Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

PBOT eyes changes in the Pearl to reduce auto traffic on NW Marshall

Posted by on September 14th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

PBOT planner Mauricio LeClerc presented
plans for the Pearl District last night.
(Photos © J. Maus)

After NW Lovejoy was decommissioned as a bikeway by the city, NW Marshall Street was supposed to take its place. The Bureau of Transportation added sharrows, smoothed out cobblestones, and installed signage and pavement markings to direct bicycle traffic from the main thoroughfare (Lovejoy) onto Marshall.

Unfortunately, it’s not working out as planned.

The idea was for bikes to use Marshall and for cars to use Northrup (designed as the westbound route in the Lovejoy-Northrup couplet). It’s not that Marshall is a terrible street to bike on, it’s that auto traffic likes it too. When you have a narrow street with cars and bikes vying for space, it’s impossible to create a comfortable bicycling environment.

“At this point, we feel the bike boulevard [on Marshall] is not performing as it should.”
— Mauricio LeClerc, PBOT

Realizing that Marshall isn’t the bike street they intended it to be, the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) now plans to take additional measures to discourage auto traffic on it. The plans were unveiled at the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last night.

PBOT planner Mauricio LeClerc (who’s also working on the Pearl District Access and Circulation Plan) told attendees of our Pearl District Get Together back in April that PBOT had counted a higher than acceptable amount of cars on Marshall.

Last night he acknowledged that the problem remains: “At this point, we feel the bike boulevard [on Marshall] is not performing as it should.”

The first step PBOT wants to take is to move the existing streetcar stop just south of Marshall one block to the north. LeClerc says the idea is to put the stop closer to the existing traffic signal at Northrup in order to “tie-in” the signal to streetcar movements, thus improving traffic flow and also encouraging cars to use Northrup instead of Marshall.

If that doesn’t change traffic patterns, LeClerc says PBOT will then look to install a semi-diverter on Marshall where it intersects with NW 10th. Once installed, cars would be prohibited from turning left (west) onto Marshall from 10th. Once the diverter is installed, PBOT will analyze traffic data to determine if it’s having an impact. If that still doesn’t do the trick, they’ll look to add an additional diverter at 15th (which LeClerc said could be a full diverter, essentially cutting off all auto traffic from entering/exiting Marshall).

NW 10th is a key intersection because it’s the point where bike traffic coming off the Lovejoy ramp from Broadway Bridge meets westbound auto traffic directed off of Lovejoy due to the new couplet configuration. LeClerc shared a drawing of the semi-diverter they plan to use at the meeting last night (Tanner Springs Park is in the upper left):

LeClerc made it clear that this diverter, if needed, would happen in the “near-term” as soon as funding is identified.

There are a lot of factors at play in the Pearl District, which has high volumes of transit use and cars, as well as people walking and biking. As LeClerc put it last night, “It’s a very tough challenge” to manage it all.

— Stay tuned for more coverage. On a related note, check what KGW (NBC) ran tonight as the top story on their newscast: “Cyclists push for safer route through Pearl Dist.“…

Learn more about transportation planning and how bicycle routes will be changing throughout the Pearl District at PBOT’s Pearl District Access and Circulation Plan website.

UPDATE, 4:40 pm and 8:50 pm: I’ve edited this post significantly after it was first published. I initially reported that PBOT planned to add four diverters on Marshall. I misunderstood their plans and, after being contacted by PBOT, edited the story. I regret the error and any confusion it might have caused. -JM

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  • Sigma September 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    They are installing all 4 of these? Seems a bit excessive – cars won’t be able to use Marshall at all.

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    • Andrew Seger September 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      Sounds good to me!

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      • Sigma September 14, 2011 at 4:57 pm

        It surprises me that the neighborhood agreed with this design.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm

          No. They’re not installing all of them. I got the story wrong and have now edited it. Only one that’s getting installed is at 10th. Then they’ll analyze the impact. If it works,great. If not, they’ll consider the others.

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    • Brian September 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm

      It’s a bike boulevard (apparently). I think cars not being able to use the street when there are perfectly good alternatives a block either side is the POINT!

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  • BRD September 14, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Marshall going West is fine for me today. It is easy and actually much less stressful than Lovejoy used to be.

    On the other hand my return commute takes me over Skyline on Cornell joining to Lovejoy and then over the bridge has been my route for years.

    The new suggestion to turn left across the street car tracks join Marshall to 10th and then comeback to Lovejoy cross traffic and across the bridge is not appealing to me.

    I will continue riding Lovejoy East from 24th all the way across the bridge.

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  • lisa smillie September 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Yes, it sounds difficult to manage Mauricio. Please feel free to come practice installing diverters on my street to eliminate the speeding cut through traffic.

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  • Chris Smith September 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    As I mentioned at the meeting last night, I think the other important improvement would be to make Marshall at 10th either a 4-way stop or signalized. Right now cars on 10th have priority (they have no stop sign).

    Before the couplet motorists and cyclists had equally convenient west-bound access. With the new design we have a conflict point at 10th and Marshall – we knew that was going to happen – but I at least didn’t know in advance that cars and bikes would not be treated equally at this conflict point!

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    • maccoinnich September 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      Chris – why is the streetcar stop moving one block North? Stops along Northrup at its western end are already ridiculously close.

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      • Chris Smith September 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm

        Two reasons:

        1) At Marshall it creates a visual block when a streetcar or bus is stopped there, and a cyclist cannot see traffic in the adjacent lane – very dangerous.

        2) The signal at Northrup has an extra cycle for the Streetcar and it fires whether or not there is a streetcar there. This is what makes the drivers go crazy and take Marshall instead. By moving the stop closer we can detect the streetcar vehicle and only have the extra phase when there is actually a streetcar that needs to use it.

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  • Bjorn September 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    More stop signs are not going to make a street more desirable to bike on in my opinion. If you want marshall to be an option cyclists use then maybe you can put stop signs on the cross streets but stop signs on marshall are only going to encourage people to pick other routes. My vote is for more diverters and less stop signs, although 4 diverters in 5 blocks might be overkill. One thing that Vancouver BC does a much better job of on their bike boulevards/neighborhood greenways is using diverters that force cars to make right hand turns off the bike boulevard on a regular basis. That is the real way to reduce through traffic on these streets and Portland should be trying to do it more places.

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    • Chris Smith September 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm

      Marshall already has a stop sign every block, if anything we should remove one or two if we can (there are pedestrian issues).

      I’m arguing for a stop sign on 10th where it crosses Marshall to make the cars stop…

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      • naomi September 15, 2011 at 1:26 am

        17th and 13th on marshall have no stop signs but the cars who have almost run me over in these two intersections likely assumed i did.

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      • JT September 15, 2011 at 10:02 am

        there already were 4 way stop signs at 10th and Marshall and they took them away when the new couplet design went live.

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        • Chris Smith September 15, 2011 at 10:10 am

          That’s correct. They removed the stop sign on 10th when they added the signal at Northrup because the traffic manual says you don’t have a stop sign at an intersection in-between two signalized intersections.

          Makes me crazy…

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      • Carmen Anello September 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

        I work at the corner of 10th and Marshall and we have complained multiple times that it is not a 4-way stop. We see several “near misses” and minor accidents every single day. For some reason drivers believe they can turn left from the right lane of 10th onto Marshall!?! In addition, there is a huge amount of children crossing 10th in the afternoon. Daily we see cars flying down, well passed the speed limit, and screeching to a halt to not hit these children/parents. I completely agree with the idea of a 4-way stop, despite the multiple stop signs already on Marshall. This area is too busy and already struggling with reckless driving.

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  • Kevin Wagoner September 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Taking a lot of step to discourage…why not just make it a pedestrian, cycling, skate boarding, roller skating through way….just get rid of the cars all together.

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    • Kevin September 15, 2011 at 8:59 am

      Because thats a crappy idea.

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    • shirtsoff September 15, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      That would be an excellent idea and cities are only allowed to have a few of those.

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  • Todd Boulanger September 14, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    I hope the diverter design changes – to be raised across the crosswalk (with new ADA ramp location) more similar to a short bike track that does not become a place filled with road debris.

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  • Todd Boulanger September 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    And how will the parking be handled on the closed side? (I missed the presentation – sorry if it was explained already.)

    Will there only be parking on one side (converted to backin diagonal for more supply?) or on both sides (parking ranks facing one way) with a bike lane curb side? If parking is left as is then there may be a problem with drivers pulling u turns in front of bikes to park.

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    • Chris Smith September 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm

      PBOT didn’t go into the parking design during the meeting, but I’m aware from prior meetings that they know they have to address the issue.

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    • Robert September 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      Todd B. wrote:

      Will there only be parking on one side (converted to backin diagonal for more supply?)

      Back-in diagonal parking is, seemingly, divine wrath on Portland drivers. It’s been abandoned already in a couple of locations. (I’m not much good at it myself). Watching the average driver work this out is almost as much fun as watching a Hummer driver whack away at a left-handed parallel parking spot. Triple bogey is the new par. And if you’re on a bike, be somewhere else!

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  • Jon September 14, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I’m startled to hear it was a surprise to PBOT that this would not work. I mean you channel all the auto traffic down Lovejoy and up 10th and dump them at the Marshall/10th intersection while leaving NW Marshall wide open, obviously motor vehicles will take the shortest route. Removing the cobblestones on Marshall only makes Marshall more attractive to motorists.

    This “solution” of a diverter at 10th & Marshall will just confuse motorists even more (you know many will illegally squeeze past it out of confusion and frustration) so now that will be yet another hazard for bikes and pedestrians to deal with at this intersection.

    I cant believe they rushed into this plan with almost no public input and out of the spotlight (vs. the comparible Burnside-Couch plans) and are now making it up as they go trying to remedy their year old mistakes, like adding these diverters and moving the streetcar stop. That traffic light at 10th & Northrup is a joke and serves no purpose, there is no traffic on Northrup between 9th and 10th. Its really a shame they dont cut their losses, admit the mistake and revert back to two-way Lovejoy for motor vehicles, leaving Marshall open for bikes and free of being clogged with autos taking a shortcut undermining the bike route. Instead they are just doubling down and digging themselves into a deeper hole.

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  • Rol September 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    It just gets complicateder and complicateder…

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  • jim September 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    One things for sure. The harder they try to make it better the worse it will get

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 14, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve just made further edits, clarifications, and additions to this story.

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  • Brian September 14, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    It’s news to me that NW Portland even HAS any bike boulevards. I knew it had a few half-assed bike routes. But no actual, flesh & blood bike boulevards.

    Can someone possibly clarify: is NW Marshall a bike “route” or a bike “boulevard”? I always thought it was the former. If it was a bike boulevard, it would have traffic calming elements on it to keep car traffic off the street.

    The last time I checked, it had none. A few tins of paint in the shape of bicycles thrown down on the asphalt does NOT a bike boulevard make.

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    • Joseph E September 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm

      I would like to add it to Google Maps, if anyone has proof of how long the official bike boulevard extends. Where do the Sharrows start and end?

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  • K September 14, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    A reader’s letter printed in the NW Examiner newspaper last month VERY succinctly expressed all that is wrong with the current couplet project here, including Marshall’s current state as an inadequately provided-for bike facility:


    “When the Lovejoy/Northrup couplet was proposed, I had concerns about the design. Now that I am using it, I like it even less.

    I walk to Safeway 90 percent of time, but sometimes I need to take my car to the store. I start at the Station Place Smart Park. Driving north, I pass Marshall because that is for bikes. I turn on Northrup and head west. Only a block out of my way—so far, no problem.

    I get to 13th and Northrup, but I pass that intersection for a couple of good reasons. (I’d have to go south three blocks to Johnson on 13th, which Portland Bureau of Transportation doesn’t want me to use.) I can’t turn on 14th; it is one-way north. I get to 15th and turn left. This does not look like a street PBOT wants me to use either, but I use it anyway and I get to Lovejoy, where I make a left to go back a block and make another left on 14th and into the garage. Leaving, I can’t turn left on 14th, of course. I don’t turn on Marshall; it is for bikes. I get to Northrup, a one-way going west. I turn that direction, away from home, and repeat my use of 15th to Lovejoy.

    Finally, I am eastbound on Lovejoy. Great. But I can’t legally turn left on Ninth, so I have to turn left on 10th. Then it is north to Northrup.

    A 26-block drive replacing what was once 16 blocks. Driving 10 extra blocks is hardly a sacrifice, but it shows that the couplet doesn’t work well, entirely apart from the fact that most everyone drives on Marshall—the bike route—anyway.

    Being too angry to write about the Centennial Mills fiasco, I send this cross note.

    Michael Blakeslee
    NW Ninth Ave.”

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  • Joe September 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    I just rode on Marshall earlier this week. Waaaaaay too many stop signs. It, and the NW in general, was so painful to bike through that I doubt I’ll be doing that again anytime soon. On top of that, transit is slow through there and it’s difficult to drive through. I guess this area works fine if you never have to travel more than 10 blocks, but for the other 95% of the population, this isn’t fun.

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  • naomi September 15, 2011 at 1:22 am

    i live on nw 21st and work downtown, taking Marshall from 21st to 9th twice a day. until i had read this article i had no idea marshall was even considered a bike blvd. conditions on marshall have gotten so bad i began taking overton as of last week. problems->

    18th (heading west on marshall) and 19th (heading east) oneways, with sidestreet parking obstructing the already poor views, requires you to get almost halfway into the intersection just to see if the coast is clear.

    nw 17th, for some reason lots of drivers seem to assume this is a 4 way stop and resume driving right as im entering the intersection, resulting in the slamming on their brakes and quickly realizing i didnt have a stop sign.

    nw 14th (while heading east or west, but mostly east), one way heading northbound, deep side street traffic on the west side of 13th, cars pulling out from the safeway parking garage and gunning it straight or taking wild turns east or west onto marshall.

    14th-12th on marshall: obvious, cars like to wedge one tire on the smooth bike lane.

    marshall and 13th: the worst part. cars going north or south on 13th assumes the marshall traffic has a stop sign? ive had so many near misses where a car edges out, sees me, sees im going at a good rate, and they’ll still proceed through the intersection. ive had a couple near crashes at this location.

    11th: annoying one way with difficult view

    10th: annoying one way with difficult view. even cars get tripped up here all the time.

    so i use overton now. 🙂 overton from 23rd to 9th is the ambrosia of nw bike routes! remember it.

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    • are September 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      i also have used overton since long before lovejoy even became an issue. it would never have occurred to me to use marshall

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  • Scott Batchelar September 15, 2011 at 2:12 am

    As a resident of the Pearl District and someone who has tried using Marshall I have MAJOR problems with the choice of Marshall street as a bike boulevard.

    I live in the Sitka Apartments in the west building which faces NW 12th between Northrup and Overton which puts me three riding blocks away from the intersection of NW 10th and Marshall and its an area I avoid at all costs now due to the tracks and problems associated with it.

    Once the eastside Streetcar begins operating these streets will have a a streetcar operating at peak times every 3-5 minutes which will make this street nearly impossible to use for bikes because of the danger of right hook collisions the ONLY way I see around this is to ENTIRELY BLOCK Marshall to vehicular traffic from NW 10th to 17th except for residents.

    As Naomi mentioned in her post many bikers have started using NW Overton as a bike boulevard, yes I definitely count myself among them and find Overton to be superior in many respects to Marshall.

    If I were to put in my two cents worth on this issue I would recommend the following.

    Put a soft vehicle barrier at NW 9th and Overton to hinder cars from entering directing all cars up to either Northrup or Marshall.

    Get rid of the stop light at NW 10th and Northrup and replace it with a warning light facing down Northrup.

    Get rid of the idea that Marshall will EVER be a Bike Boulevard.

    As a resident of the Pearl District there needs to be some fundamental changes to make this area more bicycle friendly.

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    • JT September 15, 2011 at 10:11 am

      Plus 1 for Overton…Marshall is way too dangerous with all the cars on it. I am in full support of diverters that block all car traffic though =)

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  • Jim Lee September 15, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Hey, guys!

    Let’s all head to Mount Scott Park Saturday at noon and ask Charlie Hales what he plans to do about this!

    Maybe Tom Miller will be there too!

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    • NF September 15, 2011 at 8:20 am

      The Charlie Hales party has been canceled.

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  • Jim Lee September 15, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Well, yeah, maybe Charlie’s campaign has been cancelled, but that’s no excuse not to party:


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  • Matt Savage September 15, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Cyclists should just cruise out to Overton. Way fewer cars, no stop signs through the Pearl. It’s the way I go everyday. Just have to watch out for dogs on 25′ leashes going to the park…

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    • Chris Smith September 15, 2011 at 8:51 am

      I use Overton every day, and if you’re going further west than 16th, it’s clearly the preferred way.

      The reason to make Marshall a boulevard was to provide access to all the destinations on Lovejoy. We didn’t want people to have to go more than one block out of direction.

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  • Resident September 15, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I live at 10th and Marshall. I had to attack the city to get them to put up warning signs to even NOTIFY pedestrians that 10th ave traffic would no longer be stopping because the stop sign had been removed. I know this is a bike board, but the change has been as poorly executed for peds as it has been for cyclists. Of course any nutter can see people going west forced off lovejoy onto 10th are going to take Marshall instead of Northrup since there’s no stop sign on 10th and Marshall is their first chance to turn. What used to be a quiet intersection is now dangerous and busy to cross with all the impatient commuting traffic pouring off Lovejoy ramp going west forced to turn.
    Lol@ commenter above who said they were suprised residents approved the change. It’s not like the neighborhood got to put the traffic change to a vote…

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    • Chris Smith September 15, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Who’s up for a petition drive to put the stop sign back?

      As someone who worked in the group that hammered out the design, I can assure you none of knew the stop sign would be going away…

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      • Scott Batchelar September 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm

        Count me IN!

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  • Dc September 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I bike through this area every day on my commute. I, like others, have tried Marshal, but prefer to use Overton. Overton has less stop signs, less tracks, less cars and better visibilty at intesections.

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  • Alexis September 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    In meetings and letters we have stated a couple of times to Streetcar/PBOT that the state of Marshall makes it hardly the preferred route, and that we would prefer wayfinding to direct people to Johnson and Overton for destinations beyond the lower Lovejoy area, and also to see Marshall treated more like a real boulevard. The changes to the stop and diverter are the first pieces of the puzzle, but Marshall also needs a number of stop signs turned and wayfinding needs to continue (right now the sharrows drop at 16th with no additional direction).

    Unfortunately the latter pieces of the puzzle are still missing, but we’ll continue to push for them! Johnson needs some improvement as well. NW is a pain to ride in generally because of all the extra stop signs and Johnson is an example of this, with extra stops at 12th and 22nd among others.

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  • Liz September 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I tend to use Overton. I’ve never biked on Marshall, mostly because it has hideous car traffic. Also mostly because it’s not a thru-street – it dead-ends at 22nd where the hospital is, and what’s the point of that?

    I would like to see diverters on Oregon though. Sorry, did I say that loud enough? Let’s try again… I WOULD LIKE TO SEE DIVERTERS ON OREGON though!!

    Whoever says it’s a quiet bike route is off their rocker. Far too much motor vehicle traffic for comfort on that street. And what’s extra irksome is that all of it should be on Lovejoy/Northrup instead.

    I’m not generally a mad sort of person, but I have to say it here – i get so fricking sick of motor traffic en masse using the city’s bike boulevards like it’s just two extra arterial lanes for their convenience. I am a firm believer that diverters are the only solution to this problem. You only have to look at streets like NE Going. They WORK!

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  • Charley September 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Marshall sucks and will continue to suck until they take down some of the stop signs. Right now, going UPHILL on Marshall, you have a stop sign every frigging block! Bike Boulevard? It ain’t one.

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  • Ted Buehler September 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    This is a good start.

    How about a 4-way stop at 10th and Marshall, too?

    Ted Buehler

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  • kittens September 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Sorry, stopping every damn block on Marshall is a non-starter for me! I hate that street, its so tedious.

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  • Alain September 16, 2011 at 10:15 am

    It’s funny, I don’t think I had ever noticed that NW Marshall was for bikes (route, blvd, whatever). I guess that’s one of the reasons I read this blog, thanks JM. I’ve always gone to NW Overton, as it just feels safer and easier to travel. Granted I am general moving in a NW direction, zigzagging all the way over to Raleigh.

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  • Linh Phan October 21, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    I live in the neighborhood at the Bridgeport building, right on Marshall. As a pedestrian, walking to Safeway is a mess and dangerous. It’s so unsafe to cross. First, there is too much traffic on Marshall, and the drivers that pass through are very inconsiderate and drive over the speed limit. Sometimes, drivers don’t even bother to stop. I feel do bad for the cyclists too, who have to stop at each intersection on that street. And as a resident, I always wonder with the increasing traffic on Marshall, what the levels of car pollution along that road would be.

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  • James November 18, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    What I don’t understand is why the city doesn’t simply try a sign indicating westbound vehicular traffic should use Northrup Street? The way things are now, how would anyone know that Northrup is the preferred route for cars? Unless advised otherwise, it’s a no-brainer that westbound drivers are going to take the first opportunity to head west that comes along — unless they’re directed to use an alternate route. Heaven knows, a sign would be much cheaper than installing diverters. Why not give that a try?

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