Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Pearl District resident raises red flag on Lovejoy biking dangers

Posted by on August 30th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Despite presence of precarious
streetcar tracks, many people
still ride on Lovejoy.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Eastside Streetcar project has radically altered vehicle access to the Pearl District. If you ride a bicycle, the changes have been especially acute (as I shared back in July). NW Lovejoy has been decommissioned as a bike route and the Bureau of Transportation now urges people to use Marshall as the main east-west street.

However, because Lovejoy remains the most direct route onto the bridge and because PBOT staff took many months to remove a bike network sign that encouraged people to use the street (even after the tracks had gone in*), many people still ride on Lovejoy. And by doing so, they put themselves at risk of becoming one of hundreds (if not thousands) of track crash victims.

“We are convinced that sooner or later one of these cyclists will fall in front of a car and be seriously injured if not killed.”
— NW Lovejoy resident

(*That sign has since been removed, and some bike-specific track warning signs have been installed, thanks to the work and complaints of citizen activists.)

For years, Lovejoy was the main through-street for bike access from Northwest Portland and the Pearl onto the Broadway Bridge to the east and up and over the hills to the west. It had a bike lane in both directions that led right onto the bridge. The streetcar project changed all that when it removed the bike lanes and replaced them with curbside streetcar tracks.

View of NW Lovejoy from a resident’s deck (read her message below)

Last week I got a note from a woman who lives in one of the high-rise condos on NW Lovejoy between 9th and 10th (right at the base of the ramp up to the Broadway Bridge). Turns out people on bikes crashing on the tracks has become so common, they’ve started watching the action from their decks. I’ve pasted her message below…

I live in a highrise building on Lovejoy St. On the 1 block area between 10th & 9th we see nearly 2 crashes every single day. The residents here have taken to sitting on their decks betting on if cyclists will make it in the 1 block stretch of road.

Signs are clearly posted warning of the dangers due to the street car tracks recently installed, yet cyclists continue to take Lovejoy St to the Broadway bridge instead of taking Marshall St.

We are convinced that sooner or later one of these cyclists will fall in front of a car and be seriously injured if not killed.

We literally see, on average, two crashes a day. I am sending this only as a warning to take these tracks as a serious concern – PLEASE!

I would prefer that post this message, it be anonymous. We don’t know how else to get the word out!

Thank you.

The way the streetcar project has impacted bicycling access in this area (and several others) continues to be a source of much frustration for myself and others in the community. For some unlucky people, it is also a source of pain and blood and broken bones.

Surely we can do better.

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  • BURR August 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    The streetcar stinks for bikes; it has ever since the first line was built, it hasn’t gotten any better over time, and the streetcar people just don’t seem to care.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm

      I think they do seem to care… but there hasn’t been much in terms of obligations to make sure bike stuff is done and done correctly. So, basically all you get are meetings where they “listen to the concerns of the bike community” but then they aren’t actually forced to do anything.

      What I’ve been proposing to anyone who will listen is a bicycle access mitigation funding set-aside in all streetcar projects. Like the bike bill does for new highway spending… it would require streetcar projects to give, let’s say, a minimum of 1% of their budget to design/build/replace bike access that is impacted.

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      • cyclist August 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm

        “So, basically all you get are meetings where they ‘listen to the concerns of the bike community’ but then they aren’t actually forced to do anything.”

        Sounds like what’s happening on N Williams, just a different group of people who aren’t getting listened to.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 30, 2011 at 3:46 pm

          no cyclist, that’s not what’s happening on williams. Not at all.

          The City hasn’t done anything concrete with decision making on that project and they’ve now delayed the project indefinitely. If that’s not listening to the community than I don’t know what is. When is the last time you heard of a streetcar (or any transit) project in this town being delayed due to community concerns?

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          • Williams Resident September 5, 2011 at 3:29 pm

            No actually they let a very small non user group complain and get their way stalling and probably killing a traffic issue for our neighborhood. The same thing has happened every time we have had meetings to clean the neighborhood up from drug use and prostitution.

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    • Jon August 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm

      You have to be careful around tracks and use extreme caution. I hate this track/street layout as much as anyone else here but the answer is real simple… avoid the tracks and take 9th & Marshall!!!!

      They should have laid the tracks with one lane in each direction with bike lanes next to them just as Lovejoy used to be between 10th & 14th. The reason for this terrible configuration and hazard is this stupid couplet and left turn lane on Lovejoy.

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  • Fix On Your Bike August 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Please be careful riding out there.. Marshall is a great street to bike on.

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    • BURR August 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      No, Marshall is not a great street to bike on; it’s got door zone bike lanes, a lot of stop signs, no signal controlled intersections, cobblestones, a lot of traffic going to and from the hospital parking structures, and doesn’t connect through to NW 23rd and other points west.

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      • Chris I August 31, 2011 at 6:44 am

        Marshall is not that bad, and as this article clearly points out, Lovejoy is much worse. Just take Marshall.

        Bike infrastructure and streetcars both foster dense livable communities, and we should be supportive. We are starting to sound like the auto community, as we seem to complain about all modes of transit but our own.

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        • k. August 31, 2011 at 8:37 am

          I agree. Some people are so bike centric as to ignore the benefits of other progressive transportation programs like the street car. All these forms of mass transit are by and large integral parts of a progressive community and complement each other. Finding decent routes around this town is not that hard for cyclists especially considering the urban environment. PBOT’s got a great program that’s done tons for cyclists and is generally pretty responsive yet some still whine and complain. Open your eyes folks.

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      • Paul August 31, 2011 at 1:16 pm

        I used to live on Marshall at 12th and thought it was okay. The bike lanes are for the most part out of the door zone. Much better than most painted bike lanes anyway. I could ride in the center of the lane and be far enough out of the zone unless there was a bad parking job or a fire truck.

        And yeah, I hate how the streetcar track was engineered there. Since I lived right on Marshall it didn’t much matter to me, but really screws up everyone else. Sad engineering.

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      • Paul August 31, 2011 at 1:17 pm

        And any street with a bunch of stop signs will never be ideal for a bike route. (Marshall)

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    • eli bishop August 30, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      i agree w/ burr. marshall is not a good option. i especially don’t like the traffic flow heading west from the bridge:

      instead of going straight after the bridge, you have to turn right and then take a quick left, which requires that you take the lane in the face of what can be some difficult traffic.

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  • 9watts August 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Anyone care to share tricks for how to navigate streetcar tracks on a bike? I can bunny hop, but pulling a trailer that isn’t such a great strategy. I’m thinking of other streets than Lovejoy, or simply streets you come upon without knowing that you’ll encounter street car tracks. It just seems like a good thing to know/have practiced if/when you find yourself needing to navigate these.

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    • Matthew Vilhauer August 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      fat tires and low tire pressure. seems like that’s how it’s done in europe.

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      • -J August 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm

        Yes, wider tires definitely do help, but even with wide tires it is possible to go down. There really are two hazards associated with streetcar track crossings.
        -One is the risk of getting a tire caught in the track gap when crossing at a shallow angle to the track. This is mitigated by having tires that are too wide to get in the track (like motorcycles), or by filling the stack with some sort of rubberized compound that compresses under the streetcar, which I guess has been done internationally.
        -The second issue with tracks has to do with the difference in friction between the pavement and the track – this differential is increased when wet. The friction coefficient is not really changed much by tire choice or tread pattern (though lower tire pressures do help).

        So the only active choice you have as a cyclist it the angle of attack to the track, and the angle of lean of your bike. If you keep both of these as perpendicular as possible, that is the only way to minimize crashing. Also, the less weight over the front wheel the better while crossing, as having weight over the front exacerbates loss of control when there is a differential in traction. The lean angle is most critical, however.

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        • Paul August 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm

          Right. My “sit-up-and-beg” bike doesn’t have much problem as the lean-over bike where my weight is more focused on the bars. Upright bikes = great crash prevention, or slamming. The front wheel sort of just pops over stuff since I don’t have more than a few ounces of weight on the bars.

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    • Biking Viking August 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      I switched from Lovejoy to Johnson after the streetcar tracks were put in.

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  • Todd Boulanger August 30, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Perhaps it is time to set up a ($200) time lapse camera and record the condition…or add a web cam.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      that’d be cool… but anyone who denies that this is actually a problem is simply out of touch with reality. It’s pervasive. Just the other day, a barista I know was all bruised up and didn’t ride into work that day. I asked her why… yep, she had a bad crash on the tracks. Happens all the time.

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  • RH August 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I use Overton….great street to cycle on..nice and wide, low traffic

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    • shirtsoff August 30, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      Having done deliveries in that area years ago via bicycle I can vouch for the appeal and utility of Overton as a solid east-west connector from that district to NW/Industrial neighborhoods.

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  • Chris Smith August 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I’d welcome any kind of statistical data to help make the safety case better. A time lapse web cam would be great. The database AROW is building of voluntary crash reports is also very useful.

    I completely agree we have to do better.

    I would note that the City Council resolution supporting the Lake Oswego to Portland Streetcar LPA included language supporting funding for mitigation (after first trying to avoid the need for mitigation of course!).

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    • Zorro August 30, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      Do you think there might be any kind of technical solutions to these problem spots, beyond signage and paying to make things nicer elsewhere? What about flange fillers?

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  • Jeff August 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    NW Overton works pretty well to connect Naito (or 9th to Broadway ramp) to the Pearl and NW, but car traffic has also increased on Overton as parking is free and the roadway has fewer stop signs. But, regardless, Overton is my preferred route for getting from Naito/Broadway bridge via 9th all the way into the NW. It’s a little out of the way, but worth it for peace of mind.

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  • Ted August 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I used to work at Legacy and know the dangers of Marshall. But, I’d choose Marshall over LoveJoy any day of the week, those tracks are suicide, especially in the rain.

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  • Duncan Idaho-Stop August 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Agreed, Marshall sucks. Stop signs, cobblestones, parking, all kinds of headaches… Also agreed that Overton is a good through street in the area.

    But when I’m heading eastbound on the Broadway Bridge, I prefer Johnson now. Pretty good through street, reasonable crossing times at 14th and 16th, and at 9th and Lovejoy you can turn right on red instead of waiting for a left arrow.

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  • jered August 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    GLISAN going west, Hoyt coming back east is the way I do it. Glisan has always been way faster, but I use to take Lovejoy because it had less traffic and was more relaxing. Now I’ve taken a few minutes off my commute, so not all bad

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  • Boneshaker August 30, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I’m an Everett/Glisan guy myself. NW PDX just sucks to ride a bike through.

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  • Allan August 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Folks seem to forget that Lovejoy at the other end connects to NW Cornell- which leads to a ton of destinations on the other side of the west hills. this direct connection between the bethany /cedar mill area and NE portland has been severed by this project. The diversion sucks but it is mandatory to avoid going down hard on the tracks. perhaps future streetcar projects that don’t need direct connections to longer-distance routes might avoid using them? Just a thought

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    • Oliver August 31, 2011 at 9:20 am

      All official bicycle routes/blvds seem to be chosen to maximize jog left jog right negotiate traffic island fun and frolics.

      See Concord…Dekum…Broadway/Marshall/Overton…Glisan/Sandy/Tattooine/Mogadishu/Couch etc.

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  • esther c August 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I spent 4 months out of work last summer with a broken clavicle that required surgery from a streetcar track crash. A maneuver that I usually could pull off on a dry track didn’t work on a wet one. Now I’m on restriction from having the metal plate removed. So these accidents even when not causing serious injury can have serious consequences. Fortunately I had health insurance and sick time so my life was not ruined, just my summer.

    When I’m following a cyclist in my car on Lovejoy I give them plenty of room because I never know when they’re going to crash in front of me.

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  • Jim Lee August 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    All you whining bikers: take your bruises and broken bikes to the board of Portland Streetcar, Inc.

    Oh, wait! They will not allow you into their meetings.

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    • Scott Mizée August 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      seriously? They won’t allow members of the public into their meetings?

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      • Chris Smith August 30, 2011 at 3:11 pm

        Portland Streetcar, Inc. is a private non-profit that builds and operates the streetcar under contract to the City. They have no more obligation to open their board meetings than any other City contractor does.

        But there are a variety of public input methods for the Streetcar system, including the Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee, which decidely DOES allow public access and involvement at meetings.

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        • BURR August 30, 2011 at 3:59 pm

          Advisory Committees often don’t make such great decisions and there really isn’t anything binding about the decisions they do make.

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          • are August 30, 2011 at 9:10 pm

            nonetheless, it would be useful every once in awhile for an advisory committee to dissent from what the agency or contractor is proposing

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  • Nick V August 30, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    We (cyclists) should not be at war with anything, such as mass transit, that encourages people to leave their cars at home. I actually went up and down NW Marshall today and I have no complaints. It has less traffic, and possibly less stop signs and traffic signals, than Lovejoy. Is it really a big deal to pedal one block further north for a good bike road?

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  • el serracho August 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Hell, i don’t even live in Portland and i’ve been taken out by these tracks. Luckily i can blame my fall on drunkenness.

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  • Art Fuldodger August 30, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    This discussion screams out for the need to develop 2 state-of-the art east/west neighborhood greenways all the way out past 23rd – one to the south of NW Lovejoy (on Johnson?) & one to the north (on Overton?) that would pull (almost) all bike traffic off Lovejoy. It would have to have bike/ped signals at all major intersections, and treatments to limit any through auto traffic. Not cheap, or easy.

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    • Champs August 30, 2011 at 10:40 pm

      Overton could be better, but it is pretty decent already. I’m surprised more people haven’t taken notice of this.

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    • Chris I August 31, 2011 at 6:51 am

      That would be great, but you would still have people on here whining about he one block detour.

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  • Satorical August 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I live in another high-rise in the area and have also been witness to the carnage. The main point where problems begin is people turning from NW 10th Ave right onto Lovejoy.

    There are many hazards, including overwatering of the hanging/streetlight plants that floods onto the street, making the surface slick. The worst, though, is when cars park on the right side of Lovejoy at the turn (usually to visit the liquor store).

    If a cyclist somehow manages to avoid all the other hazards, she may still slam into the back of the illegally parked cars if she’s going too fast (which is to say, with any speed at all).

    The whole thing is bad news, but short of educating riders that they need to find an alternate route, there’s not much more that can be done; there are already big signs warning of the track ruts on either side of the approach to Lovejoy from 10th.

    Please spread the word. The person who said there are two crashes/day isn’t kidding. I’ve seen them happen consecutively five minutes apart. Someone will die there unless something changes. I’ve e-mailed the BOT and the company that waters the street plants, but no one wants to admit liability on this. Riders have to protect themselves.

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  • Harvey August 30, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Will nothing make this community happy? The streetcar removes cars from the street. A lot fewer cars, and they ask us to use one street over, and all we can do is bitch bitch bitch.

    I tell ya, the whining in the PDX bike scene is pretty sad, if you insist on taking lovejoy, perhaps take the streetcar. Otherwise do the smart thing and go one block over.

    Sometimes I think a large part of the readers here expect Portland to put bikes first at every opportunity.

    We are 3-6% of the population (as measured in the heat of summer). Give it a rest, be thankful for what you have, which is much more than what we deserve per capita, ride where PBOT tells you to and pay your taxes.

    Personally on my Fixxxie, I have no problem bunny hopping the tracks, and am thankful for the “fred protection” that the tracks offer. Fred, if you could ride the traxxx, you would. You cannot, so don’t.

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    • BURR August 30, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      the streetcar doesn’t remove a whole lot of cars from the streets, it’s mostly used as a downtown shuttle by the homeless, PSU students, and a few tourists, who are all pretty much car-lite to begin with. Now that fareless square for busses has gone away, the streetcar has pretty much become the defacto downtown free bus.

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      • Satorical August 30, 2011 at 4:17 pm

        If you say so. I pay to take it to work and back.

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        • bb August 30, 2011 at 4:27 pm

          Yep, so do I. I’ve noticed a lot of people on here talking about the demographics of the streetcar don’t seem to actually use it.

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      • Reza August 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm

        Wrong. Many people from NW and the Pearl commute to downtown on the Streetcar (and not just PSU students). Witness the crush loads during the afternoon rush hour.

        This “war-on-the-streetcar” tone from many commenters on this blog is misguided and counter-productive.

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        • dwainedibbly August 30, 2011 at 6:07 pm

          Agreed. I have commuted from downtown to the south waterfront via the streetcar a few times and it’s full of commuters and students.

          The problem isn’t the streetcar itself. The problem is the way it has been implemented here.

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          • was carless August 30, 2011 at 7:45 pm

            You are right – nobody rides it because its too crowded!

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          • Jon August 30, 2011 at 9:03 pm

            yes completely.

            its not the streetcar that is the problem, its the placement of the tracks and that ridiculously designed couplet

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      • was carless August 30, 2011 at 7:44 pm

        11,000+ people a day riding the streetcar are a lot of cars off the road.

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      • Jon August 30, 2011 at 9:01 pm

        it carries 14,000/day over a few miles, its definitely heavily used

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      • Paul August 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm

        Nearly every one of my neighbors in those high-rise buildings use the streetcar regularly.

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  • Spiffy August 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    I wonder what’s going to happen when the streetcar is actually running on these tracks and is slowed down by the many bicycles still using it… will they start banning bikes on streetcar streets?

    it’s idiotic that they would take the most direct route for people-powered vehicles and dedicate it to large motorized vehicles requiring a road surface that’s dangerous to the users it’s displacing… it seems obvious to me to give bicycles the direct route and send motorized transport to another street since it won’t actually be inconvenienced…

    bicycles will continue to take the most direct route no matter how many other routes you offer them…

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    • Michweek August 30, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      Here, here. Basic human action. Take the most direct, easiest, right in front of you route. When I’m pedaling that’s exactly what I do and why I don’t think telling people on bikes to take Rodney instead of Williams is going to work either. Cars and motorized mass transit are far less inconvenienced by moving a block over, but those walking, rolling, & pedaling are because they are actually putting some real effort into getting to where they are going. Besides, who here actually enjoys going out of their way to get from point A to B unless it’s a planned scenic route?

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    • Jon August 30, 2011 at 9:05 pm

      you attack the streetcar yet your complaints are all about the couplet. bike, car, streetcar ALL have to go out of the way because of the couplet forcing westbound traffic off Lovejoy.

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  • sabes August 30, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Solution: ride on a different street. Problem solved.

    The world doesn’t revolve around cyclists. I bike to work, and if a road is too dangerous, I ride on a different road. This is logic that is even grasped by my 3 year old son. Not every road can be bike friendly. Lovejoy is not. Ride somewhere else.

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    • Charley August 30, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      You know what, you’re right. In fact, this is true in a lot of cases: you probably shouldn’t complain when your schools suck, because the world doesn’t revolve around kids- just pay for your kids to go to private school; you probably shouldn’t complain when your neighbor has a party every night at 3 AM because the world doesn’t revolve around your sleep habits- just move to a different house.

      Actually, you’re wrong. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and if anybody or any group of people want to change things to make their life or lives better, they’d better speak up about it. Or I guess we could just move to China and let the government decide for us, huh?

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      • Sigma August 31, 2011 at 7:01 am

        It’s too late to speak up. Those tracks aren’t going anywhere.

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        • Charley August 31, 2011 at 8:10 am

          We can improve Marshall or Johnson, though. Or we could just throw up our hands and say “well, might as well just live with the injuries and property damage, because we’re not the center of the universe.”

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      • Chris I August 31, 2011 at 7:03 am

        I don’t think this issue is quite on par with the others that you mention. It’s one street. There are countless streets downtown that are not really safe to ride on for various reasons.

        And honestly, has anyone here actually come up with a plan for Lovejoy that improves the situation for bikes? The traffic engineers were faced with a tough situation here: limited road width, multiple modes of transit, major switching point for two streetcar lines (and plans for more in the future).

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    • A.K. August 30, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      Agreed. Then you’ll get the people who say “but I need to access a business/apartment on that street!!111oneoneone”. The solution to that is to ride on an adjacent street until you reach the area you need to be, then just go over a block when you reach the cross-street where your destination happens to be. Maybe then walk your bike for half a block to the door if it happens to be mid-block?

      And if you choose to ride on a street with tracks your tires can fit into, you are taking that risk on yourself. I use 25x700c tires and I can navigate around tracks well, but prefer not to risk it so I don’t ride along them for more than a block or two at the most.

      The amount of hand-holding people seem to want the city to provide is outsized to the need of the problem, IMHO.

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  • sabes August 30, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Maybe you should consider not riding on Lovejoy. Just a thought…

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    • Sigma August 31, 2011 at 7:04 am

      Any reason cyclists couldn’t legally take the left lane? ORS allows cyclists to move left to avoid hazards, which the tracks clearly are.

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  • Jason August 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I work at Western Bike Works on 17th And Lovejoy. We had to call 911 due to a gentleman crashing last Saturday. He was knocked unconscious, and had to be carried to the curb. He was severely dazed and got tossed in an ambulance on a gurney with his arm in a sling (I assume broken). The streetcar tracks are treacherous at best, and an alternative route needs to be considered. Marshall is useless in my opinion. The small “bike lane”, over the cobblestone like brick, puts a cyclist in a compromising visual position at intersections and corners. I ride in every day and make my time on Lovejoy as short as possible, but Marshall is equally unsafe in it’s on regard.

    Solution: Leave the streetcar tracks, it’s important to commuters that aren’t on bikes. But exclude parking on corners at intersections on Marshall to give drivers a safer view of perpendicular traffic. Specifically those on bikes.

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    • Chris I August 31, 2011 at 7:05 am

      Was he wearing a properly fitted helmet? Doesn’t really seem fair to blame the streetcar for him being knocked unconscious, if he didn’t have one.

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      • Paul August 31, 2011 at 1:32 pm

        Helmets don’t prevent you from being knocked unconscious. Cracked skull maybe, but your brain is still slammed against the cranium.

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  • Bob_M August 30, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    If two persons crashing a day at the same spot is what we get when the streetcar people “seem to care” Would it be different if they didn’t care at all?

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  • Nick V August 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Will nothing make this community happy? The streetcar removes cars from the street. A lot fewer cars, and they ask us to use one street over, and all we can do is bitch bitch bitch.
    I tell ya, the whining in the PDX bike scene is pretty sad, if you insist on taking lovejoy, perhaps take the streetcar. Otherwise do the smart thing and go one block over.
    Sometimes I think a large part of the readers here expect Portland to put bikes first at every opportunity.
    We are 3-6% of the population (as measured in the heat of summer). Give it a rest, be thankful for what you have, which is much more than what we deserve per capita, ride where PBOT tells you to and pay your taxes.
    Personally on my Fixxxie, I have no problem bunny hopping the tracks, and am thankful for the “fred protection” that the tracks offer. Fred, if you could ride the traxxx, you would. You cannot, so don’t.
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    Quite possibly the most beautiful thing ever written.

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  • Reza August 30, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Marshall will never be a good bike route until PBOT gets all the cars heading westbound (who used to travel Lovejoy before the conversion to 1-way eastbound) off Marshall and onto Northrup.

    A diverter or something similar needs to be set up at 10th and Marshall so that all westbound through vehicle traffic off the Broadway Bridge is forced to use Northrup one block north (the designed westbound couplet) instead of Marshall.

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    • Jon August 30, 2011 at 9:12 pm

      amen. this is the problem, marshall was supposed to make up for losing lovejoy except marshall has become overrun with impatient motorists. anytime a motorist is inconvenienced due to a detour, traffic, bus, bike, etc, they feel entitled to drive recklessly to make up the few seconds lost, so now all these bike lanes that removed historic cobblestones are clogged with automobiles that are too lazy to go one extra block north and are taking advantage of the smooth bike lanes on marshall to speed over what was once a slow traffic calmed cobblestoned street. lovejoy/northrup and marshall has become one of the the biggest clusterf#$%’s in portland.

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  • Jim Lee August 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    It is a strange creature, this Portland Streetcar, Inc.

    Chris Smith is correct, that it is a private non-profit corporation, but it is one with very special powers and privileges:

    1. It can pre-empt public right-of-way for its own purposes.

    2. It has access to the public fisc by way of TriMet’s payments in-lieu of bus service on a route.

    3. TriMet, a public agency funded by payroll taxes, both operates and maintains its vehicles.

    4. TriMet is its channel for its access to federal funding.

    5. TriMet provides aspects of its planning.

    6. TriMet bails it out when it is beyond its technical competence, for example, developing propulsion for its prospective made-in=Oregon cars.

    I have puzzled over this conundrum for several years, to the following conclusion:

    A. Portland Streetcar, Inc., is a coterie of wealthy developers and businesspeople that triangulates between TriMet and our city’s Bureau of Transportation for its private ends.

    B. It eschews and excludes public oversight, although it consumes large amounts of public money, both federal and local.

    C. Functionally it is TriMet.

    D. It maintains its power solely through influence over our city’s governance.

    I admire Chris Smith greatly, but wonder how he can continue to tolerate being hung out in the wind by the likes of Michael Powell and Rick Gustafson, chair and operating officer of Portland Streetcar, Inc., publicly defending its gross incompetence and carelessness.

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    • Chris Smith August 30, 2011 at 6:12 pm


      I think you give us far too much credit. Portland Streetcar has few if any of the authorities that you mentioned. Those authorities are retained by PBOT and City Council who must approve virtually all of the items you listed.

      You are correct that the board includes a heavy dose of business owners and developers/property owners. And I hope we are influential, we are furthering a great public good in my view.

      But you make us sound like Robert Moses, and I can assure you we exercise no such unilateral power 🙂

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    • Sigma August 31, 2011 at 7:13 am

      Don’t forget that Mr. Gustafson, PSI executive director, is also a principal at Shiels Obletz Johnson, which regularly wins 6- and 7-figure contracts to advance streetcar projects, lake Oswego being only the most recent. It’s a conflict of interest of the worst sort. No objective analysis would have ever picked the alignment or mode they chose for that boondoggle.

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  • Chris Smith August 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    BTW – none of the above should be considered an apologia for Streetcar’s negative impact on the bicycle environment in the Pearl. I’m not proud of it, and am working hard to correct it and make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.

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  • Charlie August 30, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    This really isn’t that big of deal. Like others, I simply have moved over to Overton – going West and Johnson going East. I concur that the best course of action going forward would be one or two “Greenways” in the vicinity.

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  • old&slow August 30, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    A complete joke and total waste of transport dollars, which Jonathan has championed from day 1.
    A Sam Adams project, supported by most people here it seems.
    Now it is in place, and you are complaining?
    Too bad, you got what you wanted.

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    • BURR August 30, 2011 at 7:35 pm

      Actually, Charlie Hales probably had a lot more to do with it than Sam, which is a prime reason not to vote for him in the upcoming mayoral election.

      The streetcar is a Chamber of Commerce and construction boondoggle, and a waste of money. Do you have any idea how many miles of prime bicycle facilities Portland could have built with all the money we gave to Stacey and Witbeck for streetcar construction!?!?!?! They aren’t even an Oregon company.

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    • was carless August 30, 2011 at 7:52 pm

      Wrong. The streetcar was originally built by Vera Katz. You must be new around here.

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      • Sigma August 31, 2011 at 7:17 am

        No. Hales was transportation commissioner. Mini- mayor, as it were.

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  • BURR August 30, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    For everybody who says ‘just ride on another street’, my response is that they are all public streets paid for by our collective tax dollars as portland residents, and they should all be safe for whatever mode of travel you choose to use.

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    • Jon August 30, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      ride on it then. just be prepared to deal with the consequences of eating pavement if you arent the hotshot cyclist you think you are.

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  • was carless August 30, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    This is an amazing photo of how they cross streetcar tracks in Toronto – where there are many more miles of streetcar lines than in Portland:


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  • Jim Labbe August 30, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I second Art Fuldodger’s comment. I ride though NW Portland almost every Monday and find that Marshall is weak substitute for the loss of Lovejoy to cyclists, although I do love the ride by Tanner Springs Park. Johnson is better as an eastbound route.

    I would love to see some real improvements to these east/west bike routes in NW Portland. Given the density of these neighborhoods they really should have better bike infrastructure.

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  • Mindful Cyclist August 30, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Can we consider for a moment that the streetcar may help someone with a physical disability get from point A to point B a little bit easier? Sure, they may not make up the bulk of the riders, but just consider that they may make up 2% of the ridership. At 11,000 riders a day, that number is 220.

    Maybe that number isn’t very big to some of you, but that is a big enough number for me to realize that it is not that big of a deal for me to go 200 feet in either direction and take another street if I don’t want to bike near the streetcar tracks.

    And, before someone responds with the “well, can’t a bus do the same thing?” argument, the answer is yes. However, next time you happen to be on a bus, listen to the groans of the other riders when the bus get stalled for the wheelchair ramp and the driver has to secure the person. On the MAX and streetcar, the ramp works much more inconspicuously and smoothly.

    Streetcar tracks are a hazard. This is not news. However, the tracks are a KNOWN hazard. They don’t move around a whole lot. And if they do, we will know all about it because we will see the construction crews installing them. They are not a patch of wet leaves, a pothole or someone’s pet that are always going to be unexpected variables that we have no idea were there until it is sometimes too late.

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  • Jon August 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    a high quality nw 9th avenue bike route is needed to distribute bike traffic off the broadway bridge onto johnson, marshall, overton as well as to link to naito parkway. all it really needs is signals at everett, glisan and most of all at burnside to link to downtown and the south park blocks and stark/oak.

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  • Hugh Johnson August 31, 2011 at 5:52 am

    I don’t think cycling was ever a priority for the city in the Pearl. The street cars were going to be built and damn the consquences. Was it that hard to see what the results would be? That being said, it’s easier just to avoid the area all together.

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    • Chris Smith August 31, 2011 at 7:47 am

      The Pearl is designated as a bicycle district in the master plan. That’s not something we can afford to ignore.

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  • Grandpa August 31, 2011 at 6:28 am

    I realize the article is about the designed-in conflicts on Lovejoy, but streetcar/bicycle incompatibility exists all over Portland. This is a systemic problem that is getting worse.

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  • Chris Smith August 31, 2011 at 8:53 am

    There are ongoing plans to improve Marshall, but they trigger on moving the Streetcar stop at 10th, which is what screws up the traffic signal at Northrup. That change will happen in the fall and then we will likely see a diverter somewhere on Marshall.

    We would need to rally to get PBOT to find funds for additional improvements on Johnson and/or Overton!

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  • Barbara August 31, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Very disappointed in how poor Marshall is considering it’s now the designated bicycle route. I tried it a few times with the same problems. Every time I’ve been on it I’ve been forced to use the cobblestones which aren’t that safe because there are delivery trucks on on both sides of the road out on the paved track & sometimes facing the opposite way. Then at the street the street car goes north at Marshall there is a constant stream of traffic turning W on to Marshall most of them coming well into the oncoming lane where I am rather than slow down & properly make the turnso it’s very difficult to get across. Needs a stop. M. Yea it’s might be better than but hardly acceptable as a bike route. Now just avoid the area there all together.

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  • Jacob August 31, 2011 at 9:26 am

    bunny hopping is all well and good, but of course as you point out a trailer hinders doing that. If you can’t bunny hop, I usually just pull the front wheel off the ground, as it’s MUCH easier to control a slide on the rear wheel than it is to control one on the front.

    I have yet to ever go down on tracks, mostly because I try to hit the track as perpendicular as possible, and always pull up the front wheel.

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  • seeshellbike August 31, 2011 at 9:57 am

    What happened to the I am traffic mantra? Since a bicycle is a vehicle and is allowed full use of the lane, then what happens when you purposefully install a known hazard in the travel lane? Bicycle traffic is not prohibited from using the street so it needs to be made safe for all traffic. Would they build a roadway and say install a speed bump that only a 4 x4 truck and cross and say everyone can use even though it would be dangerous for cars? It almost sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    I am concerned about the fact that there are plans to spread streetcar out into neighborhoods with even routes lined out and still this issue of bikes/streetcar tracks has not been addressed.

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  • beth h August 31, 2011 at 10:41 am

    “Surely we can do better.”

    Sorry, Jonathan. I think we blew the opportunity to “do better” when the expansion of the Streetcar was approved. I still maintain that the Portland Streetcar Plan was and is, a poor use of the city’s money. The Streetcar was designed to move handfuls of people to and from shopping boutiques and not much else.
    I would rather have seen expansion of MAX and bus service — providing real mass transit solutions for thousands of Portland workers — over this pap.

    So now we have infrastructure redesigns all over town that make bicycling more precarious. I continue to be underwhelmed by the whole thing,

    When I need to take Lovejoy off the Broadway Bridge to get into NW Portland, I take the sidewalk down the ramp; then hop over to Kearney or Johnson and keep going. There’s really no other reasonable option left at this point.

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    • Reza August 31, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      “The Streetcar was designed to move handfuls of people to and from shopping boutiques and not much else.”

      12,000 daily riders (including NW and Pearl commuters) on the Streetcar would tell you otherwise. Please try again.

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  • Andycigarettes August 31, 2011 at 11:29 am

    If we take cars off Lovejoy, we could give priority to the streetcar, and improve pedestrian and bicycling infra-oh wait, yeah…never mind.

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  • matt picio August 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I think that’s true – the people involved *do* care, but that doesn’t change the fact that dangerous facilities like this are going in. Also, a higher mode share of cyclists are using this route than streetcar will likely command – so why isn’t the dominant mode share group more representative in the planning? Why does the streetcar need to go the whole length on Lovejoy? It could have been routed on one of the neighboring streets and cut over to Lovejoy just before the bridge – then we’d only need to mitigate the effects of one bike/track crossing.

    Indeed, we can do better – and we should. The country looks up to Portland, and the country is learning, and many cities are starting to catch up. Do we want to remain innovative? Do we want to meet the cities goals for bike mode share? Then yes, we need to do better.

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    • Mindful Cyclist September 1, 2011 at 11:28 am

      Matt: My guess why is goes the entire lenght up one street is due to the cost. Adding another 200′ of track starts adding up quickly.

      Only a guess and if someone knows otherwise, let me know…

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  • Ted Buehler August 31, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Marshall and Johnson will always be poor alternate routes compared to the pre-2011 Lovejoy.

    Here’s why, from the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.


    Ted Buehler

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    • matt picio September 1, 2011 at 8:06 am

      Well put, Ted – kudos to AROW for pulling that from the Oregon Bike/Ped plan and posting it.

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  • Ted Buehler September 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm
  • Duehmig September 2, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Really? think maybe bikers could just go over one block and ride safely? sound ssimple and rather inexpensive to me.

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  • Satorical September 12, 2011 at 9:52 am

    I e-mailed the city BoT a second time this weekend and got a response this time. Interestingly, it’s from Shiels Deletz Johnsen, a firm handling the streetcar expansion. Here’s their response:

    Thank you for your observations. The City and Portland Streetcar are currently evaluating the situation to see what other solutions can be utilized for this intersection. We are working both internally and with the bicycle community to find ways of both improving awareness/education of this intersection as well as any changes that can be made to improve the safety. As part of this process we are in the midst of producing a Safety/Educational video for cyclists to help them navigate around the rails in Portland. This is the first step with more expected to follow.

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