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‘Track-straddling’ on Lovejoy, bike access issues persist

Posted by on July 27th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Due to the presence of new streetcar tracks, people on NW Lovejoy routinely drive in the bike lane.
(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 biking conditions-2-1

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.

This is definitely not the kind bicycling experience PBOT strives for.

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.

NW Lovejoy biking conditions-10-9

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?

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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dan
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dan

Well, you have to remember that 90% of the people currently encountering these conditions only started biking in the last 6 weeks or so, since it stopped raining. The people who have been riding those routes for the last 9 months have probably worked things out.

Andrew Seger
Guest
Andrew Seger

Yea I’m still gonna take Lovejoy for the time being. The Marshall and 10th crossing really needs to have the stop signs flipped, too. Would love to have some of those plastic barriers along the bike lane heading east to the broadway bridge to encourage car drivers to stay in their lane.

matthew
Guest
matthew

That track heading eastbound on Lovejoy can be tricky. I ruined my rear wheel in it last year during a bad downpour. I’ve also seen two other cyclists have pretty harsh wrecks there. It’s easy to get caught in the track and bail into traffic. Would love to see a thoughtful/intentional plan or discussion on this.

I remember reporting my accident to the city. I believe I found the link about reporting such Max/Streetcar Track accidents on this very site.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

If putting the bike lane between an auto lane with tracks and a vertical barrier/tall curb, it is silly to expect that motorists would not try to straddle the tracks, thus hanging over into the bike lane. Perhaps on this Lovejoy section, they could raise the bike lane up to join with the sidewalk plane between these two intersections as a sort of joined pathway? However, downhill cyclists would probably pick up speed and thus not mix well with pedestrians.

Allan
Guest
Allan

As Chris Smith would say ‘friends don’t let friends ride Lovejoy’. Marshall sucks because there are too many cars and it ends at 19th, Johnson sucks because its 2 blocks out of the way, yet I use both because ultimately Lovejoy really sucks to ride (I’m not the only one who has crashed on the streetcar tracks). I would hope that PBOT would consider striping 1 lane in each direction up the ramp so that cars will all straddle left and leave plenty of space for bikes, but I don’t see that happening.

While its not comfortable I’m used to it now. Maybe future projects will get it better

Ted Buehler
Guest

Whenever you see cars in the bike lane on the Lovejoy ramp, call them in to 823-SAFE and ask for enforcement.

You can send emails with photos of violators to safe@portlandoregon.gov

Be the squeaky wheel…

Ted Buehler

single track
Guest
single track

It seems like great foresight (sarcasm) of PBOT to require bikers to “narc” on car drivers, rather than just designing a system that accommodates all modes effectively. The new lovejoy is almost a “monorail” in terms of safety and cost.

Ben Waterhouse
Guest

The first photo reminds me—twice this week I’ve encountered idiots on scooters riding in the bike lane to circumvent morning traffic on 14th. I hope it’s not a sign of a trend.

jonno
Guest
jonno

I do live and ride in the area (to and from my place at 22nd and Glisan when going to N/NE destinations), and it has impacted my riding. Lovejoy is so direct if I want to get on the Broadway bridge but every other way is slower, requires more stops or is poorly signed. I still use Lovejoy but it sucks. People are going to use the direct route, why do these sorts of projects seem to ignore that?

(editorial ahead) It’s just another example of poor bike connections to NW neighborhoods. Routes in and out of the area on bikes are either tricky, dangerous or roundabout, but never particularly pleasant. This does not seem to get mentioned much in the Portland bike community which seems much more focused on the east side.

Byron
Guest
Byron

It took me forever to figure out how to ride this, and I do not ride it often. I hate the access to the bridge from the west side. Too difficult to ride across the tracks.

As for the straddling, I see this as a problem anywhere bikes and cars share the roadway. It is especially difficult at Burnside/Couch on the east side, and on 14th at Everett and after Glisan. Cars can’t seem to keep from drifting into the bike lane. Yesterday a bus drove in the lane as I was coming onto the Burnside bridge and if I had not help back I would have been squished.

How about some enforcement efforts on cars in bike lanes?

BURR
Guest
BURR

The streetcar has been terrible for cyclist safety and access all around, right from the start; and based on the situation described above by Jonathan, it hasn’t gotten much better over time.

Don’t forget that the new streetcar line has also impacted cyclists negatively at the west end of the bridge at Larrabee, and has also eliminated the possibility of a right-side bike lane or cycle track on Grand, as well.

BURR
Guest
BURR

Couplets stink too, and it was beyond stupid to remove bike access from Lovejoy. Much better to have turned Lovejoy into bike and streetcar access only and made the motorists find another way.

Babygorilla
Guest
Babygorilla

Streetcars are not passenger vehicle friendly, whether bike or auto. The city should just buck up and give the streetcar dedicated right of way. At least then it could serve as an efficient transportation choice instead of the sightseeing / property development tool it is now.

Rol
Guest

This area does suck now, both the recommended and not-recommended options. And it’s in a part of town that, generally speaking, is already pretty car-dominated, and so can’t afford to lose points.

I’m not much of a fan of the streetcar itself either. All these outlandish conveyances, as if we humans didn’t already have the power of independent locomotion!

Chris Smith
Guest

Note in the picture of the left from 9th onto the ramp that there are some light painted lines where PBOT has experimented with potential guidelines to direct cyclists to cross the tracks at a more perpendicular angle. PBOT would love feedback on the best path to direct cyclists along (I personally think the faint lines represent too sharp an angle for the turn, but I’d love to hear what people think).

I still hold out hope for Marshall. The Streetcar stop at 10th will to the north side of the intersection this fall, which creates opportunities for a lot of measures on Marshall to improve the situation by reducing auto traffic. Don’t lose faith…

fredlf
Guest

In my view, the changes here have made this area dangerous and inconvenient. It used to be my main route into NW from NE. Now it is such a pain I just seldom go there unless I have to. When I do go, I just keep using Lovejoy. The alternatives are ridiculous and I’m comfortable bunny-hopping.
It reminds me of the case where they tried to get students (I forget where) to stop cutting diagonally in a hypotenuse across a lawn and use the existing sidewalks. No matter what signage they erected, or sidewalk furniture and landscaping, people still cut through to go the shortest way. Eventually, they gave up and paved the diagonal. Cyclists are no different than any other traffic. We will take the most direct route.
I’m in favor of the streetcar, and any other infrastructure that provides freedom of choice for transportation. But this area was very, very badly implemented.

are
Guest

not sure why anyone would ride to the right of the tracks on eastbound lovejoy as several of these photos are showing. you have much more control if you assert the travel lane (in this case, between the rails). similarly, it is not strictly necessary to take the turn from 9th onto the ramp at such a shallow angle.

SV
Guest
SV

The intersection at 10th & Lovejoy REALLY bugs me, especially as a pedestrian. It is definitely one of those situations where you almost feel like it would be better if no traffic control existed and everyone mushed through at about 8 miles per hour to get where they need to go. The whole area seems just to be far too over engineered. PBOT tried too hard to utilize vehicle-style management tactics onto peds and bicyclists.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

Babygorilla
At least then it could serve as an efficient transportation choice instead of the sightseeing / property development tool it is now.

word.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Now for the good news:

The project to build new streetcars locally is so messed up for various reasons that the new line never will open.

Then we can just pave over the meatgrinder that Portland Streetcar, Inc., has manufactured and make some really cool cycletracks, like down MLK and up Grand, out of it.

Chris, dude! Time to abandon THE DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE.

Luke S.

Ted Buehler
Guest

There’s lots of engineering solutions out there. to
* direct bikes through redesigned intersections
* reduce the bumpiness of rail crossings
* reroute streetcars away from bike traffic areas
* add stop signs and other traffic control devices to mitigate degraded bicycling conditions where streetcar construction has changed things.
* design for fewer incursions of cars into bike facilities as they avoid streetcar facilities.

AROW has brought these up to Portland Streetcar in 2 meetings.

Portland Streetcar has been very slow to make any concessions or improvements.

And they have not reviewed their plans to eliminate future incursions into bicycle infrastructure. Just last week they placed a power pole in the sidewalk at the east entrance to the Broadway Bridge, narrowing the path/sidewalk from 7′ to 5′. This was *after* many requests ensure that future construction doesn’t interfere with bicycle facilities.

The one thing they have done is to eliminate the right hook at Broadway and Larrabee, headed east. This was done a month ago.

So, I say — complain. Make your voice heard to PBOT. Let them know you bike, you care. You want the bicycle facilities along the streetcar tracks to be “World Class.” That’s what the city promised in the 2030 Bicycle Master Plan.

The more they hear from constituents, the more mitigation Streetcar construction will need to do to offset degradation to bicycle facilities.

Ted Buehler

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Why would people on bikes use Johnson or Marshall when PBOT has not turned the stop signs, and they have to stop every block for six blocks in a row? THAT is a bike route? Ridiculous – it’s like saying F-You to bikes. The more of us that continue riding Lovejoy in the center of the lane, possibly slowing down cars, the sooner PBOT will decide to improve Johnson/Marshall into actually reasonable alternatives. Just be careful riding Lovejoy – it takes some practice.

Heather
Guest
Heather

I ride this route almost daily on my bike with a dog trailer. Because of the trailer I take up more room in the bike lane and I’m more paranoid about potential bike vs. car incidents. I’ve had issues coming across the Broadway Bridge from NE. I make the right hand turn down the hill to Lovejoy. From there I take a right onto NW 9th. I often encounter cars that take over the lane or crowd me.

I’d like to see the entire bike lane on both sides leading up to the bridge painted green. Even more obvious signage would be helpful so that it is absolutely clear that there is a bike lane and that cars are NOT allowed in it. It seems like the solid green paint seems to get people’s attention more than the white line.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

I said it once, I’ll say it again… Install buttons to give motorists that wonderful rumble of “you’re driving in the wrong place” message.

fw
Guest
fw

A couple months ago, for the first time in over a year I needed to ride over the Broadway from NW. I found myself trapped on Lovejoy b/c I hadn’t known about the changes, i.e. removal of bike lanes.

On my way home I knew that I should no longer take Lovejoy, but wasn’t sure which street was now the designated bike-way. I guessed and found Marshall. Now I know better.

Diverting bikes onto Marshall or Lovejoy is SO much slower. Maybe 7-10 min slower than when I used to take Lovejoy.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I destroyed a front wheel last summer during the construction because of a confusing bike detour sign that directed me straight into a trench where lovejoy meets broadway. Ever since I just avoid the broadway bridge, it didn’t seem worth the danger to ride around there during the construction and I haven’t gone back.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Anybody else notice the cyclist entering a street in the wrong direction, nearly mowing down a pedestrian in the crosswalk while doing so?

esther c
Guest
esther c

I go this route occasionally in my car and it sucks in a car too. Its one way on lovejoy off the bridge so you have to turn right and go up Marshall which sucks because its a bike boulevard which I don’t like to ride on.

I wish they’d taken all that streetcar money and used it to improve max service and bus stops in the outer areas. I really feel like the whole point of the streetcar isn’t to improve transportation in the downtown area but to help developers sell real estate.

jim
Guest
jim

This whole lovejoy project is just one big giant cluster@#%*&
If they wanted to make the street one way it should have been westbound since this is the road that goes directly to the hospital. Trying to get to the hospital now is just awful.
They obviously didn’t put a lot of thout into bicyle safety in this project either.

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

Ted Buehler
There’s lots of engineering solutions out there. to
* direct bikes through redesigned intersections
* reduce the bumpiness of rail crossings

Ted Buehler

Got links to pictures of these, or examples of where they have been installed locally? About the only design I have seen that seems to offer a reasonable measure of safety is where there is sufficient space to cross at right angles with the hard rubber crossing of the tracks. There’s an example of this on 5th, west of the intersection of 5th and Griffith, in Beaverton. Even there, though, they only have one on the north side of the tracks.

eli
Guest
eli

Why are the bike lanes on the car side of the concrete dividers on the ramp?

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Apparently the tracks plus white line confuses drivers. Maybe we need to cover the entire bike lane from the top of the ramp on down with the green “Bike Box” material to make things more obvious?

I haven’t commuted via this route since 2008, but even then, drivers would routinely encroached into the bike lane on the descent. I can only imagine that adding streetcar tracks to the mix has made the issue worse.

Charley
Guest
Charley

Put those plastic poles up right on the white Bike Lane thermoplastic. Once the driver goes THWAP-THWAP-THWAP a few times, they’ll stay out of the bike lane. Then again, you can hardly blame them- driving on the tracks is so bad for steering control. You’d think with all the money this cost, they could have placed the track in such a way that it wouldnt’ necessitate driving in the bike lane.

bumblebee
Guest
bumblebee

It has been interesting to note that while many people claim to enjoy cycling, they seem awfully anxious to make their commute as short as possible, either by traveling at breakneck speed or eliminating a few turns and stop signs. Cycling to and from work is the best part of my day. If I have to extend it by 7-10 minutes, so be it!

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

it’s hard to tell from the pics but it looks like on the bridge the tracks are properly recessed just slightly so that cars don’t “wander” unintentionally… the ones on Lovejoy look like they’re raised a little out of the pavement surface… but it just might be the pics…

the lane is too narrow on the bridge for cars not to veer into the bike lane… anywhere the travel lane is narrow motor vehicle encroach into the bike lane, even when there aren’t tracks… this is especially bad on bus routes where the bus drives right on the bike lane stripe to avoid being close to the center lane and oncoming traffic…

I agree that they should install some hearty non-bots-dots style bumps on the bike lane stripe to keep people from driving on it… especially if it’s now wide enough to allow bikes to pass each other without leaving the lane…

RRRoubaix
Guest
RRRoubaix

I take this route whenever I ride home from work (not as often as I’d like), roughly once a week. PBOT really dropped the ball- this is a shitty commuting path. I go down Lovejoy to 9th, and the lane-straddling is always an issue. I don’t continue on Lovejoy anymore, since it’s SO bike-unfriendly, now I take Johnson and it’s countless stopsigns.
Siiiighhh…

9watts
Guest
9watts

I’m probably missing something obvious, but why would a car straddle the tracks at all? What is the logic behind that? In a bike I know very well why I keep my tires away from the (parallel) tracks, but in a car?

single track
Guest
single track

the lane needs to be elevated, separated, or at the very least painted green. This will at least deal with the straddling in this ONE location. PBOT needs to have someone looking at their master plan when developing this condo piggy bank infrastructure.

Slate
Guest
Slate

Crossing the tracks to head up to the bridge is terribly dangerous, add any water and it’s a near certain accident. The angle across the track is bad- I crashed and watched two others go down here. It needs to be addressed.

Winnie Ruth
Guest
Winnie Ruth

I don’t usually have a reason to turn right off the Bway Bridge but on Saturday night I was headed up 11th so I decided to go that way. Big mistake. I’m glad to know by reading this blog that I was supposed to take Marshall to get west. There sure wasn’t any signs for the new bike route.

Jon
Guest
Jon

I’m a streetcar rider, pedestrian and cyclist and I hate it. This is a huge mistake on all fronts, and its bad for everyone regardless of mode. Thanks for addressing Lovejoy, this is a huge peeve of mine. There was absolutely no public process for this, it was decided in secret with only the Pearl District Neighborhood Assoc.

NW Lovejoy should have remained two-way 2 lane with bike lanes just as it was. This would have also allowed the streetcar tracks to be located in the center of the street and therefore not have to clip the corners so much at 10th/Lovejoy to accommodate its wide turning radius. What we have now is a suburban street design with no-stop right turn lanes that are very dangerous for pedestrians crossing.

NW Marshall was supposed to be a slow lightly traveled bikeway, now it has a stream of cars going westbound. NW 10th/Marshall intersection is extremely dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists trying to cross NW 10th as motorist speed through the intersection on NW 10th blindly turning onto NW Marshall. Very very few motorists use NW Northrup to go West. The traffic light at NW 10th & Northrup has the longest wait and there is never any traffice there so you wait there forever to make a left turn (especially delaying the streetcar). The cobblestones on NW Marshall were removed for smooth bike lanes which ticks me off that one of the few remaining cobblestone streets was destroyed. Now this smoothed surface which benefits bikes has the added benefit of speeding up motor vehicles on Marshall which have dramatically increased in huge numbers thanks to this incompetently designed couplet. We had traffic calming on NW Marshall with the cobblestones and it was mostly removed. It was a surprise to everyone when ‘No Parking’ signs appeared a year ago on NW Marshall saying “Cobblestone Removal” and destruction beginning a few days later.

The removal of bike lanes on Lovejoy means that the travel lanes are an additional 5 feet wide, so now we have 16-17 ft wide travel lanes through the heart of the Pearl which encourages speeding. And speeds have increased and motorists are gunning it as soon as they get past 14th at the beginning of the one-way and are weaving between lanes to maintain high speeds between 14th and the bridge.

The new streetcar stop at 9th/Lovejoy should have been built like the one at 13th/Lovejoy (which has the bike lane decommissioned).

The whole routing is confusing coming off the Broadway Bridge with cyclists supposed to be using 9th and motorists 10th. The streetcar route into the Pearl coming off the Broadway Bridge is ridiculous that it heads north 2 blocks before heading south into Downtown. Now the streetcar tracks have preserved this whole traffic configuration for generations.

This whole redesign is a complete failure, this is something one might have expected in 1953. To do this in 2010-11 in Portland is tragic and unacceptable.

Opus the Poet
Guest

OK the number of incursions seems to be sufficient that a barrier of somekind would be appropriate to protect the bike lane, like reflectored “turtle” lane markers.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Street cars are lame, slow, outdated, and in the way of actual progress.

Not to mention the tracks we do not need are on the roads we need for cycling.

Stupid.

Tear out the street car tracks!
OH wait, we did that already.

roger noehren
Guest
roger noehren

This is an excellent photo-essay! Thank you Jonathan for covering this so assiduously.

esther c
Guest
esther c

How many signaled crosswalks could they have put in for low income people trying to cross 82nd Ave and Division street out in the hinterlands for the cost of these streetcars?

How much would they have saved if they’d made them run on electric overhead cables and wheels instead of tracks?

But it wasn’t about providing and improving transportation. It was about selling real estate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolleybus

NoPo Matt
Guest
NoPo Matt

I take Lovejoy into town and turn left onto 9th and then head up to NW via Johnson. It’s anarchy trying to turn left. I can tell you that 4 out of 5 times I ignore the “Copengahen left” and just cross over the tracks while on the ramp so I’m in the left turn lane. The only exception is when there are cars running parallel down the ramp, but this happens less often than I’d expect. Part of the reason the turn island isn’t great is that there’s just not much room to turn your bike 90 degrees. I feel safer crossing the tracks than I do stopping my bike with cars from the north on 9th jocking for position on a right turn and cars from lovejoy whizzing by. So I take my chances crossing the tracks (and I’ve noticed at least half of bikes turning left do this). I don’t have road tires, I have a hybrid bike, so I haven’t had any problems. But it’s far from optimal.

007
Guest
007

Have commuted by bike here since 1996. Lovejoy has been ruined, in fact, the whole area there is ruined for biking IMHO.
NE 7th Ave where the new rails have been installed near Multnomah is not going to be fun. I can see it already… cars driving in the bike lane. Another bikeway ruined. Two steps forward, one back.

Martin
Guest

I ride in this area and it is my primary route to and from NE portland. The changes make it more dangerous for bikes. I think travelling on the sidewalk for 2-3 blocks is much faster than going up to marshall, so thats what I do now. Or perhaps riding in one of the left car lanes which dont have tracks in them.

yoyossarian
Guest
yoyossarian

A lot of people on here talk about the streetcar like a few loud people in Clackamas talk about the MAX. Have any of you ever seen how crowded the streetcar is all day? Maybe how many elderly riders use it? How many people use it to commute to work from the Pearl/NW to downtown and OHSU? Yeah, it’s way slower than biking but not everyone wants to bike. Saying it’s faster than walking is true for short distances, but try beating it from NW 23rd to downtown and you’re going to lose by long shot.

I’m not defending the horrible street design they put in on Lovejoy, but a lot of these observations about the streetcar are overblown. Plus, worst case scenario and it is a tool for developers, then we get more close in dense development East of the river. Better to spend energies making sure development adequately accomodates lower income, or at least the average Portlander, and not exclusively the wealthy.

A lesson we could all learn from this is to put a lot of pressure on the inclusion of bike infrastructure in the next streetcar project. It seems given the huge expense of these things they could include some pretty decked out features for bike riders as part of the overall plan, with relatively little extra money tacked on. Hating on a semi-permanent piece of non-automobile transportation structure in a dense urban core seems a bit regressive to me.

esther c
Guest
esther c

Yes, I’ve used the streetcar and seen that it was jam packed. But wouldn’t a trackless electric trolley work just as well?