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Newly striped bike lanes on NE 7th through Lloyd District raise eyebrows

Posted by on September 8th, 2011 at 1:55 pm

PBOT has striped a new bike lane on NE 7th which puts bike traffic in between moving cars, trains and parked cars.
(Photos © J. Maus)

A new, 7-foot wide bike lane has been striped on NE 7th Avenue between NE Weidler and NE Oregon through the Lloyd District. The striping was installed last month and in some segments places bicycle traffic adjacent to newly laid streetcar tracks on one side and parked cars on the other.

“PBOT changed the striping plan.. It’s unclear to me who was consulted before changing the plan… We should do what we said we were going to do.”
— Chris Smith, Portland Streetcar Inc., board of directors

While a new bike lane might seem like good news, some insiders are miffed that plans to stripe 7th as a cycle track were not honored.

The striping comes as a surprise because space on NE 7th is supposed to be set aside for a future cycle track. The cycle track isn’t funded yet, but project staff and planners have designed the route with a cycle track in mind. Striping NE 7th with a bike lane sandwiched between streetcar tracks and parked cars was never in the plans.

The current striping maintains 10 parking spaces, weaving between them and the streetcar tracks.

Julie Gustafson with streetcar project contractor Shiels Obletz Johnsen, Inc. confirmed that their plans for NE 7th include parking removal, center platforms, and the moving of tracks further to the east in the street “specifically to allow for a potential future cycle track.”

A letter by Lloyd Transportation Management Association Executive Director Rick Williams dated June 22nd urges Mayor Sam Adams to keep the future cycle track in the plans. “A cycletrack design that includes a buffer between bikes and cars,” he wrote, “will greatly increase the safety of these areas.”

Chris Smith, a City of Portland Planning Commissioner who sits on the Portland Streetcar Inc. board of directors says as they were planning the segment of the streetcar alignment they heard loud and clear that putting “cyclists between parked cars and the rails was not desired.”

Smith said back in 2009 the streetcar project agreed to stripe the street in a “cycle track configuration” — with the bikeway along the curb and a more direct route (with removal of on-street parking).

But that isn’t what happened. “Sometime between then and now,” Smith shared via email yesterday, “PBOT changed the striping plan.” Smith says he was caught by surprise. “It’s unclear to me who was consulted before changing the plan… We should do what we said we were going to do.”

Smith feels that if PBOT wanted to change the striping plans, they should have done so only after consulting the community, the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), and the Lloyd Transportation Management Association (LTMA).

When I emailed the LTMA about the new striping, they made it clear they hadn’t been consulted by PBOT prior to the striping and the striping has not been formally discussed at the monthly BAC meetings.

Once the striping was installed, PBOT was notified by several parties. According to a source, PBOT Director Tom Miller had several phone meetings about it with the Lloyd TMA, Portland Streetcar Inc., and others. Now a new striping plan — which more closely resembles the “cycle track configuration” — has been drawn up and is likely to be taken to the Lloyd TMA and the BAC for feedback.

At this time, I haven’t heard back from City Hall or from PBOT about the situation and it’s unclear when or if the existing striping will be modified. I’ll keep you posted.

— For another look at the current bike lane configuration (between NE Holladay and Oregon), watch the video below taken by Northeast Portland resident Paul Manson on August 23rd (note the track-straddling SUV that encroaches into the bike lane at about the 12 second mark):

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  • Chris I September 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    The only advantage of this seems to be that it prevents parked cars from infringing in the streetcar ROW, which can happen along other parts of the line. Clearly, a cycle track would be better here for cyclists, but poorly-parked cars could block the streetcar.

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    • was carless September 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm

      I haven’t ridden it yet (so excited to!), but this seems like a very good point. Plus, a 7-foot bike lane is nothing to sneeze at.

      It also looks like there is plenty of space between the bike lane stripe and the concrete pad where the streetcar runs. A LOT more space than we get on the SW 6th ave bike lane heading south by PSU.

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    • Lance P. September 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm

      The plans clearly state that parking was and is to be removed.

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  • Steve B September 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    What do people think of the bikeway track crossing at NE 7th & Weidler? It seems a bit sketchy to me, without any striped meander.

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    • Joe September 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      I thought it was actually pretty well done. It allows you to cross the tracks at the right angle. I did have a bit of an awkward interaction today with a car that was confused, but everything worked out.

      Unfortunately half a block later the bike lane magically and invisibly moves a lane and a half to the right causing more problems.

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    • Alexis September 9, 2011 at 10:04 pm

      Sketchy – this is on my list for the next set of items to pursue.

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  • chad September 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    The car in the video that swerves into the bike lane to avoid driving on the tracks is emblematic of one of the huge problems I’ve seen with street car tracks. People don’t want to drive on them so they just put their car into some non-normal position to avoid it. This will probably lead to someone (on a bike) getting sideswiped eventually (if it hasn’t already).

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    • Chris I September 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      The problem is with the drivers. I have the same problem on NE 181st where drivers shift over to start their turn onto the freeway on ramp. It is not the on ramp’s, or the freeway’s problem, it’s the drivers.

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    • John Lascurettes September 8, 2011 at 4:41 pm

      Every day I witness this as cars come off the Broadway Bridge coming down Lovejoy:

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  • dmc September 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Cycle tracks save lives. The current configuration is messy, confusing and dangerous!

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  • Nik September 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    To clarify, it’s not a new bike lane; 7th has had bike lanes in that stretch for years. While the facility is not a cycle-track, the bike lanes are now considerably wider than they used to be. In the area shown between Oregon and Holliday in your last photo, a lane of parking was removed to accommodate the wider bike lanes on both sides.

    (On a side note I’ve been amused by the removal of parking in that block which has come at the same time as strident opposition to removing parking on Holliday has been voiced)

    The biggest issue I’ve observed (I’m in the area most weekdays to pick up my wife when I’m not on my bike) is people parking illegally in the northbound bike lane where parking used to be.

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  • BURR September 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    looks like a nice wide bike lane to me. Can somebody please explain how a cycle track be any better, other than way more expensive?

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    • Chris Smith September 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm

      It’s not a question of expense at this point, as we’re only talking about paint/thermoplastic either way. But we heard loud and clear that folks riding didn’t want to be inbetween the door zone and the rails. Even though the lane is pretty wide, I think we need to honor that if we want to attract the ‘interested but concerned’ segment.

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      • dwainedibbly September 8, 2011 at 6:20 pm

        I really appreciate you standing up for us cyclists, Chris. Thank you.

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        • Chris Smith September 8, 2011 at 6:25 pm

          I’m a firm believer that you should do what you say you’re going to do!

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      • Andrew N September 9, 2011 at 9:40 pm

        Thanks, Chris — agreed. The “interested but concerned” demographic would also respond well, I think, if the new facility on 7th were extended across the couplet. Sure, that’s not part of the eastside streetcar project, but PBOT should be on top of this sort of thing. That’s a crowded and hectic crossing used by hundreds of cyclists everyday. Doesn’t exactly fit with our “platinum” status.

        As I’ve written before, the bike lanes on 7th should connect across Weidler and Broadway; sharrows should go down on 7th north of the couplet (as they are supposed to be used according to the MUTCD — not as wayfinders); and the right turn lane onto Broadway from 7th southbound should be removed and a bike box installed.

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    • Bob_M September 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      Cars leaving the parking spaces and cars backing into parallel parking spaces will block the bike lane and cut through the bike lane. I think the 7′ width is plenty generous and it is a good faith effort that will be safe for attentive cyclists, still you asked.

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  • Alan 1.0 September 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    It’s curious to compare the process on this project with that on Williams.

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  • Greg September 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I love this about the video: both vehicles, as well as the cyclist, roll the stop sign.

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  • Erik September 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I commute (on bike) through this area both ways every day. While less than ideal, it is much nicer than no paint on the road at all.

    Tracks are a part of life in this city. I don’t personally ride the street care or Max but I am glad they are there. People need to learn how to negociate them, just like round abouts, uncontrolled intersections, left hand turns, and any other issues that exist in a shared community.

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  • Grant September 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    They did stripe the road with a cycle track configuration on the Northbound side of NE 7th between NE Multnomah and Halsey. However there are cars parking in the bike lane similar to what happens on SW Broadway.

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    • Joe September 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm

      Ya I have biked by there a couple times and have yet to enjoy the cycle track because of cars parked there each time. Very very bad signage and painting combination.

      On the other side of the street the bike lane is currently half under construction and just closed randomly. Nice work PBOT.

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      • Joe September 9, 2011 at 9:29 am

        I had a close call with a car trying to park in the cycle track part of the bike lane North of NE Multnomah St today.

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  • Joe September 8, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    The 7′ wide lanes is very nice. and the parking area is especially wide. It seems like the design is adequate. Given that the cycletrack was never funded, what did people expect?

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  • Paul Johnson September 8, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I think I like this idea better than the jaywalker/cardoor doublecross that happens on the Broadway cycletrack downtown.

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  • Aaron September 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Looks really good to me, not sure how a cycle track would be an improvement.

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  • Alex Reed September 9, 2011 at 6:36 am

    A cycle track would be better. PBOT, please put one in!
    And what happened to public process on this? This gives the impression that plans for bike improvements can be changed for the worse without consulting anyone. Seems like a public process double standard to me….

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  • maxadders September 9, 2011 at 7:55 am

    Ah yes: the streetcar takes yet another functional street and turns it into an awkward tangle of obstacles both physical and political. People have criticized the streetcar for actually taking more time than walking, but they can always fix that comparison by botching every current mode of adjacent transportation other than streetcar. “Problem solved!”

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  • JJJ September 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Looks remarkably safe and comfortable to me. Complaining for the sake of complaining apparently.

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  • was carless September 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I would recommend a bicycle “stop” line behind the streetcar tracks, tho, judging from that top picture.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson September 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    What I am curious about is how the bike lane and the two streetcar stops yet to be built on 7th are going to fit together! Chris?

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    • Chris Smith September 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm


      We’re doing center platforms on 7th precisely so that there will be no conflict with the bike lane.

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  • Joe September 10, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I rode this street last night and found it very comfortable. There is a section (northbound, between Multnomah and Halsey where the bike lane is between the parking area and sidewalk like a cycle track. So what’s the problem again?

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    • Chris Smith September 10, 2011 at 10:19 am

      Northbound is great. But southbound between Multnomah and Oregon there are places where you are between parked cars and the rail.

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  • craig September 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I have to ask… Is there something substantially less dangerousabout the streetcar than the MAX in the city center?

    This bike lane puts the rider within an arms-length of the streetcar’s 43 tons (per car, loaded) of rolling steel.

    Do we have any bike lanes that run so close to the MAX line without a physical barrier or primary travel lane in between? Why would a bike lane adjacent to the streetcar line be treated differently?

    Am I unreasonable to think that someone on a bike who is startled by the stealthy approach–or the suddenly clanging bell–of the streetcar, may stumble and veer into its path?

    Has the PBOT project team addressed this arleady?

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    • Chris Smith September 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      MAX operates almost exclusively in dedicated right of way, while the Streetcar almost always shares the lane with other traffic.

      To put it another way, while it may be unsafe to ride your bike between the Streetcar rails (actually it may be safer than riding next to them), it’s illegal to ride your bike between the MAX rails.

      This distinction causes very different thought patterns at all levels between the two modes.

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  • craig September 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm


    If I’m foolish enough, I may legally ride my bike within reach of a passing MAX train here (link), for example, but the lane treatment doesn’t constrain me to do so. There, I can maintain about ten feet (or more?) between my bike and the rail car.

    However, the treatment along NE 7th, does constrain me thus.

    Sorry, if I missed it, but I don’t get how your statements above address the safety issue I’m raising. I get your connection between the R.O.W. issue and it’s potential to maybe color only the broadest thinking about the safety of adjacent traffic, but in relation to this specific safety question, I’d say it doesn’t follow.

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    • Chris Smith September 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      I would suggest that a traffic engineer thinks about separating you from MAX the same way they think about separating you from a freight train, while they think about separating you from Streetcar the way they think about separating you from an automobile or bus.

      Having said that, my personal objective for 7th Ave is to make sure you never get squeezed between the door zone and a Streetcar vehicle or rail.

      If you’re suggesting that we should have a physical barrier Streetcar and bikes on 7th Ave, I don’t think that’s possible in the dimensions of the street (at least without removing ALL parking). That kind of separation in that neighborhood would only be achieved by putting Streetcar and bikes on separate streets.

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