Washington County installs first-ever buffered bike lanes

Posted by on September 9th, 2011 at 9:51 am

County traffic cam image of new
buffered bike lanes.

Roads in Washington County are getting more bike-friendly. As I write, County crews are putting the finishing touches on three miles of buffered bike lanes on SW Tualatin Sherwood Road from SW Teton to Baler (map). The seven-foot wide lanes give people on bikes a two-foot painted buffer between them and motor vehicle traffic.

It’s the first buffered bike lane project the County has ever done, and, according bicycle and pedestrian coordinator Shelley Oylear, it’s not going to be the last.

Oylear says the road was up for repaving, so they seized the opportunity to narrow the existing lanes to make more room for bikes. Three other streets are slated for similar treatments:

  • Brookwood Road-TV Hwy to E Main (Baseline)
  • Evergreen Road from SW 25th to 253rd
  • NW 185th-Westview High School to NW West Union

The new buffered lanes are symbolic of the County’s efforts to work within a constrained budget to make bicycling easier and more comfortable. Oylear says she was hired back in May to spearhead an effort to look at all the County’s road projects to see where they could “enhance the facilities” for bicycling.

Here’s a look at how the new lanes feel at an intersection (photo by Jim “K’tesh” Parsons):

And here’s another view from the traffic-cam:

While the new lanes on Tualatin-Sherwood give people on bikes more breathing room, it’s still a high-speed, high-volume arterial with five standard vehicle lanes. Even with the buffer (and relatively wide seven-foot bike space) it’s not a place that will beckon the “interested but concerned”; but it’s a start.

Traffic cam photo taken 9/1/11.

Oylear says, “We will be looking for more opportunities and are looking at expanding the types of enhanced bicycle facility treatments that the County may consider in the future.”

Since this is their first attempt as such a design, Oylear says they want feedback from all road users (you can call 503-846-ROAD to leave comments).

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A-Dub
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A-Dub

Parts are 5 lanes and parts are 3 lanes. That said, it is certainly high speed and as K’tesh and other have pointed out has some pretty heavy duty freight/construction traffic as well.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

More of my on the ground photos can be seen here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ufobike/sets/72157627579696444/

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

That’s great news. I suppose the nice thing about the county having previously insisted on huge car lanes is that with a more bike-friendly administration they can now change the striping to widen the bike lanes, at minimal cost.

Still need more low traffic connections, but this is a start.

gl.
Guest
gl.

yay! someone go put hearts on the bike symbols! 😉

Andrew Seger
Guest
Andrew Seger

It’s a nice step but I’d love to see two way bike lanes with a jersey barrier on the arterial streets (like portland is planning as part of the Holman bikecrossing at MLK). Or some full on Alameda, Cal bike streets:http://www.flickr.com/photos/fragmentaryevidence/3410204592/

Paint only goes so far with Washington County drivers.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

Cool!

Chris
Guest
Chris

As someone who lives on the affected portion of Brookwood Ave., I’m really excited to (eventually) have bike lanes. For those unfamiliar, Brookwood was previously a two lane road with drainage ditches on the shoulders. Once work is complete, it should be a great three lane road with bike lanes and sidewalks!

Brian E
Guest
Brian E

Brookwood is a death trap at the South end. I hear that getting your mail form the mail box is a life risking adventure. I look forward to the improvements.

beelnite
Guest
beelnite

Well… I thought that buffer zone was a passing lane for bicycles… 🙂

beelnite
Guest
beelnite

PSU’s stretch of buffered lanes – buffered by parked cars… now THAT is buffering!

🙂

Ted Buehler
Guest

Very nice!

Jonathan or K’Tesh — did the county give the measurements of the various lanes?

It looks like the “7′ bike lane” includes 2′ of concrete gutterpan, 5′ of new asphalt surface. And the buffer is an additional 2′. So you have 9′ of “nondriving” pavement, but only 5′ of “ridable” pavement. (The gutter pan usually isn’t considered rideable, as even when new it doesn’t meet smoothness standards for a rideable surface).

Ted Buehler

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Most west side streets extend the gutter pan 6′ to the bicycle lane line to avoid the pavement joint in the lane. Are you saying that most west side bike lanes are unrideable?

Ted Buehler
Guest

Paul — I don’t ride the west side much, I wasn’t aware of the practice of putting in 6′ gutter pans.

Do you like them? How do they hold up.

I would think a 4′ or 6′ gutter pan is rideable. Though it will definitely become bumpy after 10-20 years, and unrideable at by 25.

A 1′ – 2′ gutter pan (like I’ve seen in central/East PDX) is not rideable. You need a modest amount of wiggle room to stay up, and to cross a lateral seam in the road (where the pavement meets the concrete) you need to squiggle about 2′ or you risk having your front wheel catch the gap and knock you down.

Ted Buehler

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

The existing ones I’ve seen are a little rough as they’re about 30 years old as best I can tell, but easily rideable comfortably at 20+ MPH on a utility bike. I agree a standard gutter pan isn’t rideable, but at 5′, the rideable surface exceeds federal width requirements by 12″. At various times since the late 90s, I’ve been flying past rush hour traffic pretty close to the center of the lane without many problems other than some of the grades get steep going up ’em.

The bigger problem are drivers at intersections, I recommend a contrasting (generally in Oregon, not green in spring/summer, not orange in fall; in Tulsa, not green when it’s wet, not orange when it’s dry) Type II reflective vest on sunny days, lights on front and back in non-sunny conditions, and both at night. Making yourself visually distinctive on the road really helps in WaCo.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

I should add that I much prefer the broadly placed expansion gaps over having a longitudinal pavement edge in the middle of the lane; extending the gutter pans, when properly ballasted, hold up quite well and have the side benefit of being extremely difficult to repaint too narrow in the future.

Steven S
Guest
Steven S

I don’t mind if the rideable portion is 2 feet wide, as long as the place where people drive doesn’t encroach on where I ride. I have ridden this specific stretch nearly every day for three years, and I can tell you that the traffic is now farther away from me than it was before.

I was very excited to see these changes and I do feel a little safer than before. I also agree with Jonathan’s comments that the “interested but concerned” contingent is not going to come flocking to this road. It definitely takes some nerve to ride alongside 18 wheelers, garbage trucks, and contruction vehicles going 45-50 mph, but a 24″ buffer is better than a 4″ stripe.

NF
Guest
NF

I’m curious what it *would* take to get the interested but concerned riding on this street. Would anything work? Maybe a raised cycle track with a planted, tree lined buffer?

Ted Buehler
Guest

Jonathan — thanks for including contact info for the Shelley Oylear, the Washington County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator.

If anyone wants to leave written comments instead of telephone comments, Shelley’s email is
shelley_oylear@co.washington.or.us

I found her email, and the contact info for all Oregon Bicycle & Pedestrian officials, on this ODOT web page —
http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/BIKEPED/localcontacts.shtml

Ted Buehler

Belok
Guest
Belok

I would like to see rumble strips in the buffer zone, and bumps at corners to make autos slow and not drift into or cut off the bike lane.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

I agree. This would also prevent the roid-raging riders from riding on the lane lines, which is epidemic in Washington County.

John Russell (jr98664)
Guest

Having cycled hundreds, if not thousands of miles of freeways and other rumble-stripped road, I don’t think that would be a good idea.

Having the outer lane line made of tactile thermoplastic, however, is an idea I could get behind.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

You’re not supposed to be riding in the buffer, anyway, and it’s the perfect width for a rumble strip.

Ted Buehler
Guest

But you need to cross that buffer on a regular basis. And you want full control of your bicycle and a smooth riding surface when you do it.
* Road construction closes bike lane
* Temporary signage blocks bike lane
* Disabled vehicle blocks bike lane
* Road damage in bike lane
* Preparation to make a left turn off the roadway
* Making a left turn onto the roadway

All of these things happen on a regular basis.

Not that I’m necessarily opposed to a rumble strip buffer, but I’m definitely not a fan.

Ted Buehler

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

They don’t have to be, and should not be, continuous. USDOT expects gaps in the rumble strips to allow for cyclists who can’t negotiate a rumble to get through. Kansas and Oklahoma do this, and I’ve seen little complaint about them out there (save in places that use the older, full-shoulder rumble strips predating the existing, far more bicycle friendly rumbles that I’m talking about).

woogie
Guest
woogie

Lived in Sherwood and rode T-S regularly and didn’t think it took much in the way of guts to do so.

Not sure how that buffer makes it any safer? Not that I ever felt unsafe on T-S any more than I felt unsafe using the bike lanes on Durham Rd or Tualatin Rd.

At 55mph how much longer is it going to take a car to cross that 24 inches?

If it makes you feel safer well then I guess it’s done something.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

I agree that a buffer that narrow is a tad useless, except as a visual cue to cyclists that the lane isn’t designed for two-abreast operation (like 8-foot cycletracks are). Even then, the style of lines that Portland uses is a better visual indication that lane changes are permitted from the buffered lane, which are normally not permitted across lane buffers as they tend to be located at median ends, as found on limited-junction highways.

Ellen
Guest
Ellen

This is great! I’m really looking forward to the Evergreen and Brookwood improvements. Thanks for reporting on this–had no idea they were thinking of adding a buffer too!

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

They should at least put some Bot’s Dots on the thicker line. That’ll stop ’em!

Kevin Wagoner
Guest

Nice capture of the Conway truck. I use to work for Conway in NW Portland. It was a great place to work and the campus cycling culture was great and well supported by the company.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

I’ve noticed while driving that no matter what Conway dock I hit, they’ve got company bikes roaming around. A real lifesaver since they tend to be large, and generally don’t let large trucks in to make fits-in-the-cab deliveries.

Ted Buehler
Guest

This is a good design. I like it. I think it will work well.

I predict that this striping pattern will soon become standard for all highway shoulders everywhere. Within 2 years you’ll see it popping up in the more progressive states, within 6 years it will be in the MUTCD, and within 10 years you’ll find them on most highways across the country.

Thank you Washington County!

Ted Buehler

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

What shoulder? I see two general purpose lanes, a buffer, a bike lane and a sidewalk. No shoulder.

Ted Buehler
Guest

The current standard is for “shoulders” on “expressways.”

The shoulder is typically 8′ wide — wide enough for a disabled vehicle to pull over and traffic to still move by.

“A minimum 8′ shoulder shall be used for all facilities regardless of design speeds” (Oregon Highway Design Manual, 8-2 “Expressways” section. ftp://ftp.odot.state.or.us/techserv/roadway/web_drawings/HDM/Rev_E_2003Chp08.pdf )

The buffered bike lane shown in the images is a modification of that 8′ shoulder, probably to a 6′ bike lane and a 2′ buffer lane.

(They may have narrowed the vehicle lane from 12′ to 11′, though, and made a 7′ + 2′ bike lane/shoulder — this would be a much more progressive “redesign” from the perspective of bicycle operators — 9′ instead of 8′, and slower cars (cars tend to drive slower in narrower lanes)).

The additional stripe on what was the “shoulder” into a bike lane and a bike buffer area still fulfills the needs of the “shoulder” but it allows for safer passage by bicycles, designating a specific part of the road for bikes.

It will be easy for ODOT to rewrite this paragraph of the Highway Design Manual to say “The 8′ shoulder can be striped into a designated bike lane and a bicycle buffer lane, using an 8″ wide thermoplastic line 2′ to the right of the right hand lane.” And then ODOT would start doing it wherever they had an “expressway” with an 8′ shoulder.

************

A couple other comments

And, the area for bikes is 2′ further from the traffic, from the wash of trucks, etc.

Assuming the shoulder width is the same as the bike lane + buffer, there isn’t a real advantage to an ordinary bicyclist on an ordinary day — but the bike lane to the right designates a specific part of the road surface as a bicycle thoroughfare, and it will now be protected more carefully. It will be less likely to have traffic signs stuck in it, there won’t be curb bulbouts installed out in it, they can’t let the outside 3′ get all crumbly or gravelly as easily. And it will be less likely to have cars parked in it.

Kinda subtle, but the obvious higher visibility, and clearer instruction will result in more comfortable, safe travel by bicycles.

Ted Buehler

Dave Cary
Guest
Dave Cary

The key to any new or older bakes lanes is having them swept regularly. Without it bikes are forced into the car lanes, but the vehicle drivers don’t understand why they are using the car lanes. Makes for rolling resentment from both drivers and riders.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Fortunately, state and county roads are well-swept. It’s city roads like Murray Boulevard that you have to worry about, since Beaverton is entirely dysfunctional when it comes to the basics like police and street maintenance.

Debi Nelson
Guest
Debi Nelson

My experience in Wash Co is there are several rock quarries that really warrant sweeping about once a week. The county ought to be able to pass some of this cost onto the quarries due to their mess.

Dave Thomson
Guest
Dave Thomson

@Debi – Absolutely correct on that one. The shoulders on Farmington Rd around the Baker Rock Resources Quarry are unrideable except for two weeks twice a year after they are just swept.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Dave and Debi —

Call the city and request that the street be added to the monthly street sweeping regime.
http://208.71.204.241/departments/publicworks/opsmaintenance/sweepschedule.aspx

Ted Buehler

paul
Guest
paul

I have rode from Tualatin to Sherwood and was wondering what was going on with the strips. I think it works as some people like to ride the right line no matter how much space they have on the left. The double line was used as the passing lane for a cyclist who passed me so it works good for that as well. And of course if he would of rang a bell or called out on your left before I noticed him passing I would have moved closer to the right but he obliviously didn’t feel the need.

Another interesting thing was it looked like the painted bike on the bike lane looked like some had hard hats on or i guess it could of been over spray. If I go see a movie in Sherwood this weekend I will send in a picture.

The only bad part is there is a lot of glass on those bike lanes and that is after they just finished all the work.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Ted Buehler
Dave and Debi —
Call the city and request that the street be added to the monthly street sweeping regime.
http://208.71.204.241/departments/publicworks/opsmaintenance/sweepschedule.aspx
Ted Buehler
Recommended 0

That would require Beaverton actually caring about bicycle facilities in the first place. They don’t.

Ted Buehler
Guest
Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

That only applies to Portland. Beaverton isn’t Portland.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Paul — what happens when you try it?

And, do you send them a thank you note whenever they do sweep your streets? Butter ’em up…

Ted Buehler
Guest

Here’s yer contact info

Margaret Middleton,
Senior Transportation Planner
City of Beaverton
PO Box 4755 Beaverton
OR 97076-4755
Phone: 503.526.2424 mmiddleton@ci.beaverton.or.us

As displayed in the ODOT “Bicycle and Pedestrian Program: Local Contacts” page

ODOT’s directive is to

“If you have concerns or suggestions relating to local streets, roads, other facilities, policies, etc. contact the appropriate person below.”

Be the squeaky wheel,

Ted Buehler
Guest