Splendid Cycles

Streetcar project puts pole on Broadway Bridge path – UPDATED

Posted by on January 20th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

A new pole for the eastside streetcar project has been placed at the mouth of the Broadway Bridge.

Have you noticed the new utility pole installed on the eastern end of the westbound Broadway Bridge path? The pole narrows the opening of one of the busiest bikeways in the city. Activists — including the BTA — have raised alarms about it, but the contractor for Portland Streetcar Inc says they evaluated other locations and found this one to be the only plausible option.

(Photo: Joe Rowe)

Citizen activist Joe Rowe emailed City and streetcar construction officials with the hopes of getting the pole removed. He feels the pole could have been mounted outside the adjacent railing (learn more about Rowe’s efforts in a document he shared in the comments below).

There also looks to be plenty of room to have placed it on the main roadway; but Julie Gustafson with streetcar contractor Shiels Obletz Johnsen, Inc. says the current location “was evaluated extensively by the design team, the City and Multnomah County.” Gustafson says putting the pole up on the biking and walking path was necessary because the pole requires a specific type of foundation, there are limits on where it can be located “with respect to attaching it to the structure,” and where the pole must be “with respect to the other poles in the alignment.”

They considered a few other locations, but Gustafson says that, in the end, “Due to structural constraints of the Bridge, the current placement was the only option that was viable and approved by all parties.”

To prevent people on bikes from running into the pole, contractors initially placed some white tape leading up to it…

(Photo: Joe Rowe)

That tape is now gone, but bright orange advisory cones remain…

On December 19th of last year, Portland Streetcar Inc (PSI) Board Member and City of Portland Planning Commissioner Chris Smith wrote a letter (PDF here) to PBOT Director Tom Miller and PSI President Rick Gustafson, asking why this pole was placed in this location and asking for mitigation. The letter was signed by BTA Director Rob Sadowsky and cc’d to Mayor Sam Adams’ Transportation Director Catherine Ciarlo. Here’s an excerpt:

“We are writing to request mitigation for the catenary pole placed at the Northeast corner of the Broadway Bridge as part of the Streetcar Loop project. This pole is a crash hazard, narrows the existing bikeway, and makes it difficult for cyclists to share the space with other users of the shared use path. As you know, this is one of the most heavily used river crossings in Portland’s bicycle network.

Unfortunately, this is not the only location on the Streetcar Loop that created compromises with the bicycle network. But it is unique, because it was implemented through a field change order, in having absolutely no opportunity for review by citizens or stakeholders.

According to BTA staffer Gerik Kransky, PBOT and PSI have not yet responded to the letter.

We’ll keep you posted with any developments.

Have you noticed this pole?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

  • Jeff January 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    That’s a huge bummer.

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  • Alli January 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Any idea what the plans are for when the cones are eventually removed/lost/blown away? It’s a dark pole and could be tough to see at night! I’d hate for anyone to run into that.

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    • naess January 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

      ummm… there shouldn’t be a problem if one has the correct lighting and isn’t going faster then they should be. it’ll be no different then any other pole dotting our landscape, such as the red light pole just before it.

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      • Joe Rowe January 22, 2012 at 2:19 am

        Hey Naess. What’s your real name? Are you somehow related to the people who profit from doing this work on the cheap?

        You are spreading incorrect information. The red pole has about 7 feet of width. This new pole leaves a bit more than 4 feet of room. Visit the site or take a look at the pictures in the URL I’ve posted.

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  • craig harlow January 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Two big concerns:

    1) The main path is already a tight squeeze for traffic flow when bikes pass in opposite directions. This will force riders to stop and wait for oncoming traffic to pass, and that’s alot of traffic during peak hours.

    2) In the dark of night, someone is sure to crash into that thing. If it’s going to stay, I think it needs a (well lit) 4-foot-high skirt that funnels the approach from about 20 feet on either side.

    I just find it unlikely that it can’t be moved any amount of inches to the south, out of the path of traffic. Six inches would buy alot of relief, and twenty inches would solve the problem while still (probably?) maintaining the foundation location.

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    • jim January 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      Why would anybody ride their bike in the wrong direction? If they want to go that way they need to cross to the other side of the bridge to cross.

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    • Michael Miller January 21, 2012 at 5:12 am

      Craig, there shouldn’t be bikes passing in opposite directions here. The paths across the Broadway Bridge are supposedly one-way for cyclists.

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      • Steve B January 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm

        As far as I know, this is not true. The Hawthorne is the only bridge in our region that has real advisory signage to direct cyclists to one side or the other. Regardless, I encounter bikes heading both ways on both sides of the Broadway bridge with some regularity.

        Don’t forget pedestrians use this very same ramp and travel in either direction.

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        • jim January 24, 2012 at 9:13 pm

          Pedestrians rarely get hurt when they walk into each other

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  • JRB January 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Broadway’s on my commute and I certainly noticed the pole and I am not crazy about it. It has not proven a hindrance so far. But as anyone who rides the Broadway knows, there is a steep downgrade with several lights leading up to this bottleneck. There is a lot passing of cyclists who had to stop for one of the lights by others who didn’t have to stop and who have a lot of momentum built up.

    My concern is that somebody passing may not realize the pole is there until too late. I’ve always thought it was a bit reckless for folks to pass in that particular spot but I saw it happen a number of times before the pole was installed. Everytime I approach that spot now part of me is hoping that nobody is flying down the hill behind me and getting ready to pass. I am concerned that if the pole isn’t moved there is going to be a nasty collision there.

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    • Jocelyn January 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      JRB, you summed it up nicely. My route down Broadway from Flint is an increasingly fine-tuned choreography of making lights, changing lanes, and timing my descent to use momentum efficiently without overtaking others at inopportune spots — the merge onto the sidewalk, the new post, passing anyone on foot. So far I’ve not had any serious problems, but the placement of that pole is hazardous given the amount of traffic — car, bike, and foot — in that spot.

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  • John R January 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Regarding your previous post about having a mayor who is fighting for bikes, this is why we need one. We may get tired of the fights, but the fact is that things like this, street car tracks in SE that make things worse for bikes, etc. keep happening.

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  • Todd Boulanger January 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    On a similar note, I was surprised by the Eastside Streetcar engineers choice of not using combined poles for both the street lighting and the support for the cantenary system.

    The separate poles are placed right next to each other really muck up the streetscaping of this corridor. I wonder if it was a jurisdictional issue or a short term cost saving issue (vs. long term cost savings on maintenance of a single pole).

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    • Michael Miller January 21, 2012 at 5:28 am

      It’s all about money. I agree that they clutter the streetscape, sometimes make the sidewalks less usable, etc. But how much more should we have spent on the streetcar loop?

      Existing light poles and their foundations were certainly not designed to withstand the loads imposed by the streetcar overhead power lines. So combining the two functions on one new pole, as desirable as that may have been, would have necessitated paying for all new lighting, new electrical feeds/connections to the new poles, and probably taller new poles than what is required for the streetcar alone — all of which add substantial costs.

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  • Scott January 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    This is unacceptable. The only information I have is what is in this article, but I find the explanation unsatisfying.

    “with respect to the other poles in the alignment.”???
    It is NOT in line with respect to the other poles in the alignment. Would that have been the location approved by all parties if it narrowed the automobile lane by 20%?

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  • jeff January 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    how about y’all just slow down and ride according to the terrain and obvious dangers abound? if someone runs into the pole its their own d*mn fault for not paying attention and riding according to the conditions. what won’t some of you folks complain about?

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    • craig harlow January 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      Hey, Jeff, it’s a solid metal obstacle IN the current pathway, and those orange markers won’t be there forever. Have some tolerance for dialogue about a danger that’s been created by the city and does not need to remain as it is.

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      • jeff January 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm

        calling something “inexcusable” doesnt’ really set the stage for any sort of meaningful dialogue about much. until it is moved, I suggest slowing down and paying attention.

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    • John Lascurettes January 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm

      Jeff, it would be interesting to pinch the auto lane down by 20% in width just to make room for the pole and see how drivers across the bridge would react (aside from hitting it and taking it out).

      This is pretty inexcusable. The whole length of the sidewalk up the east side of Broadway is also pinched for pedestrians. Clearly everything but auto traffic is sacrificial once again.

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      • jeff January 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm

        John, if you find this as something that is “inexcusable” I doubt there’s is much of a converation to have.

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        • John Lascurettes January 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm

          This is the conversation: It’s inexcusable to sacrifice sidewalk space at the expense of pedestrians (and in this case bicyclists too) on a majorly traveled path for the sake of not inconveniencing cars or streetcars and to avoid spending the money on doing it right. It’s especially inexcusable to slip it in with a change order to avoid proper review. Pedestrian space should not be treated in an inhuman or hostile way.

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    • Alan 1.0 January 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      I agree, that’s good advice for all vehicle operators. So, in this case, it would make more sense to say it to motor vehicle operators and then put the column on the double-yellow line in the middle of the roadway. That way a single pole could serve both east and westbound streetcar cables, and the cantilevers would balance each other out. Cheaper, more elegant design.

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    • Lance P. January 23, 2012 at 7:16 am

      what do you mean by ‘y’all’ or ‘you folks’?

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  • Allan January 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    The first (red) pole already has me moving to the right at this spot, so the second pole doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. if it IS a big deal, then perhaps we should work on getting both removed at the same time.

    Do you remember back when there was that emergency box just past the lift heading westbound? That thing has being removed solves what I felt like was a way bigger problem.

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  • OnTheRoad January 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Once again, streetcar infrastructure compromises (makes worse) bicycle infrastructure.

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  • John Lascurettes January 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    The foundation excuse sounds like a bunch of crap. You could create a new foundation right at the curb’s edge. Neither auto, nor pedestrians would be pinched.

    This seems to be a pattern in Portland, where sidewalk space is not actually sidewalk space. See the sidewalk on the north side of NE Prescott between 37th and 42nd to see what I mean. The sidewalk is only 5′ wide as it is and then the utility poles pinch them off by two feet several times per block. There is not enough room to walk side-by-side with a companion, and barely enough room to walk with a dog on a leash.

    Seems as though ODOT should set up a better standard for what can and can’t be done on pedestrian/MUP right of ways.

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    • was carless January 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm

      Yes, Portland is well-known to have the narrowest and crappiest sidewalks of a large-ish city in the United States.

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    • was carless January 22, 2012 at 9:02 am

      Sort of like how the sidewalk along 39th is so narrow a cars mirror can whack you in the head.

      The city is very proud of using sidewalk space as a “streetscaping” zone.

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  • John Lascurettes January 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Have you noticed this new pole?

    Since the day it went in and have been cursing it ever since.

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  • Steve B January 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Jonathan, thanks for covering this! Yes, another obstacle for cyclists put in place by the new streetcar project. AROW raised this issue with PBOT & PSI and we were told there was no other place to locate this pole based on bridge structural reasons and coordination with Multnomah County who owns the bridge.

    I’m sure we have an engineer among us who could help solve this challenge. The location of this pole is a serious downgrade of a vital bikeway connection. Again, where is the mitigation for this?

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    • Steve B January 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      I should also add that this is a serious downgrade of a vital walkway as well. When pedestrians are coming down the ramp as bikes are firing up it, it makes for an uncomfortable situation. If you’re in a wheelchair, it’s markedly worse.

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    • John Lascurettes January 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      So why is it that the poles farther to the east cut into the sidewalk space by just as much? Surely we’re on solid ground there and not on bridge structure. I think the foundation argument is a load of lies.

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      • jeff January 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm

        you sure seem to have a lot of energy and emotion about a pole.

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        • Opus the Poet January 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm

          Well, if an immovable object had been placed in a motor vehicle lane of travel I’m sure there would be nothing like this exchange over on CarPortland.

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          • sorebore January 23, 2012 at 11:38 am

            I am not taking sides on this, but I have been riding bikes in urban environments for over 45 years. Jumping Mtn. bikes of dumpsters, fixies without brakes, bmx bikes, road and crit machines, fully loaded touring rigs, pulling trailers, foggy headed, fit, fat, tired, elated, sober, drunk, high on every thing from pot and LSD, mushrooms,sleep deprived, asleep even, and I have never run into a pole! Peeps are gettin’ funny on this one!! be careful out there!!

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    • Alexis January 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Just to follow up on Steve’s comment, according to my records this issue was raised with Streetcar in August 2011, when the base of the pole had been installed and covered with an orange barrel, before the actual pole was installed.

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  • JOe January 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Seriously, every time I go by this pole I wonder who the heck let this happen? It really cannot be moved a bit off the sidewalk? All the infrastructure going towards the streetcar and the bicycles end up with a pole in our path. Find a solution engineers!

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  • Gerik January 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    A little over a month ago, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Streetcar Inc. Board Member Chris Smith sent a letter to the Bureau of Transportation and Streetcar Inc. regarding this issue. The letter is available here: http://btaoregon.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/catenary-pole-mitigation-request-letter.pdf

    Essentially through his role on our internal Advocacy Committee, Chris Smith, advised us that despite safety concerns associated with this catenary pole the likelihood of getting it removed is next to zero.

    In our letter we ask the city and streetcar to consider the following mitigation options in response to the safety concerns on the Broadway Bridge.

    – Restriping the Broadway ramp of the Broadway bridge to provide a southbound buffered bicycle

    – Restriping NW Hoyt St. between NW 9th and Broadway to provide bicycle lanes.

    – Removing the unused freight rail tracks where the NW Johnson and Overton neighborhood
    greenways cross NW 15th Ave.

    – Implement a North Park Blocks bikeway by striping buffered bike lanes on NW 8th and Park and
    providing a crossing treatment at Burnside.

    Ideally we would not have to deal with transportation projects of any kind that place physical barriers directly in a lane of travel. Can you imagine a light pole being placed within an auto lane? What makes it okay to place this pole in a bike lane?

    That said, we hope to get some concessions and have not yet heard back from the city and streetcar.

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    • was carless January 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Ok, so we sue them. For one HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS. /pinky to side of mouth

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    • Alan 1.0 January 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm

      “…it was implemented through a field change order, in having absolutely no opportunity for review by citizens or stakeholders.”

      Whoa…a change order? No review? Compare that to Gustafson’s “evaluated extensively.”

      Just for clarification, what is the official designation of that piece of highway? Sidewalk? Bike lane? MUP?

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      • Ted Buehler January 21, 2012 at 3:28 am

        Sidewalk and/or multiuse path.

        Ted Buehler

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    • are January 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm

      i think it may be time to reclaim the deck for shared use and leave the sidewalk to pedestrians

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      • sorebore January 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm

        I’m in. But how heavy is volume of foot traffic ( especially the north side) on the Broadway bridge? It seems less to me than the three other major bridges. I personally would love to be in the lane, but the view on the sidewalk is nice.

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    • John R January 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      Good to know and don’t take this the wrong way, but perhaps the BTA should be doing more than sending a letter and waiting a month for a response?

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      • Natalie January 21, 2012 at 12:49 am

        Everyone has their respective roles in these things. I’ve never really understood it when someone calls for the BTA to act radically. It defeats their purpose. They’re the ones working within the system, conversing with decision makers, not alienating them. If you’ve ever played the politics game, you know that the best way to initiate change is not just from the inside or outside, but both. To demand a hissy fit and PR stunt every time that something doesn’t go your way is to turn a blind eye to all of the times that playing the annoyingly bureaucratic game has actually worked. I think it’s important for the BTA to play their cards smartly and for us, as people who are not so interconnected with the system, to form a louder, less tolerant voice. But that’s our job, not theirs.

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  • craig harlow January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Doubtless, if a big enough public stink was raised, the project team would FIND a different solution. But why must it come to that? This is a harmful planning failure and deserves to be redone, and soon before a tragedy occurs. I’d be happy to help with the stink-raising should such an effort be raised.

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    • was carless January 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      Apparently, because they don’t care. I vote for suing. I’m tired of bicyclists being trampled on.

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  • Bob_M January 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    “…Approved by all parties…”?! Once again it is evident that the streetcar does not even acknowledge the existence of cyclists. If Streetcar does know we exist it is only to exclude us from their parties.

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  • ScoBu January 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    I pass this every day on my commute. It does pinch the available space but I’ve not had a problem with it thus far. I normally pass it at 6:45 the lighting isn’t a problem. I realize this is a cycling advocacy site but I’m ok with this pinch since the purpose of it is another street car (aka, alternate transportation). How many other cities in the nation are actually increasing their modes of alternate transportation? I moved here from Raleigh NC where riding on the sidewalk was enough of an ‘offence’ to have beer bottles thrown at you. There are no bike lanes and certainly no light rail.

    As I see it, cyclists are going from a designated bike lane to a multi-use path and need to slow down anyways. And as far as this not impeding car traffic, remember, they will now have a street car in their lane. I’m sure their stoked about that, too.

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    • sabes January 21, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      BWHAHAHAHAHA!!!! You *DO* realize that this is bikeportland.org, don’t you? I guess you haven’t been in Portland long, eh? Cyclists (esp. ones on this site) don’t believe they EVER have to slow down for ANYONE.

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      • ScoBu January 23, 2012 at 9:54 am

        Haha…yes Sabes, I do know they don’t slow down for anyone. I’ve seen the moving human slalom course on the esplanade during the weekends. I’ve been in Portland for 10 years and between my commute to work/road bike I put in 4-6,000 miles a year and where the terrain permits I like to haul a$$ as well. Over that time I’ve developed my own system of aggressive defensive riding which means my ‘incidents’ have decreased dramatically during that time. I don’t agree with everyone here but I love the fact that this forum exists.

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  • BURR January 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Just another big FU to cyclists courtesy of the streetcar project.

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  • resopmok January 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    the last photo shows another light pole east of the new pole in question that does the same thing but has been there much longer. it’s hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like the other pole impinges on the pathway the same amount. has that one not also been an inconvenience this whole time?

    i really think the city should be careful how narrow they make paths though, since the standard safety bicycle is not the only type ridden. there are other human powered vehicles with wider wheelbases, or bikes towing trailers for which it can be difficult to judge these sorts of things at speed.

    i don’t know who these reckless people are that try to pass in narrow areas like the broadway bridge, but frankly if you’re dumb enough to try something like that you deserve to slam into a pole you couldn’t be bothered to see. i know, it sucks getting stuck behind slow people, but it happens, so just relax and take it easy until it is safe to pass. doesn’t that sound familiar?

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    • John Lascurettes January 21, 2012 at 10:02 am

      Yes, that red pole has been there longer, and no, it does not take up the same amount of space. The new light rail pole takes up an additional foot of space at least; it’s both thicker and is inset into the sidewalk farther.

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  • was carless January 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    This obstacle reminds me of Moscow’s new bike lane – complete with barriers built in!


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    • ScoBu January 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      That was incredibly entertaining in a sad kind of way. Thanks for posting that.

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  • Tom C January 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Quote: ” My route down Broadway from Flint is an increasingly fine-tuned choreography of making lights, changing lanes, and timing my descent to use momentum efficiently without overtaking others at inopportune spots”

    Understatement of the year.

    The entire redesign of the approach to the Broadway Bridge westbound between Flint and the ramp pictured above has been a failure. Why?

    1. Poorly designed stoplight sequences and triggers. It is common to have to stop at N. Benton, then go 100 feet, only to have the light go red at N. Larrabee.

    2. The north and southbound lights at Broadway and N. Larrabee do not appear to be triggered by traffic but are automatically sequenced. In the early morning, east and west bound cars and bikes frequently sit through a cycle of lights though no traffic is present on Larrabee.

    3. When they moved the bike lane and bike box away from the curb at N. Larrabbee and Broadway, they forced downhill cyclists to make a rapid and very awkward transition from the curbside bike lane between N.Benton to the bike lane that is now left of the curbside car lane. Awful design, which is properly ignored by 90% of cyclists who now ‘take the lane’ well before N. Benton, but do so in a way that is now totally unpredictable to the motor vehicles approaching from behind at 30-40 MPH.

    4. The elimination of the bike box and curbside bike lane at N. Larrabbee and Broadway now forces the numerous cement trucks and tractor trailers that turn right from Broadway onto N. Larrabee to stay widely left, taking the bike lane to the left of their lane. Otherwise, they cannot make the turn.

    Quote “it’s hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like the other pole impinges on the pathway the same amount. has that one not also been an inconvenience this whole time?

    No: that light pole is well to the left. The new utility pole definitely pinches the approach. But I think it is less of a safety issue that the problems with the approach mentioned above.

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    • John Lascurettes January 21, 2012 at 10:10 am

      3. When they moved the bike lane and bike box away from the curb at N. Larrabbee and Broadway, they forced downhill cyclists to make a rapid and very awkward transition from the curbside bike lane between N.Benton to the bike lane that is now left of the curbside car lane. Awful design, which is properly ignored by 90% of cyclists who now ‘take the lane’ well before N. Benton, but do so in a way that is now totally unpredictable to the motor vehicles approaching from behind at 30-40 MPH.

      There was never a bike box anywhere along that stretch of Broadway. Ever. The transition is the same now as it was before this project ever started (bike lane going from right and transitioning tot he left). The bike lane on the right was a while everything was in construction. Yes, the new bike lane transition from right to left has a much shorter merge spot than it used to have though. This is why you see cyclists make “totally unpredictable to the motor vehicle” lane changes. I don’t know where you get that however. I see every cyclist check over their shoulder. Most actually signal. Both physical signals that they’re about to do so. Additionally, I don’t know about you, but I only make a transition like that when my life is not in danger, because my body does not have a steel exoskeleton, but I do it all the time early because there’s a better break in traffic early to do it safely than if I wait for my 40′ transition space.

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  • NF January 20, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    This seems to be a problem with the design of the whole project. ALL of the streetcar poles installed on Grand/MLK eat into the pedestrian space more than they have to. The sidewalks are not that large, and you can see they’ve put other street furniture items (like light post and bike racks) as far to the curb as possible to maximize usable space. The streetcar poles however are a solid foot away from the curb and squeeze pedestrians even further.

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  • Sigma January 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Chris smith is on the planning commission and the PSI board, and he didn’t know about this until now? This could have easily been redesigned but you can’t wait until it is 99% finished to raise an issue like this. I’m starting to wonder if anyone ever reviewed the blueprints for this project.

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  • Zach January 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    This is a 100 year old bridge made of iron. It is not a curb they can just dig a hole in. This post probably weighs at least a ton and is subject to loads in all directions from wind and pressure on the wires. It sounds like it would have been put somewhere else if there was a reasonable way to do that.

    That said, it would be great to see the details behind the claims.

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    • John Lascurettes January 21, 2012 at 10:13 am

      So why do the poles further east on Broadway also eat in to the sidewalk space just as much?

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  • q`Tzal January 20, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Aesthetically, the new black pole is ugly and doesn’t match with anything near it. In the street view we can see a copper patina, natural concrete and Golden Gate red.

    I can’t find good AND current imagery of this area. The two images above are current but the angle is misleading. Both of the included photos above are taken from an angle that exaggerates the perceived distance that the new pole stands out. It would be nice to have a distance measurement. I may be there with a tape measure tomorrow.
    From what I can see from other street views all I can see is really bad photo angles.

    At the very least if this is a permanent installation this needs safety signage to bring it in to compliance with the MUTCD Section 2C.65 Object Markers for Obstructions Adjacent to the Roadway as displayed here and implemented by ODOT on the Sunset MUP here.
    According to the Metro Regional Trail Count the bike traffic at the Broadway Bridge is over 10x higher than the Sunset MUP. If safety signage is justified there it is certainly justified here.

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    • q`Tzal January 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Go check out Joe Rowe’s presentation with much better photos.

      Joe Rowe

      I’ve posted a lot of photos and phone numbers where people can call and stay involved. Bitty Google URL – http://goo.gl/FMT5t

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  • jim January 20, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Imagine if it wasn’t a pole but a person standing there, would they get run into by somebody passing, out of control?? I would sure hope not. What if they put up a cardboard cut out of someone pushing a baby stroller on the pole? Would that make it safer? What if they put some speed bumps down to slow them down before they swoosh through there?

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  • J_R January 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I consider the pole to be an inconvenience. The rails in the road are a HAZARD. Still, I’m disappointed. It could have been avoided.

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  • tonyt
    tonyt January 20, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Lawsuit waiting to happen. With all these comments, they’ll never be able to say that they didn’t know it was an issue.

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  • Jerko January 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I rode my bike around the pole.

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  • Schrauf January 20, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    At one point cyclists as a group, on average, were likely very supportive of the streetcar project.

    No more. Not solely because of this pole placement of course, but because it is simply one more safety hazard on top of dozens or hundreds already caused directly by new streetcar infrastructure, most of which were not even necessary but caused by poor design.

    I won’t be supporting the streetcar any longer.

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    • Mark January 20, 2012 at 11:35 pm


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    • Sigma January 21, 2012 at 7:54 am

      Ditto. This “streetcar at all costs” mentality is over. Public support and money is drying up faster than lake carlton. This will be the last streetcar line we build for a long, long time – probably ever. One can hope.

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    • q`Tzal January 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      The institutional disrespect for the pedestrian and bicycle travel space in favor of autos is disgusting and antithetical to a sustainable and cost effective transportation system.

      I’m not against rail public transit per-se but these streetcars are too often less effective than a slow jog. The most concise explanation of why streetcars suck is here.
      “Class C: Mixed with traffic, including mixed with pedestrians.” Normally a streetcar would compare similarly to buses in traffic but our streetcars fight most dense traffic but lack the ability to bypass it as the buses do; this makes our streetcars less effective than the buses.

      So we sell out the most cost effective form of public travel space (sidewalks and bike lanes) for the least cost effective form of public transport (streetcars).

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  • Jeff January 21, 2012 at 12:02 am

    Slow news day I see…

    The potentially alarmist nature of such a first world problem is what’s really raising the alert level here….

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    • q`Tzal January 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Well obviously because this pole problem does not directly affect poverty, starvation or war we should abandon all efforts and send all of out money over seas.


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  • Chris Smith January 21, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Chris smith is on the planning commission and the PSI board, and he didn’t know about this until now? This could have easily been redesigned but you can’t wait until it is 99% finished to raise an issue like this. I’m starting to wonder if anyone ever reviewed the blueprints for this project.

    The point is, the current location was NOT in the blueprints. The location that was in the blueprints was found to be unworkable during the installation and the pole was moved to the current location. The extensive review occurred after the installation to find alternatives.

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  • Joe Rowe January 21, 2012 at 1:36 am

    As Zach stated, it would be great to have independent engineers see and review the details behind the claims the pole must stay. Calls from everyone will make that happen.

    I’ve posted a lot of photos and phone numbers where people can call and stay involved. Bitty Google URL below.


    Call the contractor (503) 242-0084. You will not get past their PR staff, so make them cough up the details and send you constant updates.

    We can’t let those who accept this pole frame the problem or offer hush money. This pole is an indicator of the many streetcar and active transportation problems noted here. Stay engaged.

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    • John Lascurettes January 21, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Very nice illustration of how much the pinching is going on in your photos.

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  • Tom M January 21, 2012 at 2:44 am

    How long before there is a lawsuit because of this thing? I’m not the litigious sort but this strikes me as a suit waiting to be brought. Either that or the thing will mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night (not by me, but I am sure there will be plenty of volunteers).

    If this is the only place to put this then its the wrong solution from word go.

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    • Sigma January 21, 2012 at 7:43 am

      It’s galvanized steel bolted to a concrete foundation, topped by high tension, high voltage wires. I recommend updating your estate planning before any vigilante actions.

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      • Tom M January 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm

        Please note that I specified that I *would not* do it, nor for the reasons you sate, recommend it. That said I wouldn’t be surprised if it did happen.

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        • q`Tzal January 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm


          IF a person can get up there in a dense urban area without being noticed by the public and police,
          and then stopped,
          THEN the designers could likely be sued for improper safety precautions.

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  • Ted Buehler January 21, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Folks — if you want to see this pole moved ASAP, send an email to safe@portlandoregon.gov and ask them to

    “Please move pole 533+41 off of the Broadway Bridge sidewalk.”

    CC it to other people if you like, like Mayor Sam Adams, or Mike Pullen (Multnomah County’s public communications person) at mike.j.pullen@multco.us

    (the pole’s name is “533+41”)

    Thanks for covering this, Jonathan.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Tourbiker January 21, 2012 at 3:28 am

    Light the pole around the base.. & do more than a simple white line, Create a section of the outside bridge railing to match, with the standard incorporated. …just One solution

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  • Dave January 21, 2012 at 5:49 am

    Are there any Ironworkers left in this town who can construct some reinforcement attached properly to the bridge structure (not just the pavement or sidewalk) to make the bicycle right-of way safely usable by the heavy and growing traffic volumes? It does seem that obstacles to bikes are willingly placed whereas obstacles to motor vehicles would not be for safety or MUTC compliance reasons. The lack of advance dialogue makes this more symbolic of a system still biased against bike transportation as the bottom of the food chain instead of the top, where it rightfully belongs ecologically.

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    • John Lascurettes January 21, 2012 at 10:22 am

      There are photos in Joe’s PDF that show that they did exactly that with one of the poles on the SE corner of the bridge.

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    • wsbob January 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      “Are there any Ironworkers left in this town who can construct some reinforcement attached properly to the bridge structure…” Dave

      “…but Julie Gustafson with streetcar contractor Shiels Obletz Johnsen, Inc. says the current location “was evaluated extensively by the design team, the City and Multnomah County.” Gustafson says putting the pole up on the biking and walking path was necessary because the pole requires a specific type of foundation, there are limits on where it can be located “with respect to attaching it to the structure… . ….They considered a few other locations, but Gustafson says that, in the end, “Due to structural constraints of the Bridge, the current placement was the only option that was viable and approved by all parties.” …” maus/bikeportland

      Notice particularly, “…structural constraints of the Bridge…”.

      Probably a good idea to look at exactly what those structural constraints were, because some very sturdy structure seems to be part of this bridge’s construction. Are the Gustafson’s, the design team, city and county saying that after having heard from the engineers, they concluded the pole foundation could not at least have been shifted toward the street to have been in line with the red pole, or even to the edge of the curb?

      Sounds like a situation where possibly a cut could have been made down through the concrete decking to find a more sturdy support for the pole that the edge of the MUP lacked, if that was the problem. I kind of think Portland probably has few ironworkers that could do the work, if they had the job.

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      • wsbob January 21, 2012 at 12:07 pm

        Correction: “… I kind of think Portland probably does have a few ironworkers that could do the work, if they had the job. …”

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  • spare_wheel January 21, 2012 at 8:33 am

    “where it rightfully belongs ecologically.”

    where it rightfully belongs pragmatically.

    i am willing to bet that the streetcar will carry fewer human beings over this bridge than the ped/bike mup.

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  • Craig Harlow January 21, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I don’t see a link to Joe’s PDF. Help? The Chris Smith PDF is linked in this article (twice), but I don’t see another

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  • Jeff January 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Once again, a non-issue. Riding a bike takes an amount of skill. Navigating the Springwater on a weekend day or Breakfast on the Bridge is more challenging. End of story.

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  • Dan January 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Hey, on the brighter side at least that pole was made locally and didn’t come from China. Shop Local Whoo Hoo! Go Portland!

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  • Dan January 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    I love how many mechanical and civil engineers post comments here…

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    • Alan 1.0 January 22, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      I am not sure how you know the credentials of all BP posters but I would hazard a guess that the expertise we are missing is not so much that of an engineer as an accountant.

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    • Kristen January 23, 2012 at 10:58 am

      … of the “armchair” variety.

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  • Zaphod January 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    There are a lot of things that seem to bother cyclists as a group far more than I would think appropriate. But this pole is problematic. The route is a convergence of two cyclist inputs onto the bridge, both downhill.

    It’d be one thing if it was actually necessary to install in this location but the underlying theme is skepticism that it’s actually required and couldn’t be resolved with a larger engineered base.

    This route serves a lot of people and this is *unexpectedly* narrow. Someone is going to eat it at speed. I enter this thing carrying momentum and either have 150# of coffee or #130 pounds of children on-board for a combined weight in excess of 400 pounds and over 2′ wide. I mention this to point out that not everyone is rolling on a skinny light(ish) commuter bike. There are plenty of different cargo machines also rolling in this narrow space.

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  • Ron Richings January 21, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Engineering and base issue is caused by the tension of the trolley wires and using a single pole to handle those forces. However it seems that there is a simple solution that would place the pole entirely off the travelled area. Mount a vertical pole section immediately to the left of the raised sidewalk. There is a ‘dead’ area there, as indicated by the yellow and black warning sign a few feet further on. Mount a curving pole to the right of the guardrail structure on the right. Curving section attaches to the top of the vertical pole and extends out over the roadway as far as is needed. The use of two poles vastly reduces the forces at work on the pole base. Only slight oddity is one pole curving over the bikepath, but that could be done high enough that it would barely be noticeable and certain not cause any practical problem.
    The engineers or whoever who worked on this seem to have created their own dilemma by using a single pole, rather than a combination. My thought, in any event.

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    • Joe Rowe January 22, 2012 at 2:50 am

      Ron, You are correct that there is space for the pole on the road where cars don’t drive. You call that the “dead” spot.

      When poles are near moving traffic they cause people in cars to die. We would need one of those giant collapsing guard rails with the black and yellow stripes seen in these photos


      Myself and many others are suggesting the pole be removed from the bike lane and placed outside of the railing. That’s how the other poles are mounted to handle the tension and loads. Portland has a lot of great metal shops and engineers that could make a bracket to mount the pole in this way. It’s not even rocket science. Just a free body diagram and a bit of high quality metal.

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    • captainkarma January 22, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      Tallbiker bonks bean on bent beam.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson January 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    The other morning as I slowed a bit approaching this narrow spot, someone shot by me on my right. That annoyed me a lot more than the pole…at least its not moving and coming up on my blind side. Yes, Streetcar infrastructure requires some care, but its the motor vehicles that really get my attention.
    Then I passed two pedestrians walking side by side, not illegal but another narrow spot. Let’s face it, the Broadway bridge sidewalk is a totally inadequate multiuse path, pole or no pole. When the North Portland Greenway is in service, bike traffic will be even heavier. Maybe some of the engineers out there could look at cantilevering a few feet onto the sidewalk as was done years ago on the Hawthorne.
    The new Milwaukie MAX bridge will take a lot of pressure off the again inadequate Hawthorne Bridge; maybe something along those lines is due over the River between NW and inner N/NE.

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  • maxadders January 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    But just think of the benefit, when all is said and done: Pearl District to OMSI in just over three hours.

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  • Lenny Anderson January 23, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Try 20 minutes

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  • DK January 23, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Shared modes = we all share.

    The only problem I have with this pole is the color. The placards are nice, but they are temporary. It would be nice to see some black and yellow stripes painted on the lower third of this thing.

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  • Spiffy January 23, 2012 at 10:21 am

    is a sidewalk MUP a mandatory side-path? can we just take the lane if we want to?

    and since they reduced the width of the sidewalk to less than the legal bike path width does that mean it’s no longer a safe bike path and not subject to the mandatory side-path law?

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    • craig harlow January 25, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Great question, Spiffy.

      I’m VERY interested in a Ginsberg/Thomas type of expert interpretation on this point–apart from the pole issue

      May people on bikes legally take the lane when crossing the Broadway Bridge?

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 25, 2012 at 10:20 am

        I’ll ask them… But my hunch is that if someone took the lane on the Broadway they’d have to prove to a judge that there was a clear and present safety concern about using the path. It would probably come down to which judge was listening and whether or not they were sensitive/understanding of bicycling in general. Remember, Oregon still has a mandatory sidepath law but many people want to see that law removed.

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        • craig harlow January 25, 2012 at 10:33 am

          Yeah. Since it’s not merely another sidewalk, and is a robustly marked bicycle route, proving an immediate hazard would be the burden. I regard that pole as such.

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  • jon January 23, 2012 at 11:10 am

    its only an exception to the rules that bikes are even allowed to ride on this bridge sidewalk anyway, sidewalks are for pedestrians, streets are for bikes. we need more bicycle traffic calming, thankfully this pole forces bikes to slow down on the sidewalk so they can safely yield to pedestrians.

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  • Dabby January 23, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to run a streetcar if they can not keep them from getting in the way.
    This pole should be 100% moved.

    Streetcars were taken out of this town for good reason.

    What a waste of resources to put them back in.

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    • Sol January 23, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      Streetcar is a huge waste of money.

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  • spare_wheel January 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    The Oregonian responds to pole kerfuffle:

    ‘From the file “Things Messing Up Portland Bicyclists’ Feng Shui…”‘

    “Judging from the comments under the blog post, the new fixture certainly bugs a lot of riders. Me? Not so much.”

    “It’s well-marked and still leaves plenty of room — in my experience — to pass.”

    The legacy media.

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    • Alan 1.0 January 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      “It’s well-marked and still leaves plenty of room — in my experience — to pass.” (Joseph Rose, OregonLive)

      Joe Rowe says the clearance at that point is about 4.5 feet (54 inches). I’m about 28 inches wide at the elbows, riding. Given perfectly straight travel lines (unlikely), that means passing a similar rider in that gap gives us minus 2 inches of clearance. Maybe Rose is a lion-hearted crit rider capable of bump-and-grind pack riding but many less competitive folks don’t find that sort of commuting attractive. Just looking at the photos in this blog, above, I wouldn’t trust a stranger to give me room in that pinch point.

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      • are January 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm

        why would it be necessary to pass another cyclist in that gap?

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        • craig harlow January 25, 2012 at 3:14 pm

          An oncoming cyclist or pedestrian would be examples.

          Also, stopping or slowing suddenly to avoid an oncoming path user at that pinch point, with a rush-hour clutch of riders behind you poses its own kind of danger.

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        • Alan 1.0 January 25, 2012 at 6:54 pm

          “Necessary” would be in the eyes of the rider, or maybe it would happen not of necessity but out of ignorance and misjudgement. In my view it’s ill-advised and impolite to pass another rider through that narrow gap, but I expect it will happen just as Craig Harlow says, or when a fast rider sees a break in slower traffic, or a cat-6 racer misjudges, or in sorting out a pack coming off the light.

          I must admit I was reading Rose’ “to pass” as “for two people side-by-side” rather than “for one person to go through the gap,” and the latter may well be what he meant.

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          • craigarlow January 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm

            Accidents will happen, and not only involving aggressive riders, and this situation just increases the chances in a big way.

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  • John Lascurettes January 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Jonathan, I saw you staking out this location from the island before the bridge approach this morning. What did you observe?

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  • q`Tzal January 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I also sent an email out with some interim safety suggestions.
    I posted it in the forums for comments and improvement:

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  • Sol January 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Toast the post!!!

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  • Joe Rowe January 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    two updates
    a) Feb 1st. City meeting about the pole, please attend or send comments
    b) Join a facebook group for updates.


    meeting for the Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee will be Wednesday, February 1, 2012,

    3:30pm-­‐5:00pm at City Hall, Pettygrove Room. Please call Kay Dannen at 503/478-­‐6404 or email at annen@portlandstreetcar.org if you have any questions regarding this committee or have items for the agenda. The CAC meetings are open to the public.

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  • Joe Rowe January 31, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Update: The contractor refused to put the pole on their next meeting agenda. This is another example of contempt for public process.

    quote: “The agenda for this meeting has already been established but you and your friends are more than welcome to attend our next CAC meeting, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 3:30 – 5:00pm in the Pettygrove Room at City Hall . There is an opportunity at the beginning of the meeting for public testimony in which each individual testifying is limited to 3 minutes.”

    Kay Dannen
    Shiels Obletz Johnsen, Inc.
    1140 SW 11th Avenue, Suite 500|Portland, OR 97205
    Phone 503-478-6404

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  • Keys February 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    When I’m a pedestrian, I hate drivers. When I’m a driver I hate pedestrians. But regardless of the mode of transportation, I HATE bicyclists.

    Its very simple, when it comes to courtesy, planning, laws, etc. the rule is “Yield to Tonnage.”

    As a pole situated on a sidewalk this poses no problems to either those using the road or those WALKING along side it.

    Just accept your place as tertiary citizens in a city’s infrastructure and as hazards and a general inconvenience to those around you.

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