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In Portland, separation is the new standard

Posted by on December 22nd, 2011 at 10:41 am

The bridge on N. Vancouver Ave over the Columbia Slough in North Portland is one several recent projects where the bikeway is separated from auto traffic.


Have you noticed?

Something interesting is going on in transportation projects around Portland. There hasn’t been a press conference or an official decree about it; but it looks as though separated bicycling infrastructure is now just a standard procedure when new roads and bridges are built. This is a trend I’ve been following in the back of my mind for about a year now.

What follows are photos and brief notes/links on five recent projects where bicycles have their own dedicated space — physically separated from auto traffic. Taken all together, this move toward separated facilities definitely illustrates a larger trend that we can expect to see more of.

Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge

TriMet has already started building their PMLR Bridge over the Willamette River. When it opens in 2015 bike traffic will share a 14-foot wide path with other non-automotive bridge users.

SW Moody

Similar to Cully Blvd, this is another example where PBOT had a clean slate to work with and they decided to build out a world-class bikeway. For more images and thoughts, see my photo essay from back in November.

Sellwood Bridge

The cross-section will be a 12.5 foot wide shared path and a 6.5 foot bike lane.

This project just got underway last week and it’s the latest to show how separated bikeways are now “baked in” to major bridge projects. Kudos to the citizen volunteers and Multnomah County officials who came up with this cross-section.

Cully Blvd

For PBOT traffic engineers and planners, this was a dream project. They got to completely re-do an entire roadway, which isn’t an opportunity that comes along very often. The result was Portland’s first major cycle track that begins to mimic designs seen in Europe.

Vancouver Avenue Bridge

This project hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as the others, but it deserves a second look. The bridge is a key connection between North Portland, Hayden Island and the City of Vancouver. When it was recently rebuilt due to a fire that damaged its supports, engineers ended up directing the bike lane up onto a shared sidewalk. This happened without much of a peep at all from PBOT (I didn’t even fully understand the design until riding it myself yesterday evening.)

Taken together, these projects are important on many levels. Most road users — on both sides of the windshield — appreciate the lower-stress environment produced when bikes and cars are not sharing the same space. The projects also give us a taste of what’s possible. While they are all just small pieces of roadway, they plant the seed of what could be. Hopefully, they’ll make people start to think: “Why can’t I enjoy this type of experience for my entire trip?”

While PBOT, TriMet, and Multnomah County deserve kudos for these signs of progress, the real challenge will be in making these type of facilities the norm and not the exception; and figuring out a way to retrofit existing cross-sections to include more separation (the over two year “pilot project” of the SW Broadway cycle track — which is yet to get any major expansions or improvements — is a good example of this challenge).

So, is separation really the new standard? I asked Mayor Sam Adams’ Transportation Director Catherine Ciarlo. She stopped short of saying that separated bike facilities will be in every future road project; but she did say that the City is looking for ways to achieve separation whenever possible:

“I’d say separation is the gold standard. But at the moment we’re in an economy struggling for bronze. So the challenge is to figure out how to achieve separation in creative or economical ways. An example: Neighborhood Greenways create “separation” by making the environment more desirable for bikes and walking and less conducive to driving. Another example: upgrading signal efficiency at the 12th Avenue Overcrossing allowed us to “find” more right of way and allow for a higher degree of separation.”

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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Paul JohnsonAdron @ Transit SleuthEl BicicleroareJJJ Recent comment authors
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Cat
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Cat

Let’s separate now so we can all get comfortable and confident riding our bikes (lord knows I need some comfort and confidence), and then once alternative transportation is the dominant mode, we take over the streets too. If I was a benevolent dictator, that would be my plan.

Paul Johnson
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Paul Johnson

Wow, dogging fail on the Moody photo. Curious if the Traffic Division plans on citing people walking in the cycleway.

JAT in Seattle
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JAT in Seattle

I’ll preface by saying I’m not opposed to all bike specific infrastructure, though I’m stridently against poorly executed infrastructure, but (you knew that was coming, right?)

When I read “Hopefully, they’ll make people start to think: ‘Why can’t I enjoy this type of experience for my entire trip?'” I lose a little bit of hope for humanity…

We can’t possibly put a separate bike lane on every road in every city, town, village, farm, and wilderness, and we shouldn’t be striving to. At some point we all need to courteously share and co-exist. A bike lane on NW Cumberland Rd? Uphill, sure maybe, but on NW Luray Terrace? Why bother? On cross-river bridges? Yes! On twisty rural NW Skyline Blvd? No!

When I drive my car I like traveling at freeway speeds on freeway-like facilities, but when I exit the offramp I don’t get pissed that they didn’t put the freeway everywhere; I drive with a different set of expectations and behaviors. I don’t want a freeway to my house.

It’s an analogy, okay?

spencer
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spencer

I still dont understand why this approach wasn’t used on the Burnside remodel. It made no sense NOT to separate it when they remodeled, and now many cyclists are faced with 50+ mph traffic just inches off of their shoulders on the bridge. A retrofit is needed soon.

are
Guest

i am concerned that there was no obvious opportunity for input into the redesign of the vancouver bridge. did they even run this by BAC? we do still have a mandatory sidepath law in this state, and we need to be attentive to where the sidepaths are being put in, so that we are not forced to use inferior facilities simply because they are there.

don arambula
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don arambula

The City and County should be congratulated for these nice incremental projects… the real test will be how over time, these segments will be extended and integrated into a complete network of protected bikeways. If not, they risk the label of simply being “bikeways to nowhere”

Gail Amara
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Gail Amara

As a disabled person who is stuck with a car now, but used to ride, I have wondered at Portland’s building a system of bike lanes on main routes, rather than on streets that parallel them a block away, with periodic car traffic interrupters, as they do in Berkeley.

Oliver
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Oliver

I like that separated bikeways say ‘this area will not be re-striped as a motor vehicle lane’ due to the whim of some future administration.

But they are unsuitable for high (bicycle) speed routes because of the need to move into the traffic lane for safety concerns or overtaking. Skyline for example.

Ty
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Ty

I (as with many others) TOLD people, councils, leaders this stuff 10 years ago when I moved back to Oregon with lessons learned from the streets of California. Leaders were like yeah we’ll take that into consideration.. I really detest having to say ‘We told you so.’ But I’m glad it’s happening 10 years later.

BURR
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BURR

separation will not be achievable on many streets with narrow cross sections that already carry heavy cyclist traffic, and are essential routes for cyclists. East 28th immediately comes to mind, and there are many other examples of low to mid level arterial streets with the same problem. Meanwhile, instead of putting inexpensive sharrows down in these locations, the city continues to do nothing.

daisy
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daisy

Jonathan, I’m a bit confused as to why you are saying that the Sellwood bike lane is separated. Isn’t it the same height as the road? Or are you saying separated because bikes will be allowed on the raised, outside lane? You called it “shared” but I wasn’t clear on who would share it.

q`Tzal
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q`Tzal

Is it entirely out of line to remind people of an old phrase:
“Separate but equal”?

As far as I know that never worked out for the best.

Jim Lee
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Jim Lee

Technically, many of these examples are Multi-Use-Paths, not Cycle-Tracks. Most experienced cyclists regard MUPs as the worst of both worlds, even without their notably higher crash rate.

Check the first video on this web site to learn how our neighbors to the north see things: http://onbicycles.com/

Pay special attention to what the councillor of Vancouver, B. C., says about needing to separate all THREE modes of traffic.

Charley
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Charley

Anybody notice city workers putting plastic barriers on the Broadway Bridge ramp. I’m talking about the one that has the issue with drivers avoiding riding on the new streetcar rails and driving on the bike lane instead. The new barriers will keep drivers over in their lane! AWESOME!!!! I’d actually like to see those little barriers on more bike lanes, mid block. It’d make a lot of lanes next to high speed traffic feel much safer.

Dabby
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Dabby

I guess someone should go around scraping the “Share The Road” sticker’s off of stuff, as this is no longer the case…

We do not need to have separation folks…

This will be shown to not be what we need.
Sadly this will only be realized after to much money is spent on dividing traffic up..

Severin
Guest

Separation has been very successful in the country with the most cyclists– the Netherlands. Of course they don’t separate everywhere, only where appropriate to increase physical, and subjective safety. Also, cycle tracks do not slow them down over there, they actually allow cyclists to go faster, with fewer interruptions than ‘sharing the road’ with motor vehicles. And their cycle tracks accommodate more cyclists than Portland’s busiest streets combined in some cases.

So, yes, cycle tracks need to be designed well, doesn’t mean we should drop support for cycle tracks, just means we need to advocate better design. My understanding is that we been ‘equal’ with motorists for 30 plus years and it has done nothing to increase ridership or safety or respect.

Severin
Guest

Also, WTF with the sellwood bridge? Why a cycle track and a bike lane– why not just one wide cycle track or creating a buffer between motorized traffic and bicycle traffic

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

Yet another problem with separated facilities is that the powers that be, like Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), view them as convenient corridors for their projects. For example, the Fanno C

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Please consult Amy Walker’s new book, “On Bicycles,” specifically the chapter on road improvements, which discusses all these issues in detail. There even is a drawing of how lower Lovejoy SHOULD have been designed for safe and convenient use by cyclists and pedestrians.

If you look at the video from her web site, http://onbicycles.com/, you will see a completely separated two-way cycle-track carved out of a ramp with high-speed motor traffic by the simple expedient of Jersey barriers. The sidewalk appears to have been part of the original design, so now the pedestrians have their own space, with the protected cycle-track between them and the motorists.

It is hard to imagine a better solution, at least for such a situation. At one point in the video we even get a quick look at a “NO PEDESTRIANS” sign at the entrance to the cycle-track.

I Have written a review of Amy’s “On Bicycles” for Jonathan, which he may post sometime soon. Meanwhile, check these on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Bicycles-Ways-Bike-Culture-Change/product-reviews/1608680223/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

BURR
Guest
BURR

q`Tzal
I’m not so good at reading legal.
Does this essentially say “If the engineers put in a bike lane then it must be safe”?

yes

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

Vancouver Bridge = MUP
Moody Ave = MUP
PMLR Bridge = MUP

These are not separated bikeways in my book. They are non-motorized segregation facilities.

Adron @ Transit Sleuth
Guest

Moar please. 🙂