do you ride in this area? Have these changes impacted your riding? If so, how?