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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.

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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SatoricalWilliams ResidentDuehmigJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)Ted Buehler Recent comment authors
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BURR
Guest
BURR

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.

Fix On Your Bike
Guest

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

9watts
Guest
9watts

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.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

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

RH
Guest
RH

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

Chris Smith
Guest

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!).

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

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.

Ted
Guest
Ted

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.

Duncan Idaho-Stop
Guest
Duncan Idaho-Stop

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.

jered
Guest
jered

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

Boneshaker
Guest
Boneshaker

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

Allan
Guest
Allan

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

esther c
Guest
esther c

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.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

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.

Nick V
Guest

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?

el serracho
Guest
el serracho

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.

Art Fuldodger
Guest
Art Fuldodger

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.

Satorical
Guest
Satorical

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.

Harvey
Guest
Harvey

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.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

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…

sabes
Guest
sabes

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.

sabes
Guest
sabes

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

Jason
Guest
Jason

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.

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

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?

Nick V
Guest

Harvey
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.
Recommended 1

Quite possibly the most beautiful thing ever written.

Reza
Guest
Reza

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.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

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.

Chris Smith
Guest

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.

Charlie
Guest
Charlie

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.

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

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.

BURR
Guest
BURR

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.

was carless
Guest
was carless

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:

http://www.ibiketo.ca/blog/2009/07/06/crossing-streetcar-tracks

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

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.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

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.

Jon
Guest
Jon

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.

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

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.

Grandpa
Guest
Grandpa

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.

Chris Smith
Guest

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!

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

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.

Jacob
Guest
Jacob

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.

seeshellbike
Guest
seeshellbike

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.

beth h
Guest

“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.

Andycigarettes
Guest
Andycigarettes

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

matt picio
Guest

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.

Ted Buehler
Guest

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.

http://www.activerightofway.org/p/why-bicyclists-pedestrians-should-be-accommodated-on-thoroughfares/

Ted Buehler

Duehmig
Guest
Duehmig

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

Satorical
Guest
Satorical

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.